Corporatization, Globalization and Indian Farmer Suicides

Nero’s Guests

Directed by Dhepa Bhatia (2013)

Film Review

Nero’s Guests is about Indian rural affairs journalist Palagummi Sainath and his investigation of farmer suicides (see The Ugly Side of the Fashion Industry) in India and the neoliberal policies responsible for them.

Sixty percent of India’s population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Sainath has been one of very few journalists reporting on the brutal effect of neoliberalism and globalization on India’s rural sector – where 836 million people live on less than fifty cents a day.

He specifically blames the corporatization of agriculture, which has driven hundreds of thousands of farmers off their land, and “free trade” policies that allow Europe and North America to destroy local markets with cheap coffee, cotton and other commodities. All to increase the profits of a handful of western corporations.

Thanks to “fair trade” provisions enforced by the World Trade Organization, India exports twenty tons of grain a year to feed European livestock at lower prices than India’s poor are charged for grain.

When Indian farmers are driven off their land, they migrate to the cities for jobs that don’t exist. Since the 2008 economic downturn, more than one million urban jobs have disappeared due to “austerity” cuts.

The film provides poignant close-ups of rural families that have lost family members to suicide. These contrast starkly with cameos of Indian celebrities and their condescending superficiality in addressing poverty.


7 thoughts on “Corporatization, Globalization and Indian Farmer Suicides

  1. “India exports twenty tons of grain a year to feed European livestock” Actually this is quite a common practice with many countries providing the west with grain. and so as I like to say, so you can eat a steak. (Not you specifically, mind. It’s just a part of my retort.)


  2. Thanks for your comment. We don’t believe in grain fed beef here in New Zealand. Nearly all our cattle are free range and grass fed (conveying important health benefits:

    During drought periods (which are increasing), our farmers feed them palm kernel imported from Indonesia (which is devastating for the planet because they clear natural jungle habit to grow it).


  3. This might sound like a fringe idea:

    American tobacco companies hid the health risks of smoking for decades killing countless thousands worldwide. They have shifted their marketing to the third world as the West has begun to sanction them. Monsanto bankrupted countless thousands of Indian farmers with self-terminating, expensive seeds that directly led to countless thousands of farmer suicides. Profit is their motive, and their is no intent to destroy by these non-governmental entities. However, should these multinationals, clearly acting with depraved heart recklessness, and, having greater revenues than some the third world government populations they exploit, be exempt from Genocide laws?


  4. Pingback: Corporatization, Globalization and Indian Farmer Suicides: Film and Review | Talesfromthelou

  5. Aye, at 22 minutes, to paraphrase: “we need to take care of our ‘have nots,’ because they are our ‘fresh laundry’ and ‘pedicures.’ We need them! Whatever would we do without our ‘fresh laundry’ and ‘pedicures’? Whatever would be their purpose in life without us?”

    I don’t live in India. And yet I know these people. I live in their midst, here as there.

    “Nero’s guests.”

    The phrase captures the essence of the insouciance exactly.

    And yes, when the rationalization of agriculture in India will be complete, if the crowning value of social existence remains exchange value, what will have happened in the meantime to the 66% of India’s population who are still peasants? The cows in Europe will have been fed; the peasants starved; and Nero’s guests will still have their ‘fresh laundry’ and ‘pedicures’ and the parties will be as self-indulgent as ever.

    I would only quibble with the idea that unfair market “subsidies” are the crux of the issue. The problem is capitalism as such, i.e., production for profit is ‘ipso facto’ the monopolization of economies of scale. (One of my enduring frustrations, it seems, is that the concept of ‘capitalism,’ the meaning of the word, seems so to be so hard for people to learn, be it people who consider themselves to be pro-capitalist or anti-capitalist — kind of like how hard the meaning of the word ‘death’ seems to be to learn for people who insist on believing in ‘life after death.’)

    Nevertheless, Sainath’s documentary certainly lifts the veil on the brutalizing inhumanity to which the singular logic of capital cannot but lead.

    And like Sainath, the whole scene also really pisses me off because like him, I also know it all could be so different.


    • Glad to hear you watched the film, Norman. I was afraid people might find the title (“Nero’s Guests”) off putting.

      It’s pretty obvious that Sainath is pissed off – but it’s the really quiet scary kind of anger. Perhaps I was imagining it, but I sensed there were a lot of well to do Indians in his audience who seemed to be squirming in their seats.

      And I totally agree – the real problem is capitalism, not subsidies.


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