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As crops rot, millions go hungry in India (reuters.com)
174 points by tokenadult on July 2, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 175 comments

So let's summarize: The Indian government spends billions of dollars (which are desperately needed for other purposes in a poor country like India) propping up the price of wheat. This causes many farmers to switch from growing vegetables to wheat. The drives up the price of vegetables, and would drive down the price of wheat, except for political reasons the Indian government would rather let the wheat rot than give it away cheaply. As a result, many of the poor can't afford wheat, and the ones who can can't afford anything but wheat, leading to rampant malnutrition.

Or even shorter: India spends billions of dollars on a policy that does nothing except ensure they have a rate of child malnutrition almost twice that of sub-saharan Africa.

tl;dr: Socialism, lol.

(Oh, and as Spodek pointed out, famines are caused by a lack of money, not food. It's been known for DECADES that if you want to stop people starving, you need to give them cash, and cut barriers to trade.)

I don't think it's yet even at the level where you can start debating socialism vs. other systems. In India, there are endemic problems with enforcing the law, especially with respect to the wealthy/privileged. Just ensuring that no one can flout the law and get away unscathed would go a long way in alleviating these sorts of issues.

Rant : There is no implementation of any kind. No scalability of judicial,medical etc systems due to the population, largely self-centered mindset, lack of time to keep up with huge economic gaps, most importantly the country being ruled by goons (more than half of Indian leaders have criminal records). Getting into Indian political system is simply not possible for a person, necessary to initiate a change.

Researches study, but the figures they come up are far far away from reality. That is because everything exists on paper just not practically.

>>largely self-centered mindset

Can you possibly imagine surviving in that kind of jungle without being self-centered?

>Can you possibly imagine surviving in that kind of jungle without being self-centered?

i dont' think 'self-centered' is meant as a derogatery term for the indians. Its just an observation, and the cause is poverty. I don't see a solution to this problem, because any solution that is viable, and realistically implementable, will have to be inefficient (due to corruption, and people with power taking advantage of the situation to the dismay of the poorer/powerless ones).

Could you explain how would enforcing the law against the wealthy/privileged affect this situation at all?

Please be specific about the mechanics.

I am not the OP but let me try.

I agree with the OP in the sense that the biggest problem in India is that if you are rich, you don't have to worry about the law. Let me give you couple of examples:

1. The murder of Jessica Lal. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Jessica_Lal Even though the accused is in jail right now, it was not because law enforcement worked. It was because of Indian Media. Read the Wikipedia page to get more details.

2. Almost all Indian politicians are corrupt. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_politicians_in_India_ch... Now, it's one thing to get away with a crime but it's a whole another thing to still be active in politics after your crimes are exposed. E.g. Lalu Yadav was involved in a scam costing government ~190MM. He later became Railway Minister and he is still active. Compare this to US. Eliot Spitzer, a generally honest man, had to quit politics after his sex scandal came out.

3. Salman Khan, a famous Indian actor, was drunk driving and killed a person. He didn't do any jail time. [ http://www.rediff.com/news/2002/sep/28khan.htm ]

I grew up in India and I have personally seen how the rich people have used money to circumvent the law.

This lack of enforcement against rich people leads to a situation where common people have no respect for the law. And that is why corruption is so rampant in India.

IMHO, A law enforcement similar to how it's in USA, will do wonders to India and it's economy. Though I should add that before we adapt strict law enforcement, we have to revamp our ridiculously outdated laws [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Penal_Code]. E.g. It was only in 2009 when the law banning gay people was scrapped down.


I'm well aware of corruption and the antics of Salman Khan. I absolutely don't dispute that India needs to fix this problem to make real progress.

However, this ignores the question: how would enforcing laws against the wealthy and privileged affect the particular problem we are discussing in this article (wheat rotting while children starve)?

My bad. I kind of overlooked your statement where you mentioned 'how it would affect this situation'. On that note, I agree with you, law enforcement won't really help this particular situation.

I'm obviously not privy to the inner workings of Indian politics, but I can give you a possible sequence of events. One of the reasons that the food is rotting is because of poor storage. The government has decided that jute, and only local jute, can be used to make bags to store the grain. Foreign jute or other materials, such as plastic, are not permitted[0].

It's very possible that the local jute industry was given protection by the government because they bribed the appropriate civil servants/elected officials. Neither the bribers or the bribees will ever face any sort of prosecution for their actions, despite the fact that giving or taking bribes is clearly illegal.

0: http://hackerne.ws/item?id=4187264

If what OP said is true, then it seems like the weakness of law enforcement in India is the only thing that prevents these bad policies from causing a full-on disaster.

Vigilant enforcement of bad laws is not a good thing.

Its when you have problems enforcing the law that you most need to start worrying about the size of the government. If you had a process of weird and unfair price supports but a government that functioned pretty well (like we do in the US) then that sort of sucks but its tolerable. When the government is going that but making a mess of it (like in India) then its not so tolerable.

BTW, India requires that only jute bags produced by a protected local industry be used for storage. No plastic or foreign jute. Not surprisingly there are not enough bags.

This is contributing to the problem: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405270230444140457748...

Isn't India the country which developed non-violent mass civil protest?

It seems crazy that people wouldn't just use plastic bags in open defiance during a serious shortage.

Not sure how that example is indicative of Socialism.

More generally I would say it was interventionist, but very poorly handled. The issue is because they don't know what they're doing, rather than that they are subscribed to a certain style of government.

I agree that corruption and incompetence can be found in all nominal styles of government. The labels (socialist, capitalist) are distractions from the unpleasant reality.

That said, I wonder: Are farm subsidies in India that much different than farm subsidies in the US?

US farm subsidies seem to be, pardon the expression, sacred cows, supported (or at least not challenged) by both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats.

Even though they result in lakes of high-fructose corn syrup, youth obesity (especially among lower-income groups), and high health-related costs to society (especially the uninsured).

India is an actual democracy (edit: should have said semi-capitalist or mixed economy, sorry), not a socialist state, mind you. The trouble here is bureaucracy and mismanagement. The government is trying to prop up farmers, but this comes at the expense of millions of its citizens. (Note that most other governments aren't anywhere as dysfunctional, in case you were thinking of blaming 'big government'.)

The Indian government is known to have very serious problems with mismanagement and corruption (worse than many other Asian countries). Witness what was practically the giving away of the communications spectrum to private companies a few years ago, due to sheer ignorance on the part of the minister responsible. India's government needs to be reformed quite fundamentally.

Socialism is an economic system; democracy is a system of governance. India is a socialist democracy. It is not communist but it also not a liberal democracy à la Fukuyama et al.

Isn't it pretty much a capitalist economy? I was under the impression most of its wealth was in private hands. It was socialist over 2 decades ago, but the tide has mostly shifted towards capitalism, and growth has been fast.

Nonetheless, the enduring problems of corruption and mismanagement in its administration remain. Those can't be attributed to the old socialism or current capitalism alone, considering that India is going through a rapid economic rise out of relative poverty. Bad governance is bad governance, whatever the system, and it's aggravated when countries are poor, have a weak rule of law, and are just starting the climb up the ladder of development.

Sort of, there's a big sliding scale between free markets and socialism. Hong Kong is less socialist than Denmark, is less socialist than America, is less socialist than France, is less socialist China, is less socialist than India, is less socialist than Cuba, is less socialist than North Korea.

