November 13th 2010: In Chattisgarh’s capital city – Public meeting, interaction with students and village visit form events of the day

The Kisan Swaraj Yatra entered Raipur today. The day began with the Yatris visiting the Gandhi
Statue in the city and paying homage to Bapuji.

We then took part in a public meeting in Gauss Memorial. Organised by Save Richharia Campaign
and Nadi Ghati Morcha and supported by many other organizations, this public meeting saw the
participation of more than 120 persons.

Here, Prof Balchander Kushwaha in his keynote address lamented the fact that lifestyle and
culture-related changes are adding to the oppression and exploitation of the poorest in our
society. He talked about how Swaraj is about Aatma kaa Raaj and how we need to relook at our
cultural values related to our greed, luxurious and ostentatious living etc. What we need is a
vaichaarik andolan, he said. He also felt that it is only the youth who can save the country. While
the earlier generations did give their best to save the country and protect its sovereignty, the
generation thereafter (post-independence) did its best to destroy various things that we held. It
is now upto the next generation to awaken others and ensure that exploitation and oppression
end, he exhorted. He also emphasized the need to shun chemicals and move towards organic,
self-reliant farming.

Speakers like Ramdulari Sinha pointed out how organic farming and approaches like SRI are
yielding great results and shared that with their efforts, more than 300 traditional varieties of
paddy are being conserved. Mishra ji emphasized the need for guaranteeing a minimum income
for all farming families in the country.

Shri Keyur Bhushan, a well known Gandhian being referred to by all the locals as Bapuji,
congratulated the Yatra organizers and said that it is the need of the hour. He bemoaned the fact
that Chattisgarh, with its rich culture, is today caught in the clutches of violence and large scale
displacement. Nearly one lakh people from the state are now in Jammu & Kashmir and about
fifty thousand people have fled to neighboring Andhra Pradesh, he shared. He questioned the
government’s move towards more industrialization to the detriment of agriculture.

He talked about how India is being viewed as a mere market by big corporations and how there
is a need to fight this outlook. While the government is going on inviting investments by these
corporations, we should realize that they will take away the profits that they are achieving and
are not likely to invest them here, he said. “Awareness amongst all citizens is the need of the
hour and this is what the Yatra had set out to do. This alone has the possibility of bringing about
change”, he said.

After the public meeting, the Yatris had a picnic sort of lunch late in the afternoon in the National
Institute of Technology before an informal interaction with several students of Biotechnology (in
their final year of B Tech) in the Institute. The interaction made it clear that these students are
taught only one side of the debate, one side of the real situation of farmers and so on. Since the
interaction dwelled on many questions including Malthusian arguments around food production
and growing population, safety of GM crops, alternatives that exist in farming etc., all the Yatris
as well as the students felt charged by the discussions. One of the students decided that he will
make the effort to join the Rajghat event on December 11th.

The day ended with an interaction with farmers and labourers in village Ravaan and a late dinner
at 11.30 pm.

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