Children of the soil try to save the earth

Article and Image Courtesy: India Today
Date: 31st October, 2011
Chandigarh-based activists Radhika and Rishi Miranhshah.

Two decades ago, Rishi Miranhshah – a student from Chandigarh – read The One Straw Revolution, an internationally acclaimed book by Japanese author Masanobu Fukuoka. The literary masterpiece on the alternative food movement influenced him so much that he gave up an established career in Canada and returned to India six years ago with his wife Radhika Malhotra Miranhshah for exploring the possibilities of enriching the earth.
The young couple has now taken the initiative to spread agroecological knowledge in developing sustainable farming through books.

Earlier, Rishi – a professional translator – did several odd jobs in India and abroad to sustain himself and his wife. But a deep ambition to spend the rest of his life working with the earth continued to haunt him.

After completing his education, he practiced law at the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh. But, he did not like the profession and started learning French in the city. He met Radhika there and they got married. Soon, he switched over to teaching French at Punjabi University in Patiala which he later quit to shift to Vancouver in Canada. He established himself as a professional translator and worked primarily for the ministry of health, British Columbia.

But The One Straw Revolution – which he had read in 1992 – prodded him to understand natural farming. The book has been translated from Japanese into many languages, including English.

It highlights the fact that man’s improved techniques appear necessary because they have upset the natural balance. The land has now become a slave to these techniques.

The couple realised that farmers in Punjab – who have been practicing modern agricultural techniques – needed Fukuoka’s wisdom for posterity.

With an aim to offer their own humble contribution to the efforts towards healing and enriching the earth, the couple came back to India about six years ago.

For the sake of convenience, Rishi began translating the Japanese master’s book into Punjabi a year ago and Radhika started exploring the means to ensure that the book reached the readers.

She was concerned that though a lot of valuable books were published worldwide, only a few reached those who could read only Punjabi. The farmers in Punjab – and elsewhere too – paid a heavy price for their lack of knowledge of English.

When they started exploring avenues for publishing the book, there were few takers. Several people in the publishing industry told them the book was not economically viable and they would not be able to publish it.

Finally, Radhika took charge and decided to set up her own publishing hub, Worthwords Books, to bring out Kakh Ton Kranti – the translated version of the masterpiece. The book – also “the founding document of the alternative food movement” which rolled out in the native language – has recently started generating interest among the farmers in Punjab.

Rishi and Radhika believe that a “civilisational” onslaught has been leading many forms of life towards extinction. People would not be able to understand it till they get this knowledge in their own words and language. The onslaught has been depriving people of natural resources.

The couple has also taken a pledge to publish books only on ecology, farming, gardening and spirituality on a not- for- profit basis. These books would be in Indian languages with the primary thrust on translating important works from other languages into Punjabi.

Rishi and Radhika have been witnessing that an idea which germinated about two decades ago is finally taking roots. They have Fukuoka holding their hand and leading their way through the vast green expanse – “the fields of joy, of laughter, of birdsong and of truth.

Transgenic Cotton Harbours Hidden Dangers

Emilio Godoy
IPS, Oct 20 2011
http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=105542

MEXICO CITY – Wild cotton in Mexico has been contaminated with genetically modified material, posing a risk to biodiversity, experts say.

This worrying conclusion was reached by six scientists at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) in a research study published this month in Molecular Ecology, an international journal.

In their article “Recent long-distance transgene flow into wild populations conforms to historical patterns of gene flow in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) at its centre of origin”, the experts showed that cotton genes and transgenes can be transferred between populations thousands of kilometres apart by seed dispersal.

They also found that varieties of Mexican wild cotton that harbour transgenes (genes from one species introduced artificially into another) undergo rapid evolution, with unpredictable consequences.

“The genetic diversity of wild populations is very high, and that of cultivated cotton is very low. Gene flow can reduce the differentiation between populations, but we have no idea what impact that might have,” the head of the research project, Ana Wegier of UNAM’s Ecology Institute and the National Institute of Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock Research (INIFAP) told IPS.

“What we are seeing is the effect on biodiversity of 15 years of growing transgenic crops under permits,” she said.

In order to boost cotton cultivation, in decline because of the collapse of international prices and the growing dominance of synthetic fibres, in 1996 the Mexican government authorised experimental planting of genetically modified cotton, without paying heed to studies of its biological interactions in the country.

Since 2009, transgenic cotton has been grown on a commercial scale on an area of over 100,000 hectares, producing harvests of 500,000 tonnes, according to the Mexican agriculture ministry.

Cottonseed is used mainly for oil and meal for animal feed, and transport of animal feed products might explain how transgenic seeds arrived in wild cotton populations.

