Delhi/Bhopal, October 10, 2010: After reaching Bhopal on the 8th day of its 71-day outreach tour, Kisan Swaraj Yatra performed “Sharad Pawar Sadbuddhi Yagna”, praying for good sense for the Union Agriculture Minister of India, so that he may immediately address the issue of agrarian crisis in the country. Hundreds of farmers and consumers from different parts of Madhya Pradesh joined members of the Kisan Swaraj Yatra at Shahjahani Park in Bhopal today for this Yagna.

The Kisan Swaraj Yatra, taken up by the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), started at Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat on October 2nd 2010 and will be traveling through twenty states to reach Rajghat on December 11th. Thousands of farmers, farm workers, social activists, students and urban consumers around India are joining the Kisan Swaraj Yatra to raise consciousness about farmers who grow our food, the crisis they are facing, and the impact on everyone’s health through poisoned food and water systems.

“We find it unconscionable and unacceptable that we, as a nation, are not addressing the issues of farmers squarely, even though these farmers keep us all alive and are the largest chunk of citizens of this country. The Union Agriculture Minister is to be blamed in particular for neglecting his mandate and for pursuing anti-farmer policies. Whether it is faulty agricultural technologies that erode farmers’ productive resources and make their profession unviable even as they poison the food of all consumers, or anti-farmer trade agreements, it is high time that Sharad Pawar promotes sustainable agriculture and ensures viable, dignified livelihoods for all farmers and agriculture workers in the country. It is time that he stopped pursuing more disastrous programmes like Green Revolution in Eastern India, GM seeds and more corporatisation in agriculture. We pray that he gets some good sense, so that he may immediately start addressing the real issues of farmers”, said Kavitha Kuruganti, Kheti Virasat Mission, Punjab.

Sunilam of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti said that the large scale appropriation of communities’ resources including of land and water is an issue of great concern and that farmers’ organizations will step up their fight against such anti-farmer policies being pursued by the government.He pointed out that farmer suicides are on the rise in Madhya Pradesh which already has a high incidence of farm suicides in the country and that the government should immediately address this grave issue.

“It is apparent that parts of Madhya Pradesh are sitting on the brink of a disaster by their intensive agriculture practices and given the bitter experience of Punjab where the water had been depleted and contaminated and where the productivity has stagnated, it is time that farmers here are actively encouraged to pursue ecological agriculture practices. It becomes the responsibility of the government to invest on such farming and to support it through large programmes which also create awareness and re-build capacities of farmers to take up pro-nature farming”, added Nilesh Desai, Sampark, Madhya Pradesh.

“The Kisan Swaraj Yatra doesn’t see the problems of agriculture as just those of a distant farmer community in rural India, but as intimately connected to all of us as citizens and consumers. It is a question of the livelihoods of 700 million people; it is also a question of sustaining our health and environment. We all need to force the government to take a new approach to agriculture that ensures dignified livelihoods for the farmers and promotes sustainable agriculture”, explained Ananthasayanan of ReStore, a not-for-profit organic outlet in Chennai.

Speaking at the rally in the city today, Brajkishore Chaurasia of Jai Yuva Kranti Dal presented the Yatra’s demands to the state government of Madhya Pradesh. “We would like the state government to assert its constitutional authority over agriculture and enact its own legislation to prohibit GM food crops’ entry into the state. Further, given that organic cotton has spread successfully to a large number of farmers in the state – MP has the largest area in the country under organic cotton cultivation – the government should ensure that this is not jeopardized by Bt Cotton. Further, the government has to formally announce its Organic Farming policy at the state level immediately, set aside adequate resources and establish institutional mechanisms to reach out to all farmers in the state so that they may take up organic farming”, he said.

The Yatra has, since the time it set off on Gandhi Jayanti, met with people in the districts of Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Rajkot, Surendranagar, Mehsana, Sabarkantha, Panchmahal and Dahod in Gujarat and Jhabua, Dhar, Ujjain, Indore and Dewas in Madhya Pradesh. More than 50 concerned citizens and activists from different states of India (Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Bihar, Rajasthan, Orissa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Chattisgarh) have so far traveled in the bus over the past eight days. Today being the Global Day of Action on Climate Change (10/10/10), speakers also emphasized the need to promote sustainable agriculture as the only way to mitigate GHG emissions from agriculture and to help farming communities adapt to climate change.

In Madhya Pradesh, Kisan Swaraj Yatra met with thousands of farmers who came forward with great enthusiasm to support the mission of the Yatra.

Members of ASHA explained that a petition in the name of the UPA Chairperson is available at https://kisanswaraj.in/petition/ and urged citizens to come forward and send the petition so that we may all collectively ensure that the lives and livelihoods of our anna daatas are protected.

For more information, contact:

Nilesh Desai, Sampark: 094-253-29222
Jayant Verma, Samvad: 094-251-51871
Sachin Jain, Vikas Samvad: 099-777-04847

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