Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gender discrimination prevails in Indian news media

Is the news media gender insensitive? A new study confirms this. The report titled: Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media, which got unveiled on 23 March, 2011 captures the extent of gender equity in the news media in 522 companies across 59 countries. The main objective behind the study is to enquire whether media companies are currently organized to promote gender equity within their organizational structures and allow space for women's voice. Nearly, 253 newspaper companies (48%), 123 television stations (24%) and 146 radio stations (28%) have been surveyed for this purpose. The seven regions from where 59 countries got covered under the survey are: Mideast and N Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Americas, Asia and Oceana, Eastern Europe, Nordic Europe and Western Europe.

The study which was commissioned to International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) finds that in most of the 59 countries, it is the men who occupy vast majority of the management jobs and news-gathering positions. Women comprise only 33 percent of the full-time journalism workforce in the 522 companies surveyed. By contrast, women (56.9%) are found to be more likely than men (43.1%) to hold part-time regular jobs, and both full- and part-time contract jobs, than men. However, men are more likely to do freelance jobs. The support for the study came from the Ford Foundation, Loreen Arbus Foundation, Carolan K. Stiles, UNESCO Communication Development Division, Communication and Information Center and McClatchy Company Foundation. The IWMF study provides information about recruitment, training, policies related to advancement, news assignments, and a range of other issues that affect gender status in news organizations.

The study, which took two years to complete and involved an extensive research team around the world that included 17 regional coordinators who hired and supervised 150 researchers in 59 nations provides complete picture to date of women’s status globally in news media ownership, publishing, governance, reporting, editing, photojournalism, broadcast production and other media jobs. News organizations surveyed in face-to-face interviews included newspaper, radio and television stations with both traditional and online delivery formats.

A 1995 study by Margaret Gallagher shows that Indian women comprised 12 percent of the media workforce. However, the current study by IWMF show that women’s representation has doubled to 25% of the workforce across the 17 companies (10 newspapers, 6 television stations, and 1 radio station) surveyed. Still, it is the men who dominate the media industry in the ratio 4:1. Women earn lesser salaries than men particularly in governance and in top and senior management positions. Women earn similar to men in middle management and in junior professional levels as well as in the technical professional level. Women earn more than men in sales, finance and administration department of news companies.

The Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media finds that women occupy one-fifth (21%) of the positions in governance in India, which denotes roles on company board of directors. On the basis of interviews of company executives, it could be found that women’s place on governing boards is often determined by their membership in families owning the company, rather than their ability to secure these positions through advancement. Women hold 13.8 percent of positions at top management level in Indian news companies. Women hold 23.3 percent and 18.3 percent of positions in senior management and middle management, respectively. They hold 25.5 percent and 28.4 percent of positions at junior and senior professional levels, respectively. They occupy only 7% of the jobs in the technical production category, and even fewer at 4.7% of those in production and design. Sales, finance and administration sees women holding only 11.4% of the positions. Nearly 20.1%, 45.2%, 9.9%, 23.1% and 6.6% of jobs which are full-time regular, part-time regular, full-time regular, part-time regular and freelance, respectively, are held by women.

Only 29 percent of the news companies in India interviewed said women who take maternity leave are likely to get the same jobs back when they return to work. 41 percent of the news companies have corresponding policies allowing paternal leave, and 18 percent offer some form of child-care assistance. 88 percent Indian news companies have policies on educational training for women.

India has made strong strides in adopting gender policies in media companies in comparison to countries like China and Bangladesh. However, the IWMF study notes that sexual harassment of women in newsroom is well established across the world including India. A valid criticism against the report is that there is under-representation of Indian news organizations from various regional language backgrounds though they may be the ones earning more profits and capturing majority of the market as compared to the English news media.

The present study, which covers 1,70,000 persons in news media finds a higher representation of women in both governance and top management within both Eastern Europe (33% and 43%, respectively) and Nordic Europe (36% and 37%, respectively), compared to other regions. In the Asia and Oceana region, women hold 13% of those in senior management ranks.

The newly released report on the status of women in news media finds that 73 percent of the top management jobs globally are occupied by men as compared to 27 percent occupied by women. Almost two-thirds of the ranks of reporters are held by men as compared to 36 percent held by women. However, among senior professionals, women are nearing parity with 41 percent of the newsgathering, editing and writing jobs. Presently, women hold 26 percent of governing and 27 percent of top management jobs as compared to 12 percent of the top management positions being held by them way back in 1995 according to the Margaret Gallagher study.