The six authors collected 336 plants from 36 populations between 2002 and 2008. They also analysed seeds from three Mexican locations, the U.S. states of Texas and Virginia, and from Argentina, Brazil, India and Egypt. Of the 270 samples analysed, 66 were positive for transgenes.

The scientists found that 1.4 percent of 5,985 permits to plant genetically modified cotton issued by the Mexican authorities between 1996 and the beginning of 2008 fell within the area of distribution of two wild cotton metapopulations, as collections of interacting populations of the same species are called.

A further 4.2 percent of the authorised transgenic crops were within a 300-km radius from three metapopulations. The remaining 94.4 percent were over 300 km away from all wild cotton metapopulations.

As has already happened with native maize, contamination of wild strains could occur with other transgenic crops, which are slowly spreading in this Latin American country.

This concern is shared by 16,000 beekeepers in the southeastern state of Yucatán, where U.S. agribusiness giant Monsanto has a pilot plantation of genetically modified soy covering 30,000 hectares.

Monsanto’s soy has been genetically modified to confer resistance to an herbicide, glyphosate, which is sprayed on the crop to kill off non-resistant weeds.

“In the soyfields, the bees turn very aggressive and instead of returning to the hive, they die on the way back, as the glyphosate applied to the crops damages their intestines,” the local coordinator of the National Union of Autonomous Regional Campesino Organisations, Pablo Duarte, told IPS.

“Our fear is that not only will the bees die, but we will not be able to sell our honey,” he said.

In Mexico, some 45,000 beekeepers collect approximately 56,000 tons of honey a year. Their main market is the European Union, followed by the United States and Canada.

But the EU Court of Justice has already banned the sale of honey containing pollen contaminated by unauthorised transgenes.

The first plots of genetically modified soy were evaluated in 2008. Currently 60,000 hectares of Mexican soil are producing transgenic soy.

The government received 110 applications to grow transgenic maize on an experimental basis, and 11 applications since 2009 for pilot-scale projects, the stage before commercial cultivation. The agriculture ministry authorised 67 experimental fields covering 70 hectares in the north of the country, and at least 12 experimental transgenic wheat fields.

The 2005 Biosecurity Law for Genetically Modified Organisms states that the centres of origin of seeds must be defined before any permission can be given for transgenic crops.

The environmental watchdog Greenpeace reported the presence of transgenic maize in six out of Mexico’s 32 states, as well as imports of genetically modified seeds of this staple food, which is profoundly symbolic in Mesoamerican cultures from central Mexico to Costa Rica.

“Each case needs to be analysed separately, to the highest scientific standards,” said Wegier, who is also a member of the Union of Socially Committed Scientists (UCCS) and is currently working on the genetics of avocados and green tomatoes.

“So far, decisions have been made without the benefit of scientific research done in Mexico, but now we have the opportunity to take decisions based on the precautionary principle (that activities that present an uncertain potential for significant harm should be avoided until they are proved to be harmless),” said the head of research.

Although seed migration out of fields of genetically modified crops may be low, the study warns that once a single or a few transgenic individuals are dispersed into particular wild populations, they produce pollen that may fertilise local wild plants.

“Since transgenes are inserted within the nuclear genome, they can be dispersed both via pollen or seed,” the document says.

Genetically modified organisms “are going to contaminate all the varieties we have, and then we will have to depend on seeds from the big companies,” Duarte warned.

“If we lose our native seeds, we won’t have seeds to plant. That’s why we are asking the government to stop the sowing of transgenic maize and soy,” he said. (END)

India to redraft Food Security Bill

The redrafted Bill will keep the option open for supplying more than three kgs of subsidised foodgrains in case of increased output

Submitted on 10/31/2011 – 11:48:31 AM

New Delhi: The government has decided to redraft the National Food Security Bill to keep the option open for supplying more than three kilograms of subsidised foodgrains to general households in case of increased output.

Food Minister KV Thomas told media persons that after receiving public comments and views of state governments on the draft Food Bill, the Centre has decided to make some changes while finalising the Bill.

In the present form of draft Food Bill, the Food Ministry has proposed that the government will supply 3 kilograms of rice and wheat per person per month, falling under general households’ category at a price not exceeding 50 per cent of the Minimum Support Price (MSP).

The draft National Food Security Bill seeks to provide a legal entitlement to subsidised food grains to 75 per cent of the country’s rural population and 50 per cent of urban India.

The Minister said, the government has decided to remove the condition of extending benefits to general households only in states where the Public Distribution System, PDS, is modernised.

