Influential natural farming advocate Subhash Palekar recently approved the use of Genetically Modified crops in his well-known “Zero Budget Natural Farming-ZBNF” method. In an equally startling interview, he described organic farming as “worse than the atom bomb.” Here, two veteran practitioners respond to Palekar, while reviewing the history of the Organic/Natural Farming movement in India.
From The Wire: This specific patch of some 1,000 acres near Dargah Honnur village in Anantapur district –once covered by millet cultivation– has over many decades become more and more a desert. That has been driven by often paradoxical factors –and created the kind of space that filmmakers send out location scouts to look for.
From The Guardian: Cancer rates are the highest in the country, drug addiction is rife, and 900 farmers have killed themselves in two years. How did Punjab turn toxic? A new film explores the roots of its problems; ‘Toxification’ tells the moving stories of farmers at the sharp end of the chemical epidemic engulfing Punjab.
Devinder Sharma writes: This year, nearly 82% of Karnataka is reeling under drought. But in Bangalore, you won’t get even a hint of the terrible human suffering that continues to be inflicted year after year. Karnataka has suffered drought for 12 out of the past 18 years. But life in Bangalore has never been affected.
Basav Sen, director, Climate Policy Project, writes: The Modi government’s far right bigotry is well known, but its equally disturbing environmental record isn’t. While indigenous peoples and other rural populations have borne the brunt of the Indian state’s environmental recklessness, urban populations aren’t faring much better. Half of the 50 most polluted cities worldwide are in India.
From The Wire: Is it too much to expect that a Forest Department respond appropriately to the character of a natural habitat in order to plant new species suitably? Why is it that some 170 years after we started training foresters, we still have a cadre that knows and cares so little about natural habitats?
From The Guardian: With over 43% of India reeling under drought, hundreds of villages have been evacuated and homes abandoned after wells, handpumps ran dry in a 45C heatwave. Estimates suggest that in villages 250 miles from Mumbai, up to 90% of the population has fled, leaving the sick and elderly to fend for themselves.
From The Hindu: That those forests inhabited by Adivasis are some of the best conserved in the subcontinent is a long-standing fact contrary to the understanding of supposedly educated Indians. Sadly, the articulate arrogance of ‘New India’ prevents them from seeing any virtue in those communities who have lived in and by the forests since times immemorial.
From Mongabay: Activists fear dilutions of the green laws and rules against the interests of forest dwellers and tribals would continue unabated. The union environment already has, on its table, an amendment in the Indian Forest Act 1927, revision of the national forest policy and the new set of rules for the environment clearance regime.
From Down to Earth: It looks like the environmental clearance process is becoming a formality. The quality of assessment, compliance of clearance conditions and the involvement of local community through public hearings are being further weakened. The purpose is to ease the process of obtaining clearances for mega projects like Bharatmala Pariyojana and Sagar Mala.
There has always been an unmistakable umbilical link between the dance form of Kerala called Theyyam and nature. The unique pantheistic art form of the Theyyam now faces increasing threats of gentrification and Brahminisation, thus paving the way for the destruction of the sacred groves where it was born. Text and photographs by Thulasi Kakkat.
From The Wire: The Rs 3 lakh crore oil refinery project, planned by oil majors over an expanse of over 15,000 acres of land in Maharashtra’s Konkan region, if it takes off, will inevitably displace farmers and fisherfolk from 17 villages – 15 villages in Ratnagiri and two in neighbouring Sindhudurg along the western coast.
Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah write: We are caught in a false debate, where Narendra Modi, the perpetrator of 2002 carnage is counter-posed with Modi the “development leader”. We call it a false debate, since for us, who have lived and grown in Gujarat, the two aspects are actually the same – that of fascism.
Devinder Sharma writes: If raising productivity is the major factor I see no reason why Punjab farmers should be committing suicide. But the fact that economists don’t want to acknowledge is that it is actually the low price that farmers being deliberately paid that is the primary reason for the terrible agrarian crisis that prevails.
It’s been five years since the passing of G. Nammalvar, the icon of sustainable farming who died on December 30, 2013, while leading a campaign against the plan to extract methane gas in Cauvery delta. An agriculture scientist, he left his job and travelled across Tamil Nadu spreading the message of organic farming using story-telling.
This manifesto was adopted by an assembly representing the farmers of India on the occasion of the historic Kisan Mukti March organised by AIKS at Delhi, on 30 November 2018. Over the past 25 years, more than 3,00,000 of India’s debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide, a crisis which successive governments have done little to address.
J. Harsha, Director, Central Water Commission, writes: India fails to deliver water in time, and in adequate quantities to small landholdings (< 1 hectare) belonging to marginal farmers (constituting 85 per cent of total farmers) cultivating in 43.64 million hectares of canal-irrigated areas. The impact of this great Indian irrigation deceit is enormous on agriculture
From The Telegraph: India’s farmers are marching once again to demand that Parliament discuss the agrarian crisis. The underlying message is simple. If over 3,00,000 debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide in the past 25 years, then the agrarian crisis is no longer an economic one. It’s a moral crisis. It cannot be allowed to continue.
From The Business Standard: “Selected companies like Reliance, Essar have been given the task of providing crop insurance. In just one Maharashtra district, where the soya crop failed, Reliance earned a net profit of Rs 143 crore without investing a single rupee. Now, multiply this amount to each of the districts it has been entrusted.”
This is a snapshot of a fleeting encounter between a Karnataka farmer and a water activist at the premises of a leading agricultural university. In a few painful sentences, it captures the everyday desperation that is the lot of the average Indian farmer, caught between an unraveling climate, a ruthless market and a malignant state.