Men hold nearly three-fourths (71.3%) of the positions in middle management of companies (that includes senior editors, chiefs of correspondents, design directors, and more senior personnel in finance) surveyed as compared to women (28.7%). There exists near-parity of men and women at the level of junior professional (that includes writer, producer, sub-editor, correspondent and production assistant) in Americas and Western Europe, as compared to other regions. In Asia and Oceana, the ratio of men to women at the junior professional level was found to be nearly 3:1. There exists a greater degree of gender balance at the senior professional level, with men slightly more than half (59.0%) and women nearing parity (41.0%). Senior professionals include senior writers, anchors and producers. Men hold three-fourths (73.2%) of the jobs in the technical professional level, with women just over a fourth (26.8%). This job category includes camera, sound and lighting personnel – jobs mainly associated with the production of broadcast news. Men fill about two-thirds (65.6%) of the production and design jobs, with women only a third (34.4%). This category includes graphics designers, photographers, illustrators, wardrobe designers and others in the creative roles of news production. In sales, finance and administration, men hold 64.4 percent position as compared to 35.5 percent by women. In Asia and Oceana, women hold one fourth of the positions in sales, finance and administration as compared to men.

Women’s under-representation was noticed in 26 of 59 i.e. 44% of the countries included in the study. Glass ceiling for women is observed in 20 of 59 nations (34%), and such invisible barriers exist in middle and senior management levels. The study finds that more than half of the companies surveyed have an established company-wide policy on gender equity. A relative parity between men and women in terms of occupational status was observed in 13 of 59 nations (22%).

Further Readings:

Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media

Women in news media in India are under-represented: Study, The Economic Times, 23 March, 2011,

Global Report on Status of Women in News Media Shows Men Hold Vast Majority of Management Jobs in Newsrooms Around the World, BizWireExpress, 23 March, 2011,

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Social Audit on Tribal Issues held at Statue Circle, Jaipur

Adivasi men and women from various blocks of Rajasthan expressed their dissent and voice at the Social Audit on Tribal Issues, which was organized by Rajasthan Adivasi Adhikar Manch (RAAM) at Statue Circle, Jaipur on 16 March, 2011. The panelist who listened patiently to the lived experiences and complaints of the adivasis included: BL Paliwal (ex-official at the Panchayati Raj department), Ramesh Nandwana (from Jal, Jungle, Jan and independent lawyer), KB Saxena (former chief secretary of Bihar), Kalicharan (Adivasi Adhikar Manch), Aruna Roy (MKSS), BD Sharma (Bharat Jan Andolan and former SC/ST Commissioner) and Nikhil Dey (MKSS).

RD Vyas informed that in Udaipur last year, a meeting of civil society organizations working among tribals was held. Major issues related to tribals were discussed like: NREGA, education, corruption, Forest rights etc. Most tribal areas in Rajasthan are backward and poor. Basic problems faced by the tribal population are: access to health care, livelihood security, Right to Land etc. which are yet to be solved. The Forest Rights Act could not be implemented effectively. Land acquisition by the government, the private sector and the land mafia is quite common. Majority of the tribal population is illiterate. The existing Panchayati Raj system is a failure in the tribal areas. The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 could not be implemented properly. Information regarding land acquisition is not passed to the gram sabhas or villages, which violates the PESA Act.

Badki Bai from Jharol said that PESA, which is meant for the poor, is not working properly in her village. Punni Bai from Abu Road informed that tribal people do not have access to forest produce. Despite the PESA law, the gram sabha has got no control over local resources. Gram sabha’s voice is not heard by the administration. It is the corporate sector which enjoys full control of the local produce thus depriving the tribals.

On Forest Rights Act, Suresh ji from Bara district told that at his village the Van Adhikar Samity has got no proper information and training. Total number of plots distributed under the Forest Rights Act on application was quite low. Sawaramji from Abu Road said that a few plots got distributed on application. Size of the plots distributed was quite small as compared to the size of the land, which was originally cultivated. Forest department still continue to enjoy more power despite the Forest Rights Act. Ladu Ram from Udaipur informed that in Kotra plots have not been allocated despite demands. Size of the plots allocated is too small. Forest officials dare the gram sabhas and application forms for land are deliberately destroyed. Tribals face harassment from the Forest officials. Mangelal from Pratapgarh district informed that the forest department is not bothered by applications from the people. Patwaris seldom provide correct information. Applications for plots are rejected without any reason. Similar, complaints were made by Bapunath Bhai from Chittorgarh and Mohanlal Gadasia from Udaipur. Keshuji said that water is extracted for mining and industry due to which farmers are suffering in Udaipur. In Bara district, land is acquired from the Sahariya tribe by exploitation. Outsiders have started displacing the original inhabitants.

