Dear Mr Bush,
Greetings from Fried eye (which I am sure you haven’t heard of) but that is not the reason I write for today. Self promotion is currently not at the top of my list of priorities. Instead I actually wanted to rake up the past a bit. Yes Sir, I know it is bad manners to dig up buried issues but I could not refrain myself from venting out my two cents , after I suddenly remembered a little vaguely though, your somewhat callous comments on India’s role in the current Global Food crisis scenario.
However disputed it might be but it is still said that Louise Marie Antoinette created history and brought a revolution with her disastrous remark of – Let them have cakes.”
Though your comment did not have such an effect , but it did ruffle a few feathers here and also hurt the sentiments of the so called ‘middle class’ people that you had alluded to in your remark. But we are a very forgiving nation and after some mild attempts at protest and explanations, we let the matter be, after all as they say no body messes with the big daddy of world politics.
But as I was working on this issue of our e-zine which is incidentally dedicated to food, I came upon some very encouraging facts about our country, that I felt the need to address the issue again, just for your information and not at all for an action.
But before that. let me jog your memory a bit in case you have forgotten what exactly had you said that has made this woman write a letter to you. So Here is what you said( ad verbatim)-
“ So, for example, just as an interesting thought for you, there are 350 million people in India who are classified as middle class. That’s bigger than America. Their middle class is larger than our entire population.”
“And when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food, and so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up,”
Now I was impressed to see that you were aware of the powerful and progressive Middle class of India, but I was shocked to find (what was that now? ) a resentment towards their demands for better nutrients?
Now why did you say that? If you had mentioned about wastage, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid, instead hung my head in shame. Wastage is, I admit, a bit common in Indian households, especially during festivals and no, it is not a deliberate action, rather it can be attributed to our principles of Atithi Devo Bhava or the Guest is God. We do tend to go overboard while entertaining guests and apparently forget all logic regarding consumption and principles of mathematical applications.
If you had blamed the population explosion, then also it would have been excusable, though the fact remains that the same ‘middle class’ that you had accused, are the ones who are trying bring new changes and development in the country by attempting to create awareness and starting many pro country pro society programs which includes among the others, an awareness of population control. We had been trying our best to stick to the norm of the small happy, family since long. So you will hardly find a large family in an educated middle class house.
But your whole idea of prosperity , resulting in the increased demand of ‘better nutrients’ being the reason behind the insufficiency and food crisis all over the world is preposterous to say the least.
Some of our politicians retorted by saying- Are we not entitled to ‘better nutrition’?
Though I do not normally endorse politicians, but for once I agree with them. I simply cannot understand the logic behind your statement. If a person switches from say- a guava to an apple (as it is a case of better nutrients) or to cottage cheese from brinjal, how does it decrease the supply to another person? After all its just a switch. Maybe the other person who is not self sufficient has to make do with the guava or brinjal, but how does it deprive the other person wholly ?
That brings us to the matter of exports. Yes Sir, its time I present before you some very heartening facts about India and its agricultural scenario.
Did you know that we are one of the leading producers and exporters of rice in the world? Why rice alone? We are in fact one of the leading exporters of many crops and grains. A third world country and an exporter ! – you must be thinking so, right? Oh yes, till the 1960s we were stuck deep in the quagmire of poverty – blame some on the foreign rule, a bit by lagging behind during the industrial revolution and the rest on the natural disasters that almost suck the life out of us. After independence it has been hell of an uphill task reaching a respectable status. Some had even predicted that we wouldn’t even last till the seventies, but we did Mr. Bush. With the help of the green revolution, some hybrid crops (bless the scientists) our crops started showing a surplus and by the eighties we had started exporting full fledged. Of course there has been some criticism of the green revolution too but that is only natural. Every action has an equal amount of criticism. In few years we had advanced so much that we had even started producing crops in un-arable land as in Ladakh and Rajasthan with technology and common sense. Speaking of common sense reminds me, did you know that in Arunachal Pradesh paddy farming and fish farming go hand in hand? Interesting isn’t it, but that is an example of our indigenous intellect at work. Of course we do have our floods, drought, the Andhra farmers. Yes Sir, very unfortunate and we are trying to cope with loss in our own way which does not include blaming other countries which are trying to address their own issues on obesity and lifestyle.
If it is our problem, then it is OUR problem; we blame none for it.
That reminds me , you had blamed the middle class for high consumption of food resulting in lesser exports . Yes, I agree the exports have come down, but I will come back to this a little later. Instead let me brag a bit about some of our traditions and principles.
Most of our festivals and ceremonies require us to feed the needy and poor. So it is a common sight here of people giving away food to the poor in charity, in religious places every day. Gurudwaras have a common langar or kitchen where they feed any one –rich or poor who comes during the meal times- no questions asked. We try to ensure over here that no one goes hungry even for a day.
I would also like to tell about Akshay Patra foundation an initiative whose mission is to eradicate hunger. Noble isn’t it? There vision tells us all- No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger.” .They have taken initiative to start the mid day meal in schools and also have been involved in providing free lunch to the ostracized widows in Benaras to name a few of their commendable works. You see we believe in the logic of feeding our countrymen first followed by the rest of our fellow human beings which as you say might have caused in lowering of the exports from our country. But there in lies our priority as opposed to the prerogatives of maybe other countries. For us our priority lies in providing the basic need of food to our fellow men without being dependent on others while maybe for you, the priority lies in diverting crops to produce bio fuels rather than…
Opinions differ, you see Mr.Bush and so I will refrain myself from commenting on your affairs (unlike you), but I would certainly like to request you to pause a bit and think before making any earth shattering and heart breaking remarks in a public platform.
Thank You for the patient hearing and a very good day to you
From Fried Eye