07 November 2010

Day 35 of farmers march coincides with Obama's visit to India

Farmers marching across India to save agriculture are now in Andhra Pradesh. This peoples movement of liberating agriculture and ushering in hope does not reverberate with Obama's call for liberalizing and opening up agriculture.

Logo of Kisan Swaraj Yatra. © Kisan Swarj Yatra
Kisan Swaraj Yatra (KSY) taking inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi started the freedom tour on his 141st birthday has today on its 35th day reached Andhra Pradesh, Mr Obama also started his India tour by visiting his hero Gandhiji's museum 'Mani Bhavan', Mumbai. KSY's journey is a peoples movement that calls for hope to do away with the ills plaguing Indian agriculture, Mr Obama's ascendancy to office two years ago in the United States was also reverberating with hope for people across the globe. The similarities, one hopes, should not stop there; but, unfortunately, it does.

Flag off of Kisan Swaraj Yatra from Sabarmati Gujarat 2 October 2010. © Kisan Swaraj Yatra

The visit has a lot on platter for business ties. An opening up of the economy so that they buy goods and services from America so that there are more jobs back home. There are significant interests in liberalizing agriculture so that Indian farmer relies heavily on the market for inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. These benefit business interests in America and also India. These will also have adverse affect on Indian livelihoods as tidbits of news from the Yatra indicates.

In a meeting at Jangaon in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh on 3 November 2010 the slogans that rented the air are “Farmers’ welfare is nation’s welfare”, “Companies that loot farmers, gotta go; Ministers who are company agents, gotta go”, “Farmer who feeds us, don't commit suicide”. A host of groups came together and the mood may be summed up by the remark of a police official present “I have never seen all these organizations coming onto the same platform. How did you all manage this?” This was possible because of an engagement with people, what the Human Development Report has been stressing.

On 2 November 2010 in a meeting at HD Kote, Karnataka a discussion revealed that not non Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) seeds and organic seeds are not available in the market and Pandit Krishi Vivek Cariappa added that parental lines of hybrid seeds have been contaminated. Another speaker emphasized that "to save the country, we should save our villages; for saving our villages, we should save our farming; for saving farming, we should save our seed, our land and our ecological farming methods." The absence of regulation for private input providers, the yield stagnation, the increasing health risks were also discussed. The Yatris joined the paddy diversity festival at Rangayana, Mysore.

Meeting and paddy diversity festival Rangayana, Mysore, where Yatris had delicious lunch made out of many traditional rice-based recipes, 2 November 2010. © Kisan Swaraj Yatra

The tour had reached the state of Kerala on 30 October 2010. In a public meeting at Palakkad, Mr Mullakkara Ratnakaran, Minister for Agriculture, conveyed through phone that "all the issues being raised by the Yatra are issues of concern for the state government too." Mr Diwakaran, the local member of the legislative assembly, mentioned about "the disappearance of honeybees and the huge environmental imbalances that we are creating."

The state of Kerala, which has been in the centre of many environmental movements such as the save silent valley, has now also declared itself to be free of genetically modified crops. The state has a policy towards organic farming and plans to implement the same in a few years time said Sridhar Radhakrishnan of Thanal.

Sridhar says that KSY in Kerala is a celebration as the state has declared itself a GM-free organic state, Palakkad, Kerala, 30 October 2010. © Kisan Swaraj Yatra

Kavita Kurangathi of Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) who said that the Yatra "aims to provide a message of hope to farmers in the country that there is indeed a way out of the crisis in farming today – that of adopting self-reliant, ecological farming." It comes in the backdrop of the government not addressing "the issue in fundamental ways, including assessing the role of unsustainable technologies in creating and exacerbating the crisis."

On their second day in Kerala the Yatris visited a school where the meeting was organized by the Mallapuram Organic Farmers’ Movement. Dr VS Vijayan (Former Chair, Kerala State Bio-Diversity Board) explained the local practices and gave the example of a farm family that "has been living off the organic farm by integrating innovative cattle and organic farming techniques." The historic relevance of the place Eddappal, Ponnani where there was an uprising in the struggle for independence was indicated by Dr Jacob Vadakkanchery.

Dr. Vijayan addresses the crowd at Eddappal, Mallapuram, Kerala, 31 October 2010. © Kisan Swaraj Yatra

Farmers from different parts of the country shared their story of the over-hyped green revolution in Punjab, the yield of nine tonnes of paddy per hectare during pre-independence days at Chengalpat, Tamil Nadu or how farmers in Budelkhand kept their seed stock for the next generation even during extended period of drought. A second meeting was organized at Nilambur by Haritha Senam, a farmers collective which has been working on the issue of debt and farmers suicides.

The third day in Kerala began at the memorial for Pazhassi Raja, the Adivasi King who fought the British for independence. The town reverberated with slogans in Hindi and Malyalam. The Yatris visited the farm of Mr Raman who has been growing 23 different traditional varieties of paddy. Mr Kalpetta Narayanan, a writer and poet, questioned the industrialization of agriculture. He gave examples from Gandhiji to explain the real meaning of 'swaraj' (freedom).

Yatris pay homage to Pazhassi Raja, the king who fought the British for Adivasi rights, Wayanad, 1 November 2010. © Kisan Swaraj Yatra

Mr Obama are you listening. Farmers' across the country do not agree that opening of agriculture will not affect their livelihoods.

(This write-up was first put up in Digital Journal, 6 November 2010, http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/299596.)

Other articles in this series are day 28 of the Yatra and their travels in eastern regions and northern regions of India.

No comments:

Post a Comment