Chandan ji, an activist from RAAM, informed that the Rajasthan government has changed the definition of village under the Rajasthan Panchayati (Modification of Provisions in Their Application to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1999. It is for the Governor to decide now what a village is. Gram sabhas are not consulted while land acquisition takes place. There is no control over minor forest produce. Tribals cannot go to sanctuaries for accessing minor forest produce. The police hold more power as compared to the gram sabha. Development related decisions undertaken by the gram sabha is not accepted. There exists ignorance / lack of awareness and knowledge about the provisions mentioned in the Central PESA Act in the Fifth Schedule area by people, organisations working with tribal’s in the Fifth Schedule areas and the state officials. The PESA law enacted by the Centre is not implemented in letter and spirit by the Rajasthan government.

BD Sharma told that the PESA Act was enacted way back in 1996 and still we’re discussing about its implementation even though 15 years have passed. Both the Central and the state governments have conspired against the PESA. The state governments often complain that the PESA law has been made by the Centre and not them. Even a Prime Minister like Rajiv Gandhi who stressed for Panchayati Raj system at the grassroots so as to ensure democracy failed to acknowledge the same system in Scheduled areas. The Panchayati Raj Constitutional (72nd Amendment) Act that came in 1992 did not include the tribal areas. That is why the PESA came into being in 1996. Most of the North eastern states under Sixth Schedule Areas (where autonomous councils exist) are not covered by PESA, as these states have their own Autonomous councils for its governance. The Autonomous councils are so powerful that even land cannot be acquired for implementing development related schemes. BD Sharma demanded for state government’s sensitivity to the traditional democratic rights and values of the tribal society, and thus to amend the existing state laws / provisions. He informed that Rajasthan has not transferred the power of ownership of Minor Forest Produce under the State PESA. The PESA law of Madhya Pradesh is so strong that the gram sabha can return a piece of land belonging to a tribal person/ family in case his land has been acquired by a non-tribal person. He said that Andhra Pradesh has a law (1 upon 70) under which tribal land cannot be bought by non-tribals. Moreover, non-tribals have to sell such land, which they have bought to only tribals. The Bhuria Committee that comprised of as many as 15 MPs recommended for communal ownership of land that falls under Scheduled areas. Its recommendation is yet to be implemented. The Prime Minister is talking about the PESA and not the Bhuria Committee. He also mentioned about the Tribal Sub-Plan. India took the decision that areas inhabited by tribal population be considered as Scheduled areas in 1975. Yet little could be done for the development of these areas and the STs.

KB Saxena said that making laws do not ensure the citizens to enjoy the rights. Almost 15 years have passed since the PESA has been enacted. Public accountability of elected representatives is essential. Land acquisition is rampant in areas inhabited by the tribal population. Rajasthan government has not confirmed in this year’s budget how the laws can be amended in accordance to the PESA law.

Ramesh Nandwana informed that the 5th Schedule of the Constitution has provisions for tribal areas. PESA is intended to empower people. According to the law, tribal land cannot be bought by non-tribals. Still land is acquired for building factories, mining and constructing roads. Non-tribals are entering into tribal areas. More and more tribals are involved in distress migration for livelihood opportunities. It is difficult to approach the government for justice since the government too is involved in land acquisition.

BL Paliwal said that Rajasthan came up with Rajasthan Panchayati (Modification of Provisions in Their Application to the Scheduled Areas) Act in 1999. The process or product based system under PESA is not required. Like PESA, the Forest Rights Act needs to be implemented properly. Government of India has created rift among its own people by differentiating between the Marginalized Area Development Authority (MADA) and Tribal Area Development Authorities (TADA) areas.

The other points discussed during the Social Audit are as follows:

  • Teachers are not teaching but managing schools.

  • Quality of education imparted in tribal areas is too poor.

  • Kotra is lagging behind Udaipur in terms of educational infrastructure.