Thomas said, the cash-handout of 1,000 rupees per month for six months to pregnant and lactating women will be extended to the entire country instead of 52 districts.
—iGovernment Bureau 
http://www.igovernment.in/site/india-redraft-food-security-bill

Farmers, suicides and politics of a lesser God

Shankkar Aiyar, senior journalist on sabbatical, specialises in the politics of economics

Last week, the Government of India unveiled a New Manufacturing Policy to promote industrial growth and employment. The policy promises the creation of seven new industrial townships and employment to over 100 million people.  Last week, the Government of India also declared that food prices had gone up by 11.54 per cent and that every hour two farmers commit suicide and between 2004 and 2010, over 120,000 farmers committed suicide.

You would think that the optics of the crisis would prompt the Government to come up with a new agricultural policy. But that wasn’t the case. Mind you, this is the second policy to promote industry in five years—the last one called the SEZ policy also promised a revolution—but there hasn’t been one for agriculture since C Subramaniam ushered in the Green Revolution. The dark irony is that the manufacturing policy, stuck in an ego-terrestrial ministerial war, was cleared by a GoM headed by the agriculture minister.

Consider the arithmetic of economics to appreciate the venality of politics. It is no secret that 60 per cent of the workforce, that is six of 10 workers, is dependent on agriculture and has to make do with barely a sixth of the national income. It is also known that 41.8 per cent of the rural population, or around 350 million of the 834 million people in rural India, live below the poverty line. And this is primarily because far too many people live off the land that is producing far too little. This low output is also the cause of high food price inflation—now averaging 14.8 per cent for five years.

Now look at the algebra of politics. The headcount of farmers affected by low yield incomes and the mass of consumers impacted by food price inflation would together constitute the largest political constituency for any party. It should be by now obvious that the focus of policy should be to improve the yield per acre of farmers. Policy, after all, is the instrument of negotiation in politics. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that a higher yield on the same acreage would enhance incomes and bridge the gap between demand and availability that has caused the politically incendiary inflation.

Successive governments have aspired to achieve the success of China in industrial growth, but have ironically failed to recognise the success of China in improving yields. The best Indian farmers from Punjab produce 3,300 kg of rice per hectare while the Chinese produce 6,566 kg per hectare. Assuming a price of `20 per kg of rice, the income of an Indian farmer from one hectare is `66,000 while that of the Chinese farmer is Rs 131,320. Indeed, the average yield in India is just about 2,130 kg per hectare giving an income of `42,600. Worse, yields in states like Bihar are as low as 1,500 kg per hectare, delivering a per hectare income of just Rs 30,000. Now imagine if the Bihari farmer could be helped to increase his yield to the Chinese levels, his income would quadruple fromRs 30,000 per hectare to Rs 131,320. Sure the yield follows engineering of necessary conditions, but that is exactly why we need a new agricultural policy.

Starting with the First Five Year Plan, successive governments have fuelled the ambition for industrial supremacy with policy and funds. Governments have also — as a consequence — under-spent on agriculture, ignoring the need for a deep and robust rural economy for industry to thrive on. Ergo, industry — despite dozens of attempts to create policy to promote growth and employment—has consistently drifted at around 20 to 24 per cent of GDP. Thanks to this myopia, industry has grown at an average of 6 per cent between 1950 and 2010. Worse, agriculture which hosts the majority of the populace has struggled, growing at an average of less than 2.8 per cent for 60 years, regardless of the party in power.

Indeed, even in the new India Story, while overall GDP has grown at over 8.6 per cent between 2004 and 2011, agriculture has despite record tonnage grown only at 2.8 per cent. And this growth too comes not because of any great jump in yield per acre, but because of the stupendous hike of over 50 per cent in the procurement prices of wheat and rice. The hike in support prices was both an economic and political necessity. However, it is not a formula for revival.  

The UPA could argue that it has ramped up credit, pushed insurance, waived off loans and hiked MSP. Fact is, all of these are flyover solutions that reflect the regime’s piecemeal approach. Also as Kirit Parekh proved in a paper in 2003, increase in MSP leads to a decline in overall GDP and increase in aggregate price index. And as a study by economist S Mahendra Dev in 2010 shows, resources better deployed as public investments in agriculture help increase yields, improve farm profitability, food security and poverty reduction.

Despite the loan waiver and higher credit allocation, two-thirds of farmers are outside formal credit system, leading to dependence on loan sharks. Investment in irrigation, which is the most critical input for yield, has been negligible. Wouldn’t the `40,000 crore spend on NREGA — which in Uttar Pradesh are apparently used to buy toys — better deployed on completing irrigation projects? Should not a water-stressed India invest in drip technology from Israel?
India’s best produce is 2,802 kg of wheat per hectare, while farmers in France produce 7,100 kg per hectare. What stops the government—like in 1966—to import paddy seeds from China or better wheat seeds from France?

