Monitoring system for fertilisers fails to gather steam

Monitoring system for fertilisers fails to gather steam
Unfamiliarity with system, unwillingness to share information seen as drawbacks
Shaikh Zoaib Saleem / New Delhi Apr 29, 2012, 00:10 IST
 http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/monitoring-system-for-fertilisers-fails-to-gather-steam/472879/

The ambitious mobile-based fertiliser monitoring system (mFMS), aimed at tracking the movement of fertilisers up to the retail level, does not seem to be popular among end users—the dealers and retailers. Just about 10,000 of the 170,000 registered on the system are responding to it.

Officials close to the project told Business Standard the number of responses was indeed small, something industry players also agreed with.

 

“The response was up to 1,000 in November, when the pilot of the mFMS was being run. The number has now reached somewhere around ten thousand,” said an official. After the pilot projects in November, the final tracking system was launched in January.

The official added the reasons for the slow growth were primarily unfamiliarity with the system and unwillingness to share information. “Many of the retailers do not respond to the system regularly, citing various reasons, when all it takes is just a little time. We have also incorporated many of the upgradations suggested by the industry in the application used for the system,” he said.

However, the irony is even among the small number of respondents, the majority of updates were through computers, not mobiles, defeating the very purpose of the mobile-based system. Currently, the system can be updated by both mobile phones, as well as computers.

Experts say the system cannot be implemented, unless some field officers are deployed to monitor the implementation and, at a later stage, retailers are mandatorily made to update the system. The government has constituted a sub-group, with members from the government and the industry, to test and monitor the system.

Government officials said most responses were coming from the cooperatives.

Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (Iffco), which has about 45,000 retailers registered on the system, told Business Standard the response rate for it had touched 15 per cent. Iffco also said due to operational difficulties, the system was not working in remote areas, and this had been communicated to the National Informatics Centre (NIC). “We have asked the NIC not to release the final version of the application, as it is a difficult task to copy the software to the mobile phones of all retailers,” Iffco said.

Zuari Industries, a manufacturer of farm products, said the majority (about 80 per cent) of its dealers was responding to the system, and the company was not facing any problem with the current system. According to the mFMS database, Zuari has over 3,800 registered dealers on the system.

The system is aimed at tracking the movement of fertilisers to the farthest point possible–the retailers. The tracking gained importance after various reports of leakages and unavailability of fertilisers came to light. It was also scheduled to be used for the direct transfer of subsidy to retailers, as an intermediate step in the direct transfer of subsidy to farmers. However, after the industry voiced its concern, this aspect of the mFMS was put on the backburner.


MONSANTO SEED WITHDRAWN FROM GUJARAT GOVT PROJECT

BKS & ASHA welcome Gujarat Govt’s decision

project sunshine rapid appraisal rpt-ASHA-feb2012 finalAhmedabad/New Delhi, 26th April 2012: The Gujarat government’s cabinet decision yesterday to withdraw controversial American MNC Monsanto’s proprietary seed from ongoing government projects was welcomed by Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) and Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA). BKS state President Maganbhai Patel, Kapil Shah of Jatan and Prabhakar Kelkar, National President of BKS organized a press conference in Ahmedabad today, thanking the government for its decision, having protested and campaigned against the unscientific, controversial and unsustainable aspects of Project Sunshine for several seasons now. Earlier, a Cabinet Sub-Committee has recommended the withdrawal of Monsanto’s seed from government projects.

The seeds of Monsanto, under the brand name “Prabal”, a double-cross hybrid of Maize, were being distributed to more than half a million tribal farmers of Gujarat since the inception of Project SunShine under Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana in 2008. This project came under great criticism not only from within the state but also at a national level by various agencies including farmers’ organizations, tribal organizations and leaders, organic farming promoters, ecologists and scientists. It is estimated that the Gujarat Govt has procured seeds from Monsanto worth of 500 million rupees in the last four years, to be distributed in turn to poor tribal farmers, thereby providing ready markets for this controversial corporation seen by many as anti-farmer. It is not clear whether proper bidding and other transparent procedures were followed or not while favoring Monsanto in this project, apart from several questions on the scientificity of proprietary hybrid seed being chosen to be distributed to resource-poor, vulnerable farmers.

Several efforts were put in by various groups and individuals against this project, through letter campaigns, rapid appraisal visits, public debates and personal meetings with policy makers. Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the largest farmers’ organization in Gujarat, has also been demanding withdrawal of Monsanto and its ‘Prabal’ seed from such government support. This proprietary hybrid seems to have been selected against the opinions of agricultural scientists. There has been increasing opposition in the state since the past couple of years against such encroachment of MNCs in State’s agriculture. In February 2012, ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture) released a Rapid Appraisal Report visiting tribal farmers of project villages and pointed out to several problems and flaws in the project. The last Assembly Session witnessed a debate and questions being raised on Monsanto’s seed. It appears that finally, the government has sought opinion of State Agriculture Universities, which gave their scientific opinion against these seeds for distribution to tribal farmers.

Four reputed scientists having enormous experience of working with maize and agricultural universities including two past Vice Chancellors were requested to opine about selection of ‘Prabal’ for distribution through government project.

