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Blockchain and crypto-currencies: An insightful interview on the digital revolution

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The concept of crypto-currencies is undoubtedly a revolution in the world of finance. However, there is something more than only currencies that qualifies for being revolutionary. The linchpin on which this edifice of digital currency rests is Blockchain.  An open, distributed ledger that forms a chain of links. Everyone can see it, access it. There is no need for any third party. A can make a transfer to B any time without any “other” party being involved. Yes, like the reader I had a plethora of questions. Is this some form of financial rocket-science? What are the main pillars of this world? What is its use? How can if effect the world? How can it affect us? So on and so forth. Hence, in order to understand this new concept I decided to embark on this journey to comprehend the scope of Blockchain and subsequently, these currencies. One should not expect tips on trade and currency buying recommendation from the string of interviews that I plan to conduct. However, those who want to truly understand and realize the potential of Blockchain and crypto-currencies, may find these interviews insightful.

The first interview answers many questions but raises new ones too. Mr. Francesco and Mr. Luigi both were kind enough to give their time for the interview. Below is the introduction of both of the gentlemen.

Francesco Abbate – Finance Director at Procter & Gamble, co-founder of decrypto.biz (you’ll read more about this below), CEO at Swiss Crypto Advisors. With 15 years of high level Finance experience in a multinational environment, coupled with many years of study and interest first in Bitcoin and then in crypto-currencies he is not only an investor & trader but also an orator, public speaker in the world of crypto.

Luigi Matrone – Former global brand manager at Procter & Gamble, co-founder and CEO at E-Business Institute, a consulting firm that provide digital and e-business solution for companies. Investing in the crypto world since few years, also co-founder and CEO of Smarter-chains, a digital platform helping manufacturers drive margin improvement and customer centricity by leveraging new technological capabilities.

I tried to get out some tips. But I got much better than only tips.

How is the weather in Davos? Blockchain must have been a dominant part of the narrative at the recent WEF?

It is quite cold and it snowed a lot here, but the super-hot topic was undeniably blockchain, there were so many discussion panels on this, it is clearly one of the most debated area, with people interested in this from all industries. It shows that this is getting traction, although we are still at a very early stage.

Let’s begin with the value. Because in the end it is the ‘value’ that is going to determine the usage, prevalence and future of cryptos. What is the intrinsic value of Bitcoin/crypto? They are not backed up by gold like $ dollar or guaranteed by the government?

That is a very good point. Actually since 1973 Nixon abandoned the gold coverage of $ dollar so we entered into the fiat money era. We are personally the opposite of an anarchist and I like and value order and governments, although to be fair people in Argentina or Zimbabwe might have a different idea of what trust in the government means.

When it comes to intrinsic value it all depends on circumstances and what people are willing to use to transfer value. We started with barter deals, we went through gold, fiat money, credit cards…and credit card was a big revolution decades ago as people could not see the real money. In prisons often cigarettes are used as a mean of value transfer, so it is all relative and what matters is what people are willing to attribute value to, not always this might be what is guaranteed by a government.

So ultimately value is a matter of trust. But how can we believe in Bitcoin if it is not regulated? We often read of hacks and theft. I wouldn’t leave my money on the mercy of these cyber-crooks.

Very important point indeed. We get this question every day. Bitcoin in itself as a protocol and as a software is fully regulated, there are rules for everything, the code is open source and everyone can read it. You can see how new Bitcoin are created roughly every 10 minutes as rewards for mining, how transactions are signed and broadcasted, how the ledger is validated and maintained. You can’t change the rules without consensus; it is a “distributed democracy system”. And in itself the system is completely secure, not because we say so but because that is how it mathematically works, the block-chain itself practically immutable thanks to the amount of computational power necessary to add every block to the block-chain, it is just mathematically impossible to go back and change the content or orders of transaction, you can’t lose your Bitcoin or get stolen this way. What indeed happened and will continue to happen is hacks to personal accounts which are not protected, or to exchanges which are centralized. This has nothing to do with Bitcoin itself, it is either a personal fault (you are responsible for your security, like you would not give your credit card pin to strangers), or the result of a centralized player exchanging money for Bitcoin. If you leave your Bitcoin on exchanges and their central server gets hacked, then you can lose. Again, the point here is not to leave Bitcoin on exchanges and use basic security and safety procedures to be protected, we also take care of education and consultancy about this in www.decrypto.biz. As always, the users are the weakest point of the chain, but this can be minimized with specific knowledge, tools, and good practice.