For seven years, the formula-obsessed UPA has sought votes from the poor and plaudits from the elite. The economics of politics demands focus on agriculture. The plaudits that it thirsts for, will follow once it gets the algorithm of growth right.

COMMENTS
After a long time a very good article in Indian Express especially on related to Agriculture. Mr. Aiyar has focussed on Macro issues which are very serious for India in short and long term. The article clearly say there is Bharth and India still emerging and with a wide gap between Rural and Urban.  By K.G. Sudheendra 

Sri Aiyar’s article is timely and incisive.While he deftly touched upon many a principal malaise affecting Indian Agriculture like lack of public investment, institutional credit, especially since the beginning of neo-liberal economy from 1991, he has mysteriously been silent on efficacy of land reforms to enhance both the yield as well as income of landless, marginal and small farmers of our country. Unfortunately, many tend to forget that foundation of economic, agriculture growth in China was laid by the giant strides taken by China in areas like land reforms after the success of revolution in 1949. Similarly, the contribution of French Revolution of 1789 in breaking the shackles of feudalism ushered in new democratic revolution in France. India’s miserable track record in areas of land reforms except in states like West Bengal, Kerala, Tripura, Jammu and Kashmir speaks volumes about India’s failed attempt to jack up yield as well as income of farmers. Even, the 5th and final report  By RANA MITRA 

I am working in NABARD, Our Association(All India NABARD Employees Association) is fighting for the same cause. In fact the association is knocking the doors of MPs for funds which will create move developmental work in the field of Agri and Rural Development  By K Balakrishnan 

Does anybody in the government read these articles?  By Giri 

Mr.Ayair article has a small mistake. The emphasis on industry started from the second five year plan.His argument in favour of agriculture is not only timely but over due for action. UPA II Govt. policies have been designed to garner votes for the Congress party through populist programs like MNERGS. MNERGS is one scheme which has been launched without thought and preparation.  By Niladrinath Mohanty 

Sir, your article is timely, purposeful and puts the bar on Ts and dots on Is. The French example you refer to is laudable. The wheat fields were yielding just about 1800 Kgs per hectare. The Government not only allowed the import of high-yielding seedlings from China but also allowed private sector to do the import for the farmers who paid back the actual cost to the financier but also gave tax cuts to the latter; both are encouraged and jointly enhancing the conditions. Yesterday the French Agriculture Ministry announced to have improved the land fertility and the yield per hectare is projected to reach above 9000 Kgs at the ensuing crop. So much can be said about the Israeli methods too. Until a young and professionally-ambitious will replace Sharad Pawar, no result-oriented solution can be expected. The GoM takes decision ! No farmers are represented even at a consultative level ! May be an agri-Anna has to emerge to make the government to act! Agriculture is described as the back  By RAM FRANCE 

Chemical fertilizers in our water – An analysis of nitrates in the groundwater in Punjab by Greenpeace

Source: India Water Portal

 This study by Greenpeace India Society is an initial investigation into the effects of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer on groundwater pollution in intensive agriculture areas in Punjab. The level of nitrate in drinking water was tested from groundwater artesian wells located within farms and surrounded by crops (mostly rice and wheat rotations).
Nitrate pollution in groundwater is associated with nitrogen loads in the environment. In urban areas, it is associated with sewage and in agriculture areas, with livestock sources and nitrogen fertiliser inputs. Nitrate pollution in drinking water can have serious health impact on humans, especially for babies and children. The most significant potential health effects of drinking water contaminated with nitrate are the blue-baby syndrome (methemoglobinemia) and cancer.

A chemical intensive model of agriculture was introduced in India in the 1960s as part of the Green Revolution. This model and the supporting government policies, such as the chemical fertilizer subsidy policy, provoked indiscriminate use of chemicals. This has not only led to deterioration of the environment but also degraded and contaminated the natural resources base, and is now posing a threat to human health.

Ironically, this intensive farming practice is also not living up to its promise of sustained increase in food production. As a consequence, food production is now affected by diminishing returns and falling dividends in agriculture intensive areas. Application of nitrogen fertilizers compromises future food production by degrading soil fertility, and compromises the health of the farmers and their families by polluting the drinking water they depend on. The situation is alarming as the intensive model of farming has already depleted the groundwater. This region might be suffering from widespread nitrate pollution on its diminishing sources of drinking water.