  • PESA can be implemented in Scheduled areas. However, in non-Scheduled areas, tribals are facing atrocities.

Through the displays, one came to know about the special schemes for STs in the Rajasthan Budget, which are as follows:

  • According to the Census 2001, the ST population in Rajasthan was 70.97 lakh, which was 12.56 percent of the entire population of the state.

  • As per the provisions, the budget should allocate 12.5 percent for ST areas.

  • As per provisions, out of 12.5% to be allocated for ST areas, 75 percent should be allocated for TADA areas and the rest 25 percent should be allocated for MADA areas, scattered population and Sahariya areas.

  • During the last few years, less allocation has been made on ST schemes.

From the table (given above), which was on display in the social audit, one may note that the share of expenditure on STs in the total expenditure of the government declined from 3.86 percent in 2007-08 to 2.92 percent in 2009-10. Thereafter, the share of expenditure on STs in the total expenditure jumped from 4.6 percent in 2010-11 to 7.61 percent in 2011-12.

Sahariya tribe blocks: Kishanganj, Shahbad

TADA area blocks: Abu Road, Kotra, Gogunda, Jhadol, Kherwara, Sarada, Salumbar, Dhanawad, Pratapgarh, Ghatol, Arnod, Garhi, Banswara, Kushalgarh, Bagidara, Simalwara, Dungarpur, Aspur, Sagwara etc.

MADA area blocks: Mavli, Bari Sadri, Begun, Chittaurgarh, Beejoliya, Mandalgarh, Rawatbhata, Jhalrapatan, Chhipabarod, Chhabra, Baran, Sangod, Digod, Antah, Pipaldah, Nainwa, Hindoli, Jahazpur, Sawai Madhopur, Khandar Sapotra, Karauli, Mandrail, Bonli, Nadoti, Amber, Bari, Baseri, Alwar etc.

Powers given to Gram Sabhas in tribal areas under PESA (1996)

  • Social provision: Gram sabhas can stop/ ban the sale of alcohol and drugs.

  • Protection of land: Gram sabhas can stop acquisition of private and public land done illegally.

  • Land Acquisition: Gram sabhas need to be consulted before public or private land is acquired in the panchayat.

  • Minor forest produce: Gram sabha is the owner of the minor forest produce.

  • Water resources: Gram sabha manage the minor water resources in the panchayats like: drains, ponds etc.

  • Mineral: Before mineral surveys are conducted, the permission of the gram sabhas needs to be sought.

  • Arrangement of the village market is the right of the gram sabha.

  • Gram sabha should control the credit flows in which STs are involved.

  • Development related schemes need the permission of the gram sabhas. Gram sabhas have a say and right to choose development related schemes.

  • Gram sabhas have control over the financial resources coming for local development.

  • Gram sabhas should certify expenses incurred in a village for development.


Rajasthan Panchayati (Modification of Provisions in Their Application to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1999,

Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996,

Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Raj and Gram Swaraj (Amendment) Act, 2004,,%202004.pdf

Report of the Committee formed by the Government of India, Ministry of Panchayat Raj, Raghav Chandra Report,

Report of the Sub Committee appointed by The Ministry of Panchayati Raj to draft Model Guide-Lines to vest Gram Sabhas with powers as envisaged in PESA,

Report of the Committee of Officers on Issues ralating to minor produce in PESA states, February2007,

Body formed to fight for tribal rights in state, The Times of India, 17 March, 2011,

Roadmap for the Panchayati Raj (2011-16): An All India Perspective, February, 2011,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Land acquisition is rampant in Asia, conclusion drawn by recent reports

The post-1990s saw opening up of the Indian economy along with rapid industrial development. The objective of the successive governments in the last two decades has been to push for higher economic growth. However, all what we saw in the form of rapid industrialization and urbanization came at some cost. Farmers are getting displaced and they have no secure employment or other livelihood opportunities due to the ongoing process of establishing SEZs and industrial farming. Though new investments mostly by the private sector have boosted revenues, created jobs and developed tourism, they have posed grave threats to the land tenure security of peasants. This is the central message of a study titled Commercial pressures on land in Asia: An Overview, which has been prepared by Roel R Ravanera and Vanessa Gorra and funded by IFAD and International Land Coalition.

