Down To Earth(April16-30 2023)


Inequitable distribution of vaccines, test kits, PPEs during COVID-19 pandemic forced former UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz to write an open letter warning against crony capitalism of the pharma industry.

Moreover, many diseases are rising due to the push of unhealthy food, tobacco by big conglomerates.

Facts on inequitable distribution:

‰        Companies chose to sell COVID-19 vaccines etc to the richest countries thus only 28.5% people in low-income countries have so far received a single dose of the vaccine instead of a minimum of two shots.

‰          At least 1.3 million lives worldwide could have been saved in the first year of the vaccine rollout if the government

had focussed on equitable distribution of vaccines.

Impacts of Commercial Sector in Healthcare:

‰        The researchers have framed their consensus statement based on four industries that are tobacco, unhealthy food, fossil fuel and alcohol, identified by the 2019 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study as the reasons for 19 million global deaths annually.

‰        Through marketing campaigns sweet soda companies have managed to link these beverages with local music, popular sports and traditional clothing, so much so that people consider these drinks as symbols of wealth.

‰        In South Africa, 39.6% of adult women and 15.4% of adult men in the country are obese thus diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer, dental caries and cardiovascular ailments are rampant in the country.

‰          In India, private hospitals ignore regulations and inflate bills. Corporate hospitals can make profits of as high as

1,737 per cent above the cost price of drugs, consumables and medical devices.

‰          Commercial hospitals have lobbied to oppose legal provisions for patients’ rights and capping of treatment prices.

‰          There is now escalating evidence of the harm to people and the planet from an increasingly market driven world.

‰        Corporations are getting stronger everyday. Eg: Walmart makes more money than Spain, the Netherlands or Australia and Exonnmobil has created more revenues than Mexico, Belgium or Switzerland.

Way Forward:

‰        Need to develop a vision for the policies, governance systems and business models needed for ensuring health, well-being and equity. They also call for incentivising pro-health commercial practice and empower governments in addressing harmful commercial practices.

‰          WHO launched an initiative in 2021 on the economic and commercial determinants of health based on Framework

Convention on Tobacco Control, the Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes etc.

‰        WHO member states are negotiating an accord to guide the global response to the future pandemics, including equitable access to medicines such as vaccines.



Rising commercial interest in Southern Ocean’s resources undermine protection efforts around Antarctica. In June, delegates from 27 countries, including India, will gather in Chile’s Santiago to discuss Antarctica. Researchers say Antarctica and the Southern Ocean that surrounds the continent are heating up at an alarming rate.

Conservational Efforts:

‰      In 2009, an international treaty called the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) signed to manage fisheries, and preserve species diversity and stability of the region’s marine ecosystem.

‰        It pledged to designate a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2012. So far, CCAMLR has established only

two MPAs and three others are under consideration.

‰        As agreed by CCAMLR, all types of fishing and discharges and dumping from fishing vessels are prohibited in

this MPA.

Points of contention:

‰        The major fact behind the tussle is that the region is home to abundant natural resources like minerals, marine life etc.

‰        Region has the highest concentration of Antarctic krills, a tiny shrimplike crustacean which is highly prized as fish feed and countries are competing to claim maximum profit from it.

‰        Not all countries are convinced about setting up MPAs in the Southern Ocean.

‰        At the annual meetings of CCAMLR, China and Russia have blocked the proposals questioning the need for

protection to organisms that are not threatened.

‰        Some countries have voiced concerns that nations proposing MPAs might use it as a front to secure sovereign control over Antarctic waters.

‰      Moreover MPAs established in the middle of nowhere could be a ploy of some countries to meet their targets under the Global Biodiversity Framework that calls for 30 per cent of the earth’s land and sea to be conserved by 2030.

Way Forward:

‰        G-20 meetings and India’s presidency could take forward the protection of Antarctica and regions around it. India

has agreed to support MPAs in the Weddell Sea and East Antarctica.

‰        MPAs will help the world benefit from the Antarctic resources while conserving them.


