India: Land, Life, Learning

Ten students and two professors from St. Lawrence University recently spent three weeks travelling and studying in India with a focus on the challenges facing Indian farmers.  The trip was funded by the university's Mellon Foundation Grant For Environmental Education Initiative.  This blog is the result of their work. 

Baba Ramdev and the New Indian Satyagraha

Satyagraha is still alive and well in India. The country that was freed from British Colonialism by Gandhi’s knack for fighting injustice with mass civil-disobedience is now looking inward. The new oppressor is not an outside colonizer (at least not directly) but instead is the sorry state of politics itself. India has become notorious for corrupt politicians and black money or money whose origins are hidden because it is laundered and kept in secure off shore bank accounts.

India's Land Acquisition Policy

Neoliberalism and the increased development brought along with globalization have changed India very rapidly throughout recent years.  The western influence is obvious in many settings and billboards for multinational corporations fill the skyline.  Industries are taking advantage of India’s newly liberalized markets and flocking to the subcontinent for both production and marketing purposes.

Indian Farmers Take Their Own Lives

By:Andrew Vance and Elizabeth Edwards

250,000. That’s the estimated number of farmers who have committed suicide in India since 1995. Yet this number, staggering in and of itself, neglects to reflect the true death toll. The government claims that there have only been 9,000 suicides. This amount only recognizes male, land-owning famers, and fails to account for the rippling social, economic, and political impact of these deaths. As fathers commit suicide, their debts are passed on to their families, leading their wives to take over the business, and their children to drop out of school to become farm helpers. Many of these family members take their own lives out of the same desperation that got them there in the first place. Farming in India, once a means of bountiful subsidence, passing life, land and happiness from generation to generation, now only passes down despondency. Horrifically, woman in India are not granted titles over land and their deaths thus go unreported as part of history’s worst wave of human suicides. Furthermore, widowed wives, though not granted title over land, are passed on the debt of their husbands. Farming men often struggle to pay their daughters’ dowries and facing embarrassment, commit suicide as well. Consequently, their daughters take their own lives out of guilt, perpetuating this deathly cycle.

Childhood Malnutrition

 By: Elizabeth Edwards 

Malnutrition plagues every country in some capacity. India is arguably among the hardest hit; a study in 2000, carried out by the World Bank, found that 47% of Indian children are malnourished, second only to Bangladesh, which rings in at 48%. However, despite these dismal findings, a steady positive change is occurring, according to a World Bank study, which drew data first in 1992 and then again in 1998. Over the course of these six years, the amount of children in India suffering from what is deemed as “mild undernourishment” has decreased from 76% to 73%.   The amount of Indian children classified as having “moderate undernourishment” has gone down from 53% to 47%. “Severe undernourishment cases” among Indian children has dropped from 22% to 18%.  While these may seem like small numerical leaps, every little change helps to counter the cycle of poverty and hunger.