The study finds that a fall in public investment in agriculture during the last two decades has made agricultural lands vulnerable to commercial interests, like tourism, urban development and special economic zones (SEZs). Most of the investment on land has resulted in the conversion of agricultural, forest, and foreshore lands into plantations, and commercial and industrial centers, which has affected tribal community the most. Private sector investments in agricultural production have detrimental implications, such as converting farmers into laborers, and promoting the use of harmful technologies.

Prior to the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, which got huge financial and technical support from the respective Governments of various Asian nations, huge tracts of land used to be controlled by the landlord class in most parts of Asia. Before the 1950s, the landlords rented out their lands to sharecroppers in exchange for a specific share of the product. Tenants lacked economic rights/ security over the land they cultivated (due to which they could be evicted anytime) and their poor access to technology and meager incomes derived from small landholdings made them vulnerable to the money lending class. Productive investment on agriculture was minimal.

Public spending on agriculture in transforming countries of South and East Asian countries declined from 14.3 percent in 1980 to 7 percent in 2004. Public spending on agriculture as a share of agricultural GDP increased meagerly from 10.2 percent in 1980 to 10.6 percent in 2004 in these countries. Official Development Assistance (ODA) to agriculture has declined during the last two decades. Thus, low public spending along with reduced ODA to agriculture made way for the private sector to invest in agriculture. As a consequence, the Indian SEZ Act got enacted in 2005 so as to boost export. Several forms of tax exemptions and incentives have been provided under the Act to attract foreign investment, the study finds. India imitated the Chinese model of export oriented growth by enacting the SEZ Act.

The paper titled Commercial pressures on land in Asia: An Overview informs that due to the liberal attitudes of various governments, world foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows in agriculture exceeded US$ 3 billion per annum by 2005-2007, up from below US$ 1 billion per annum between 1989 and 1991. FDI inflows in agriculture since 2000 witnessed a rise in developing regions, particularly Asia and Oceania, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

India has increasingly shown its interest in agricultural investment in African countries. Due to large scale land acquisition, people have been displaced from their land in countries like Ethiopia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Zambia. [It must be stated here that the Working Group on agricultural production, which was chaired by Haryana Chief Minister BS Hooda favored Indian companies purchasing lands in countries like Argentina, Myanmar and ASEAN countries for producing pulses and edible oils]. Countries like China are engaged in land grabbing so as to ensure food security in the aftermath of global food crisis of 2007-2008.

The United Kingdom Renewable Fuels Agency reported that in 2008 global production of bioethanol totaled to 50 billion liters. Brazil and the United States (US) are the major bioethanol producers, followed by China and India. In 2007, India produced 400 million litres of ethanol and its share in world production was 0.7 percent. India's share in the world production of biodiesel in the same year was 0.4 percent. Due to the problems associated with fossil fuel based energy resources, developed countries are turning their attention towards biofuels. It has been estimated by a study of FAO that the biofuel industry will more than double between 2007 and 2017. Thus, land in Asian countries are increasingly diverted to industrial farming for biofuel production, aquaculture and logging.

As of February 2010, 571 SEZs have been approved in India out of which, 348 are notified and 105 are operational. The highest number of formal approval of SEZs took place in Maharastra (109) to be followed by Andhra Pradesh (102) and Tamil Nadu (68) as of February, 2010. The value of exports from SEZs has increased from Rs. 13,854 crore in 2003-2004 to Rs. 66,638 crore in 2007-2008. Out of the 16,17,415.36 square kilometers of agricultural land, 676 squre kilometers have been formally allocated to 270 SEZs. Displacement coupled with loss of livelihood opportunities due to SEZs has affected the marginalized, the women, the adivasis and the dalits. The SEZ central board does not have representation from the farming, dalit, or adivasi communities who are the worst affected.

Rajasthan, which has 44 major and 22 minor mineral reserves, owns the most mine leases: 1,324 leases for major minerals, 10,851 for minor minerals and 19,251 quarry licenses for mining stones. It is the only producer of garnet, jasper, selenite, wollastonite, and zinc concentrates; the leading producer of calcite, lead concentrate, ball clay, fireclay, ochre, phosphorite, silver, and steatite. Rajasthan accounts for 70% of India’s and 10% of the world’s sandstone output. Unorganized or illegal mines are not accountable to the government and do not follow environmental protection measures. The Indian government has failed to regulate illegal mining activities in forest areas of Udaipur, Sariska, and Jamwa Ramgarh.