As a part of the study, groundwater was tested from artesian wells located in farms awayNitrate from other potential sources of nitrate contamination (animals, human sewage), in order to focus on the impact of fertilizer application. Farms located in three districts (Bhatinda, Ludhiana, Mukhtsar) in Punjab where fertilizer consumption is highest were sampled.

As control points, two wells that are also monitored by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) were sampled. These wells are located within the villages, with high pollution probably coming from concentration of human sewage and cattle. The comparable values from these tests and from the reported values by CGWB point to the agreement between the two methodologies.

The investigation in three districts of Punjab shows that 20 percent of all sampled wells have nitrate levels above the safety limit of 50 mg of – nitrate per litre established by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Also, this nitrate pollution is clearly linked with the usage of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers as higher the application of nitrogen (urea) in the adjoining field, the higher the nitrate pollution found in the drinking water from the same farm.

There is an urgent need to shift to an ecofriendly agricultural model, and identify agro-ecological practices that ensure future food security. It is necessary now to acknowledge the pattern of the hazards that is becoming a trend, and address them with research, political will, relevant policy and practices.

Download the report here –

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Chemical fertilizers in our water – An analysis of nitrates in the groundwater in Punjab by Greenpeace (2009) 953.75 KB

Corporate Crimes In the Cereal Aisle: How Companies Are Fooling You Into Thinking Their Products Are Healthy

Here’s the tricks that big breakfast barons use to fool you into believing their products are pesticide and GMO-free.

October 26, 2011  |

A trip to the supermarket is an adventure into a tempting and treacherous jungle. The insatiable hunger for a ready-made breakfast that nourishes our bodies and our social conscience has made our morning bowls of cereal a hiding place for corporate charlatans. A new report, Cereal Crimes, by the Cornucopia Institute discloses the toxic truth about “natural” products and unmasks corporate faces like Kellogg’s hiding behind supposedly “family-run” businesses such as Kashi.

When these breakfast barons forage for profit, we eaters are the prey. But what are the laws of this jungle? And how do we avoid being ripped off by products that are hazardous for our health and our environment? Let’s have a look at some of these corporations’ sneaky strategies.

First, there is intentional confusion. With so many different kinds of cereal lining the shelves, figuring out which is the best requires detective work. Many make claims about health, boasting “no trans fats,” “gluten-free,” and “a boost of omega three.” Others play to environmental concerns declaring “earthy harmony,” “nature in balance,” and “sustainable soils.” With the legion of labels, separating wheat from chaff seems impossible, but the report offers one rule of thumb: Don’t confuse organic with “natural.”

Organics, certified and recognizable by the green USDA label, are required by federal law to be produced without toxic inputs and genetically engineered ingredients. “Natural,” on the other hand, is defined by the producers themselves to mislead shoppers and protect shareholders. Cornucopia’s report found that, “When determining their ‘natural’ standards, companies will consider their profitability. Environmental concerns are unlikely to weigh heavily, if at all, in this profitability equation.”

 

Read at:

 

http://www.alternet.org/food/152878/corporate_crimes_in_the_cereal_aisle%3A_how_companies_are_fooling_you_into_thinking_their_products_are_healthy?page=1

Maharashtra leads in statistic of shame-Farmers sucides

P. SAINATH, The Hindu, Mumbai, October 29, 2011

Share of Big 5 rose to 66.49 % of all farm suicides in 2010
Click here to view/download table on Farm Suicides: All India totals and numbers for five worst-affected States, 1995-2010


The five States with the largest share of the quarter-of-a-million farm suicides recorded in India over the past 16 years are Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

While the total number of farmers who took their own life in 2010 showed a dip from the preceding year, the share of the Big 5, in fact, rose to 66.49 per cent of all farm suicides in 2010. It was 62 per cent in 2009. Three of the Big 5 States have shown significant increases over 2009: Maharashtra (+269), Karnataka (+303), and Andhra Pradesh (+111). Nationally, the last eight years have seen on average, farmers killing themselves at a rate of one every 30 minutes.

In all, 14 of 28 States reported increases in 2010, while four have recorded declines of five or fewer suicides. The dip in 2010 comes with big falls in Chhattisgarh (-676), Tamil Nadu (-519) and Rajasthan (-461) and significant falls in Madhya Pradesh (-158), Puducherry (-150), and Uttar Pradesh (-108). West Bengal and Gujarat also report declines of 61 and 65. But the overall trend remains dismal.

