Our neighbour Sri Lanka is in crisis. Stocks of basic food items, such as rice and sugar, are running dangerously low. This has led to skyrocketing prices of essential commodities and of course, hoarding. The government is trying to firefight. They have declared a “food emergency” and fixed the price of every food item. And they have put a military general in charge of enforcing all these regulations. In other words, the situation simply could not be worse.
What can we learn from this? For one, perhaps Kaushik Basu, a supposedly eminent economist at Cornell, might want to take back this tweet which seems to suggest that India’s economy is somehow doing worse than Sri Lanka.
So how did Sri Lanka land itself in such a terrible situation? For one, the pandemic has gutted Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, which used to be their big source of foreign exchange. As things got tight, Sri Lanka had to ban imports of everything from cars to toothbrushes. And now, they don’t even have enough for food.
But there is a second, more interesting reason that few people are talking about. In April this year, Sri Lanka banned imports of all chemical fertilizers, becoming the first country in the world to go for 100% organic farming. In other words, Sri Lanka is going back to primitive agriculture.
It sure sounds good. In an idyllic sort of way. We have all heard of the dangers of chemical fertilizers. We don’t want harmful pesticides in our food, do we? So what is wrong if Sri Lanka wants to return to a simpler way of life? Cue in the hippies playing music, rock bands from the 60s and a campaign from Greenpeace.
The problem is that reality stands in the way. If we were to go back to traditional farming methods, crop yields would fall dramatically. The earth simply does not have enough land area to grow enough food to feed 7 billion people. If you want to get rid of chemical fertilizers, you have to wait for ingenious new ways to be devised. In other words, you have to wait for the science to catch up. You can’t turn the clock backwards. Because starving 2/3rd of the world’s population to death is simply not an option.
But this harsh reality does not stop global liberal NGO juggernauts from raising big money in the first world, nor spending it in the third world. In many least developed or developing countries in Africa for instance, foreign aid is a huge deal. The big-name global NGOs have resources that the local governments simply cannot match. Big money from abroad, therefore, has the ability to change local politics.
Consider what happened in Sri Lanka since they banned chemical fertilizers. The country exports a lot of tea and spices. This is even more crucial right now in order to earn foreign exchange. But those crops are set to fail, with yields expected to decline by up to 50%! An estimated 90% of farmers in the country utilize chemical fertilizers. The vast majority of them don’t even have any idea on how to transition to organic farming. This is what collapse looks like. No wonder Sri Lanka now has the military guarding sugar and rice.
But things are going great for organizations such as these
The name MONLAR stands for “Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform,” which sounds nice for sure. Names like that are indistinguishable from any of the other thousands of NGOs that operate across India. What do these folks at MONLAR want? Here is their mission:
“Cooperating towards building a peoples movement by capacity building and mobilizing of small farmers and marginalized communities, who have become victims of the globalization structures, to protect natural resources and human rights and to lobby for change and implement alternative policies that are favorable and sustainable.”
The language is so typical that it’s almost funny. You can almost picture the intellectuals with their scrawny beards, who are shabbily dressed on purpose. You can almost hear them mouthing inanities about “American imperialism,” at the exact same time as they line up for grants from America. If I had not told you in advance that MONLAR is based in Sri Lanka, I bet you would not know if they worked out of Calcutta or Colombo.
This is why I don’t intend to pick on MONLAR in any way. Nor do I want to imply that they had any special role in the “activism” that led to the Sri Lankan government making a disastrous decision to ban chemical fertilizer. Instead, I am just going to use them as a representative example and have fun with it. That way, perhaps you will see the real danger.
So let us find out who is behind MONLAR. Their website has a list of partners, which immediately gives the game away.
There is “Bread for the World,” which they describe thus:
“The work of Bread for the World – Protestant Development Service primarily focuses on the support of projects in the countries of the Global South. An essential feature of our projects is the close and continuous cooperation with local, often church-related partner organisations. Upon request, Bread for the World provides them with specialists and volunteers. Through lobbying, public relations and education in Germany and Europe we seek to influence political decisions in favor of the poor and to raise awareness for the necessity of a sustainable way of life.”
So it’s a Christian organization, which “seeks to influence political decisions in favor of the poor.” You know exactly what that means. And they are raising money in Europe for whatever they think is a good idea for Sri Lanka!
And then there is the Christian World Service, which apparently does the following:
“Justice underpins and shapes CWS’s understanding of and approach to development. CWS works with its partners and international networks to address the global processes and inequalities that keep people poor through unfair trade rules, exploitation, debt, lack of skills and resources, market arrangements and historical power imbalances.“
A Christian organization that is working against “unfair trade rules“? Again, we know exactly what that means. It means they will decide how a country such as Sri Lanka should run its economy. Do you really think they want what is best for the people of Sri Lanka or the best for their foreign investors … err, contributors? And even if they did have the most noble intentions, so what? Is it not up to the people of Sri Lanka to decide what they want to do with their country? How is this thinly veiled colonial rhetoric of white man’s burden still acceptable?
Speaking of colonialism, consider their partner organization CAFOD:
“CAFOD stands for the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development. We are an international development charity and the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. We stand beside people living in poverty – whatever their religion or culture. Through local church partners, we help people directly in their own communities, and campaign for global justice, so that everyone can reach their full potential.“
The official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales! Now, do officials coming from England have any kind of history on the Indian subcontinent? Does anyone know?
Put yourself in the shoes of a common person in Sri Lanka. You have a right to speak up about how you want your country to run. You have the right to organize and be heard. But how meaningful is that right if you are competing against organizations which are able to raise money in Europe or America? They can lobby your politicians much better than you can pressure them. And don’t forget these organizations also have the money to run media campaigns inside your country to convince you! They can not only go against public opinion, they can mold public opinion itself. So what does that do to your democracy?
And now the people of Sri Lanka have run out of rice. Will that Catholic agency from England feed them? Actually, they just might. Wonder if the people of Sri Lanka will still have their sovereignty after that.
India is bigger and much more powerful than Sri Lanka, but essentially we face the exact same threat. The key is to realize that global liberal NGOs will take down India bit by bit. Because they can’t take down India in one go.
This is happening in pockets all across India. They identify a cause, gather some activists from outside and some local people. They get their sympathizers in media and intelligentsia to start raising “awareness” about it in a coordinated manner. And they know how to play both the mainstream and social media game.
The main structural advantage they have is the ability to concentrate resources in a local area. They can pick 10 villages and spend huge sums of money there in order to get support for their cause. If they want to stop a road, a railway line or a factory, they can easily get the job done. The government simply cannot compete with this even if they want. Because the government cannot pick 10 villages and spend the entire state budget buying support over there.
In warfare, this is known as Lanchester’s law. The advantage goes not to the side with the higher overall strength, but the density of that strength in a local area. Because the invader chooses where to attack, they can always break through by applying overwhelming force at a single point. On the other hand, a defensive line would stretch over thousands of miles, making it impossible to concentrate troops at any given spot.
What happened in Sri Lanka is a warning to all of us. For a long time, India has been fighting local battles with these NGOs and church groups. We know how hard this is. It’s time to think big. These NGO groups are interfering with India’s sovereignty. This is imperialism. This is a form of aggression. We have to recognize it as such and take sweeping legal measures against them. Don’t worry about bad publicity. Nation first.