In 2019, the government of India set a target of creating 10,000 Farmer Producer Company FPCs by 2024. It also introduced the concept of cluster-based business organization (CBBO) to provide hand-holding support to farmers in forming FPCs. However these FPCs are mostly controlled by a few large companies, defeating the whole purpose of its creation.

What in a Farmer Producer Company ?

Farmer Producer Organizations / Companies are registered companies, owned and operated by farmers which helps them achieve economies of scale, increase their farm-level efficiency as well as the ability to negotiate prices in the market.

Role of Cluster Based Business Organization (CBBO):

‰      Cluster-Based Business Organisation (CBBO) a concept introduced in Union Budget 2019-20 with an outlay of

R6,865 crore.

‰      CBBOs play a role to engage themselves all along the value chain starting right from mobilization of farmers, baseline survey, identification of produce clusters, formation of groups, registration and capacity building to preparation of business plan, execution thereof with assurance to provide the market to the FPOs.

‰      They are also to establish cardinal links with Implementing Agencies and FPOs.

‰      Another purpose of CBBOs for helping FPCs is to get cheap raw material.

Problems between FPC and CBBOs:

‰      FPCs formed by big companies acting as CBBO are often unable to act independently in decision-making or be'

farmercentric, which defeats the purpose of their creation.

‰      CBBOs get tax savings while purchasing produce from FPCs.

‰      FPCs can also end up being a captive market for goods produced or marketed by its CBBO.

‰      CBBOs end up creating FPCs where member-owner farmers have little knowledge of running the company, or

even of their rights in the company.

‰      FPCs often do not even get a better bargaining power since CBBOs recommend the companies to sell farm produce.

Sometimes they even ask farmers to sell produce to their own companies under different names.

‰      CBBOs are also responsible to make funds available to FPCs. But in reality just 1-5% of FPCs have received funds'

under Central schemes introduced to promote them in the last seven years.

w        Under the Equity Grant Scheme only a minuscule 735 FPOs (5% of the FPOs then in existence) could secure

the grants.

w        In the Credit Guarantee Scheme only about 1% of registered FPCs had been able to avail the benefits by 2021.


‰      One of India’s major private companies, ITC Limited has helped the formation of 78 farmer producer companies (FPCs) in 4 months. Usually, it takes months to start an FPC. It’s a remarkable feat but:

  • Its FPCs are likely to sell their produce to ITC, even if they are offered a higher price elsewhere since it gives them seeds and other inputs.
  • If ITC asks an FPC to purchase any particular pesticide, the FPC will find it difficult to refuse.

‰      Experience of Molasar Sarvodaya Kisan Samruddhi Producer Company Ltd in Rajasthan’s Nagaur district with its CBBO Indian Grameen Services (IGS) has also been unpleasant.

  •               It appointed its own people as the CEO, and drew salaries.
  •               Their people used to sign agreements with other companies on their own, without taking the farmer-members into confidence.
  •               They also received some government grants under the scheme but did not use it on the FPC.
  •               FPC, formed with government support in 2015, filed an application against the CBBO.

‰       The experience of Bina Krishak Producer Company Limited in Madhya Pradesh with Grant Thronton Bharat LLP, a major consultancy firm as its consultant:

  •               Bina Krishak Producer Company was facing financial and marketing troubles.
  •               Grant Thronton Bharat helped it get financial support in the form of cash credit from Bank of Baroda. Along with that, it enabled procurement contracts with corporates Adani Enterprises, ITC and some oil manufacturers.
  •               Though the measures increased the FPC’s turnover from Rs15 lakh in 2019-20 to Rs67 lakh in 2022, the tie-up with big firms led to a loss in its negotiation power.
  •               Recently farmers sold soybean to Adani in two trucks. They okayed the produce in one truck but deducted Rs10,000 for the produce in the second, saying there was some problem. In such cases farmers are not in a position to negotiate.

Way Forward:

‰        Provisions for local and national non-profits in aid creation and promotion of FPOs and selection of CBBOs.

‰        As per study by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development for an FPC to succeed it should be:

w        designed according to local, community-owned food system perspective (as opposed to commodity orientation),

w        provide free ecosystem services (for example, soil formation, pollination, predation)

w        be independent from corporations for the procurement of seeds and synthetic inputs.