India has a few sectors, like IT, that are fairly unregulated and which are growing very quickly but the vast bulk of the economy isn't like that.

I certainly agree that good government is very important, though. The better the government the less government intervention in the economy hurts growth, and the more it tends to actually help disadvantaged people.

China is less socialist than India? Citation?

> Socialism is an economic system; democracy is a system of governance.

Except throughout the Cold War, the socialist states looked more like other socialist states (to wit: The USSR, the PRC, clients thereof, and non-aligned socialist states like Albania) than like non-socialist states around them. These states often called themselves "People's Republics".

Of course, if you take that definition of 'socialist', then India most certainly isn't socialist.

My point: Language isn't simple. Politics isn't simple. Mixing the two simplifies neither.

They looked very much alike because most of them were socialist dictatorships, or socialist oligarchies. Their economic system didn't decide the shape of government.

> Their economic system didn't decide the shape of government.

Decide? No. Correlate strongly with? Yes.

"tl;dr: Socialism, lol."

Corruption and incompetence span all political and economic systems.

Summarising this article with "Socialism, lol" is about as valid as summarising an article about Somalia with "Libertarianism, lol". Your socialists are straw-men.

Those disagreeing that this is socialism aren't really attuned to the previous socialist attempts and engineering outcomes.

If you really wanted to split hairs, you could say this is an example for those people who think that a government can engineer a better outcome for people than the people just left to their own devices.

"this is an example for those people who think that a government can engineer a better outcome for people than the people just left to their own devices"

Oh, but we don't need an example of that -- we can just compare, say, European nationalised healthcare with the US approach, and see better outcomes for lower cost in the European model.

No-one's ever said government always engineers better outcomes. A few examples only serve to knock down a straw-man.

Making an ideological debate of it is a sure way into desaster.

"""has been known for decates"""

Thst is actually only partially true, as has been proven in a number of experiments and shown in the book "Poor Economy".

Poor people that reach a higher level of income will generally not buy /more/ food to satisfy their actual needs, but will switch to buy /more expensive/ food (aka "better tasting"), often even /reducing/ their number of calories consumed.

Part of the problem is lack of money, but the main problem is lack of knowledge/education.

Ignoring the crop subsidies for a moment, there was a similar issue in the US for many years. In the little farming town where I grew up, there was a giant mountain of grain dumped outside of town where excess grain was left to rot (and like the article stated, it reeks).

People often wonder why excess grain is dumped instead of shipped off as aid to people that can't afford it. The reason is simple but complex in its implications: the grain is worth less than the cost to move it somewhere else. In addition to the loss of underutilized grain, someone has to pay even more money to move it that in the net is not a cost efficient way to get food to the people that need it relative to not using dumped grain. So the grain is dumped.

One way to improve the situation is to invest in infrastructure to reduce the logistical cost, allowing the grain to compete across a wider range of market prices. However, that investment in infrastructure has to be offset by return on the grain production it effectively allows and has to account for the unpredictability of a global market that the subsidies are crudely trying to mitigate. There is a diminishing return.

One of the big issues in the global market is that grain trade tends to be highly protectionist, in part for food security reasons. While some countries (like the US) produce grain in vast quantities at low cost, most governments do not want to be dependent on foreign countries for their food. At the same time, these policies increase the price and restrict flow of food in these countries in times when the global market is a much more efficient producer. Subsidies and protectionism tend to be very blunt instruments.

"One way to improve the situation is to invest in infrastructure to reduce the logistical cost, allowing the grain to compete across a wider range of market prices."

I have seen these sort of 'inversions' as well. As an engineer I've pondered whether or not you could create enough infrastructure to create a non-spoiling product which returned enough capital to move the rest. So in the grain situation you might create a simple distillery which produced grain alcohol, which was sold to cover the cost of moving excess grain to locations where it could be used. Grain alcohol has a number of used and it doesn't spoil, further processing grain into alcohol is a relatively self sufficient process (you can use the alcohol produced to run the distiller and still get net positive output.) It of course presumes free grain.

One of the more curious social effects I've witnessed is that someone will dump grain which is too expensive to move, but they are less willing to simply give it to you for your distillery. They note you're getting an economic benefit from their grain (which is true) but they are unwilling to build their own distillery and capture that value but still won't cede the value to someone who does that original investment.

>>They note you're getting an economic benefit from their grain (which is true) but they are unwilling to build their own distillery and capture that value but still won't cede the value to someone who does that original investment.

I think this is because, 'If I'm not gaining anything, you shouldn't either' attitude.

Programmers would be pissed if the code written by them gets used by somebody else to make money, while they don't make any money out of it. Isn't this the whole Java debate these days all about. Sun/Oracle aren't getting much money out of Java(While writing/maintaining/advertising it) while the whole world is using it to make money.

I think you are correct, that captures the problem.

How do we make recycling and efficiency more important than personal gain?

  Me: "Give me the grain and I'll put it to productive use."
  Them: "What do I get out of it?"
  Me: "Nothing"
  Them: "Then why should I give it to you?"
  Me: "Because the resources you used to create it won't be wasted."
  Them: "Oh, Okay." <- never happens
The challenge comes when the choice is 'put to use, but only if its free' or 'rots away and nobody gets anything.' People choose to have it rot. Its the prisoner's dilemma writ large, and one of the inherent traits in humans, and one that religions seem to try to overcome.

You are expecting the producer to distinguish between consumers that would have bought grain instead and consumers that would never buy the grain no matter how low the price went. In reality producers just don't have any reliable way to determine that, so they naturally consider freely given away produce to be a potential lost sale, or at least having a tendency to depress prices even if through indirect effects. And in fact they are almost always quite right to do so.

Well in this case the market is exhausted at the point of delivery. Which is to say the farmer has all his grain in wagons and he can drop it off in the grain elevators (full) drive somewhere else (always an option but raises his costs) or dump it. So perhaps we disguise the economic transaction by making our hopper look like an excess grain dump station :-).

Now I'm being humorous there but there might be some social engineering needed. And I wonder if one could promise a share of any future profit (if there is any) which comes from the use of the grain.

How about for the last two lines: Me: "Because I may be able to create a market environment where you may be able to profit off this grain in the future. Plus you have nothing to loose." Them: "Sounds great."

I would certainly pitch it that way. Not sure if they would go for it though.

That is where government is supposed to step in and provide at least a small incentive, or buy the supply for a more modest sum before distributing it. Protecting the life and health of citizens is pretty much the most fundamental role government is supposed to serve. If it is failing in that duty, it should be toppled.

Generally I agree with this sentiment but the place where it falls down is that the grain is rotting. Its one thing to cover some of the economic loss to the farmer, its another to do the 'double lose' of both paying tax payer money for grain that won't be consumed, and then not doing anything with the grain. So perhaps the government builds our distillery so that there is a 'sink' for any amount of excess grain into a useful pre-cursor product.

Interesting Analogy.

I always knew 'reward' vs 'punishment' motivations always exist. But only today I had a blinding flash of obviousness that 'no-reward' 'no-punishments' scenarios are equally demotivating.

And understandably so, I would not put in extra hours at office if not rewarded, yet I'm not getting punished either.

You forgot "and then the share of grain you were going to profit from now is worth half, because some people were buying it to make grain alcohol"

zero sum game

Can you please elaborate?

I have 10 things every month. I sell them for a living.

