More than 3000 participate in Global Vigil for Farmers on Gandhi Jayanti

Even as the United Nations declared October 2nd as the International Day of Non-Violence, a unique event was unfolding around the world which was perhaps closer to Gandhi’s principles and actions. More than 3000 people including 1000 NRIs took part in “Our Food, Our Farmers” global vigil in 58 locations. Responding to the call for a coordinated global event by Association for India’s Development (AID), dozens of organizations participated and voiced their solidarity with the farmers and expressed outrage at the policies which are deepening the crisis. Remarkably, these vigils drew thousands from urban India and NRI community who are typically very distant from the realities of rural India, and they spoke out in a strong voice, “Thousands of suicides, hundred millions in distress – the farmers’ crisis is unacceptable!”

In New Delhi, 2 days of street plays Connaught Place, Dilli Haat and other popular locations were followed by a Photo Exhibition on the evening of October 2nd visited by hundreds of people. AID-Delhi volunteers were joined by activists from Mehdiganj (UP), a few farmers from Vidarbha and Tamil Nadu and a large farmers’ group from AP who were on a dharna. The vigil at Hyderabad saw the participation of about 40 organizations. “We are all with you!” was the simple message to the farmers from a large crowd of IT professionals and students.

In all, 18 locations in India conducted various events like rallies, marches and candlelight vigils. Many organizations and individual activists have been enthusiastic partners, including Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, Bhumi, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Bharat Uday Mission and Youth for Social Change. Eminent citizens and experts on agriculture including Devinder Sharma, Prof. Arun Kumar, Dr. Ramanjaneyulu, Kavitha Kuruganti, Kishor Tiwari and others spoke at various locations.

In the US, about 1000 people participated in candlelight vigils held in 39 locations including cities such as Seattle, San Diego, Bay Area, New York and Washington DC, as well as university campuses such as such as Cornell, Univ. of Texas, Univ. of MD, West Virginia University and so on. Besides events at common locations like public parks, Gandhi statue and university commons, the organizers also used more unusual strategies to attract attention of NRIs such as gathering outside popular Indian restaurants and marching from one Indian grocery store to another one. One 65-year old visitor from Chennai informed AID volunteers, “Though I have lived all my life in India, I didn’t realize the magnitude of the problem until I heard you today.” Participants also reflected on their own consumer choices: “Why should food be cheap?  People who farm need to make a living too. We want a 99 cent lunch but what is the big picture of this 99 cent lunch?”

Even as the organizers are deeply moved by the continuing spate of farmer suicides – 836 in Vidarbha alone in 2007 – they strongly believe that the underlying causes need be addressed to find a long-term solution. Eminent journalist P. Sainath, who was awarded the 2007 Magsaysay Award, says, “The tragic farmers’ suicides are, finally, an extreme symptom of a much deeper rural distress. The result of a decade-long onslaught on the livelihoods of millions. The crisis now goes way beyond the families ravaged by the suicides.”

The government policies in the past fifteen years have consistently removed support structures for Indian farmers while promoting unsustainable, high-input agriculture which farmers, especially in dry areas, cannot afford to practice. The petition circulated as part of this campaign has been supported by several thousand signatures and demands genuinely pro-farmer policies from the government. The demands include strengthening the minimum support price system to cover the real cost of production, waiver of debt and proactive support to low-input sustainable agriculture especially in rainfed areas.

Here it must be mentioned that developed countries such as US heavily subsidize their agriculture. It is estimated that nearly 25,000 cotton growers in America receive $3.2 billion subsidy per year, which affects the cotton prices world over. If the American government can act for its farmers, why is the Indian government allowing our farmers to kill themselves?

The organizers say, “The amazing response to this event which was proposed just 3-4 weeks ago, has proved that the farmers’ suicides and the underlying agrarian crisis stirs the conscience of people around the world. At a short notice, thousands of people who never participated in such events came out to voice their concern. Are the governments ready to listen and take the right action?”

The follow-up measures by AID volunteers include meeting policy makers with our demands and memoranda, building advocacy collaborations with activists, experts and resource organizations, and promoting sustainable agriculture practices through AID projects. We invite broad sustained support and involvement from all concerned citizens, especially those inspired by this effort.

