October 30th 2010: KERALA GIVES A WARM WELCOME TO THE KISAN SWARAJ YATRA – IT IS CELEBRATION TIME ALL THE WAY
Today, the Yatra entered Kerala from Palakkad. The whole day was packed with events and we would have reached out to nearly two thousand people in one day directly.
The first meeting was in Palakkad town in Victoria College. Citizens, students, members of the Jaiva Karshaka Samiti along with the Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Mr.Diwakaran were present. Mr.Diwakaran, while addressing the crowd, raised concerns about the excessive use of pesticides and other toxics in agriculture. He was particularly concerned about the drastic reduction of the honey bee population with in Kerala. He quoted a study from United States which showcased a direct correlation between the reduction of honeybees and agriculture. The Kerala Agriculture Minister Mr M Ratnakaran was scheduled to join us. Due to a bereavement in the family, he was unable to make it to the meeting and has conveyed his message through a phone. While extending his full support to the Kisan Swaraj Yatra, Mr M Ratnakaran said “Kerala government will not budge on its stand related to the required national ban on Endosulfan. Agriculture is a State subject and it is important that the authority for regulation should be kept in the hands of state governments. We will oppose all such technologies that are anti-farmer and anti-Nature”. On that feel-good note, we moved to our next venue – Srikrishnapuram, a place located in the interiors of Palakkkad district bordering Silent Valley.
It was a visit to Sankaran Namboodiri’s organic farm. We were welcomed by the entire village, including school children and the newly-elected panchayat ward members. The local Agriculture Extension Officer also took part in the gathering. He addressed the gathering and appreciated the efforts taken by the KSY Yatris to spread the message of sustainable agriculture. One of the students, Vishnu Vijay, shared his thoughts on the issues raised by the Yatris. He opined that the importance of agriculture has been well articulated and has made participants aware of the ground realities. He concluded by saying ‘farmers are the backbone of this country and this country shall not flourish without them’. He also said that all the resources belong to children and that it is their responsibility to ensure that these are taken care of.
We were given an opportunity to visit MR Sankaran Namboodiri’s organic farm after the meeting. The multi-cropped farm consisted of more than 15 varieties of crops and trees. The visit was followed by a traditional Kerala meal ‘Sadhya’. It was a generous spread of typical Kerala items with a mouth-watering sweet.
We briefly stopped at Attakaputtur, which wanted to welcome the Yatra passing through the village (which is a Green Village that had planted more than 50,000 trees). Here, “Samskruti”, a group of artists, welcomed us at the village square before we moved on to the next stop.
The next stop was TRK Higher Secondary School at Vaniamkulam, which is rated as one of the best schools in this area. There was a very special welcome for the Yatris out here. The students played different percussions including the traditional ‘chendas’ all flowing with great rhythm and energy accompanied with swift moves. The students were well aware of the Yatra, the motive and the principles behind. They were so well-prepared that they had even downloaded the petition, taken the printout of the petition (to Smt.Sonia Gandhi) and had collected signatures from all. This was unprecedented for the Yatris and all Yatris were moved immensely by this. The students also sang some wonderful songs followed by an interactive session.
The session sparked off several interesting questions to the Yatris such as our stance on GM food, why the government promotes IT industry but does not support farmers, whether pest management is possible with organic methods given that pests have already developed a lot of resistance to even deadly pesticides, how more people can be drawn towards agriculture and so on. This very motivating trip to the school ended the only right way possible – with the Yatris planting some tree saplings.
Arakongottukara in Thrissur district was our last stop for the day. This was a very special day for the Yatris with each event raising the bar even higher and energy levels did not sag even as night drew closer. Here again, there was a huge gathering of citizens including children who braved a continuous drizzle, egging us on to talk and interact. The impressive gathering was there till the end which was late into night. There was a very nice new approach that was adopted here. Instead of our regular ‘invites’ to talk on the stage the Yatris were asked to share their ‘Yatra impressions and experiences’ till date. All this was followed by folk songs by local kids and an intriguing theatrical around the theme of Land Alienation by Krishi Patashala, who were to be our benevolent hosts for the night.
The cultural night was also a welcome change for all which was followed by a sumptuous dinner.
So, as the Yatris retired for the day they were still carrying all the affection, motivation and love received from each of the events of the day but were left pondering which particular event was better. Sure they were confused to have their pick.