One month i only sold 5, but you asked for the other five. If i give you, there will be more things in circulation and now i will be offered less money for my things. Maybe only next month, but i still lose.

Perhaps. But shouldn't getting a helping setting up a new source of _demand_ for your product, grain, in the form of grain alcohol producers help prop up the prices for your supply?

The demand was already there. say 30% of the people that actually buys your product every month produces grain alcohol.

now, you give your exceeding production for free. That person that got it for free makes grain alcohol, sells it cheaper than your paying customer. next month your paying customer will either also want it free, or at a much lower price to remain competitive, lowering your next month profit.

The whole problem is people trying to make more money with the grain by creating false scarcity. if they sold way cheaper when they had more production, the original paying customer would have bought twice the grain and made twice the grain alcohol to begin with. and none of that would have been a problem.

The fundamental economic problem is that demand is very inelastic. When you draw a supply-demand curve for food it looks very close to a vertical line, people do not buy significantly more food when you make it cheaper, people do not buy significantly less food until they run out of money.

The implication is that even slight excesses result in rock bottom prices, and even slight shortages result in very high prices. This volatility is bad for everyone. Therefore the government steps in with subsidies to even out how much farmers get, and to guarantee a surplus to avoid ruinous food prices for consumers.

But there is simply no good way to do this without perverse consequences somewhere...

> people do not buy significantly more food when you make it cheaper, people do not buy significantly less food until they run out of money.

That's not really accurate. Yes, the total amount of food may not change, but the type of food changes quite a bit. People will eat less desirable, but cheaper food.

That's not so much an issue with grain prices. Rice and bread and such are the most basic of staple foods, and pricing people out of that market results in hunger and starvation.

But huge amounts of the staples the US produces are then fed to animals to make meat. It takes something like ten pounds of grain to make a pound of hamburger. If food gets more expensive people cut back on meat, which frees up more grain.

That is true in the US, but not as true in other countries. The US eats an enormous amount of meat compared to most countries (and even more so compared to history).

The article mentions that it would be better if some of the farmers started growing vegetables rather than grain, but the subsidies don't pay for vegetables.

There are multiple kinds of rice, some area cheaper and easier to grow than others.

Same for wheat - low gluten types are cheaper. (Which is basically why they invented the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chorleywood_bread_process )

People buy meat when they have more money than required for sustenance, which takes much more grain than direct consumption.

In the long run, yes, this is true.

However there is a long lead time for changing how many animals there are in the food pipeline. Thus the amount of meat animals does not increase very rapidly to respond to a bumper crop in wheat. (The meat supply can, however, drop rapidly after a drought or flood...)

And the yearly fluctuations in crop yields tend to be fairly large. Certainly larger than the variation we're likely to see in how much people want to eat.

>Therefore the government steps in with subsidies to even out how much farmers get, and to guarantee a surplus to avoid ruinous food prices for consumers.

Yeah it's not like there are mechanisms to deal with this sort of volatility (hint - futures).

Futures do not change how big the price swing is from year to year - they just let you control now the cost you'll have in a few months.

It is also a technique mostly for businesses, not consumers. How many consumers do you hear about controlling next month's food bill by buying their produce on a future's market? Right, none.

Are you implying that you buy your food from the farmers or are you're telling me that the food industry/retailers can't estimate the consumer demand and make contracts/futures on that ? And how exactly do futures not change the price swings from year to year ?

The latter. Futures do not change the supply or demand, and therefore do not change the overall results of a supply-demand curve. What they do is allow people to estimate where it will eventually land, and choose whether to lock in prices some distance in advance.

This ignores a subtlety. If one consumer locks in a large fraction of the supply at a low price, then the supply is smaller than expected, you've made the supply-demand problem more extreme for everyone else. So futures allow entities to lessen their own volatility, but that increases everyone else's volatility.

It becomes highly elastic over longer time periods, if you can cheaply store it for one year you can feed to to cows / chickens / pigs and then eat them.

Not to question your story, but was that grain actually discarded or was it outside storage by the grain elevator. It is pretty standard procedure for grain elevators to have outside piles to store excess grain until shipment. You lose a little and you have to watch moisture when you mix it, but for elevators, it is definitely not a loss.

It was about a half mile from the grain elevators but no one ever retrieved it. They only dumped it there in the years when the market was excessively soft; there were more convenient places to buy cheap grain. In years when the market was good nothing ever ended up at the grain dump.

That whole region had ridiculous yields for years after Mt. St. Helens blew (it was in the ash plume -- great fertilizer) but they had difficulty moving that volume economically during years when the rest of the country had high yields. Or at least that is my recollection as a kid. Once they started dumping grain, the pile only got bigger.

Wow, whoever ran that elevator really needed to get his business sense fixed.

Some of the piles in Indiana and Kansas would make you think they are building a ski slope. First time I saw one I was so confused given that moisture is such a problem and drying is not cheap[1]. Some elevators make a lot of profit managing moisture.

[1] If you are an awesome engineer and can figure out a cheap way to dry grain / corn, there is one big market for you.

That people starve while food rots isn't rare. We've known about the effect for decades. If you aren't familiar with Amartya Sen, he won a Nobel Prize in part for his research into famines, pointing out their causes not only in food shortages but distribution. Quoting Wikipedia -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amartya_Sen (sorry so long a quote but his work is fascinating and I'm interested to read other thoughts from this community )--

In 1981, Sen published Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (1981), a book in which he argued that famine occurs not only from a lack of food, but from inequalities built into mechanisms for distributing food. Sen also argued that the Bengal famine was caused by an urban economic boom that raised food prices, thereby causing millions of rural workers to starve to death when their wages did not keep up.[17] However, this argument has recently been undermined by evidence suggesting significant decline in food availability in the Bengal Famine.[18] This implies the curious irony that Sen had bought into precisely the excuse used by the War Cabinet to refuse aid to Bengal -- that hoarding, not a lack of food, was the famine's cause.

Sen's interest in famine stemmed from personal experience. As a nine-year-old boy, he witnessed the Bengal famine of 1943, in which three million people perished. This staggering loss of life was unnecessary, Sen later concluded. He presents data that there was an adequate food supply in Bengal at the time, but particular groups of people including rural landless labourers and urban service providers like haircutters did not have the monetary means to acquire food as its price rose rapidly due to factors that include British military acquisition, panic buying, hoarding, and price gouging, all connected to the war in the region. In Poverty and Famines, Sen revealed that in many cases of famine, food supplies were not significantly reduced. In Bengal, for example, food production, while down on the previous year, was higher than in previous non-famine years. Thus, Sen points to a number of social and economic factors, such as declining wages, unemployment, rising food prices, and poor food-distribution systems. These issues led to starvation among certain groups in society. His capabilities approach focuses on positive freedom, a person's actual ability to be or do something, rather than on negative freedom approaches, which are common in economics and simply focuses on non-interference. In the Bengal famine, rural laborers' negative freedom to buy food was not affected. However, they still starved because they were not positively free to do anything, they did not have the functioning of nourishment, nor the capability to escape morbidity.

Didn't a similar thing happen during the Great Depression? I thought FDR ordered livestock, etc, destroyed in order to keep their prices up. I'm sure lots of Americans were going hungry at that time, so the outrage must have been huge.

It lasted less than 6 months before they created the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation, which instead of creating artificial scarcity bought the stocks and distributed it (some 600 Million pounds of grain, cotton, and meat) to impoverished sectors across the US.

