Call to join forces to save Indian farming and farmers
New Delhi/Ahmedabad: Oct 2nd, 2010: On a day when India and the world marked the 141st birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, hundreds of citizens came together in Ahmedabad to flag off a nation-wide Kisan Swaraj Yatra, for a 71-day trip across 20 states of India, to provide a message of hope to Indian farmers and to promote self-reliant ecological farming. The Yatra, organized by scores of organizations and individuals across the country under the auspices of “Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture”, was flagged off by veteran renowned natural farmer Shri Bhaskar bhai Save, acclaimed as the “Living Gandhi of Natural Farming”. The “Kisan Swaraj Yatra” seeks to remind all Indians of our hard-won independence and the insidious ways in which agri-business corporations and others are taking this independence and sovereignty away, especially with regard to our food and farming. This Yatra is a call for joining forces to save Indian farming and farmers mired in deep distress and to forge a sustainable path forward for Indian farming.
“ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) believes that this is a historic juncture for the farmers in the country. It is a shame for India that our anna datas who are keeping us alive are having to kill themselves in distress and we are not doing enough to address this issue squarely. There are obviously strong forces pushing farmers out of agriculture, with the vision that Indian agriculture will be more ‘manageable’ and ‘productive’ with only around 15% of population engaged in farming, under the domination of corporatization, biotechnology and heavy machinery. There is also a vision driving policies that believes that pushing people out of farming and rural areas into other sectors and into cities is what constitutes development and this is reflected in articulations of none other than the Prime Minister of India. This Yatra will seek to create a debate on this ‘developmental inevitability’ that is being pursued, without even consulting the stakeholders involved”, said the organisers.
“So far, we have seen people trying to convert agriculture into business opportunities unleash different kinds of weapons – amongst them, chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides were prominent. Now, these business houses have begun eyeing Seed as a means of profiteering. Natural characteristics of Seed are being modified wherein various business possibilities are being inserted into the seed itself for larger markets. It has to be noted by farmers that wherever they buy and sow such seeds, the business interests of these corporations will take roots, flower and expand. We should all collectively decide what we will do with such Seed and whether we will let the control go away from the hands of farmers – this is one of the main issues that the Kisan Swaraj Yatra will raise for debate”, said Shri Anupam Mishra, Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, speaking on the occasion.
“It is time to say loud and clear and in many diverse voices that India’s agriculture and farming community should not only survive but thrive, that it should find its own unique path and not simply follow in the disastrous footsteps of American agriculture. It is time to highlight the many solutions already proven at the field level, and the many solutions we are proposing at the policy level – and to formulate and proclaim all these in terms of a larger vision for agriculture to effectively counter the anti-farmer consensus among the powerful elite in Delhi and elsewhere”, said Kapil Shah of Jatan, Gujarat.
The Yatra is a unique effort of urban consumers and farmers joining together to bring to the fore various issues pertaining to the current agrarian distress in India and get the government to address them squarely and urgently. The Yatra will collect signatures from citizens throughout its route on a petition addressed to Mrs Sonia Gandhi, UPA Chairperson, which lays down a Charter of Demands to protect farmers’ rights and improve their livelihoods and resources. The Yatra is supposed to reach out directly to thousands of farmers and consumers in its 15000 kms-long trip before it reaches Rajghat on December 11th 2010.
The Yatra will highlight issues such as seeds sovereignty, land grab, climate change, food sovereignty and security, GE seeds, chemical pesticides, farm produce pricing, etc. that directly and indirectly affect small farmers in addition to bringing up a debate around the proposed Green Revolution in Eastern India, the tie-ups that several governments have with MNCs like Monsanto, the continuing saga of farmers’ suicides and so on. The Yatra will also raise the concerns over free trade and bilateral agreements, the proposed food security and seeds laws, BRAI Bill, the handing over of public resources for private gains etc. The Kisan Swaraj Yatra will also draw in urban consumers into its fold and will raise issues of food safety, consumer choices etc. The Yatra will celebrate the conservation of diversity by farmers, farmers’ knowledge and will highlight the successes of ecological farming. Constant updates and information about the Yatra will be available on www.kisanswaraj.in .