In 1995, the first time the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) tabulated farm suicide data, the Big 5 accounted for 56.04 per cent of all farm suicides . In 2010, despite a one-year decline, they accounted for 66.49 per cent. Maharashtra’s story is alarming. It saw 20,066 farmers kill themselves between 1995 and 2002. That stands dwarfed by the 30,415 farmers who took their lives in the next eight years. The latter period saw an annual average increase of nearly 1,155 such deaths in the State. This was also the period when money was poured into relief ‘packages’ of the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister, through the loan waiver of 2008, and other measures.

During the very decade in which it reigned without break as the worst State to be a farmer in, Maharashtra rose to the first position among the big States in per capita income. Overall at Rs. 74,027, it is behind only much smaller States like Haryana and Goa. The Union Agriculture Minister is from this State and has held that post for six of those 10 years.

NCRB reports Maharashtra tops farm suicides in 2010 -VJAS

Owing to rampant corruption in the Bt.Cotton farming sector a recent NCRB report has stated that Maharashtra tops the suicide number followed by four more states

A RECENT NCRB report stated that Maharashtra tops farmer suicides in 2010. It’s official that the country has seen over a quarter of a million farmer suicides between 1995 and 2010. The National Crime Records Bureau’s latest report on Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India places the number for 2010 at 15,964 and Maharashtra has reported maximum 3141 farmers suicides followed by Karnataka 2585, Andhra Pradesh at 2,525 and Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh amounting 10,614.
That brings the cumulative 16-year total from 1995 when the NCRB started recording farm suicide data to 2, 56, 913, the worst-ever recorded wave of suicides of this kind in human history. Maharashtra posts a dismal picture with over 50,000 farmers killing themselves in the country’s richest State in that period. It also remains the worst State for such deaths for a decade now. Close to two-thirds of all farm suicides have occurred in five States: Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti has urged UPA convener Sonia Gandhi to change Maharashtra worst performing Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan as he is failed to protect cotton farmers of region having has ignored main demands of hike in Minimum Support Price-MSP of cotton, soybean and paddy and failed to resolve the issues of the procurement centres along with serious issue of power cut in rural Vidarbha which is more than 18 hours and due to load-shedding, 50 per cent cotton and paddy production of the region has suffered hence it was expected.

The recent announcement of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan yesterday that hiking the of Minimum Support Price-MSP of cotton will hit textile industry and lead to closing of mills has shocked the five million cotton farmers of Maharashtra as this is against the pending demand of congress and NCP party. It was expected that congress leaders of region will take up this serious issue of agrarian crisis with Maharashtra CM but nobody pushed the main demands and all were busy in welcoming him moreover.

As Chief Minister Chavan has given hostile administration to state and administrative corruption is at peaks there is no coordination of ministers with chief minister resulting complete failure of state coalition government hence we are demanding his removal to save dying cotton farmers of Maharashtra.

In Maharashtra alone cotton is cultivated over 52 lakh hectare and the lion’s share of it is in the rain fed region of Vidarbha and Marathwada where Bt.cotton crop has been failed due to long dry spell in September severely effecting the net yield of cotton by 50 per cent resulting another Black Diwali for Bt.cotton growers who are in rip of agrarian crisis and committing suicides since June 2005.

The rain sensitive Bt.cotton seed which has increased almost triple the cultivation cost and drop down the net average cotton production per hector coupled with international market volatility and Indian Govt. export restrictions are the main reasons of prevailing distress and despair in region forcing the cotton farmers to kill themselves which is matter of national shame but complete apathy of Govt. at the centre and state are adding fuel to this on-going farmers genocide, Tiwari said.

Since august party leaders who are in power are found busy in demanding MSP for cotton like public auction from Rs 5,000 or Rs 6000 per quintal and it is countered by the opposition leaders with the demand for Rs 7,000 or Rs 8,000 per quintal for the sake of political mileage making joke of the debt ridden farmers suffering as UPA Congress-NCP government has shamelessly hiked the cotton price from Rs 3,000 to Rs 3,300 a quintal in four years overlooking sky rocketing production cost which is allowing private traders to exploit the cotton farmers hence Maharashtra farmers are demanding state procurement at minimum Rs . 6000 per quintal in order to give bailout relief more than 5 million debt trapped cotton farmers of Maharashtra as there are valid reasons when The Maharashtra State Cooperative Cotton Growers Marketing Federation chairman Dr NP Hirani has demanded Rs 6,000 per quintal while MPCC president Manikrao Thakre urged Congress president Sonia Gandhi to ensure Rs 5,000 MSP followed by social justice minister Shivajirao Moghe took two MLAs along with him to New Delhi and they urged the Party President Smt.Sonia Gnadhiji to lift ban on cotton export permanently and hike the MSP to Rs 7,000 per quintal but in ground reality cotton farmers will another Black Diwali and there are more chances of farm suicides due on going despair and distress, Tiwari added.

