Nov 24th 2010: Kisan Swaraj Yatra at Champaran, place of Gandhiji’s first Satyagraha

Today was the last day in the Bihar leg of our Kisan Swaraj Yatra. The day was also important for
every one else in the state and outside as today the results of the keenly contested state Assembly
elections would be declared.After saying bye to our hosts at Muzafarpur we left for the first day of
the event, an interactive meeting at Chakiya Village of East Champaran District. We were given a
warm welcome by the president of ATMA Mr Ajaykumar Deo who is also a kisan Sree awardee
and organic farmers of the village. He shared with us his experiences with orgniac agriculture. He
also talked about how the region has seen high usage of chemical fertilisers in the past and how the
farmers are slowly realising the harm that it has done. Thanks to progressive farmers like him and a
state government policy to promote organic agriculture there is a newfound interest in practices like
vermicomposting and green manure.

The meeting also saw the declaration by 2 panchayats , Barsaha and Savangiya , to remain organic.
The letters from the respective Panchayath heads were handed over to the Yatris. It was also
promised that farmers from Chakiya would join the Kisan Swaraj yatra when it reached Rajghat on
the 11th of December.

The next stop was a farmers meeting organised by Super Kisan farmers club at the Krishi Vigyan
Kendra, Madhaopur, West Champaran.
The meeting was chaired by the Scientists from KVK who while accepting that the chemical
intensive agriculture is a threat to sustainability of farming were still not ready to advise the farmers
to keep these agrochemicals off the farms. The regular arguments like the need for producing more
food for increasing population were brought forth. In response, the yatri’s pointed to the growing
dependence of our farming and food production on these agrochemicals which were being imported
in large quantities and how this dependence is threatening our food security and soveriegnity.
They highlighted the fact that India imports 21% fo the Urea, 70% of the Phospatic fertilisers and
100% Potash spending huge amounts in the name oc chemical fertiliser subsidies. They cautioned
farmers not to fall for such false arguments and reminded that the only way the country can become
soveriegn, is to be self reliant when it comes to agricultural inputs and that is only possible when we
do ecological farming shunning agrochemicals and GM seeds.

The Yatris also reminded the gathering of organic farmers that after sucessfully making us
dependent on the market on other inputs in agriculture, the government are now hand in glove with
Private seed companies to take control over our seeds. This they are doing through the introduction
of Genetically modified seeds. When people’s struggle stopped the introduction of Bt Brinjal, the
promoters of such seeds are pushing another 55 GM crops into the country. This was followed by
the local panchayat, Senuaria, declaring itself GM free and Organic. The local farmer have also
promised to join the Yatra when it reaches Delhi on the 11th of December.

The meeting was wrapped up by a performance by the local artist Pappu Bihari who through his
melodious song reminded the farmers about the need to recognise the strength of our traditional
agriculture which was both ecologically and socially sustainable.

Following a sumptuous lunch provided by the kind villagers, the KSY set off for the last public
meeting at Harinagar Sugar mill where local sugarcane farmers had gathered to interact with the
yatris.Broken roads and excited crowds out on the streets after the declaration of election results
ensured that we reached Harinagar late. But what was elating was the farmers still waiting to
welcome the Yatris and to interact with them.

A brief introductiom on the Yatra followed by the need to fight the introduction of GM crops
This was followed by the Yatri from Punjab reminding the crowd how the land of five rivers ‘ve
been ravaged by intensive agriculture promoted during the Green Revolution. He said that the gains
from green revolution have been an explosion of cancer cases in Punjab, degradation of its soil and
depletion of its ground water reource. He urged the Champaran farmers not to fall for the lure of
such intensive agriculture practices and destroy their farmlands and livelihoods. The farmers were
cautioned about the new ‘Green revolution in East’ ploy by the government to cajole our farmers
in the Eastern states into such practices which will ultimately destroy the farms and the farmers
livelihood in this region, like they did in states like Punjab where earlier Green revolution was
pushed. The yatris also highlighted the need to shift away from monocropping that puts the farmer
in seious food security threat.

The local farmers promised to join the struggle for Kisan Swaraj and join their voice when the yatra
reaches New Delhi on december 11th.

We finally reached our night stay destination at 11 pm. The college where we stayed was right next
to the Valmiki Tiger reserve, so we were kindly reminded by our caretakers not to venture out into
the dark as region is oft visited by tigers, jackals and leopards. A quick dinner and the yatris were off
to catch a few hours of sleep on beds made of rice straw as the day was to start early tomorrow.

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