Thursday, August 30, 2007

Globalisation made small occupations unviable

Ford Foundation-sponsored study focusses on several issues vital to rural economy

Growth of crop output has gone down significantly

Scope for scientific management of PDS

Article Excerpt from Hindu : Globalisation made small occupations unviable”

CHENNAI: Globalisation has further impoverished the poor and rendered several small and traditional occupations unviable, an empirical study on seven sectors in rural Tamil Nadu has revealed.

The study was done over two years by the Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayati Raj studies of Gandhigram Rural University, Dindigul, to map the effect of globalisation on the lives of poor farmers, handloom weavers, rural artisans and fisher folk.

The project on “Globalisation and Decentralisation,” was funded by the Ford Foundation, New Delhi. It focused on seven issues key to the rural economies: handloom, water, agriculture, food security, tea and coffee plantations, rural artisans and fisheries, G. Palanithurai, who occupies the Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayati Raj Studies at the university, said.


“Developments that have followed liberalisation have only created a situation in which the rural poor have had to find ways to protect their livelihood resources from being exploited by private commercial interests,” he said. Whenever they failed, a large number of them started migrating from rural areas, abandoning their traditional professions and lands.

This was of great concern in agriculture, especially. The study covered three major crops in Tamil Nadu — paddy, cotton and sugarcane — in three districts and showed a “significant deceleration in the growth of crop output and yields, affecting farmer profits.” The rising input costs compounded the problem, leading farmers into debt traps, or to the cities and towns in search of employment. The government investment in agriculture had also dwindled over the years, Prof. Palanithurai alleged.

Alongside, the study dealt with the problems of local communities whose natural resources, especially water, were being exploited by large companies.

While Tamil Nadu performed better in food security issues, there was no room for complacency, he said. Eighty per cent of the poor depended on the public distribution system for their food requirements, but there was scope for better scientific administration of the PDS to eliminate bogus cards.

Rural artisans, including potters, from Sivaganga, Madurai, Tirunelveli and Dindigul had nearly been wiped out, Prof. Palanithurai said. With neither skill nor infrastructure upgrade, they could not take advantage of the demand created by globalisation. Small plantation growers were the worst affected, having lost their labour to agriculture and other daily wage employers, the study showed. With a scale up in operation impossible, they were forced to stop cultivation.

In fisheries, the technology, marketing and storage linkages had been of immense advantage to those who used motorised boats, but had left the catamarans floundering at sea. However, if devolution of power to local bodies was effective, solutions could be worked out by the elected panchayat leaders at each village.

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