Slip-Form Silos; Planning an Agri-Tech Landscape for the Well Fed Subject
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Speaking in 1971, the then Food and Agriculture minister C. Subramanium explained, "The new strategy is like an elegant piece of modern industrial design. Genetic manipulation, chemical technology, and economic incentives have helped to contrive the lineaments of this strategy. But if it is to work, it needs the lubricant of finance or credit."
It is with Ford, Rockefeller, and the World Bank’s "lubricant" of capital and expertise that the Indian government embarked on the construction of grain-silos and warehouses for the purpose of distribution. In what followed, inscribing the land with infrastructure stood in for integrating the nation-state into a whole, using bio-technological arsenal, such as hybrid seeds, bestowed to the government to remedy its under-productive countryside, and under-nourished citizenry.
Resonant of the hubris of the current National River Linking Project, which hopes to correct inequalities of geography and vicissitudes of weather within a bounded polity by connecting drought-prone regions with flood-prone ones, the Public Distribution System was designed to equitably distribute grain, linking surplus-producing states with those having grain deficits, a process that was an attempt at integrating its subjects into a body politic.
India’s current Unique Identification Number project, distributing cards with biometric markers such as iris-scans, is a new bio-technological means of countering bureaucratic inefficiency, the kind that resulted in the recent "Food Grains Scam," where subsidized grain found its way to the open-market. Given that defunct industrial cities have turned RCC-silos into boutique apartments (MVRDV,Copenhagen,2001) and the World Bank’s recent suggestion that the government divest from the physical distribution of rations, opting for cash-transfers and food-stamps, an overtly neo-liberal recommendation, this paper attempts to look back, beyond narratives of corruption, at the state’s plan for a nourished body politic; it tries to evaluate distribution infrastructure’s role as an erstwhile instrument of a similar global interaction.