Doesn't giving something for free totally counters the effects of buying it at higher price to begin with?

sounds more like "helping my friend producer with tax money" than "keeping market stable"

sounds to me like they were trying to feed the hungry. i suppose it all comes down to your perspective.

They could also have fed the hungry merely by allowing prices to fall. But doing that makes it harder to get the farming vote (a big deal in that era).

> They could also have fed the hungry merely by allowing prices to fall.

And giving money to the needy, if necessary.

Which is the very same as lowering real prices (value) in the long run while raising monetary value. Pretty much more inflation

To the extent that there's a lot of slack in the economy, factories laying idle and so forth, more money will tend to result in more production rather than more inflation. Now there are always some sectors of the economy that aren't idle so more money will always result in at least a little inflation, but in the case of the Great Depression this was very little. And they were experiencing deflation at the time anyways, so more inflation would have gotten them closer to price stability.

Giving money to the needy has different effects than that.

For one thing, if you finance the handouts with taxes rather than printing money, they will have no effect on inflation.

Prices had been pegged very high due to the Ukraine famine in the 1920s, and global trade further collapsed due to Smoot Hawley ( which was immediately countered worldwide ). Redistributing excess produce for free can work well in the face of collapsing prices. It doesn't signal increased production and buffers people getting out of producing without completely destroying prices. Direct food subsidies continued well into the 1960 ( we called them "commodities", and if you were poor, you could get them from ... USDA offices? something like that). This was the predecessor to food stamps ( although it may have run in parallel ).

FDR did not pay the farmers as a way to get their vote. He already had their vote. Furthermore, allowing prices to fall would have done nothing for many of the victims of the Great Recession, as many of them did not have jobs and thus could not afford to pay for food no matter what it cost.

The Federal Surplus Relief Corporation was created for the sole purpose of maintaining America's agricultural output, which then and now, was the primary source of America's economic strength. Maintaining food production also meant that many of the associated farming jobs would remain intact, preventing the crisis for worsening.

The farming jobs supported many skilled industrial production jobs, especially for heavy equipment such as tractors. This would prove invaluable a decade later when the U.S. entered WWII and the factories began producing weapons and tanks. The factories already had plenty of trained workers ready to work the lines.

All of this is covered in most high school U.S. history courses.

That's partially correct. FDR wasn't just trying to buy farmers votes, he really did believe that high prices were good for the economy. He correctly realized that the deflation being experienced in the US was bad, but he thought that artificially increasing prices would fix things, but in reality people didn't have the money to pay the new, higher, prices and all of FDR's efforts to raise the prices of things (the NRA especially) just ended up making the depression worse.

Now, FDR did a lot of things and some of them worked pretty well. He'd touched off the fastest industrial expansion in US history a few months before he killed it with the NRA, for example. I'm not aware of any current economic school of thought that would endorse the idea that price supports actually helped with the depression. A Keynesian would say that you have to run a deficit to increase the aggregate demand, a Monetarist would say you need more money to increase aggregate demand, a Supply-Sider would say you can't help, a Socialist would say the state needs to take over the means of production, etc.

Now, I do have friends from states that rely on agricultural subsidies, and their high school history textbooks evidently did wax poetic about how awesome agricultural subsidies were, but that isn't in most American's high school educations.

"America's agricultural output, which then and now, was the primary source of America's economic strength"

I think that's not correct.

Sectors by percentage of the US GDP: agriculture: 1.2%, industry: 22.1%, services: 76.7%


Arms and weapons alone (one of the main perceived sources of "America's economic strength" abroad, along with intellectual property and others) make more than that (sources estimate between 1% and 4% of the US GDP).



Standing in line to receive 'free' food is not without opportunity cost, so it's not hard to keep the marginal cost of getting that food more expensive than the market price for anyone with the ability to actually pay for food.

It depends whether or not the people you give it to would otherwise buy it.

Only if it is a permanent solution. I thought the main issue was that the (US) gov't was supposed to stabilize rapid price fluctuations, not exist as a constant state of subsidy.

This is basically what Grapes of Wrath is about.

The crops were lost in the Grapes of Wrath due to the dustbowl, which was an ecological catastrophe that occurred in the 1930s due to bad land management.


I don't have a copy with me so I can't give you page numbers but there is a scene after they have arrived in California where some food (I think potatoes) is being dumped into the river and there is a long (several pages) discussion at the end of the book where Steinbeck says something to the effect that our superior science allowed us to grow so much food but our economic system doesn't allow us to us it to feed the people.

It's a really good book you should check it out.

There is a another book that goes into detail about the Bengal famine called "Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II"


To add, I recommend the book "Late Victorian Holocausts" by Mike Davis for readers interested about famines.

There is more than one reason for why India is in this problem today. And taking simplistic view points can't explain this problem completely.

Firstly Farming in India is currently very unproductive. To understand why this happens, you have to understand some history. India was even from its very existence in history a huge sub continent ruled big and small kingdoms, with Agriculture as its main source of work. And Farmers were always taxed in return for many things. Add to this shortage of rainfall, droughts and other occasional problems forced farmers to mortgage their lands for some money to rich landlords. These problems went to an extent till farmers were almost synonymous with slaves. The Naxal terrorism problems has deep roots in this history.

I have many friends who come families of farmers. And you can still hear the old stories. The lands get passed on from generation to generation through inheritance. And every time the land is inherited it gets divided among sons. So with every generation each person gets lesser and lesser land to harvest on. With growing population you can now image with each generation, number of farmers increase but the land available for farming decreases. This makes farming a highly unproductive business in India.

This is coupled lack of modern logistics to distribute, modern machinery or harvesting and farming. All these stories of rotting grains that your hear of is because, the crops are often sold to local middlemen with farmers often given an unfair deal. The middle men take real hefty cut, and both the farmers and consumers suffer. Also middle men again sell to places called 'mandis' which inturn are very inefficient ways of distribution.

The policies ran by Government of India utmost work as patch jobs. There is no long term vision to improve the situation of farmers. Providing subsidized pump sets, lower interest loans etc only give the farmer a longer rope to hang himself. There are no incentives to bring in larger agricultural reforms, to modernize distribution, to eliminate middle men(In fact in the recent FDI debate, some MP's actually sided with the middlemen, can you believe that?), to improve logistics, cut corruption, fight bureaucracy, bring in mass farming techniques, infrastructure and equipment.

Agriculture policies are just one election to the next bait to get farmer votes.

How did India get to it's huge population, though? I would have thought that if you don't have food, eventually the population stops growing?

We didn't have famines that killed in millions.

Even until say a generation and half back. During my Dad's times it was quite usual for couples to >10 kids. It was considered a sign of pride!

Apart from that there are other social issues. Social security is a huge problem in India, Pension is a cruel joke. Other form of income during old age include rent from real estate or meagerly savings. Amidst all this kids are considered as a somebody who can take care of their parents.

For the west this might sound strange, but parents are a integral part of the family. In fact family means Parents, siblings and their kids included.

In all this Boys are considered cash cows. Because they are perceived as somebody who can earn and feed them in old age. Girls are considered money drains, as they marry and go away to their husbands home, to never return or contribute much. There is also a huge problem of dowry(Mandatory gifts given to girls during marriage) which makes girls look like burdens. The Indian middle class is also shy to send Girls to work.

