Bush’s Food Remark Irks India

Bush’s Food Remark Irks India
Nilofar Suhrawardy, Arab News

NEW DELHI, 5 May 2008 — Indian politicians from all parties have joined in criticizing US President George W. Bush’s remarks that blamed India for the global food crisis. Although the ruling Congress party has joined the chorus, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has questioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s silence on Bush’s remarks. The BJP plans to raise the issue in Parliament today.

Describing his “silence” as “shameful,” BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said yesterday: “He (Manmohan Singh) has got only a few days left in office and at least he should now stand up to protect the country’s honor and dignity.”

The government has, however, not refrained from questioning Bush’s remarks. Defense Minister A.K. Antony termed Bush’s contention that growing demand for food grains in India was responsible for spiraling global food prices as a “cruel joke.” “Large-scale conversion of agricultural land for commercial purposes, especially bio-fuel cultivation, has resulted in food shortage at the global level,” Antony said yesterday on the sidelines of a convention in Thiruvananthapuram in the southern state of Kerala. “US policies are also responsible for the food grain shortage,” he said. “Those who criticize should not set apart agricultural land for other purposes. The countries, including America, should rectify their mistakes,” Antony said.

Lashing out at Bush, Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh said: “Bush has never been known for his knowledge of economics. And he has just proved once again how comprehensively wrong he is. To say that the demand for food in India is causing increase in global good prices is completely wrong.”

“India is a not a net food importer. It is a food exporter. The assumption that local prices are increasing because of a changed India is completely erroneous,” Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said. “The crisis is actually because of diversion of arable land in the developed world for ethanol production and because of changes in the climate pattern,” he said.

“The US policy of subsidizing and promoting bio fuel out of crops is the major reason for shortages and spurt in food prices,” according to Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) General Secretary Prakash Karat. “US policies are to be blamed for all major crises facing the world,” Communist Party of India (CPI) national secretary D. Raja said.

At a seminar on global economy in Missouri, Bush was quoted by the media as saying: “There are 350 million people in India who are classified as middle class. That’s bigger than America. Their middle class is larger than our entire population. And when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food, and so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up.”

But Bush’s analysis has no takers in India. Figures released by the US Department of Agriculture for 2007 say each Indian eats only 178 kg of grain in a year, while a US citizen consumes 1,046 kg. Likewise, milk consumption per person per year is 36 kg in India, while in the United States is 78 kg. While each American consumes 45.5 kg poultry meat per year, an Indian takes in only 1.9 kg. Besides, while the US per capita grain consumption rose from 946 kg in 2003 to 1,046 kg in 2007, India’s per capita consumption remained static during this period.


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