All of them have opined about it in writing and have voiced strong views against the inclusion of this proprietary brand..

Dr. M. C. Varshneya, Former Vice C hancellor of Anand Agriculture University said, “Prabal variety of maize  was selected by tribal department without consulting Research Scientists.
1. Prabal is suitable only for deep soils.
2. Prabal needs more water than other varieties.
3. Heavy doses of fertilizers are needed for Prabal.
4. Prabal is not suitable for Godhra (where the maize Research Station is located) conditions where shallow soils and rainfed crop is taken”.

He adds, “ Inspite of candid opinion of University Scientists, Prabal seed was distributed to the farmers. Rather to say it was pushed on farmers without caring for technical suitability of the variety for that area.” As per his view SAU was not given a fair chance to supply its seeds. Showing his helplessness he says “Nothing could be done to stop the Monsanto released variety Prabal from entering in Gujarat.”

A well known maize breeder Dr. S. N. Goyal (awarded by the state government for his remarkable work) who worked as a Research Scientist for Maize at Anand Agricultural University for 12 years (from 1994 to 2006), and during whose tenue some of the most popular maize varieties in Gujarat were released, opined that, “My considered opinion about “Prabal” hybrid is, being a late-in-maturity, yellow-coloured and dent-type seed, “Prabal” is unsuitable for majority of maize growing areas of Gujarat. He described the following seven reasons for his view.

1.     Majority of maize growing areas, especially eastern part is rain-fed for where early maturity varieties are recommended and grown. Late maturity hybrids grown under rain-fed condition may not set seeds and chances of crop failure will be high which may lead to farmer’s distress.

2.     To overcome the risk of total crop failure in rain-fed area, farmers grow maize with other crops as an inter-crop which is not possible with “Prabal” Hybrid which is meant only for sole cropping.

3.     “Prabal” hybrid requires high inputs involving more expenditure which is not desirable under rain-fed condition, especially for resource poor farmers.

4.     Considering the AAU report, despite of high dosage of NPK application to “Prabal” hybrid, marginal depletion in NPK and Zinc level have been observed in maize fields, which will result in soil deterioration in the long run.

5.     Storability of “Prabal” Grain / seed, which is dent type is less compared to flint type, which may lead to food insecurity for tribal families.

6.     “Prabal” hybrid is double cross hybrid. Double cross hybrids are less uniform and unattractive as compared to single cross hybrid. Double cross hybrid has high cost of seed production. Now-a-days, only single cross hybrids are developed and released. Using double cross is considered as an age old technology in the scientific forums. Double cross hybrid technology is rejected in USA also. World over, including at ICAR and SAUs in India, single cross hybrids are developed.

7.     Economic survey of “Prabal” growing hybrids in Gujarat revealed that financial gain is achieved only to 25% to 30% sample farmers in Dahod, Panchamahal and Vadodara and 40-50% in Sabarkantha and Banaskantha district, where as in rest of the area, it had no significant impact on economy.

 

Another retired senior plant breeder and former Research Scientist for forage crops at State Agricultural University Dr. J. P. Yadavendra, told that, “The crop varieties are developed and released as per regional requirements and specific agro-ecological niches.  Any crop variety/hybrid which has not been tested in a particular environment and disseminated for general cultivation among farmers poses a great danger in the long run. To safeguard the farmers’ interest, there should be an honest follow up of the official guidelines set up for the purpose by the state agricultural universities.  In case of cross-pollinated crops, the contamination of the well-adapted local cultivars may lead to the loss of valuable existing gene pool. In my opinion, the popularization of Prabal maize hybrid amongst the tribal farmers of Dahod and Panchmahal districts of Gujarat has been done without considering the proper procedures and opinion of the cultivators.” It is important to note that he is working in tribal areas of six states of India through an NGO called Gramin Vikas Trust.

Padmashree Dr. M. H. Mehta, Former Vice chancellor of Gujarat Agricultural University opined that, “ We do not seem to have given enough back up and large scale extension support to promising new maize varieties of Agri. University in Gujarat. Instead there seems a stronger support and preference to the varieties of multinational company. I have watched the organic model of Bihar where through a state level lead up & the package of eco-friendly agri. bio inputs, excellent yields of vegetables could be achieved in some of the poorest & backward districts. Low input cost, eco-friendly technology is the most appropriate for tribal people. It is time to adopt such a model for Gujarat farmers.”

Multinational seed companies including Monsanto are encroaching upon Indian agricultural fields by using government funds. At least four other states began spending public money to buy such seeds in the name of farmer/tribal/rural welfare, emulating the Project Sunshine model and serious opposition has been mounted against this in the other states too, with Odisha dropping this support after piloting it for one season.

“Gujarat’s Project Sunshine is a classic case of how Agri-MNCs like Monsanto bypass scientific opinion and administrative procedures and promote their unscientific and risky products. It is also a matter of investigation whether proper bidding was done to buy these seeds or not. It is the same companies like Monsanto that also promote GM crops and sell patented technology. Even as genetically modified maize is knocking on the door, pushed by corporations like Monsanto, ready ground is being created for this controversial technology by replacing public varieties through various questionable practices.”, said ASHA.