For laymen like me, how would you explain the  concept of Blockchain and thereof, Bitcoin (other currencies)? Can you explain to the readers how does Bitcoin actually works? 

Another important question.It is critical to divide Bitcoin and Blockchain and do not confuse them. In simple terms, the Blockchain is a public ledger of transaction, like we all know in accounting or in any database. The critical difference is that it is decentralized, i.e. there are no central copies and it is distributed on a number of nodes (computers) in the network, and it is mathematically protected so that its content and order can never be altered of forged. Hence this has huge applications in every business where the transmission of data is important, as everything about this can be done in a better, cheaper, faster and more secure way on a Block-chain. Imagine things like insurances, notaries, auditing just to mention a few.

Once we understand this, we better get why Bitcoin is on a Block-chain. To use a simplified metaphor, Bitcoin is an application of a technology (Block-chain). Bitcoin is actually just a digital file that lists accounts and money like a ledger, simply this ledger is in a Block-chain. Hence it is decentralized, transparent, auditable, resistant to outages, permission-less, censorship resistant, and most importantly there is no trust required. No one has to trust anyone as the mathematics behind Bitcoin makes it possible to do transactions without any central authorizations like you need for a bank wire.

Francesco Abbate (left) Luigi Matrone (right)

So when do you see yourself becoming a multimillionaire? Long term prospects of investing in crypto-currencies?

Let’s just say that we think we are only at the beginning of the journey, the adoption rate for Bitcoin is still well below 1%, so imagine what the price might be once this is broadly adopted and with a much higher number of transactions processed per second. Most importantly, we are of the view that there is a huge potential for some coins beyond Bitcoin, and we are still very much on time to enter. We think there is a lot of money to be made if you invest wisely, manage trading emotions, and study the fundamentals of what you are trading with, this is when you can have sizeablereturns, and this is what we want to study and analyze.

Personally, we are in crypto for the long term, we believe some of the projects behind the coins are here to stay and transform many industries, everything which is about transmission of data is going to be hugely affected by this, it is a revolution that will catch many by surprise and unprepared. While short term we will continue to see high volatility and market turmoil as on January 16th, this is nothing new in the financial markets and we consider it a normal phase in a general adoption journey, we have gone through 7 drops higher than 30% just in last 12 months, we never sold in panic but always carefully analyzed the set up and bought when we believed the panic was about to be over. We will not manage our funds personally in the future; will have them managed by a trusted specialized fund.

What is Decrypto? What is your plan for future?

Decrypto.biz exists to democratize access to crypto-currencies. Our goal is to educate people while giving them analysis on crypto-currencies so that we can all understand what’s happening in this new economical era of decentralization and drive ecosystem adoption while making new investments and profits.

We are here because The Block-chain technology is at an early stage of development and crypto-currency adoption is still relatively limited.

As a result, the education offer currently available is either very complex or technically designed for insiders (programmers, nerds…) or shamefully rudimentary (YouTube Do-it-Yourself). Information is asymmetric and Web is flooded with myriads of news and countless data across thousands of sites, blogs and social media. Lots of people are interested in investing in crypto-currencies, but they don’t know (or don’t have the time to learn) what are the key steps to start. And the technical knowledge to operate safely, properly and profitably.

For this reason we offer a comprehensive educational program for people who are eager to understand the world of crypto-currency but don’t necessarily need or have the time to understanding all what’s behind. We developed ways to find important news before others do. We issue a crisp newsletter to recap the key news of the day. We use a private Telegram channel for the breakthrough news which may require short term actions. We share the insights gathered through technical and fundamental analysis. To make them actionable we provide a simple guide on how to start trading in 10 steps and regular market update.

Personal predictions? Do you have any? Would you like to share?

