Mumbai/New Delhi, October 17, 2010: On the fifteenth day of its pan-Indian bus tour for the cause of “Food, Farmers & Freedom”, the Kisan Swaraj Yatra organized by Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) reached Mumbai today to a warm welcome. In an event to pay homage to Gandhiji at Mani Bhawan, the Yatris were welcomed by famous Bollywood personalities Rakeysh Mehra and Atul Kulkarni (of Rang de Basanti fame), Dr Shanti Patel and Dr G G Parikh, both of whom are well-known freedom fighters.
The Kisan Swaraj Yatra reached Mumbai early this morning from Ralegaon Siddhi which, under the leadership of Anna Hazare exemplifies the principles of Gandhiji’s Gram Swaraj. In Mumbai some yatris were felicitated in the morning by farmers and consumers at the Farmers Market at Bandra, and other yatris at Prithvi Theatre by the audience of Girija ke Sapne, a play about the widow of a farmer. In the afternoon, the Yatris and Mumbaikars gathered at Mani Bhawan and tied rakhis/friendship bands to each other as tokens of solidarity and support. Yatris and Mumbaikars paid homage to Gandhi inside Mani Bhawan by offering organic food grains and vegetables, which were then sent to the Shelter orphanage. Shri Rakeysh Mehra, welcoming the yatris, said “I am sure this courageous kisan yatra will not remain rural and will turn into an urban movement as it concerns us all”. Dr Shanti Patel, former Mayor, said that national progress and prosperity requires self reliance and prosperity at the village level, as espoused by the Yatra.
“Food and farming is everybody’s concern. The agrarian distress in India is not just a distant farmers’ issue. Pesticides and Genetically Modified (GM) food impact all of us and our future generations. The high input cost policies currently promoted by government and agri-business corporations is leading to displacement of lakhs of farmers from Indian agriculture and their migration to urban centres like Mumbai. A win-win situation for farmers, urban consumers and the environment is possible by ecological farming supported by aware consumers. The Yatra promotes this awareness”, explained Dilnavaz Variava of The Sahayak Trust, on behalf of the organizers of the event.
After a silent walk via August Kranti Maidan, there was a public meeting in Jagdish Ajmera Sabhagraha, addressed by well-known film director, Mahesh Bhatt who shared his reasons for producing his film ‘Poison on the Platter’ highlighting the dangers of Genetically Modified (GM) foods, which is being resisted by consumers throughout the world despite the machinations of companies who profiteer from its introduction. Shri Gajanan Khatu, consumer activist, urged consumers to be more conscious about their food and their right to informed choices. Dr Asad Rehmani, Director of BNHS spoke of the dangerous destruction of essential species by today’s chemical agriculture. Dr G G Parikh spoke of the consequences for health of consuming food and water contaminated by pesticides, chemical fertilizers and by toxins genetically engineered into plants.
An important message was received and read out from Justice M B Shah, former Supreme Court Judge and President of the National Consumer Redressal Council, emphasizing that consumers and farmers must be protected from the potentially damaging effects of Genetically Modified (GM) seeds and that damage could take a long time to manifest , as in the case of tobacco smoking, and it was therefore essential that consumers and farmers are fully informed of the consequences of GM seed and public debate on this is essential.
Bhagwat Sinh Uike, a tribal farmer from Madhya Pradesh and one of the yatris said, “It is apparent that the government is ignoring sustainable alternatives in farming. Because of its obsession with high-external-input agriculture, the government is encouraging more and more private players to take over Indian farming, which will ultimately result in our seed sovereignty getting eroded, and our land and water getting polluted or damaged due to hazardous technologies. We have set out on this yatra to create awareness amongst farmers and urban consumers, and to influence the government to take up massive promotion and support of ecological farming”.
A book called ‘The Vision of Natural Farming’ by Bharat Mansata was released by Shri Bhaskar Save, winner of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award of The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and considered the Mahatma Gandhi of organic farming.
The Kisan Swaraj Yatra is a nation-wide mobilization drawing fresh attention to the continuing agricultural crisis in India, and calling for a comprehensive new path for Indian agriculture – that will provide livelihood and food security for small farmers, keep our soils alive, and our food and water poison-free. The bus-Yatra started at the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram on Oct 2nd, and will pass through 20 states to reach Rajghat, New Delhi on Dec 11th.
For more information, contact:
Tejal V. – 9833707598
Pervin Jehangir – 9820636335
Geeta – 9833699811
Guddi – 9869059860
Kavitha Kuruganti – 09393001550 (travelling with yatra)