BKS appreciates the Gujarat Government’s move and strongly demands withdrawal of such seeds & projects in all states of India. At the same time, it warned the state government to be extra cautious to ensure that the same seed does not take back door entry. It is high time to set up a non-corrupt, transparent, efficient and scientific system so that such case never occurs in future

Gujarat Govt should ban Monsanto and GM crop trials in the state

Various groups in Gujarat and elsewhere in the country are now demanding a ban on Monsanto and various GM crop trials allowed in the state of Gujarat. This was in the context of Gujarat Government’s decision to withdraw this controversial agri-business corporation’s proprietary seed from government projects in the state. Monsanto’s seeds worth crores of rupees have been distributed without proper scientific basis and by bypassing proper administrative procedures. The Press Release added that “Monsanto is the company along with other corporations trying to introduce GM crops including Bt Brinjal, Roundup Ready Bt maize and so on. This company already controls around 93% of India’s cotton seed through its proprietary Bollgard technology when it comes to GM cotton. It is also being proceeded against by the National Biodiversity Authority for violations in Bt brinjal development, while being investigated by Indian biosafety regulators for violations in its GM maize trials”.

The Gujarat government decision to withdraw Monsanto from Project Sunshine is significant in the context of GM crop trials also. Last year, Rajasthan government had annulled agreements that it made for seed-related R&D with Monsanto and other corporations while Odisha did not pursue a Public Private Parntership programme initiated in the state after one season.

In India, at least eight states including Bihar, Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Orissa, Kerala and Karnataka have decided not to allow any GM crop trials, while Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have also said NO to such trials. Some of them have declared their desire to remain totally GM free. Only three states have allowed trials of this controversial and hazardous technology: Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat. In Gujarat, NOC by state govt was given to about 10 “events”, all of which have proprietary right of MNCs. It was also found that this was done without the legally obligated institutions in place for monitoring and supervision. It is also worth noting that illegal planting of GM crops has been recorded in the past without any liability being fixed.

Why Gujarat Should Ban GM Crop Trials

There are various important reasons to ban such trials in Gujarat as mentioned below:

1.     The very need of Bt Maize, HT Maize and HT cotton has not been assessed or decided by scientists and farmers and there are safer alternatives available with SAUs. Need assessment and assessment of alternatives is not governing GM crop trials-related decisions.

2.     Open air trials precede biosafety clearance (biosafety testing runs parallel to such open air trials) and these open air trials pose a great risk since this technology is a living, imprecise, unpredictable, irreversible and uncontrollable technology.

3.     Open Air Trials are permitted based on privately-generated safety data and not even independent scientific analysis. This was also stated as an argument against such crops being released by very senior and credible scientists in the country.

4.     All the GM crops trials are sponsored by the seed developer. (No Blinding is done). This may lead to biased results. There is a need to cut off the relations between company and evaluating agency.

5.     There are chances of contamination from novel organism to local germplasm as the facilities and isolation requirements to avoid the contamination are limited and questionable. Moreover, the agri-campuses where such trials take place are also repositeries of valuable germplasm collections.

6.     As per the EPA, there is a need to have State Biosafety Coordination Committee (SBCC) in function, In Gujarat, SBCC is non-functional with different agencies washing off their hands on their responsibility.

7.     There are mounting evidences depicting risks related to transgenic crops including unexpected changes in the organism, ecological and health risks.

8.     Even the export and trade of certain farm products will be at risk (as example of rice in China and basmati rice in India). Field trials have been known to cause enormous damage to trade security in various parts of the world in the past.

9.     The seed owner wants to enjoy IPR restricting the very right of farmer to produce their own seeds. We cannot have such trials until several basic things are made clear.

10.  GM crop trials are disallowed in an overwhelming majority of states in India. Why should Gujarat allow them, and on what additional scientific basis and regulatory capability?

 

 

Contacts:

Maganbhai Patel, BKS:  09426394801

Kapil Shah, Jatan:  09427054132

Kavitha Kuruganti, ASHA: 09393001550

Effect of Bt-Transgenic Cotton on Soil Biological Health

http://www.indianjournals.com/ijor.aspx?target=ijor:abr&volume=14&issue=1&article=002

Tarafdar Jagadish C.*, Rathore Indira, Shiva Vandana1 Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur, Rajasthan-342 003 (India)  1Navadanya, A-60, Hauz Khas, New Delhi 110 016, India  *email: jctarafdar@yahoo.in; tarafdar@cazri.res.in

Bt cotton are plants that have been genetically modified to express the insecticidal proteins Cry 1 Acfrom subspecies of the bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bt), to control bollworm pest that feed on cotton. There is a persistent environmental concern that transgenic Bt-crops carry genes that have indirect undesirable effect to natural and agroecosystem function. We investigated the effect of Bt-cotton (with Cry 1 Ac gene) on several microbial and biochemical indicators in fields under sub-humid tropical condition. Twenty five fields were selected in the Vidarbha region, India, where Bt-cotton has been growing at least three consecutive years and side by side field of non-transgenic cotton is growing under clay to clay loam soil. Soil from a control (no-crop) treatment was also included from each area to compare the extent of adverse effect of Bt, if any. Samples were analyzed for actinobacteria, fungi and nitrifiers population, biomass carbon (MBC), biomass nitrogen (MBN), biomass phosphorus (MBP) and soil enzyme activities. The result revealed a significant decline in actinobacteria (17%), bacterial (14%) count as well as acid phosphatase (27%), phytase (18%), nitrogenase (23%) and dehydrogenase (12%) activities in Bt cotton compared with non-Bt cotton fields. Fungal and nitrifier counts, and esterase and alkaline phosphatase activities were not affected by the introduction of Bt-cotton in fields. However, significant decline between 8 and 9% in MBC and MBN was noticed.