In this world you hear anyone claiming to be an expert and going into predictions of specific prices by coin. We will try to make a different prediction: that the long term bullish trend will stay intact for major coins having a real tangible user case (Ethereum, Zcash, Bitcoin, Monero, Litecoin among the top) and they will all significantly increase in value. I also think that volatility will stay very high; we will keep having very steep declines followed by super bullish rally through the full 2018. Lastly, we predict that 2018 is the year when big investors’ money will significantly enter the game, both Goldman Sachs and Mike Novogratz for example admitted to be working on building crypto trading desks and hedge funds, it will be interesting.

This very thought that in case the currencies go up and people realize their profits, gives this whole scenario a shade of skepticism. Do you really think that the masses can become rich? All of them? This is what everyone is expecting, isn’t it?

We think it is important to first understand what these currencies really do and are, and the most important thing is to understand that just few of them are real currencies (Bitcoin, Litecoin, Bitcoin cash), many of them are simply tokens of equity of a company. In simple words, people are buying companies at a very early stage hoping that their Block-chain based business model can disrupt a specific industry (finance, banking, insurance, gaming, gambling, auditing, etc). Once you understand this, then you can make sound business decisions based on their product, their business model, their team, their go to market plan. Hence, if you make money it is because you saw very early a profitable business model ahead, this is what we try to do as well at Decrypto, we analyze markets and companies to try and understand if they are undervalued and has potential to grow. If you only start trading in this world because you think things will increase we think you are doing something fundamentally wrong, this is where you end up buying at the top, panic selling few weeks later, or maybe you could even win short term some money, but that is like playing roulette, we don’t do that.

Some people make money because of their understanding of the market and have the ability to trade it; others lose them because they are just moved by greed and emotions. With decrypto.biz we want to show people that there is a learn what’s happening with this new technology,understanding why certain coins (companies) have a potential, and provide education and analysis material to interested people.

What is an ICO? Are they as lucrative as these coins? 

ICO in simple terms is a way for innovative and Block-chain based companies to raise funds for their developments. You don’t have to go to banks or VC firms, you split your companies in small pieces called tokens, you assign a value to each one expressed typically in Bitcoin or Ethereum, and you ask people to contribute with Bitcoin and Ethereum if they want to buy a part of your company. We would say it is an evolved form of crowd-funding. Like everywhere in this world of cryptos we can have amazing opportunities and epic scam. In 2016 up to mid-2017 almost every ICO went well, and people just made money without great level of analysis, many of them returned more than 1000x to date (NXT, Iota, Ethereum, Stratis, and many others). Things changed, regulations are more stringent, cases of very poor business models and fraudsmultiplied, we think there are still some of them who can revolutionize specific industries but it is getting more and more complex and you should be extremely scrupulous in your analysis, this requires a high level of technical, financial, and business knowledge

What happens today is that people have a very partial view of this, and vast majority just invest in specific coins “because it is going up” or “everyone talks about it”. That to us is a recipe for failure, and not the reason why we have faith in the Block-chain and crypto-currency world. What we do, and what we try to communicate on decrypto.biz is analyzing the fundamentals of the companies behind these coins, what is their business model, who is on the team, what’s their business plan, their revenue forecast, when they will have their prototype in the market, etc. There are amazing companies which are just born and in next months can revolutionize the way we think about notary, real estate, gambling, ticketing, digital identity, and much more… The new Amazons are here, but you don’t find them by chance, our motto at Decrypto is that “success is no accident”

Before we conclude the interview and ask for your final verdict. A piece of advice for the readers? Also, few tips (just kidding!)

There are always 3 things we tell everyone who asks us for tips on a daily basis on this market

Study, understand what you are doing. If you do not have time nor knowledge, don’t do it or find an expert advisor. This is how we started decrypto.biz, getting access and knowledge is complex and we do want to educate people and democratize access to the crypto world.

Don’t put more money than you are willing to lose, don’t sell your house for this!

Don’t start if you can’t handle emotions, this will remain volatile, again either you are able to manage this or you’d better have someone doing this for you, like a hedge fund.

I hope you enjoyed reading the interview! But as I said in the starting, my curiosity has increased now. We’ll try to dig deep into this technology and currencies.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. I will send them to both the gentlemen.

Independent Economic Analyst, Writer and Editor. Contributes columns to different newspapers. He is a columnist for Oilprice.com, where he analyzes Crude Oil and markets. Also a sub-editor of an online business magazine and a Guest Editor in Modern Diplomacy. His interests range from Economic history to Classical literature.

