November 15th 2010: In Sambalpur in Orissa Hundreds of farmers turn out to welcome the Kisan Swaraj Yatra into the region: “Project Golden Days” with Monsanto & “Green Revolution in Eastern India” are the focus of the debate
We reached Sambalpur late in the night, coming from Bilaspur. A last-minute arrangement in a
Kalyana Mandap was our place of stay for the remaining night and the usual challenge of getting
ready in time with three toilets for around 25 Yatris faced us.
The first event was a press conference at 11.30 am. The media here attended in good numbers
both from the electronic media houses and the print media (we got news by the late evening that
many oriya channels were showing the Yatra footage). They also asked sharp questions to the
Yatris and listened keenly to what we had to say.
A very long rally with more than five hundred people participating in it was the highlight of the
day. We walked for several kilometers, alternating between hindi and oriya slogans and it was as
though the whole town came out to watch us as we wound our way through narrow residential
areas as well as main commercial areas of the town.
After the rally, there was a public meeting in which some of the Yatris and some prominent
farmers’ leaders and social activists spoke. Lingaraj Pradhan of the Paschim Odisha Chassi
Samanvay Samiti said that for farmers’ organizations such as his, it becomes important to take
up constructive work around alternatives too, even as they continue their struggle for farmers’
rights. Not many farmers’ organizations have engaged with the setting up of alternatives on
the ground and this was unique for many of us as this farmers’ group here is trying to conserve
traditional varieties of seeds and promote ecological farming.
He also urged the Yatris to dedicate their time to fully carrying out the mission of the Kisan
Swaraj Yatra and not look at their involvement as one that is only uptil the end of the Yatra.
Aarti Pankhraj shared with the audience the experiences of the Kisan Swaraj Yatra so far in
different states and Kavitha Kuruganti presented the issues that the Yatra is trying to highlight
even as it is building strong alliances by locating like-minded groups all along the way.
Issues highlighted here include the issue of farmers’ suicides, diversion of irrigation water to
non-agricultural uses and for various industries, appropriation of communities’ resources for
benefiting corporations, Green Revolution in Eastern India and Monsanto’s partnership with the
state government in the form of “Project Golden Days”.
It was heartening to see many different groups – people’s organizations as well as NGOs – come
together onto one platform and take up the cause of farmers, to say that “Kisan Mazboot to Desh