All this contributes to 'reproduce until you get a boy' problem. The rest is left to your imagination. Especially when more population leads to more of it, merely by its very dynamics.

So you see the problem isn't that simple. Sometimes its genuine. Imagine you are old, need food, clothes, medical care. You need money for it, you see your neighbor get all the help from his son. While you get no help from your daughters.

The natural reaction is ... 'If at all, I had a son... I wouldn't be in this state today'.

These problems are not that simple to solve.

It seems so weird because women are actually more valuable than men, biologically seen. It's probably crazy/outrageous, but I wonder if one day matching women from India with Men from China might become a huge success (they'll have a shortage of women in China soon I think).

But I can see how there might be a long way to go - if women could work, they could provide and so on...

There are issues preventing women from working. One direct problem is Indian households have always had a women as 'home makers'. So you have to fight a lot of cultural inertia.

There are also security issues. Indian cities haven't been very safe for women especially for women working at night. Crimes against women are common. Also there lack of affordable places like creche's and day care centers for kids preventing women from working post maternity. Most working women quit jobs for this very reason alone.

Secondly, even if women work. The situation in India is worse enough to make them spend that money on their own selves and their families, than their parents.

But I agree, with you that women must be encouraged to work more.

Well actually I think the ultimate goal is people having to work less. Getting women to work sounds like a solution from your problem description. But the real problem seems to be welfare of the elderly. If another solution (like social insurance) could be found, perhaps women wouldn't need to work. Perhaps even society would restructure itself.

Only 60 years ago it was common in the western world that women had to stay at home to take care of the family and household chores. I don't think it was only feminism that changed that, but also technology. For example washing machines probably saved a lot of time (even a bachelor can wash their own clothes these days). Not sure how widespread access to such technology is in India?

washing machines...Not sure how widespread access to such technology is in India?

GDP per capita is about $3500, adjusting for PPP. 31% of the population has improved sanitation.

So, washing machines are not very widespread.


It is already happening with East-Russian women and West-China men. I'm not going to google for the link because I am in work and we all know what I'll get if I google that.

India, like China, also has a sex ratio skewed heavily towards men (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_sex_ratio). Removing even more women from the pool in India would not be a good idea.

Well rather than, you know, burn them, "selling" women to China might still work out. They don't have a skewed sex ratio just by chance.

I agree with most of your points. But:

>Imagine you are old, need food, clothes, medical care. You need money for it, you see your neighbor get all the help from his son. While you get no help from your daughters.

That's incredibly sexist. As far as I can tell, it is in fact the other way around. Their sons usually try to avoid that responsibility and it is their daughters who actually spend time with them and try to work out their problems

>>it is their daughters who actually spend time with them and try to work out their problems


Alas just 'spending time' doesn't solve all problems. You need somebody who can 'spend money' too. This is not an anti-girl rant. This is the saddest reality of our country. The middle class is overly male chauvinist and doesn't like sending women to work. Once married, the girl contributes literally nothing financially to her parents.

Firstly this is not a problem among the rich and the poor. Because Rich have money and poor don't mind women working.

Its the middle class which is in this problem. If you turn blind eye to this root cause. You can give as many moral lectures as you want on why this is wrong. Nothing will change.

Because people know deep inside them old age is imminent, and they will need money/financial support to survive then. Bitter truth!

I doubt kamaal was trying to be sexist. It's unusual in most parts of India for women to work outside their home. Hence no income if you're a sick man with only daughters.

What about their husbands? Don't they care about their father-in-law?

That never happens. In fact its the opposite. In India we have a huge problem of dowry and post marriage gifts and perks which the girls need to get from their parents and give it to their husbands side.

Whenever this type of discussion comes up, I always say that I will never mind taking care of my wife's parents if they need me to. After all they will be her parents just like I have mine. (I am not married, so using future tense). You would be surprised to hear that my friends (girls and guys alike) don't believe me and think I am joking. I have had women who are in their late 30s (so exactly in the age when their parents need support) argue with me on this point. In their opinion, I don't know what I am talking about, and will not care about anyone once I get married. TL;DR, People, even daughters laugh at you when you promise to take care of their parents equally as your own.

So when I describe my parents take on dowry (i.e. no dowry, we want a daughter, not a daughter in law etc), people think I am joking.

(I don't remember why I am writing this anymore)

I would like to wish you the very best. But please don't make promises you can't keep. Because it builds false hopes which sooner or later collapses.

>You would be surprised to hear that my friends (girls and guys alike) don't believe me and think I am joking.

Not surprising at all. In fact I'm finding it difficult to take you seriously. Given how many mouths you have to feed. Your family will be really big which 2 parents + 2 parents + 2 kids(assuming) + you and your wife. That's almost 8 people. Maintaining a family of 10 people, their expenses, bills, health care is a costly business, Even if you have your own BIG home. Else add rents et al to additional expenses. Plus you have kids education + their expenses. And your own family expenditure. Unless you are earning really huge I don't see you will make it through.

Therefore even though you may want to. But still you may not be able too.

>>In their opinion, I don't know what I am talking about, and will not care about anyone once I get married. TL;DR, People, even daughters laugh at you when you promise to take care of their parents equally as your own.

They are just trying to deal with reality.

In the context of traditional weddings, I never understood dowries, considering the fact that a productive member of the family (the daughter) goes to join another family. Shouldn't it be the other way around (a bride price)?

Its a mystery, why such a practice would have even originated. I think it started with concept of gifts after marriage, and has now become the evil practice it is.

that's a very good question. The fertility rate is very high amongst the poor, although they seem to have the worst means to support many children. I guess the main reason is that women were/are not empowered enough to decide how many kids they should have. Another major factor is lack of availability/knowledge of contraceptives. Also, I think children provide the only "entertainment"(using this word very loosely) when you have no TV, no books etc; there may also be a feeling that having many children gurantees that some will survive to carry their "family" ahead (many might die due to lack of access to healthcare). Lastly, child labour. Most of these are purely speculative though. Its what I picked up when I asked my parents precisely the same thing

> I guess the main reason is that women were/are not empowered enough to decide how many kids they should have. Another major factor is lack of availability/knowledge of contraceptives.

The Hesperian's "Where There Is No Doctor" [1] offered another explaination - in some parts of the world people are too poor to not have many children. A child needs few years to grow, and then it can work for the family. This makes children an investment that returns itself with profit after few years, and it is good for the family to get many of them.

[1] - http://hesperian.org/books-and-resources/

While ignorance on family planning matters and entertainment stuff(Again using that word loosely) have been factors(Remember the idea mobile phone ad? Where they cite power cuts contributing the other source of 'entertainment' which in turn contributes to population. So use idea 3G and get entertained in the other way).

The actual reasons really are 'reproduce until you get a boy' or 'have as many boys as you can' so that you can have something depend on in old age.

I don't think its as simple as saying that there is "actual reason" for anything that is so complex. For example: this obsession with males might be widely prevalent in the northern part of India, but its not as strong in the southern part.

I would call BullShit, but you are right, Southern states are marginally better. Especially Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Though they too are degrading every year. Stats: http://www.satyamevjayate.in/issue01/learnmore/detail/4/

>>I would call BullShit

You would because, you are not 60 and you are not being forced to do small time jobs for paltry income to just afford food, clothing, shelter and medical care.