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Iran has an integral role to play in Russian-South Asian connectivity

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Iran is geostrategically positioned to play an integral role in Russian-South Asian connectivity. President Putin told the Valdai Club during its annual meeting in October 2019 that “there is one more prospective route, the Arctic – Siberia – Asia.

The idea is to connect ports along the Northern Sea Route with ports of the Pacific and Indian oceans via roads in East Siberia and central Eurasia.” This vision, which forms a crucial part of his country’s “Greater Eurasian Partnership”, can be achieved through the official North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) and tentative W-CPEC+ projects that transit through the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The first one refers to the creation of a new trade route from Russia to India through Azerbaijan and Iran, while the second concerns the likely expansion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC, the flagship project of China’s Belt & Road Initiative [BRI]) westward through Iran and largely parallel to the NSTC. W-CPEC+ can also continue towards Turkey and onward to the EU, but that branch is beyond the scope of the present analysis. The NSTC’s terminal port is the Indian-backed Chabahar, but delays in fully developing its infrastructure might lead to Bandar Abbas being used as a backup in the interim.

CPEC’s Chinese-backed terminal port of Gwadar is in close proximity to Chabahar, thus presenting the opportunity of eventually pairing the two as sister cities, especially in the event that rumored negotiations between China and Iran result in upwards of several hundred billion dollars worth of investments like some have previously reported. The combination of Russian, Indian, and Chinese infrastructure investments in Iran would greatly improve the country’s regional economic competitiveness and enable it to fulfill its geostrategic destiny of facilitating connectivity between Russia and South Asia.

What’s most intriguing about this ambitious vision is that Iran is proving to the rest of the world that it isn’t “isolated” like the U.S. and its closest allies thought that it would be as a result of their policy of so-called “maximum pressure” against it in recent years. While it’s true that India has somewhat stepped away from its previously strategic cooperation with Iran out of fear that it’ll be punished by “secondary sanctions” if it continued its pragmatic partnership with the Islamic Republic, it’s worthwhile mentioning that Chabahar curiously secured a U.S. sanctions waiver.

While the American intent behind that decision is unclear, it might have been predicated on the belief that the Iranian-facilitated expansion of Indian influence into Central Asia via Chabahar might help to “balance” Chinese influence in the region. It could also have simply been a small but symbolic “concession” to India in order not to scare it away from supporting the U.S. anti-Chinese containment strategy. It’s difficult to tell what the real motive was since American-Indian relations are currently complicated by Washington’s latest sanctions threats against New Delhi in response to its decision to purchase Russia’s S-400 air defense systems.

Nevertheless, even in the worst-case scenario that Indian investment and infrastructural support for Iran can’t be taken for granted in the coming future, that still doesn’t offset the country’s geostrategic plans. Russia could still use the NSTC to connect with W-CPEC and ultimately the over 200+ million Pakistani marketplaces. In theory, Russian companies in Pakistan could also re-export their home country’s NSTC-imported goods to neighboring India, thereby representing a pragmatic workaround to New Delhi’s potential self-interested distancing from that project which could also provide additional much-needed tax revenue for Islamabad.

Iran must therefore do its utmost to ensure Russia’s continued interest in the NSTC regardless of India’s approach to the project. Reconceptualizing the NSTC from its original Russian-Indian connectivity purpose to the much broader one of Russian-South Asian connectivity could help guarantee Moscow’s support. In parallel with that, Tehran would do well to court Beijing’s investments along W-CPEC+’s two branch corridors to Azerbaijan/Russia and Turkey/EU. Any success on any of these fronts, let alone three of them, would advance Iran’s regional interests by solidifying its integral geo-economic role in 21st-century Eurasia.

From our partner Tehran Times

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The phenomenon of land grabbing by multinationals

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Since 2012 the United Nations has adopted voluntary guidelines for land and forest management to combat land grabbing. But only a few people know about the guidelines, which aim to protect small farmers particularly in Third World countries.

