The farmers' self-organised counter-summit is taking place in a field adjacent to the corporate conference centre, on a piece of land which has been fought for by Devama, to stop it being swallowed up by the encroaching new motorway. The camp is a visual intrusion, audaciously close to the swanky white steel structures - and the government is nervous. The Agri-Investors conference's pavilions are crowded with beige, bayonetted police. The Karnataka's farmers movements (Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha) have a long and proud history of swarms of farmers destroying GM trial crops, of dismantling KentuckyFriedChicken outlets, of occupying and cultivating the lawns of parliament. The workshops, at this farmer's summit, ranged from technical advice for Zero-Budget farming, to resisting forced land-acquisition for mining companies, to Monsanto and biopiracy.
Back inside the Investors Agribusiness conference, as a note-taking imposter, I hover near the coffee table, collecting demystifying conversations.
A man in a white shirt and name tag is eager to explain. "You see, we have a problem. Karnataka is a land of farmers. Small farmers who hold onto their little bits of land. They think of it as "ancestral land". They don't have money for modern machinery and new fertilisers. Now the government is open to Big Players. Corporate big farms, with modern technology, as utilised in Europe."
I think of the UK, where 80% of all fruit and vegetables are sold through supermarkets. I think of an ageing and shrinking farmer population. I think of depleted soils, and the rolling green deserts of monoculture crops. I think of an agricultural model which is failing us.
"Really?” I ask, “And how will this change happen?"
"There is a Land Bank. Government will procure the land, at a reasonable price, to give to parties who promise industry".
Indeed, towering behind us is a glossy green poster of Karnataka mapping out the 27 869 acres of "Land Acquired" and the 54 395 acres of "Land Notified". The poster was titled “Land Bank”, it could equally have been named “Forced Land Acquisition”, “Compulsory Purchase by Corporations” or “The Karnataka Countryside Clearances”.
"Despite holding land” he obligingly explains, “their standard of living is very low - there is a shortage of knowledge too. In the future the farmers can be employed by Big Companies on the same land.”
I don't shake him. Instead I ask, meekly. “Are all the farmers pleased at this prospect?”
"No, there is quite a lot of opposition," he then leans in, and confides "Did you know, right now, on the same premises even, an opposition camp is going on."
"Yes. It's the first time in history this re-working of the land is taking place here. It might take 50, even 100 years. This is the first time the climate in India has been right for global investment. This is a historical moment."