The late arrival into Jan Swasthya Sahyog, Ganiyari village, did not stop the yatris from getting ready early for the farm visit and interaction.
Jan Swasthya Sahyog works on health especially for the poor from the surrounding region. Due to the direct correlation recognised between health and nutritious, safe food, this group is also into agriculture – of course, organic. SRI (System of Rice Intensification) and SWI (System of Wheat Intensification) are followed systematically here and also used as a platform of propagation of these techniques. Their agriculture venture is also to protect and conserve many traditional paddy varieties. There were some very interesting paddy varieties that the Yatris came across, being conserved in this farm.
This campus is a show piece for some of the traditional varieties but most of the 150+ varieties that JSS conserves are in the fields of farmers in the nearby villages.
The traditional varieties include some exotic-sounding local ones like Gondhaphool, Basmukhi, Phoolmecha, Rikwa, Bhallu Dubraj (scented), Ram Galli, Bhainphat (scented and super fine) etc. One variety called DRK can yield 32 quintals an acre and another variety that attracted everybody’s attention was Naak kesar – which was purple and beautiful. The shoots and seeds were all purple. The striking feature of all these traditional varieties is that they are all tall and long-duration. The tall crops mean more fodder for cattle too.
After the farm visit, the yatris had a very interesting meeting with the doctors of JSS. Dr. Yogesh Jain, an AIIMS alumnus and pediatrician by profession, now concentrates on health and nutrition for the poor. The whole team has carried out extensive work on this area. He mentioned that Green Revolution concentrated on production increases and for people to get enough food. Neither sufficiency nor nutrition was met with, he observed.
The insightful talk had various salient points on the weight and height of the population here being on the decline over the generations as well as generally as compared to other people. He said that this also poses its own challenges in treatment of diseases. Most allopathic medicines come with dosage prescribed with the western average weight!
Then the Yatris headed for Masturi, Bilaspur. A big well-attended procession, full of color because of the hundreds of women who were part of the rally, meant another day of heavy sloganeering and attention-drawing procession through the main roads of the town.
The long-winding rally was followed by a public meeting.
Smt. Hemalatha Sahu of MSKPP spoke at length of poison in our food and how agri-chemicals were affecting the food quality. The MNCs were here for profits, taking over our food and farming, and hence it is another freedom struggle for all of us, she explained. She equated their entry to East India Company’s colonization of India.
She also mentioned a village called Khondra in the neighbourhood of Bilaspur which transformed itself into a 100% organic village. No chemicals of any sort enter that village for agricultural purposes.
Shri. Govind Tiwari from Baba Ramdev Trust, spoke on how we are all trapped in the vicious cycle of chemicals. He said that health costs were increasing due to the indiscriminate usage of chemicals. The fact that the producers are not deciding the prices was also a major point of concern that he mentioned.
Shri Anand Mishra, an agriculture scientist, spoke about the need to protect the land and not to sell the land and hence rights, in the name of industrialization. He urged farmers to take note of the the time taken and the kind of investment made across generations to convert land into its present fertile condition. No monetary value can match these efforts, he observed.
‘Zameen bachao’ he kept saying, resonating with the Yatra’s message.
A very interesting perceptive that he brought up was the way the climate can be affected in whole of India by disturbing Chattisgarh. He said Chattisgarh is the heart of India and if it is protected, then India is protected. Yatris spoke on the Punjab crisis, then interacted with farmers and encouraged them to adopt sustainable ways of agriculture.
Around 12 farmers from amongst the participants who were doing organic farming were felicitated to loud applause.