A person goes and works small time jobs, struggles to put food on his table. He spends almost nothing. Struggles to pay rents, or buy clothes. All this while his hand and legs have no strength. Yet his peer who has a son eats dal, roti and kabab at home watching television.

Go and all the best trying to lecture that person, why not having a son was OK.

Honestly if you were to ask me, merely the thought of being that person scares me. I would save like hell now, have enough money to feed me until I die than be in such a position when I am 60.

>>Honestly if you were to ask me, merely the thought of being that person scares me.

Honestly, the thought of becoming either(small time job vs comfortable living with son oldman) of those old persons scare me. I would rather be an oldman, more like Ron from "Into the wild"(think lifestyle business), than either of these. Unfortunately, i can't rely on Federal Health care or pension for that.

There was an AMA from a chap who got out of the villages - knowledge about contraceptives was common place. Usage of contraceptives is also going up, and has reached 48% currently.

Reminds me of the early days of the EU nd butter mountain.

The indian goverment needs to build storage, build a transport system to replace the old british one that is dated. So many things theyt could be doing and should of been doing and yet all the warning signs get ignored.

Firstly they need to look at the price they pay as the sad fact they have paid so much has allowed the GM crops to sneak in via various crop priomises and alot of farmers jumped onto that bandwagon, found themselfs in debt they could not pay and cmmiting suicide to maintain honour. So any drop in price would be impacting and needs to be done slowly. You cant hook a farmer onto a subsidy crack-pipe without weaning them off slowly, but there again people dont apprecieate that money can also be a drug.

Sadly this pattern of growth/overstock etc is common in many area's of the World over time and as I mentioned the whole butter mountain/dairy one the EU had in its early days being a good enough example. Exports would be one area, though they will take a loss, but better a small loss than losing it all.

Further evidence that governments should be as limited as possible in their access and control of our lives. Nearly everything they touch has ugly short and long-term consequences spanning from financial to millions of people dying.

I know that the issues in India are far more complex than this. I am over-simplifying in a gross manner. That said, I can't help but feel that "civilization" has degenerated into the lunatics running the asylum world-over. I don't know what the solution might be, but it is almost unthinkable to see millions of people dying rather than millions of people mounting a revolt to take control of what is rightly theirs: Their country, their land, their resources and their very lives.

Here's a case where the actions of a few in power are likely a huge part of the reason for millions dying every year. What is wrong with humanity?

Yes. It is a gross simplification.

For reference: soon after being formed, India was given 0 chance of survival, with a common theme being that the country would soon break up into a million different states.

That country with more languages, cultures and dialects than Babel is still here.

Further, for the longest time India depended on foreign aid to feed its people. Until they finally did something about it and ushered in the green revolution which turned Punjab and many other states into bread baskets. India has gone from a place where people died in famines to a place where they can actually worry about improving nutrition standards.

And the subsidies being reviled today played an important part before to make this discussion happen in the first place.

India built the IITs. Which went on to power companies across the globe.

They built their own space program, and they also built the Non Aligned movement during the cold war, which was a pretty nifty achievement.

They currently supply some of the larger contingents to the UN. (And some of those contingents are mired in corruption charges.)

India is a stupidly complicated country. I could go on for pages about its ills, at the same time point out genuine accomplishments it has achieved.

Edit: removed a line which was argumentative.

I would go farther and say that mine was a grotesque over-simplification.

One has to admit that there is something wrong with the way governments are working world-wide (not just India or the US). Examples abound of everything from flat-out government corruption to governments making decisions which often-times have consequences that affect millions in very negative ways. It's a weird time because we are so connected that it is easy to see these things happening all across the world. Fifty years ago it was very hard for the average citizen of any country to get a play-by-play account of what was going on around the world.

Today you can get a good picture within an hour of sitting down at your computer. One of the pictures I am getting is that we have all allowed governments to do more than they should. And we are all paying for it in one way or another. To be auto-critical, the disastrous economic downturn that we have been navigating through was nearly 100% caused by the US government deciding that it was politically important to put into place a framework that allowed almost anyone to own a home. Yes, private enterprise and Wall Street took it from there. It was government that enabled and promoted this and provided the ecosystem within which the disaster was created. Other examples of this are wars nobody wants, military bases all over the world and foreign aid that often ends in the hands of dictators and questionable characters.

Being hopeful, I see a future where the Internet connects people to the point where governments simply won't be able to cause so much damage at the local or global level. I think that era is slowly coming to an end.

> Nearly everything they touch has ugly short and long-term consequences spanning from financial to millions of people dying

err.. you're talking about the Wall Street and big pharma types, right? Oh wait, no.

"Tehran will not be falling over itself to buy because of concern that Indian grain may be tainted by fungal disease"

That's what I was wondering. There is something making the rounds called Ug99, a form of wheat rust capable of destroying 80 percent of all known wheat varieties (PBS). The protocols may be inept but to what extent could the government just be trying to contain a botanical pandemic?

Governance in India consists of terrible mismanagement and obscene corruption. The country's growth has been driven by the private sector and privatization.

Its so entrenched in the billion person economy, there simply seems to be no way for the educated classes to have an impact and change this. Any ideas on how this can be changed?

Something similar in South Africa. At least India has decent mass education, the only way I see out. You need everyone to be educated, connected and have a true participatory democracy.

The problem is everybody talks against corruption, but when they themselves get a chance to be corrupt they go for it.

People feel what they do is right, and what others do is wrong. No matter what the truth is.

What is even more deplorable, depressing even, is that the educated Indians are the worst of the lot. You would think education would bring about change and an unwillingness to give in to the corruption. You would be absolutely wrong.

The educated are the ones with money, and if you have money in India, you can get away with almost anything unscathed. Notice how the wealthy/rich/educated are almost never standing in lines in India. It is always poor folk in line; the rich have paid someone to either stand in line, or the government agent to cut ahead of the line.

As someone said, India's problems are too complex to propose simple solutions. Educating the masses is just one prong of a multi-pronged approach to making things "right".

It really depends on what you mean by "educated". I went to one of the best engineering universities; yet I was shocked to see that a large chunk of the students had no qualms with cheating, copying etc. Essentially, the "education" they received was only as a means to land a job

One of the primary reasons is the inability to match the supply-demand cycle. There are a few startups trying to solve this issue in their own way.

I heard one of the founders speak http://www.efarm.in (he runs another site connecting farmers called http://www.efarmdirect.com). His views are quite interesting and he is using IT as an enabler to solve some of the issues. They are trying to use basic mobile phones to gather supply info, feed that information above the chain.

The problem appears to be:

"The ruling party has been the worst manager of the demand-supply of food grains."

the very idea that a political entity can 'manage' supply and demand.

'No matter what happens, I am not responsible' is the attitude of nearly all of us.

When asked who actually is.. The answer is obvious.

'Its the government'.

I wonder if farmers could arbitrage the government by buying grain at the market price and then selling at the fixed price...

The main problem is the PDS [1] in certain Indian states. In other states, where the PDS works (e.g. Tamil Nadu), things are better.

The article is very simplistic and alarmist. Things are much more complex, and it's high time Western readers stopped using the "developing" (read: industrial) world to boost their perceived moral superiority.

Why are political articles about the US not allowed on HN, but Indian are?

[1] http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl1711/17110710.htm

It was not submitted as a political problem, but the discussions have devolved into a political debate. Sad.

Politics is the art of allocating resources.