 

On NHRC intervention Punjab Government bans use of cancer causing pesticides in Malwa region

PRESS RELEASE

New Delhi, April 20th, 2012

Responding to National Human Rights Commission’s directions, the Punjab Government has banned the manufacture, import and use of pesticides which are very injurious to health. It has also withdrawn registration of some such pesticides in addition to restricting use of some other dangerous pesticides. It has also made arrangements for educating farmers on judicious use of pesticides and their healthcare.

These actions, among others, have been taken by the Punjab Government in response to NHRC’s suo motu cognizance of a media report, carried on the 16th August, 2011, alleging that the disease of cancer among farmers in the Malwa region of Punjab is caused by the excessive use of pesticides on the crops and that due to non-availability of the cheap treatment of cancer in the region, about 70-100 cancer patients were going daily by train to Bikaner from Bathinda for free treatment and cheap medicines in the Acharya Tulsi Regional Cancer Trust.

These patients were mostly small farmers from the southern districts of Punjab including Bathinda, Faridkot, Moga, Muktsar, Ferozepur, Sangrur and Mansa coming under Malwa region.

On the directions of the Commission two reports were received from the Government of Punjab on 20th September, 2011 and 27th February, 2012.  The first report of the Director Health and Family Welfare of Punjab was not found specific by the Commission to the issues in the media report and it gave directions on 23rd January, 2012 for an overall comprehensive action including banning carcinogenic pesticides, control use of less hazardous pesticides, education of farmers for use of pesticides, regular health check ups of the of farmers in the area and conducting a survey in the area to assess the problem.

In response to this, the second report by the Principal Secretary, Govt. of Punjab, Department of Health and Family Welfare accepted that the consumption of pesticides was on the higher side in Malwa region on account of growing of cotton crop.  However, during the last 4-5 years, the consumption has reduced as the farmers have switched over to BT cotton, which requires only 20% of the pesticides used for earlier cotton varieties.  The farmers are being trained on judicious use of pesticides even as some dangerous pesticides have been banned or their use has been restricted.  As for providing cheap treatment for cancer, the Punjab Government has taken the following steps:-

•       Financial assistance under State Illness Fund through Punjab Nirogi Society is provided to cancer patients belonging to BPL families;
•       A fund of Rs. 20 crores has been made available by the Government of Punjab under the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for treatment of cancer patients.  An amount of upto Rs. 1.5 lakhs is made available for treatment to every cancer patient;
•       School children suffering from cancer are provided free treatment by Health Department;
•       .Brachytherapy machine for treatment of cancer patients has been installed at Government Medical College and Hospital, Patiala;
•       Radiotherapy machine and cobalt unit have been started at Sri Guru Gobind Singh Medical College, Faridkot;
•       Cobalt source fro the treatment of cancer patients has been installed at Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Amritsar;
•       Onconet service has been started at Civil Hospital, Bathinda;
•       Regional Cancer Centre, PGI is connected to all districts of Punjab via Tele-Medicine facility;
•       Free travel facility in Punjab Roadways and PRTC Buses is provided for cancer patients for availing treatment;
•       State Government has executed an agreement with Max Health Care to set up Super Specialty Hospital for cancer and Trauma Care in the premises of Civil Hospital, SAS Nagar (Mohali) and setting up of Super Specialty Cancer and Cardiac Hospital in the premises of Civil Hospital, Bathinda.  These hospitals are fully functional.

The Commission has observed that the steps taken by the State Government give some ray of hope to the victims.  If these steps are taken forward in the right earnest they are likely to bear fruits in the future.

Toxic legacy: Nitrate pollution in California could affect 260,000 people

Author(s): Swetha Manian

Issue: Apr 30, 2012
image

Nitrate contamination has grown worse in agricultural areasTHOUGH nitrogen and nitrates occur naturally, they are at levels that do not harm. But concern is increasing about high concentrations of nitrogen leaching into aquifers from synthetic fertilisers and manure applied to cropland, resulting in nitrate pollution. High-nitrate levels can cause cancer, reproductive disorders and can be lethal for infants.

Now a study has shown how nitrate contamination of groundwater in some of California’s most intensely farmed regions has grown worse in recent decades. The contamination will continue to spread, threatening the drinking water supplies of more than 260,000 people, it says. The team from UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources analysed groundwater data of Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley of California. They found that more than 90 per cent of the contamination comes from farms, ranches and crops. It says that nitrate in drinking water today came from nitrates introduced decades ago. “Decades from now nitrate in water will be from today’s discharges. Nitrate contamination will be an issue for years to come,” says Thomas Harter, the lead author.