Maoism grew as a result of displacement and eviction of tribal people particularly in states like Chattisgarh. Land acquisition in tribal areas seldom addresses the problems of rehabilitation or compensation. Approximately 40 million people (about 40% adivasis and 25% dalits) have been displaced so far and 75% of them are still awaiting rehabilitation in India. Oppositions to SEZs have often been followed by violent state repression.

Let us go through the findings of other reports related to land. The key findings of the study titled: Global Land Grabbing, Eroding Food Sovereignty by Ros-b Guzman (2010), Turning Point, are as follows:

* It has been observed by various international research organizations that since 2008 there have been massive foreign land transactions, which involved large-scale foreign investments in farmlands and the direct participation of transnational corporations and financial oligarchs in agricultural production. According to a World Bank report released on 7 September, 2010, there have been a total of 46.6 million hectares of land acquired between October 2008 and August 2009, which is almost double the size of the United Kingdom and a 10-fold increase in a decade. The figure, which the World Bank tallied from, managed by the non-government organisation (NGO) GRAIN, represents 464 projects.

* The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI, has estimated that 15 to 20 million hectares, or around 20 per cent of the total size of EU farmland, have been negotiated or secured between 2006 and 2009. At least 180 land deals have been reported since mid-2008, according to the NGO GRAIN.

* Various research papers point to the fact that Africa hosts the largest number and area of land grabs.

* Advanced capitalist countries and their transnational corporations (TNCs) are engaged in land deals with the poor countries, whether as direct purchases or long-term leases, as they command resources so as to produce crops either for food, feedstock or agrofuel in commercial and export quantities.

* The term land grabs has been used, not as reference to their illegality however since many of the deals have passed government approvals, but as description of the unjust terms through which they have been transacted and the utter lack of consultation with the communities of farmers and indigenous peoples.

* Oxfam has referred to some 120 hedge funds, retirement funds, agribusiness corporations, and private equity funds investing in agricultural lands in underdeveloped countries. Investment in land has been considered as the single best recession hedge of the next 10 or 15 years.

* Countries like: China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), India, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea have started their venture to Africa, South and Southeast Asia, South America, and Russia and Central Asia for land grabbing since March 2008. Countries, who are worried about food security and food price inflation, have outsourced their local food production by acquiring land in other countries.

* According to GRAIN (, the target countries for land acquisition in 2008 are: Sudan, Pakistan, Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Burma, Laos, and Uganda. The other target countries have been: Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Australia, India and China.

* Huge investments in land acquisitions are being done by China, the Middle East, and South Korea. The leading target countries are Sudan, Ethiopia, and the United Republic of Tanzania. Others include Brazil, Cambodia, Burma, Philippines, Ukraine, Russia, Thailand, Cameroon, Madagascar, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malawi, Senegal, Nigeria and Paraguay.

* The UNCTAD ( has observed that water scarcity is the major reason for land grabbing in water-abundant countries by Middle Eastern countries. Gulf states who are rich in oil and money but import food are outsourcing their food production. Hence, they are striking deals with fellow Islamic countries like Sudan and Pakistan. Oil dependent Asian states such as Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam have also been targets by the Gulf States. Similarly, Japan and South Korea who are food import dependent countries are engaged in overseas land purchases. Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are involved and interested in investments in land grabbing in countries from Africa and Asia.

* Apart from 'food-insecure' nations, land grabbers include: investment houses, private equity funds, fund managers, large agribusiness TNCs and the private sector. The private land grabbers enter the deal by building ties with local private partners, the host governments or through their own governments seeking joint ventures with the target countries. Their investment timeline may be up to 10 years and their projected annual rates of return are between 10 and 40 per cent in Europe or up to 400 per cent in Africa. These private players are more concerned with crucial issues such as soil fertility, water availability and farm productivity.

* Of the 464 projects covering 46.6 million hectares and targeting 81 countries as compiled from GRAIN, the World Bank interpolates that almost half of the projects covering 69 per cent of total land area (32 million hectares) are located in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). There are 8 million hectares in East and South Asia, 4.3 million hectares in Europe and Central Asia, and 3.2 million hectares in Latin America. The median size is 40,000 hectares, and in fact, a quarter of all the projects involve more than 200,000 hectares. In total, 37 per cent of the projects focus on food crops, 21 per cent on industrial and cash crops, 21 per cent on biofuels, and the rest on conservation and game reserves, livestock, and plantation forestry.