"politics is the fact that the weakest cat in the street can become the leader of the pack" (paraphrasing Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe in their Retreating the Political)

This kind of old news. This has been a problem for many years. But this year there has been no rain yet in Bangalore. I suppose the rains should have started in beginning of June. Many farmers who planted the seeds expecting rains, have lost crops. So, there could be use of excess stocks this year.

"Power will go to the hands of rogues and freebooters. All Indian leaders will be of low caliber and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles" --Winston Churchill


I'm a web developer and I want to solve this distribution problem. I've been trying to think of a business model to sustain it but have come up with nothing.

Ideas ?

Indian has a space program, a nuclear weapons program and now owns British Steel and LandRover - and we send them aid to feed themselves !

The United States of American has a space program, a nuclear program, own a lot and 1 in 5 children are living in poverty.

You can say the same about almost any country.

The state of poverty and despair in western countries is far more mind boggling to me than in developing countries.

True but AFAIK no other countries are spending their tax money providing food aid to the USA?

I agree our own poverty situation is awful, but honestly that's another reason to not be spending tax money the US International Food Aid Program. What if we spent that ~1.2 billion each year on feeding our hungry children, trying to reduce the number of families in poverty etc..?

Countries (including India) donate to the US during times of disaster (Katrina). Not exactly the same thing, but worth pointing out.

The US gets a lot of value from having a friend in the region. Especially one with the military capabilities that India has.

But really, my point is that we live in a complicated world. It's idealistic (naive?) to think "how silly, people are starving yet they have a space program or a nuclear program?!" Science and energy aren't wasteful places to be spending money. Frankly, we live in a world where military spending can hardly be seen as wasteful.

The donations during Katrina were meant to be understood as moral support. These donations were not to be misunderstood as a claim that the US would have been incapable of dealing with Katrina by themselves.

>>not to be misunderstood as a claim that the US would have been incapable of dealing with Katrina by themselves.

Oh, yes sure.

But if somebody in my neighborhood dies, I lend them shoulder so that they cry in comfort. Not that they are incapable of dealing with their loss. But because that's how friends treat each other. With compassion and are always there for each other during times of need.

Yes, but this relation is not symmetric, which is where the OP's question comes in

It depends, you could spend $1.2Bn on feeding the people of various third world countries or you could spend $6.7Bn/Month on bombing just one of them - not sure which is going to gain you more friends and influence, but neither is going to do much for a poor kid in Alabama

I agree with you, I wonder why someone downvoted / flagged your post. The US has 1000+ bases around the world and spends a lot of money maintaining troops in "friendly" countries and client states (Middle East puppet regimes) and occupying and bombing other countries. The real total "defense budget" including all the offensive actions, DoD, Pentagon, TSA etc is more than $1 trillion (that's $1000 billion, or $1000,000 million). All of that could be spent at home but we'd rather bomb / liberate those civilians than to spend money on healthcare of our elderly or food or education of our kids.



The Federal Reserve has printed trillions of dollars and given it to their buddy banksters and have no trail of it, and we the taxpayers have to pay it back by inflation. Poor suckers who saved for their retirements can go to hell.


End the corporate bailouts, bring the US military budget to a sane level, end the subsidies for big oil and gas, end the subsidies to banksters and we'll have enough to feed all the kids and the poor and provide universal healthcare.

Bank of America Pays No Taxes, Gets $1B Refund: Report http://www.thestreet.com/story/11059978/bank-of-america-pays...

Bank of America, GE Pay Zero Federal Taxes http://publicintelligence.net/bank-of-america-ge-pay-zero-fe...

Bank of America, Citigroup, GM paid no taxes http://www.standard.net/topics/opinion/2011/04/04/bank-ameri...

Federal Reserve Cannot Account For $9 Trillion http://www.dailymarkets.com/economy/2009/05/14/federal-reser...

We all pay for the research but when it's time for profits it's "capitalism" because socialism is evil!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_subsidies A 2009 study by the Environmental Law Institute[5] assessed the size and structure of U.S. energy subsidies over the 2002–2008 period. The study estimated that subsidies to fossil-fuel based sources amounted to approximately $72 billion over this period and subsidies to renewable fuel sources totaled $29 billion. The study did not assess subsidies supporting nuclear energy.

The three largest fossil fuel subsidies were:

Foreign tax credit ($15.3 billion) Credit for production of non-conventional fuels ($14.1 billion) Oil and Gas exploration and development expensing ($7.1 billion) The three largest renewable fuel subsidies were:

Alcohol Credit for Fuel Excise Tax ($11.6 billion) Renewable Electricity Production Credit ($5.2 billion) Corn-Based Ethanol ($5.0 billion)

I was going to sarcastically reply that my apartment building also wasn't holding a fundraiser for the robber barons on wall street until I remembered that we already did.

Also, you are aware that in 2011 the usa spent .86 trillion dollars on the military and wars? Maybe we should go after that for food aid before complaining about a paltry billion donated from the richest country in the world to our fellow human beings.

Agreed 100%, but arguing about military spending seems pretty tangential to the main discussion here, whereas the food aid program is directly relevant.

Amen to that! It's more like $1 trillion or $1.3 or more, see my response below. And we need to go after the banksters and big oil and gas that take away more than enough money that could be used to balance our budget before we talk about aid that is a fraction of a percentage of our GDP.

The definition of poverty in the US and India is a little different, in the USA it means a family income of less than $43,512 a year - in India it means dying of starvation.

Not wishing to belittle the struggle of so many US families - but this isn't quite the same thing.

The poverty level in the us is $23 050 for a family of 4 (1). Not sure where you got your figure.

Roughly 10% of americans were food-insecure at some point in a year (2)

(1) http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/12poverty.shtml

(2) http://webarchives.cdlib.org/sw1s17tt5t/http://ers.usda.gov/...

Yes, in India ~50% of the population doesn't have regular access to clean water or a sewage system. Yes, I'd rather be poor in the US than poor in India. But I maintain that the state of poverty in the US (and other western countries) is a far bigger failure than the state of poverty in any developing country.

Also, I can't help but link to this great post whenever talking about poverty:


the mac and cheese one makes me tear up every time I read it.

Food insecurity in the US is meaningless. The definition is so broad it encompasses all sorts of ridiculous situations.

Consider a morbidly obese person who eats 6 cheeseburgers/day. At dinner time on the 30'th day of the month (payday is the 1'st of next month) they run out of money, and are only able to purchase 4 cheeseburgers that day. By the definition of the USDA, this person is food insecure.

Comparing poverty in the US to poverty in India is a misnomer - poor people in the US are actually richer than the rich (top 5%) in India. I say this based on both personal experience and statistics: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/the-haves-and-t...

The article by Scalzi you cite does not describe the poor in the US. I debunk it (with stats) here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1713461

Food insecurity at some point in a year is not at all the same thing as starvation.

That does not sound like the correct number for the US poverty line. Where did you get it from?

Sorry my mistake, it was from a lobbying group website and is 2x the "official" US poverty level income figure. Their point being that even at 200% of the official figure it's still pretty tough, which is certainly true.

Their site was one of these "thinktanks" that appear to be an official government agency until you look very closely.

The problem is not lack of food production but distribution. There is a need for a lot of investment in infrastructure.

What keeps India's infrastructure basically third-world while other (small, but rapidly growing) parts of the economy are world-class?

Really bad governance. All the development and growth you hear about is driven by capitalism, private sector growth, and privatization of energy, telecommunication and other traditional government strongholds.

