The bus got released from the RTO in Belgaum and joined the Yatris late in the night in Sirishettikoppa village. The Yatris were in high spirits from a great day in Dharwad the earlier day.
In Haveri, we began the day with a 3 kilometer rally with musicians, colorfully decked-up bullock carts and hundreds of farmers taking out a rally through the main streets of the town. Soon enough, people were lining up all along the roads trying to see what was happening. There was a police team deployed for taking care of traffic and we found that a police man was so happy to see the Yatra messages that he quickly took out his wallet and donated for the Yatra. Click and capture on our camera!
We all assembled later for a public meeting, which had representatives of nine states, traveling in the yatra (Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, Punjab, Chattisgarh) invited onto the stage in addition to organic farmers from the region etc. Kodihalli Chandrasekhar, President, KRRS addressed the gathering in addition to Kavitha Kuruganti, representing the Yatris. There was a seed diversity exhibition which was striking.
Chandrasekhar’s style of measured delivery, nice soft diction, matter-of-fact narration, slow and clear talk was not only attractive but educative too. So while he explained in detail about Bt and other GM crops, audience were in rapt attention. He emphasised on the fact that the safety of such food has been questioned across the globe and we should have serious concerns over the warnings and reservations of many scientists, he observed. While talking about prices for farmers’ produce, he mentioned how a single move like a ban on export of cotton helps many big industrial houses in Gujarat and TN but will leave the farmers marginalised and stranded. He wanted the Karnataka government to take up this matter as it was affecting many cotton growers in the state. While on the subject, he also talked about the ill effects of BT cotton and asked the Govt to take immediate steps.
The Karnataka PWD minister Shri C.M.Udhasi attended the meeting. After having a close look at the diversity of seeds in display he came to talk. He welcomed the yatris and lauded their efforts. He referred to the fresh information he gleaned from Kultar Singh (yatri from Punjab) about the environmental health disaster that Punjab is going through and said that this was an eye opener and wished others do not follow them (Punjabi farmers and their intensive models of farming). Hence with these facts and the info on the impacts of pesticides and other chemicals in agiculture more research has to be done on the ill effects of the next-in-line technology- GM, he said.
He said he was concerned about the various doubts raised by scientists across the globe against GM foods. He also observed that having an eye on yield alone would definitely be short-sighted on our part and that we need to think of long term effects too. He said we should think of next generation and not just about ourselves. His government would also move in that direction he said.
The Minister also assured that on the Seeds Bill, the Karnataka Cabinet will communicate our concerns to the Union government.
While explaining about the motives of corporates like Monsanto, Krishna Prasad of Sahaja Samruddha talked about how these corporations are only motivated about their profits and never about the welfare of farmers; he also said their moves can result in seed slavery sooner than later. Hence, he insisted that the Karnataka government looks into the issue deeper and also takes measures to stop the loot in the form of seed subsidy that goes only to the seed companies. He also explained the need for conserving and popularizing traditional and local seeds and asked for government assistance in this area.
Krishna Prasad also demanded that the government scrap its agreement with Monsanto whereby taxpayers’ funds are being used to provide ready markets for the company and to shift farmers to unsustainable farming.
But unfortunately the serious of the concerns voiced this day – the Monsanto agreement with Karnataka government did not receive any response from the Minister who had to attend another function in a rush.
Finally all the participants stood up and took a pledge that they would go for sustainable agriculture and avoid GM seeds and chemicals in agriculture.
Our next stop was Harihar – there, we were ushered into the dining hall directly as it was well past lunch time. The hosts treated the yatris with delicious food. Many of the yatris felt it to be sumptuous and tasty. It was a well-attended meeting. There were many social work students from a local college mingling with farmers on this occasion.
Kodihalli Chandrasekar, in his ever impressive style, talked about BT strains, its ill effects and also asked the farmers to avoid use of pesticides and fertilizers which ruin the environment as well as our health. He observed the scientists had sinned in introducing such dubious technology. He also said the MNCs were there to amass wealth and not to help us. Seed Business is their only vision and so it was up to us people to awaken and spread awareness amongst others. The Seeds Bill about to be introduced in the Parliament in the next session and its failure to address the serious concerns of farmers will never be looked into by ignorant Goverments as the polity is busy with other activities and has no concern for the farmers’ plight, he pointed out.
While lauding the efforts of the KSY yatris, he said that hundreds of farmers from Karnataka shall be there in Delhi on 11th December when the Yatra ends in Rajghat.
Kavitha Kuruganti spoke about how we should be wary of seed monopolies and monocultures taking over our food and farming and how others are going to decide what we will eat and how. She challenged the government’s development notions and said that we would also like some people to leave agriculture – the ones who we would like to see stepping out of agriculture include the Prime Minister, Agriculture Minister, all seed corporations like Monsanto etc.
At the end of the meeting, people came forward to donate whatever they could to the yatra and wrote messages on the khadi cloth to be carried to Delhi.
The last stop for the day was Davanagere. A convoy of motorcycles with green flags accompanied the two buses of the Yatra. It was a great spectacle. This huge convoy went all the way from Harihar to Davanegere. In the centre of the city, the Yatra assembled, with loud slogans. Here, seeds of corporations including Bt Cotton were burnt symbolically. Many speakers spoke about various issues concerning farmers.