When multinational investors buy up fields for their huge plantations, the residents lose their livelihood and means of support and will soon only be sleeping in their villages. If they are lucky, they might find work with relatives in another village. Many also try their luck in the city, but poverty and unemployment are high. What remains are depopulated villages and the huge palm oil plantations that have devoured farmland. People can no longer go there to hunt and grow plants or get firewood. The land no longer belongs to them!

Land grabbingis the process whereby mostly foreign investors deprive local farmers or fishermen of their fields, lakes and rivers. Although it has been widely used throughout history, land grabbing – as used in the 21st century – mainly refers to large-scale land acquisitions following the global food price crisis of 2007-2008.

From 2000 until 2019 one hundred million hectares of land have been sold or leased to foreign investors and the list of the most affected countries can be found here below:

Such investment may also make sense for the development of a country, but it must not deprive people of their rights: local people are starving while food is being produced and turned into biofuels for export right before their eyes.

In 2012, after three years of discussion, the UN created an instrument to prevent such land grabbing: the VGGTs (Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security:

Detailed minimum standards for investment are established, e.g. the participation of affected people or how to safeguard the rights of indigenous peoples and prevent corruption. Formally, the document provides a significant contribution to all people fighting for their rights.

The document, however, is quite cryptic. The guidelines should be simplified and explained. Only in this way can activists, but also farmers and fishermen, become aware of their rights.

Others doubt that much can be achieved through these guidelines because they are voluntary. After all, the UN has little or no say in the matter and can do no more than that. If governments implemented them, they would apply them as they will.

In Bolivia, for example, there are already laws that are supposed to prevent land grabbing. In the Amazon, however, Brazilian and Argentinian companies are buying up forests to grow soya and sugar cane, often with the approval and agreement of corrupt government officials. Further guidelines would probably be of little use.

At most, activists already use the guidelines to lobby their governments. Together with other environmental and human rights activists, they set up networks: through local radio stations and village meetings, they inform people of the fact that they right to their land.

Nevertheless, in many countries in Africa and elsewhere, there is a lack of documentation proving land ownership. Originally, tribal leaders vocally distributed rights of use. But today’s leaders are manipulated to pressure villagers to sell their land.

The biggest investors are Indians and Europeans: they are buying up the land to grow sugar cane and palm oil plantations. This phenomenon has been going on since 2008: at that time – as noted above – the world food crisis drove up food prices and foreign investors, but also governments, started to invest in food and biofuels.

Investment inland, which has been regarded as safe since the well-known financial crisis, must also be taken into account. Recently Chinese companies have also been buying up thousands of hectares of land.

In some parts of Africa, only about 6% of land is cultivated for food purposes, while on the remaining areas there are palm oil plantations. Once the plantations grow two or three metres high, they have a devastating effect on monocultures that rely on biodiversity, because of the huge areas they occupy. There is also environmental pollution due to fertilisers: in a village, near a plantation run by a Luxembourg company, many people have suffered from diarrhoea and some elderly villagers even died.

Consequently, the implementation of the VGGTs must be made binding as soon as possible. But with an organisation like the United Nations, how could this happen?

It is not only the indigenous peoples or the local groups of small farmers that are being deprived of everything. The common land used is also being lost, as well as many ecosystems that are still intact: wetlands are being drained, forests cleared and savannas turned into agricultural deserts. New landowners fence off their areas and deny access to the original owners. In practice, this is the 21st century equivalent of the containment of monastery land in Europe that began in the Middle Ages.

The vast majority of contracts are concentrated in poorer countries with weak institutions and land rights, where many people are starving. There, investors compete with local farmers. The argument to which the advocates of land grabbing hold -i.e. that it is mainly uncultivated land that needs to be reclaimed – is refuted. On the contrary, investors prefer well-developed and cultivated areas that promise high returns. However, they do not improve the supply of local population.

Foreign agricultural enterprises prefer to develop the so-called flexible crops, i.e. plants such as the aforementioned oil palm, soya and sugar cane, which, depending on the market situation, can be sold as biofuel or food.

But there is more! If company X of State Y buys food/fuel producing areas, it is the company that sells to its State Y and not the host State Z that, instead, assigns its future profits derived from international State-to-State trade to the aforementioned multinational or state-owned company of State Y.