Farmers Vigil Locations

 

United States India
Atlanta, GA New Delhi
Austin, TX Kolkata
Baltimore, MD Hyderabad
Baton Rouge, LA Bangalore
Bay Area, CA Mumbai
Berkeley, CA Jaipur
Bloomington, IN Chandigarh
Boston, MA Nagpur
Buffalo, NY Pune
Chicago, IL Cuddalore
Cleveland, OH Bhubaneswar
College Park, MD Chennai
College Station, TX Paralekhamundi, Orissa
Dallas, TX Bhopal
Fairfax, VA Kanpur
Gainesville, FL Kakinada, AP 
Gaithersburg, MD Jammu 
Harford County, MD Doda, J&K
Houston, TX  
Lexington, KY  
Los Angeles, CA  
Louisville, KY Netherlands
Madison, WI Amsterdam
Milwaukee, WI  
New York, NY  
Columbus, OH  
State College, PA  
Philadelphia, PA  
Pittsburgh, PA  
Portland, OR  
Princeton, NJ  
Redmond/Bellevue, WA  
San Diego, CA  
Santa Barbara, CA  
Seattle, WA  
Tempe, AZ  
Washington, DC  
Morgantown, WV  

Care for those who feed the nation

Our Food, Our Farmers, Our Agriculture

Mass Candlelight Vigil on October 2nd, 2007 to support Indian farmers and Agriculture

On 2nd October, several concerned citizens and groups across the world are coming together to remind the governments that agrarian distress is not to be ignored, that farmers’ suicides are continuing in an unacceptable manner in India and that farmers continue to reel under huge debt burden caused by rising costs of cultivation & living, unremunerative prices due to liberalisation and dismantled public support structures. 

As concerned and responsible citizens and members of the civil society, we request you to lend your solidarity to Indian farmers and our agriculture by joining us in a candle light vigil

 

if you are in Hyderabad please join us at

When:   Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007, 5.00 pm to 7.30 pm- Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Where:  Tank Bund, Near Secretariat, Hyderabad (exact location will be communicated in a subsequent mail)

In case you are not from Hyderabad, pls do sign up for a solidarity fast on that day ( www.aidindia.org) or organise something in your own city/town/village. If you are from Delhi, join the event at Jantar Mantar (details on the AID website).


Why: Government of
India and state governments have completely failed to protect our farmers’ interests. Farmers in India are in extreme social and economic distress. With huge inflation and raising input costs but lesser and lesser price for their produce, Indian farmers are neck-deep in debts and are facing huge socio-economic distress. There are many state policies at the root of this situation that farmers are confronted with.

Goal: To let the Government know that we will not tolerate this injustice to Indian Agriculture and the farmers – this is also a message of hope to farmers that some farming community members in the state are finding solutions to the problems confronting them through collective efforts including on establishing ecological farming and that they should all join hands to combat anti-farmer policies. This is also to let the government and the farmers know that urban consumers and concerned citizens have not forgotten the issues confronting Indian farmers and their farming.

What can You DO?: Every one of us feels for this cause, so all of us should participate in the vigil. Please bring your candle and any appropriate posters/banners that you have, related to the issue.

 

Our Demands:

  • Ensure regular income support to farmers
  • bring back quantitative restrictions on imports and stop liberalised trade
  • ban GM seeds and chemical pesticides
  • promote & support ecological, agro-diversity based farming
  • prohibit the shift and use of agricultural land to non-agricultural uses including SEZs
  • say NO to corporate and contract farming
  • scrap the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture
  • debt relief to all farmers
  • make food security and food sovereignty a national development priority

Caring for those who feed the nation….. We do it because it is “Our Food, Our Farmers”. Hope to see you in the candle light vigil.

 

For more information, contact:

 

  1. Rakesh Kumar Reddy, Association for India‘s Development (AID): 98-854-9012
  2. Kavitha Kuruganti, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA): 93-930-01550
  3. Ramanjaneyulu G V, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA): 93-913-59702