Coimbatore, October 29, 2010: Accusing the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) of taking up research that benefits only agri-business corporations in various collaborative research projects and of facilitating appropriation of farmers’ varieties, hundreds of farmers raised and donated money to the TNAU, urging it to take up research for them and not just for corporations. This was done as part of the Kisan Swaraj Yatra, which arrived in Coimbatore today, on its last day in Tamil Nadu. Farmers here also picked up the issue of land appropriation for more than 150 SEZs, road construction and airport expansion and demanded that the government of Tamil Nadu stop appropriating farmers’ resources.

Chellamuthu, President , Uzhavar Uzhaipalar Katchi said, “The TNAU going ahead with Bt Brinjal development and other GM crop trials is objectionable given that the state government has already expressed its apprehensions to the Centre on this front. The University has to draw its mandate from what farmers need and want, and from the state government and not get into these partnerships with corporations like MNC since they are bringing in a little money into the University. Today, we have come to tell the University symbolically that the farmers would also pay it if that is the only way this public sector body will take up pro-farmer research agendas”.

Speaking about large scale acquisition of land in the state, Dr M R Shivasamy, President, Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam said, “The central Land Acquisition Act is a colonial Act even as the Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Act is more draconian than the Central Act. The various departments of state and central governments are empowered to acquire farmers’ lands under these objectionable laws. The large scale land acquisition underway in the state for SEZs and other such reasons is uprooting farmers from their land and destroying their livelihoods. Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam demands an immediate repealing of these Acts and an immediate end to diversion of agricultural land to other purposes and forcible land acquisition”.

Referring to the Tamil Nadu State Agricultural Council Act of 2009, L K Sadagopan of Uzhavar Periakkam demanded that the government should immediately drop the Act. “This is an anti-farmer piece of legislation. It completely de-recognises the knowledge of farmers and believes that agricultural knowledge and skills come only from universities. IN the garb of regulating agricultural practice in the state, it seeks to legitimize corporate control over farming here, it seeks to convert knowledge of agriculture into the exclusive domain of those holding a degree from the universities listed. This is completely unacceptable”, he said.

Kannaiyan, Convenor of South Indian Coordination Committee for Farmers’ Movements, objected to the University facilitating the appropriation of farmers’ varieties. “Farmers’ varieties, given in good trust to the University by farming communities, are being allowed by the University to be appropriated by corporations like Mahyco in the name of collaborative research projects. We will not allow the University, which has been set up in our name, to use taxpayers’ funds for acting as corporate agents. We demand that the University immediately scrap all agreements with Monsanto, Mahyco and such other corporations”, he said.

Ravikumar of Bhavani Riverwater and Groundwater Protection Committee brought up the issue mindless industrialization around rivers like Bhavani and Noyyal which is polluting the river waters. “Discharging of effluents into these water bodies should be stopped immediately. The water is rendering much irrigated land useless”, he said.

Farmers from Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, as part of the Kisan Swaraj Yatra, extended their solidarity to the Tamil Nadu farmers who are taking up the cause of conserving and protecting farmers’ resources and rights.

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. It set off on Gandhi Jayanti at Sabarmati Ashram and will end on December 11th 2010 at Rajghat, Delhi, after covering 20 states in all. So far, the Yatra traversed through Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and will enter Kerala tomorrow.

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