A report titled: Large-scale land acquisitions and leases: A set of core principles and measures to address the human rights challenge (2009) by Olivier De Schutter cites an estimate from IFPRI that between 15 and 20 million hectares of farmland in developing countries have been subject to transactions or negotiations involving foreign investors since 2006. Land which is close to water resources and therefore can be irrigated at a relatively low cost in infrastructures, and the land which is closest to markets and from which the produce can be exported easily is the highest in demand. Among the main target countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are Cameroon, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia. Target countries are present in Central Europe, in Asia and in Latin America such as Brazil, Cambodia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia or Ukraine. It is usually the developing countries which are being targeted, because the perception is that there exists enough land, which is inexpensive, climatic conditions are suitable for cultivation and local labour is cheap. There is demand for land located in Latin America and Africa since most of the world's reserve agricultural land (upto 80 percent) is located there and since 95 percent of the cropland in Asia has already been utilized. Following export bans by large food exporting countries during the global food crisis of 2007-08, resource-poor but cash-rich countries have turned to large-scale acquisitions or rent of land in order to achieve food security. The increased tendency of the poor countries to allow land acquisition has adversely affected the right to food and right to self-determination and the exploitation of natural resources of the local communities. Potential impacts include: the eviction of land users who have no formal security of tenure over the land they have been cultivating for decades; the loss of access to land for indigenous peoples and pastoral populations, competition for water resources and decreased food security if local populations are deprived of access to productive resources. The report has, therefore, recommended for participation of local communities in such land negotiations to ensure transparency.

The study titled: The Future of Food and Farming: Challenges and choices for global sustainability by The Government Office for Science tell us that:

* Global population will increase from 7 billion presently to 8 billion by 2030 and over 9 billion by 2050. Global consumption of meat is expected to rise from 32 kg per capita per annum presently to 52 kg per capita per annum by the middle of this century. Demand for fish is likely to go up in East and South Asia. Due to increase in purchasing power and change in consumption pattern to high-quality diet, the demand for food grains would go up, which is likely to put pressure on land, water and other resources.

* Wastage across the entire food chain needs to be reduced since it has been estimated that 30% of all food grown worldwide is lost or wasted before and after it reaches the consumer. Some estimates have placed it as high as 50%. This wastage of food happens in the backdrop of 925 million people globally suffering from hunger. A large section of the global population lack access to sufficient major macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and protein). 'Hidden hunger' happens when important micronutrients (such as vitamiins and minerals) are missing from people's diet.

* Although global crop yields grew by 115% between 1967 and 2007, the area of land in agriculture increased by only 8% and the total currently stands at approximately 4,600 million hectares. It is expected that land will be lost to urbanisation, desertification, salinisation and sea level rise, although some options may arise for salt-tolerant crops. It is estimated that 11.5 billion hectares of vegetated land on earth, about 24%, has undergone human-induced soil degradation, in particular through erosion. Although biofuel production can mitigate climate change to a certain extent, they may lead to a reduction in land available for agriculture.

* Global energy demand will rise by 45% between 2006 and 2030 and could double between now and 2050. Energy prices might go up and remain volatile in the future.

* Agriculture presently consumes 70 percent of total global 'blue water'. Demand for water for agriculture could rise by over 30% by 2030, while total global water demand could rise by 35–60% between 2000 and 2025, and could double by 2050 due to pressures from industry, domestic use and the need to maintain environmental flows.

Further readings:

Commercial pressures on land in Asia: An Overview (January, 2011) by Roel R Ravanera and Vanessa Gorra, IFAD and International Land Coalition,

Global Land Grabbing, Eroding Food Sovereignty by Ros-b Guzman, December, 2010, Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP),

The Future of Food and Farming: Challenges and choices for global sustainability by Government Office for Science

Large-scale land acquisitions and leases: A set of core principles and measures to address the human rights challenge by Olivier De Schutter, 11 June, 2009,

Land Grab or Development Opportunity? Agricultural investment and international land deals in Africa (2009), FAO, IFAD and IIED,

African farmers displaced as investors move in by Neil MacFarquhar, The Hindu, 23 December, 2010,

The new shifting agriculture: Shopping for fields overseas by Biraj Patnaik, The Times of India, 9 July, 2010,

“Agroecology outperforms large-scale industrial farming for global food security,” says UN expert, Food First, 22 June, 2010,

Seeds of trouble by Latha Jishnu, The Business Standard, 29 October, 2009,