The study which was mandated by legislation in the state in 2008 also notes that removing nitrates from groundwater is costly and not feasible. It says the cost of treating drinking water would increase over time as more nitrate percolates. The study thus suggests an approach based on fertiliser management and water treatment systems. Laurel Firestone, co-executive director of Tulare County’s Community Water Centre, suggests a fertiliser fee could help control nitrate contamination.

In India, high levels of nitrate contamination have been reported from agricultural areas and have been linked to intensive use of fertilisers. A study conducted by Greenpeace India, a non-profit, in November 2009 in Punjab found an average fertiliser application rate of 322 kg nitrogen per hectare, higher than the average rate of 210 kg nitrogen per hectare, set by the Fertiliser Association of India. The Davis study found an application rate of 221 kg nitrogen per hectare in high nitrate area. “While nitrate pollution can stem from many sources, overuse is prevalent mainly in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and coastal peninsula, which comprise 10 per cent of all agricultural area,” says N Raghuram, associate professor at Indraprastha University, New Delhi. He adds, preventing accumulation of reactive nitrogen is the best solution. “Recycling unwanted nitrogen compounds from other sectors towards agriculture could be an option.”

Pesticides worsening water contamination

Apr 11, 2012 – Rashme Sehgal |

AGRI.jpg.crop_display.jpg

Increasing use of pesticides and herbicides in agriculture is playing havoc with the farming community apart from resulting in increased levels of water contamination.

A recent epidemiological study has shown the presence of arsenic, cadmium, chromium and mercury apart from much higher levels of pesticides in the water across Punjab, Haryana, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

The situation has got exacerbated with the unavailability of rural workers during the peak harvesting and sowing months forcing farmers to use pesticides/herbicides and opt for rapid mechanisation.

Agriculture expert Devinder Sharma warns, “Increased mechanisation and pesticide use has raised investment levels for even small farmers. But since most of these purchases are being done on credit, a crop failure means they are in deep trouble.”

Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has warned against this trend and had even requested minister of rural development Jairam Ramesh to freeze the MGNREGA rural job scheme during the peak agricultural season to allow farm labour to be available for agricultural work.

The Economic Survey 2012 has also seconded Mr Pawar’s warning that the agricultural crisis has worsened in the last five years which is the time that the MGNREGA has been around.

Umendra Dutta of the Kheti Virasat Mission points out, “Farmers are encouraged to use excessive pesticides instead of farming organically. Herbicides are being used to remove weeds because there is no labour to do the farm work.”

Officials in the Central Water Commission warn of over 100 different pesticides that are presently found in groundwater samples which can take many years to clean up.

Cleaning ground water is a difficult task and a Minister of Environment and Forests survey found that 58 per cent of drinking waters drawn from various hand pumps and wells in Bhopal remains contaminated with organ chlorine pesticides even though the gas leak took place over 25 years ago.

Shortage of farm labour has also resulted in the creation of a National Mission on Farm Mechanisation. `This is strange in a country where large numbers of people are said to be unemployed,’ said Dutta.

Devinder Sharma adds, Rs Travelling across the country, workers will be found sitting idle. There is so much corruption in the Rs 35,000 crore MGNREGA that workers just need to sign to get depressed wages. They do not need to do nay work at all.’

SC refuses to nominate judge to head GMO committee

TNN | Apr 21, 2012, 04.31AM IST

 

NEW DELHI: Wary of public cynicism, the Supreme Court on Friday spurned repeatedly requests to nominate a retired apex court judge to head the expert committee for recommending rules for bio-safety testing of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).

A bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar said the petitioners, Aruna Rodrigues and Gene Campaign, as well as the Union government must come to a consensus on the name of a retired judge to head the committee.

“We do not have a problem with any name agreed to by the parties. But we are not going to name any judge in this kind of a matter in which there are so many conflicting interests. Then, rumours and allegations and counter-allegations will start. We know what happened in this case. With the kind of cynicism in our society, we are not going to give the name of a judge,” the bench said.

While petitioners, through counsel Prashant Bhushan and Sanjay Parekh, had suggested the name of retired apex court judge B Sudershan Reddy, the government through additional solicitor general Harin Raval had come up with the name of Justice Doraiswamy Raju.

Both Parekh and Bhushan attempted to drive home the urgency involved in the matter. They said the rules relating to bio-safety testing of GMOs needed to be framed expeditiously as anything released in the environment during field trials of such organisms could irreversibly contaminate traditional crops.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/12769495.cms

Creating an Undemocratic and Unaccountable Biotechnology Regulator

A critique of the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill, 2011

 Download the critique

Biotechnology is a cross cutting issue that affects food production, farming, health, environment and information technology sectors. It is to be expected then that formulation of any law governing this high risk technology would be deeply democratic and transparent exercise. Particularly because the Constitution of India guarantees that States and Local Governments are principal levels for engaging with debates and decisions when it matters to peoples access to food, health, a clean environment and livelihoods in general. The role of the Centre is supportive, at best. International law also strongly supports this process of bottom up decision making involving the people meaningfully.