Looking at prevailing situation internationally wherein cotton prices are likely to soar to Rs 7,000 a quintal this year too riding on the global scarcity on account of poor crops in the US, China and Pakistan, Indian cotton farmers can hedge these prices only if central government manages to raise the minimum support price to Rs 6,000 level but The government has not responded favourably disappointing cotton farmer hence we urge for urgent intervention to save dying cotton farmers, Tiwari said.

“As the reports from all over are showing world shortage of cotton production, the Indian farmer gets advantage this time as cotton is now placed under open general license (OGL) for exports. But the OGL status should be continued. Last year, the Centre put unnecessary restrictions on exports denying farmers an opportunity to make it big. In the process they lost a market worth Rs 30,000 crore,” said Tiwari.

At the national level Maharashtra is main state which is cultivating Bt.cotton in around 52 lakh hector which is around 40% of Indian cotton cultivation moreover agrarian economy of Maharashtra is completely based on cotton production and prices hence we demand urgent intervention from government.

Food Security Bill: Is it well thought out?


Deccan Chronicle, October 24, 2011 By Suman Sahai

The efforts of the government to tackle growing hunger with food support schemes like the Public Distribution System (PDS), the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and the mid-day meal scheme for schoolchildren has a mixed record. The most recent in this line of efforts to improve the hunger situation is the National Food Security Bill (NFSB).
There is also a Food Security Bill drafted by the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council (NAC), which, given its provenance, is being considered by the government, but reactions to its contents have been mixed. An expert committee headed by C. Rangarajan stated that the entitlements in the NAC draft (90 per cent coverage of the rural population and 50 per cent of the urban) were not feasible due to unavailability of sufficient foodgrains. They recommended that the entitlements guaranteed for above poverty line households be discarded and that only below poverty line households (as measured by the Tendulkar estimate plus a 10 per cent margin) be included in the scheme.
This would mean coverage of only 46 per cent of the rural population and 28 per cent of the urban. Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has expressed doubts about the large quantity of grain procurement that would be required by the NAC draft and said that the issues raised by the Rangarajan Committee are “pertinent”. Civil society groups, too, are divided on the NAC Bill, with some terming it merely a revised form of the PDS.
There are serious shortcomings in the NAC draft. Primary is its extremely restricted scope. This is not a bill that attempts to bring about food security, it is only a bill that offers a different option to the existing PDS system for distributing grains. No attention is paid to the most important components of food security: the production of food, its distribution and its absorption by the poor and hungry. Of the three major pillars of food security, food production, food distribution and food absorption, the NAC draft addresses just one. It is actually more a welfare bill, a “dole”, than an effort to engage with the complex problem of food security.
Tackling food security will mean treading on influential toes. The conflicts will arise over who will have preferential access to productive resources like land and water. Will Coca-Cola get the water for its bottling plant or will farmers get it for their cultivation? Will small farmers in the dry lands get the investments they need to create water bodies to enable them to have a second crop in the winter? The conflicts will be over issues such as fertiliser subsidies. Will Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu continue to be the principal beneficiaries of the government’s subsidies? Or will nutrient-based subsidy be directed at poor quality soils in rainfed areas that mostly need intervention, finally giving these farmers their due? The smallest, most marginal farmers have the worst soils and the least access to water. A Food Security Bill will have meaning only if it tries to swing things in their favour.
The Food Security Bill must tackle the fundamental question of common resources and the right of access to them. It must be able to speak out against Jatropha plantations on common lands conveniently designated as “wasteland”. The biofuel produced in the name of clean energy will take away the grazing lands of herders and pastoralists and the place where they can park their livestock because they have no other land. It will take away the source of leafy green vegetables and medicinal plants that the poor rely on.
Just as it will have to tackle the soft-drinks multinationals, the Food Security Bill must also take a position against the conglomerates grabbing agricultural lands in the name of special economic zones to set up industrial estates (or just to corner real estate). India’s most productive lands, the two-crop and three-crop zones, are being snapped up to build urban estates. Where will we grow our food?
The food production part of the Food Security Bill will also have to deal with putting into place our strategy to ensure food security when faced with climate change. According to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the impact of climate change will be most severe in Africa and South Asia, especially in its rainfed areas. How do we propose to cope with global warming and still grow sufficient food?
And how can we have food security when the drinking water is dirty and contaminated with pathogens, sanitation facilities do not exist and diarrhoea leaches the body of all nutrients? Children continue to die of diarrhoea and adults continue to sicken with it, unable to retain the little nutrition they get.
To draft a comprehensive Food Security Bill and accommodate the aspects that logically belong there, a lot of people will have to be asked to give up some of what is in their bag of goodies. The bill clearly fights shy of that. But, as if to demonstrate its serious intent, the NAC draft has tacked on several pages of penalties for violations to the substantive text, making this not an enabling bill, but a punishing bill.
Questions have also been raised about the manner of drafting this bill. What kinds of consultations were undertaken? How did the principal stakeholders engage in the process of providing inputs? In what manner were experts and other actors brought on board? How were the public’s views sought? How has this bill attempted to be pluralistic and representative of multiple views?
A greater understanding of food security than is evidenced by the current NAC draft is required to put the right components into such a sensitive law. Otherwise there is the risk of missing key targets and landing up with a law that is meaningless.
A comprehensive approach to food security must comprise all relevant aspects, such as the production (availability) of food, its distribution, and the ability of the poor to absorb and benefit from the food and nutrition that they can access. If we are serious and mean to do the right thing, we must start afresh and draft a new food security legislation.
The writer is a genetic scientist who has served on the faculty of the Universities of Chicago and Heidelberg, is convenor of the Gene Campaign