The country is held back by public sector mismanagement and obscene corruption.

Not sure if relevant, but the Geopolitics of the United States article claims the thesis that one reason the US got such a strong economy was because the rich Mississippi Basin had more navigable waterways than the rest of the world combined. It mentions the Ganges River by saying:

"The Ganges River Basin is the most agriculturally productive in the world, but the Ganges is not navigable. The combination of fertile lands and non-navigable waterways makes the region crushingly overpopulated and poor."

That Stratfor article is amazingly good; I wish they'd post the second half publicly vs. requiring email (I'm reading it now).

It's annoying they don't have a price between free and $349/yr. I'd pay $100-150.

Its really a mixed bag. Some regions have phenomenal growth and are driving all the growth. Where as the poorer regions of the country are left in a vicious circle. Although that is changing but at a very slow rate.

Also has enough food to feed themselves. But are tripping over time and again =/

Yeah its not fair is it?

British went to India (on what visa?) and looted the country shipping everything valuable to Britain. And now British can't let Indians into their country because of visa restrictions? That is fair right?

Or Britain liberated India from a Mughal conqueror and put the Hindus back in charge.

American's also don't let Brits in because of Visa issues - and after we, almost successfully, taught them to speak English

India is a secular country. Hindus are not in charge (Prime minister is sikh - minority, Head of ruling party is a christian, President whose position is large ceremonial is hindu, Vice President whose position is also ceremonial is muslim - Find a country with diversity at the top in entire world).

>>Britain liberated India from a Mughal conqueror So called Mughal conqueror also thought he is a liberator.

Edit: Typo.

All you people are a joke. Still discussing religion and historical shit and whom to blame. What's wrong with you people? Seriously, what's done is done. Wake the fck up.

>India is a secular country. Hindus are not in charge

Tell that to the Christians of Orissa or Muslims of Ahmedabad or Kashmir.

50,000 Christians fled in Orissa in 2008, thousands of homes destroyed and dozens of Churches burnt. http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/sep/01mob.htm

Thousands were still unable to return because of Hindu extremists more than 1 year later: http://www.christianpost.com/news/orissa-christians-are-pris...

Remember when Hindu-dominated BJP kicked Jaswant Singh out of the party for saying the truth?

Jaswant Singh: "Look into the eyes of the muslims that live in india and if you truly see through the pain that they live of which land do they belong to? we treat them as aliens! because somewhere, inside we continue to ask that 'even after pakistan you still want something?' these are citizens of india now. that was jinnah's failure, because jinnah never left and never really advised the muslims that stayed back."


-Muslim parents are not averse to mainstream education or to send their children to affordable Government schools. The access to government schools for children of Muslim parents is limited.

-The average amount of bank loan disbursed to the Muslims is 2/3 of the amount disbursed to other minorities. In some cases it is half. The Reserve Bank of India’s efforts to extend banking and credit facilities under the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme of 1983 has mainly benefited other minorities marginalizing Muslims.

-There is a clear and significant inverse association between the proportion of the Muslim population and the availability of educational infrastructure in small villages. Muslim concentration villages are not well served with pucca approach roads and local bus stops.

-Most of the variables indicate that Muslim-OBCs (Other Backward Class) are significantly deprived in comparison to Hindu-OBCs. The work participation rate (WPR) shows the presence of a sharp difference between Hindu-OBCs (67%) and the Muslims. The share of Muslim-OBCs in government/ PSU jobs is much lower than Hindu-OBCs.

>>Or Britain liberated India from a Mughal conqueror and put the Hindus back in charge.


Firstly Muslims participated and contributed equally to Indian 'Freedom' Struggle. Notice the word 'Freedom' there! Indians consider it Freedom, being an Indian I've never read anything in our history books, which considers the post mughal period as a the period of 'Freedom'.

Secondly British stole a lot from India, took it back to England to make itself rich. Mughals as far as I know did nothing like that. The conqueror never went back, In fact he united India and contributed to India's rich cultural heritage in music, poetry, science, wealth and in nearly every aspect of life.

After all that India was never a nation ruled by single ideological power. Mainland India has been ruled by Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists(Asoka was a Buddhist), atheists. And there have been no defined borders of Mainland India throughout history. Which has been area from the north starting from southern tips of Russia, the whole of Afghanistan and then extending on the east till Iran.

India has been ruled by people speaking various languages, cultures, skin color and ethnicity for thousands of years.

What did Britain steal from India? Some diamonds, but most of the other stuff was renewable resources (and time/opportunity cost), right?

The British banned several industries in India to encourage the development of those industries in Britain. One of Gandhi's famous acts of disobedience was leading people down to the sea to make their own salt, an industry that was forbidden in India at the time.[1] The British did do a few good things for India, but they did some really bad things too.


What do you mean by 'renewable resources'?

The British rule in India was full of continuous exploitation of the Indian masses, both politically and economically. The value of freedom can't be measured in diamonds.

To learn more, start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_independence_movement

>What did Britain steal from India? Some diamonds, but most of the other stuff was renewable resources (and time/opportunity cost), right?

That's a sad, sick peace of imperial mentality. Would you rather be butchered by an army of some foreign people who consider people of their skin to be superior to yours, and then say it's only some diamonds?

What did the British steal from Native Americans? Only some gold?

What did the British steal from European colonists of America? Only some tea?

Put the Hindus back in charge? The British just used divide and conquer to rule (and the people were stupid enough to fall for that). The division of India was because of insecurity of Muslims and due to rigidness of the Hindu leaders who weren't willing to compromise on power, they wanted to be "in charge" and that's why Jinnah insisted on a separate country.


Even 60+ years after independence India and Pakistan are still virtually at red alert because of the lack of trust and because of the Kashmir dispute and both countries spend billions of dollars to arm their military while 75.6% of Indians and some 60% of Pakistanis live under poverty (live under $2 a day according to HDI). It works out well for the weapons manufacturers of the world, the taxpayers of India and Pakistan are helping the economy of US, UK, France, Germany etc by buying billions of dollars worth of killing machines.


Not really.

Thats, well I don't know how to categorize that.

The brits - the East India Company to start - destroyed several different kingdoms starting with Bengal. They also demolished the Rajputs, the Sikhs, the Marathas - all Hindu Kingdoms. They demolished the Sultanate that ruled from Delhi, and several other princely states.

You could even say they were equal opportunity in that - no matter what religion you were, you would be cowed, because, well - they knew how. Divide and conquer worked.

They also didn't put Hindus back in charge. They realized that they needed a new class of people to work for them and then worked to create a peon/intelligent worker class. They didn't choose those people based on religion.

> we, almost successfully, taught them to speak English

Ummm, no you did not teach them to speak English.

Rather, "you" eradicated the parts of the population that did not speak English.

Difficult to reach two different goals at the same time with just one instrument. So, supporting the farmers means keeping prices high. Supporting the poor means keeping prices low. No matter how much anybody patches the system, the contradiction will remain in place.

I just hope someone doesn't come up with the stupid idea that this story is not tech related and kill it on HN.

As many "hackers" work on the next farting iPhone app or the next photo-sharing service that will leverage your social graph to puss fake viagra ads, stories like this need to be promoted to shame people chasing pathetic first-world problems.

I'm curious if this has anything to do as a result of India banning Monsanto for bio-piracy.

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