The Indian Government, however, seems to now believe that biotechnology as a sector must be under the “control” of the Union Government. Accordingly, it has proposed the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill, 2011, to establish a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) and Biotechnology Regulatory Appellate Authority (BRAT) and a host of other regulatory and appeal agencies. There has been no discussion whatsoever during the formulation of this Bill with Local and State Governments, and it would not be wrong to say that the process by which this legislative proposal has been formulated is absolutely opaque.

The Bill is now set for debate and discussion in the winter session of the Parliament. It is to be seen if this would be possible as the House has been rocked by protests from Opposition and allies of the ruling UPA coalition against the Union Government’s decision to allow FDI in single brand retail, amongst other issues. The opportunity now exists to subject BRAI Bill, 2011 to a thorough review at all levels.

To assist in this process, Environment Support Group, a not for profit public interest research, training, campaign and advocacy initiative responsing to various environmental and social justice concerns, has prepared a critique of the Bill entitled: “Creating an Undemocratic and Unaccountable Biotechnology Regulator: A critique of the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill, 2011, with particular emphasis on environmental laws”. The same is attached.

 

We do hope that our contribution helps in deeply democratising the debate and discussion on this legislative proposal, especially considering the massive impact it has on food security, health, environment and governance, and the livelihoods of millions.

Leo F. Saldanha

Bhargavi S. Rao

Environment Support Group


The real foreign hand SAMIT AICH

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/article2946804.ece

The PM should know that agrotech and nuclear firms, rather than NGOs, are undermining the public interest.

By raising the spectre of the “foreign hand” supposedly behind protests against nuclear energy and GM food, the Prime Minister has dismissed the concerns of millions of Indians, creating a smokescreen behind which to undermine both nuclear safety and the food safety of 1.2 billion Indians.

It is no coincidence that the PM’s statements come even as the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill and the Rules under the Nuclear Suppliers Liability Act are due to be introduced in Parliament. Both are seen as critical by the real foreign hand: giant American agrotech companies and the French, US and Russian nuclear industries.

Through his recent statements, the PM is trying to discredit and undermine the people and groups asking legitimate questions of a government that they have elected.

The last few years have seen mass mobilisation by farmers and consumers who do not want their seed sovereignty and food safety jeopardised, all to benefit American corporations such as Monsanto.

They opposed the introduction of genetically modified Bt brinjal. Public sentiment and scientific questions led to the former Environment Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, imposing a moratorium on GM food.

Similarly, following the Fukushima disaster, concerns grew about the dangers of nuclear energy. From Fatehabad in Haryana and Jaitapur in Maharashtra to Haripur in West Bengal and Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, lakhs of farmers and fishermen are rising up to protest their lands, homes and livelihoods being taken over for the risky, expensive and uneconomic proposition that is nuclear energy. Middle-class urban India has also grown sceptical that nukes are a solution to our energy shortages. By dismissing these protests as being engineered by a foreign hand, the PM has shown he is out of touch with the grassroots.

NUCLEAR LIABILITY

In July 2011, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, bluntly demanded that India amend its liability law — demanding that the will of Indians, through their elected representatives, be disregarded. The US State Department spokesperson, P. J. Crowley, and Ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, have made similar statements.

The Manmohan Singh Government has spared no effort to reassure the governments of France, the US and Russia, that neither protests nor the Civilian Nuclear Liability Bill will be allowed to delay the entry of foreign nuclear companies into India. If nuclear energy is truly safe, why are the suppliers worried about being liable in the case of an accident? The nukes liability law has now been passed, and any amendment is politically unfeasible. So the government is seeking to circumvent the law by framing Rules which will protect foreign suppliers by severely limiting their liability — even as the PM diverts attention by accusing civil society of being controlled by foreign interests!

Similarly, the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill seeks to bypass the opposition to GM foods. The Bill will institute a centralised, single window clearance to GM crops, taking away the powers of the States. It will not be in keeping with India’s biosafety obligations and overlooks the principle of absolute liability.

MUZZLING NGOS

Rather than engaging with the legitimate questions of millions of Indians, the Government is browbeating those who do not toe their line. If there is wrongdoing by NGOs, why has the government not made its evidence public? Crude attempts to muzzle the right to protest have no place in India. These statements must be seen in the light of a wider governmental crackdown on non-profit organisations.

The FCRA 2010 now enables the Home Ministry to suspend the FCRA registration of any non-profit organisation for up to 180 days without a hearing, and for 0a number of reasons, including ‘public interest’. Similarly, under the proposed Direct Taxes Code, NGOs will be denied the existing benefit of being able to transfer up to 15 per cent of their annual income into a corpus against future contingencies. The Finance Ministry has ignored pleas from India’s leading charities that this provision be reconsidered.

It is ironic that a Prime Minister who has been instrumental in opening up the economy to foreign corporations now accuses civil society of being controlled by a foreign hand.

(The author is Executive Director, Greenpeace India, a registered NGO)

రైతులకు విఆర్‌ఎస్‌!

