Vijayawada, November 9th 2010: Continuing its huge mobilisation around the need to get greater support for farmers, for their sustainable livelihoods, the Kisan Swaraj Yatra being organised by the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture has arrived in Vijayawada today. Hundreds of farmers from many coastal districts participated in the events today jointly organized by several farmers’ organizations. There was a strong consensus on the issue of better pricing support for all farmers and particularly paddy farmers in this region, in a manner that is scientific, which covers not just the cost of cultivation but provides a dignified standard of living for all farmers – which was estimated to be Rs.1700 per quintal for paddy. Several organisations vowed to continue with the fight to secure better prices for farmers in the state. There was also strong concern expressed by many farmers and farmer leaders that the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers has led to loss of soil fertility, water pollution and increasing health crisis.
Yesterday, in a unique event in Hyderabad, the Kisan Swaraj Yatra drew out the views of key political parties on their vision for the Future of Farming in the state. Senior political leaders and farmers’ leaders like Mr Raghuveera Reddy, Agriculture Minister; Mr Vadde Sobhanadreeswara Rao, former Agriculture Minister; Mr Hareeshwar Reddy, TDP; Mr Eetela Rajendar, TRS; Mr Malla Reddy, State Vice President, BJP; Mr Kodand Reddy, Congress Kisan Cell; Mr Jaiprakash Narayan, Lok Satta; Mr Kolli Nageswar Rao, AP Rythu Sangam (CPI); Dr A Prasada Rao, AP Rythu Sangam (CPI-M); Mr Prabhakar Reddy, Federation of Farmers’ Association; Mr Y Nagendranath, AP Rythanga Samakhya etc., spoke.
There was a unanimous view that farmers need to be supported adequately to stay and have dignified lives in farming, that the agricultural distress that they are reeling under has to be comprehensively and urgently addressed and that the crisis has been created by anti-farmer policies.
Speaking in the meeting in Vijayawada today, Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture elaborated on the need for income security to be guaranteed for all farmers in this country including tenant farmers. He pointed out that at a time when employees in other sectors are seeing a hike of many hundred-fold in their remuneration, farmers are being asked to receive lower prices, which don’t even cover their cost of cultivation. “Farmers are ending up subsidising the government and others at this point of time, at the prices that they are being paid for their produce. We will have to immediately recast the way pricing support is calculated and provided in this country – will 50% more than the cost of cultivation provide dignified living to farmers is also a question to be answered. What happens to crops like millets where the cost of cultivation per unit area of land could be very low and 50% over it may not enable dignified living for any family; similarly, what happens to those farming households who are not selling their produce in the markets-what support will they get?”, he questioned. He pointed out that in many developed countries, direct income support is what is sustaining farmers in those countries and that India should not shy away from assuring a minimum income to all its farming households. A National Farmers’ Income Commission should be set up for the purpose, he said.
Speaking about the environmental imperatives in front of us which should compel the government to re-look at the technologies that are being promoted in agriculture, Kavitha Kuruganti of Kheti Virasat Mission, Punjab, shared information on the huge disaster unfolding in Punjab in the aftermath of the Green Revolution. Water has disappeared and got contaminated; most blocks are classified as “dark and grey” and land is degraded; water logging is an issue and soil salinity is a matter of great concern. In terms of environmental health impacts, Punjab being termed as the “Cancer Capital of India” is a lesson to be learnt by the rest of the country, she said.
She also pointed out that government’s policies are becoming more and more anti-farmer because of a more fundamental problem – that of the development vision that the government is pursuing, where it is dreaming of only 6-15% of Indians in rural India and living off farming.
Speakers stressed on the need for ensuring that we do not make our food poisonous by the agricultural technologies being adopted. “We should resolve to take up organic farming immediately at least in small plots to begin with”, they said.
The Vijayawada event had detailed discussions on various issues pertaining to the farming crisis, led by speakers like Yerneni Nagendranath (AP Raitanga Samakhya), Yelamanchili Sivaji (Praja Rajyam), Sitarama Swamy (AP Raitanga Samakhya), Muppalla Bhargavasri (CPIML), Kolli Nageswara Rao (All India Kisan Sabha), Hanumantha Rao (Kisan Seva Sangham), M.V.S. Nagi Reddy (AP Federation of Farmers’ Associations) and Nallamalla Venkateswarlu (Telugu Raitu).
The Yatra had set off at Sabarmati Ashram on Gandhi Jayanti and is scheduled to meet tens of thousands of farmers in twenty states before ending at Rajghat on December 11th. Organisers explained that the attempt of this Yatra is to put out a message of hope to all farmers in India through the promotion of self-reliant ecological farming even as it seeks to challenge the anti-farmer policies of the government. More than four hundred organisations are involved in this large outreach effort unfolding across India, which also seeks to draw in urban consumers into its mission of saving our “Food, Farmers and Freedom”. In Andhra Pradesh, the Kisan Swaraj Yatra took part in events organised in Jangaon, Chittoor, Pileru, Madanapalle, Anantapur, Hyderabad and Vijayawada and will be taking part in a public meeting in Visakhapatnam highlighting issues of tribal agriculture on November 10th, before moving on to Orissa.
For more information, contact: Dr. G.V.Ramanjaneyulu: 9000699702, Kiran Vissa: 9701705743