DAP and the holy cow, Srilatha Menon

DAP — the three-letter magic word which rules the life of most farmers. Some say it is not magic, but black magic, like a drug with a tantalising hold that just won’t let you go. DAP is short for Diammonium Phosphate (a commonly used fertiliser). Whether illiterate or not, farmers all over India know about DAP. And, currently, the biggest crisis that they are facing is the 100 per cent increase in the price of DAP and its acute shortage. They are willing to go hungry if only they could buy some DAP fertiliser.

Jagdish Prasad Gupta, a farmer in Uttar Pradesh, says, “The crops and soil are accustomed to DAP and urea. If DAP chemical is not used, the yield will go down and we will have no money to pay our children’s school fees, to buy clothes or even buy soaps to keep ourselves clean.” Gupta is a graduate in history, Hindi and political science and owns 40 bighas of land (or 28 acres), along with his two brothers, in Bidar village in Dudhi block of Sonebhadra. He buys a bag of DAP fertiliser for each acre and does this for every crop. He harvests three crops a year, so 72 bags of DAP is needed. Each bag costs Rs 1,000. The rates have doubled in two years. Gupta is preparing to sow wheat, once paddy is harvested. For this, he needs 16 quintals of seeds and the cost is Rs 2,200 a quintal. So, that is another Rs 35,000. Gupta realises he has to reduce the use of DAP, starting may be with a few bighas. But he fears a fall in yield.

Umendra Dutt, an organic farming activist in Punjab, says the DAP price hike is a blessing in disguise. If 30 lakh acres in Andhra Pradesh could survive on organic farming through the initiative of the NGO, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, the rest of the country could go for it, too, he says. Many farmers are daring to change and have cast off the spell of DAP, urea and other chemical inputs.

Rajesh Bhati of the Kisan Sangharh Samiti in Faridabad in Haryana, for instance, is now using the Bharat Swabhiman platform — started by Ramdev to learn and spread the word about organic farming. He says farmers spend Rs 5 lakh crore on chemicals annually. If they did not use the chemicals, they would lose only Rs 1,500 crore in yield. His formula for the DAP substitute is: A mixture of 15 kilos of cow dung, 15 kilos of cow urine, a kilo of four-year stale jaggery, a kilo of soil from an old tree and a kilo of powdered pulses (any) fermented for two weeks and then spared with 200 litres of water once in 20 days, till the harvest. Bhati swears by this formula prepared by IIT graduate the late Rajiv Dikshit, who later joined Ramdev. Farmers from across the country are converging in Karnataka next week for a conference on organic farming.

Ramesh Dagar started a Kisan Welfare Club in Sonepat which has 500 farmers engaged in organic farming. They have got themselves certified and get premiums from buyers to compensate for the slightly lower yield that they get for not using chemical inputs. Dagar, who was formerly president of the district panchayat and is not educated, gave up everything to devote himself to organic farming. He says chemicals don’t give total nutrition. The poison spreads to everything: food, air, water and milk. He has a technique of making a kilo of cow dung yield, five times the amount of fertiliser for the fields. Various clubs are coming up in other districts of Haryana, says Dagar, who also acknowledges the work being done by Ramdev’s Bharat Swabhiman to spread organic farming.

Bharat Swabhiman plans an organic farming village in each district to start with. Ramdev’s associates say they have already created 35,000 such villages in Uttarakhand and Punjab. Next on target is Himachal Pradesh. The silent prayer of these organic enthusiasts is: let the DAP prices soar.