Furthermore, there is almost no evidence of land investment creating jobs, as most projects were export-oriented. The British aid organisation Oxfam confirms that many land acquisitions took place in areas where food was being grown for the local population. Since local smallholders are generally weak and poorly educated, they can hardly defend themselves against the grabbing of the land they use. Government officials sell or lease it, often without even paying compensation.

Land grabbing is also present in ‘passive’ Europe. Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Lithuania and Bulgaria are affected, but also the territories of Eastern Germany. Funds and agricultural enterprises from “active” and democratic Europe, i.e. the West, and the Arab Gulf States are the main investors.

We might think that the governments of the affected countries would have the duty to protect their own people from such expropriations. Quite the reverse. They often support land grabbing. Obviously, corruption is often involved. In many countries, however, the agricultural sector has been criminally neglected in the past and multinationals are taking advantage of this under the pretext of remedying this situation.

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No let-up in Indian farmers’ protest due to subconscious fear of “crony capitalism”

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The writer has analysed why the farmers `now or never’ protest has persisted despite heavy odds. He is of the view that the farmers have the subconscious fear that the “crony capitalism” would eliminate traditional markets, abolish market support price and grab their landholdings. Already the farmers have been committing suicides owing to debt burden, poor monthly income (Rs. 1666 a month) and so on.”Crony capitalism” implies nexus between government and businesses that thrives on sweetheart deals, licences and permits eked through tweaking rules and regulations.

Stalemate between the government and the farmers’ unions is unchanged despite 11 rounds of talks. The farmers view the new farm laws as a ploy to dispossess them of their land holdings and give a free hand to tycoons to grab farmers’ holdings, though small.

Protesters allege the new laws were framed in secret understanding with tycoons. The farmers have a reason to abhor the rich businesses. According to an  a  January 2020 Oxfam India’s richest one  per cent hold over four times the wealth of 953 million people who make up the poorest 70 per cent  of the country’s population. India’s top nine billionaires’ Inc one is equivalent to wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of the population. The opposition has accused the government of “crony capitalism’.

Government has tried every tactic in its tool- kit to becloud the movement (sponsored y separatist Sikhs, desecrated Republic Day by hoisting religious flags at the Red ford, and so on). The government even shrugged off the protest by calling it miniscule and unrepresentative of 16.6 million farmers and 131,000 traders registered until May 2020. The government claims that it has planned to build 22,000 additional mandis (markets) 2021-22 in addition to already-available over 1,000 mandis.

Unruffled by government’s arguments, the opposition continues to accuse the government of being “suit-boot ki sarkar” and an ardent supporter of “crony capitalism” (Ambani and Adani). Modi did many favours to the duo. For instance they were facilitated to join hands with foreign companies to set up defence-equipment projects in India. BJP-ruled state governments facilitated the operation of mines in collaboration with the Ambani group  just years after the Supreme Court had cancelled the allotment of 214 coal blocks for captive mining (MS Nileema, `Coalgate 2.0’, The Caravan March 1, 2018). Modi used Adani’s aircraft in March, April and May 2014 for election campaigning across the country.

“Crony capitalism” is well defined in the English oxford Living Dictionaries, Cambridge and Merriam –Webster. Merriam-Webster defines “crony capitalism” as “an economic system in which individuals and businesses with political connections and influence are favored (as through tax breaks, grants, and other forms of government assistance) in ways seen as suppressing open competition in a free market

If there’s one”.

Cambridge dictionary defines the term as “ an economic system in which family members and friends of government officials and business leaders are given unfair advantages in the form of jobs, loans, etc.:government-owned firms engaged in crony capitalism”.

A common point in all the definitions is undue favours (sweetheart contracts, licences, etc) to select businesses. It is worse than nepotism as the nepotism has a limited scope and life cycle. But, “crony capitalism” becomes institutionalized.

Modi earned the title “suit-boot ki sarkar” when a non-resident Indian, Rameshkumar Bhikabhai virani gifted him a Rs. 10 lac suit. To save his face, Modi later auctioned the suit on February 20, 2015. The suit fetched price of Rs, 4, 31, 31311 or nearly four hundred times the original price. Modi donated the proceeds of auction to a fund meant for cleaning the River Ganges. `It was subsequently alleged that the Surat-based trader Laljibhai Patel who bought the suit had been favoured by being allotted government land for building  a private sports club (BJP returns ‘favour’, Modi suit buyer to get back land, Tribune June21, 2015).