ప్రజాశక్తి-హైదరాబాద్‌ బ్యూరో   Mon, 16 Apr 2012, IST
  • భూముల నుండి వెళ్లగొట్టే కుట్ర
  • రాష్ట్ర స్థాయిలో రెగ్యులేటరీ అథారిటీ
  • అనుబంధంగా భూ అభివృద్ధి కార్పొరేషన్‌
  • ప్రణాళికా సంఘం ముసాయిదా
  • సిఎంల భేటీలో చర్చ ?

స్వచ్ఛంద ఉద్యోగ విరమణ (విఆర్‌ఎస్‌) అమలు చేస్తున్నట్లు రైతులకు సైతం స్వచ్ఛంద సాగు విరమణ పథకాన్ని ప్రభుత్వం త్వరలో ప్రవేశపెట్టనుంది. రైతులు స్వచ్ఛందంగా తమ భూములను పరిశ్రమలకు ఇచ్చేందుకు వీలుగా ఆకర్షణీయంగా ఒక స్కీమ్‌కు కేంద్ర, రాష్ట్ర ప్రభుత్వాలు రూపకల్పన చేస్తున్నాయి. బహుళజాతి, ప్రైవేటు సంస్థలకు భూములను సులభంగా, సరళతరంగా సేకరించి పెట్టేందుకు వీలుగా రాష్ట్ర స్థాయిలో రెగ్యులేటరీ అథారిటీని నెలకొల్పేందుకు చర్చలు జరుగుతున్నాయి. దానికి అనుబంధంగా భూమి అభివృద్ధి కార్పొరేషన్‌ (ఎల్‌డిసి)ను ఏర్పాటు చేయనున్నారు. వస్తూత్పత్తి రంగం అభివృద్ధికి తరచూ భూసేకరణ సమస్యలు ఎదురవుతున్నందున రాష్ట్రాల స్థాయిలో రెగ్యులేటరీ అథారిటీ, ఎల్‌డిసిలను ఏర్పాటు చేయాలని కేంద్ర ప్రణాళికా సంఘం ప్రతిపాదించింది. ముసాయిదా పత్రంపై త్వరలో జరిగే ముఖ్యమంత్రుల సమావేశంలో కేంద్రం చర్చకు పెట్టి అభిప్రాయాలు సేకరించే అవకాశం ఉంది. ప్రణాళికా సంఘం రూపొందించిన ముసాయిదా పత్రం మన రాష్ట్ర ముఖ్యమంత్రికి ఇప్పటికే అందినట్లు తెలిసింది. సోమవారం జరిగే సిఎంల భేటీలో దీనిపై చర్చిస్తారని సమాచారం. అంతర్గత భద్రతకే ఈ సమావేశం పరిమితమైతే వచ్చే నెలలో మరోసారి జరిగే ముఖ్యమంత్రుల సదస్సులో భూసేకరణ మసాయిదాపై తప్పనిసరిగా చర్చ ఉంటుందని అధికార వర్గాలు తెలియజేశాయి.

ప్రణాళికా సంఘం రూపొందించిన ముసాయిదాలో ఆసక్తికరమైన అంశాలున్నాయి. ప్రైవేటు రంగంలో వస్తూత్పత్తి పరిశ్రమలు ఏర్పాటు చేయడానికి భూమి సమస్య ముందుకొచ్చిందని, దీన్ని ఎలాగొలా పరిష్కరించాల్సి ఉందని ప్రణాళికా సంఘం పేర్కొంది. భూసేకరణ కోసం రాష్ట్ర స్థాయిలో స్వతంత్రంగా పని చేసే నియంత్రణ సంస్థను ఏర్పాటు చేయాలి. ఎవరైనా రైతు తన భూమిని ఇవ్వదలుచుకుంటే ఆ సంస్థకు దరఖాస్తు చేసుకోవాలి. తనకు పరిహారం ఎంత కావాలో దానిలో స్పష్టంగా పేర్కొనాలి. రెగ్యులేటరీ అథారిటీ అలాంటి దరఖాస్తులను పరిశీలించి ధర నిర్ణయించి రైతు నుండి భూమి తీసుకుంటుంది. రెగ్యులేటరీ అథారిటీ నిర్ణయించే ధరకు రైతు తన భూమిని ఇవ్వొచ్చు లేదా తాను కోరుకునే పరిహారం కోసం చర్చలు జరిపి దాన్ని సాధించుకోవచ్చు. భూమి విలువను నిర్ధారించేందుకు ల్యాండ్‌ డెవలప్‌మెంట్‌ కార్పొరేషన్‌ను ఏర్పాటు చేస్తారు. ఆ భూమికి సంబంధించిన లావాదేవీల చరిత్ర, దానికి బహిరంగ మార్కెట్‌లో ఉన్న డిమాండ్‌ తదితర అంశా లను ఎల్‌డిసి అధ్యయనం చేసి డేటాను తయారు చేస్తుం ది. అది ఇచ్చే సమాచారాన్ని బట్టి రెగ్యులేటరీ అథారిటీ భూమి ధరను ప్రాథమికంగా నిర్ణయిస్తుంది. భూముల సర్వే, మ్యాపింగ్‌, డేటా సేకరణ తదితరాల కోసం ప్రణాళికా సంఘం రాష్ట్రాలకు నిధులు సమకూరుస్తుంది. భూసేకరణ సమయంలో ప్రభుత్వం, పరిశ్రమలు, భూమి యజమానుల మధ్య పరస్పర అవగాహన కోసమే రెగ్యులేటరీ అథారిటీలని ప్రణాళికా సంఘం చెబుతున్నప్పటికీ దీని వెనుక పెద్ద కుట్ర దాగుందని తెలుస్తోంది. బహుళజాతి, ప్రైవేటు సంస్థలకు భూములను ధారాదత్తం చేసేందుకేనని ఆరోపణలొస్తున్నాయి.

