Volume 2, Number 1 (2009)

White Counter-Revolution? India’s Dairy Cooperatives in a Neoliberal Era

Bruce A. Scholten

Durham University

Pratyusha Basu

University of South Florida


While the imposition of neoliberal policies by Western development institutions has been widely criticized, the ways in which such policies have found allies in the Third World have not received the same attention. This article focuses on India’s cooperative dairying program in order to trace its transformation from an organization seeking to protect small-scale dairy producers against foreign dairy interests to current shifts in favor of the privatization of the dairy sector. The story of how India averted neocolonial dependence in its (dairy) White Revolution merits consideration now, when the global percentage of people in food poverty is again increasing. For decades, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank enforced the Washington consensus demanding that developing countries adopt structural adjustment programs including privatization of state services, subsidy cuts to indigenous farmers and consumers, and the opening of markets to (often subsidized) food imports from rich countries. Neoliberal policies are implicated in rural poverty, hunger, and migration to sprawling megacities. Given this, it is important to focus on struggles against the possible loss of cooperative institutions and thus build a broader understanding of the ways in which neoliberal policies spawn rural conflicts.

Keywords: cooperatives, neoliberal policies, dairying, development, rural politics, India



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