Miffed by opposition’s vitriolic opposition, Ambani’s $174 billion conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. Categorically denied collusion with Modi’s government earlier this month. Reliance clarified that it had never done any contract farming or acquired farm land, and harboured no plans to do so in future. It also vowed to ensure its suppliers will pay government-mandated minimum prices to farmers. The Adani Group also had clarified last month that it did not buy food grains from farmers or influence their prices.

Modi-Ambani-Adani nexus

Like Modi, both Adani and Ambani hail from the western Indian state of Gujarat, just, who served as the state’s chief for over a decade. Both the tycoons are reputed to be Modi’s henchmen. Their industry quickly aligns its business strategies to Modi’s nation-building initiatives. For instance, Adani created a rival regional industry lobby and helped kick off a biannual global investment summit in Gujarat in 2003 that boosted Modi’s pro-business credentials. During 2020, Ambani raised record US$27 billion in equity investments for his technology and retail businesses from investors including Google and Face book Inc. He wants to convert these units into a powerful local e-commerce rival to Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Inc. The Adani group, which humbly started off as a commodities trader in 1988, has grown rapidly to become India’s top private-sector port operator and power generator.

Parallel with the USA

Ambani and Adani are like America’s Rockefellers and Vanderbilt’s in the USA’s Gilded Age in the second half of the 19th century (James Crabtree, The Billionaire Raj: a Journey through India’s New Gilded Age).

Modi government’s tutelage of Ambanis and Adanis is an open secret. Kerala challenged Adani’s bid for an airport lease is. A state minister said last year that Adani winning the bid was “an act of brazen cronyism.”

Threat of elimination of traditional markets

Farmers who could earlier sell grains and other products only at neighbouring government-regulated wholesale markets can now sell them across the country, including the big food processing companies and retailers such as WalMart.

The farmers fear the government will eventually abolish the wholesale markets, where growers were assured of a minimum support price for staples like wheat and rice, leaving small farmers at the mercy of corporate agri-businesses.

Is farmers’ fear genuine?

The farmers have a logical point. Agriculture yield less profit than industry. As such, even the USA heavily subsidies its agriculture. US farmers got more than $22 billion in government payments in 2019, the highest level of farm subsidies in the last 14 years, and the corporate sector paid for it. The Indian government is reluctant to give a permanent legal guarantee for the MSP. In contrast, the US and Western Europe buy directly from the farmers and build their butter and cheese mountains. Even the prices of farm products at the retail and wholesale levels are controlled by the capitalist government. In short, not the principles of capitalization but well-worked-out welfare measures are adopted to sustain the farm sector in the advanced West.

Threat of monopsonic exploitation

The farmers would suffer double exploitation under a monopsony (more sellers less buyers) at the hands of corporate sharks.  They would pay less than the minimum support price to the producers. Likewise, consumers will have to pay more because the public distribution system is likely to be undermined as mandi (regulated wholesale market) procurement is would eventually cease to exist.

Plight of the Indian farmer

The heavily indebted Indian farmer has average income of only about Rs. 20000 a year (about Rs. 1666 a month). Thousands of farmers commit suicide by eating pesticides to get rid of their financial difficulties.

A study by India’s National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development found that more than half of farmers in India are in debt. More than 20,000 people involved in the farming sector died by suicide from 2018-2019, with several studies suggesting that being in debt was a key factor.

More than 86 per cent of India’s cultivated farmland is owned by small farmers who own less than two hectares of land each (about two sports fields). These farmers lack acumen to bargain with bigger companies. Farmers fear the Market Support Price will disappear as corporations start buying their produce.

Concluding remarks

Modi sarkar is unwilling to yield to the farmers’ demand for fear of losing his strongman image and Domino Effect’. If he yields on say, the matter of the farm laws, he may have to give in on the Citizenship Amendment Act also. Fund collection in some foreign countries has started to sustain the movement. As such, the movement may not end anytime soon. Unless Modi yields early, he would suffer voter backlash in coming elections. The farm sector contributes only about 15 per cent of India’s $2.9 trillion economy. But, it employs around half its 1.3 billion people. 

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