పలు రాష్ట్రాల్లో తమ జీవనాధారమైన భూమిని ఇచ్చేందుకు రైతులు తిరస్కరిస్తున్నారు. వీరోచిత పోరాటాలు చేస్తున్నారు. కారుచౌకగా భూములు కొట్టేసే ప్రభుత్వ చర్యలను గర్హిస్తున్నారు. మన రాష్ట్రంలో థర్మల్‌, అణు ప్రాజెక్టుల పట్ల నిర్వాసితుల నుండి తీవ్ర నిరసనలు వ్యక్తమైన సంగతి తెలిసిందే. వైఎస్‌ హయాంలో దాదాపు లక్ష ఎకరాలను సెజ్‌లు తదితరాలకు పందేరం చేశారని కాగ్‌ సైతం ఎత్తి చూపింది. ప్రభుత్వ సహాయ నిరాకరణ, విధానాల వల్ల వ్యవసాయం సంక్షోభంలో కూరుకుపోయింది. రైతులు ఆత్మహత్యలు చేసుకుంటున్నారు. వ్యవసాయాన్ని వదిలేస్తున్నారు. ఈ పరిస్థితిని ప్రభుత్వం ప్రైవేటుకు అనుకూలంగా మార్చేందుకు, రైతులను భూములు విడిచి పెట్టి వెళ్లేందుకు ప్రభుత్వం కుట్ర పన్నినట్లు విమర్శలొస్తున్నాయి. నిర్బంధంగా భూమిని సేకరించేందుకు అమల్లో ఉన్న బ్రిటిష్‌ కాలంనాటి ‘1894’ చట్టాన్ని తొలగించాలని వామపక్షాలు, ఇతర ప్రతిపక్షాలు డిమాండ్‌ చేస్తున్నాయి. రాష్ట్రంలో ప్రైవేటు కంపెనీలకు భూములు సేకరించేందుకే ఎపిఐఐసి ఉందని ఎమ్మార్‌ వంటి అనుభవాలు తెలియజేస్తున్నాయి. ప్రభుత్వం భూములు సేకరించదని, పరిశ్రమ ఎవరైతే పెడతారో వారే భూములను సేకరించుకోవడం మంచిదని ఇటీవల రాష్ట్ర సర్కార్‌ ఒక విధానాన్ని రూపొందించింది. ఈలోపే ప్రణాళికా సంఘం రెగ్యులేటరీ సంస్థను ఏర్పాటు చేయాలని సూచించడంతో దీనిపై రాష్ట్ర ప్రభుత్వం ఏం చెప్పాలనేదానిపై అధికారుల స్థాయిలో చర్చలు జరుగుతున్నాయని తెలిసింది. కాగా ప్రణాళికా సంఘం వాదన ఇలా ఉంది…ప్రపంచ ఆర్థిక మాంద్యం నేపథ్యంలో వస్తూత్పత్తి రంగం అభివృద్ధి చెందాల్సి ఉంది. పొరుగునున్న చైనా, థాయిలాండ్‌ ఈ రంగంపై ఎప్పటి నుండో దృష్టిపెట్టి విజయవంతమయ్యాయి. గత 30 సంవత్సరాల్లో దేశ జిడిపిలో వస్తూత్పత్తి రంగం వాటా 15 శాతానికి మించలేదు. పదకొండవ పంచవర్ష ప్రణాళికా కాలంలో ఈ రంగం వృద్ధిరేటు 10-11 శాతం సాధించాలని లక్ష్యంగా పెట్టుకున్నప్పటికీ 7.7 శాతం వద్ద ఊగిసలాడుతోంది. వచ్చే 12వ ప్రణాళికా కాలంలో జిడిపిలో వస్తూత్పత్తి రంగం వాటా 25 శాతం సాధించాల్సి ఉంది. ప్రస్తుతం పారిశ్రామిక అవసరాల కోసం 2-4 శాతం భూమి మాత్రమే అందుబాటులో ఉంది. ఈ నేపథ్యంలో పరిశ్రమల స్థాపనకు సమస్యగా ఉన్న భూసేకరణ సజావుగా జరగాలంటే రాష్ట్రాల స్థాయిలో రెగ్యులేటరీ అథారిటీ అవసరమని ప్రణాళికా సంఘం చెబుతోంది.