Reality of Indian Agriculture
by Krishan Bir Chaudhary on 11 Nov 2016 2 Comments

After a long hiatus for the Indian agricultural sector, current Prime Minster Narendra Modi has enacted three progressive steps that have taken India towards agricultural prosperity and the welfare of farmers. The extensive irrigation program, introduction of soil health cards and labs, and emphasis on organic agriculture, are the three key policy initiatives that have steered Indian farmers towards increased yields, better incomes and overall rural empowerment.


Apart from these, I feel the crop insurance and e-Mandi for farmers have huge potential for farmers’ upliftment, when implemented in an efficient way. The convergence of all these ideas has most definitely laid a strong foundation for agricultural reform and rural amelioration. 


With over 30 years of being misguided by pseudo-science and the corporate-driven model of chemical agriculture, Indian farmers have not only lost their rich biodiversity of crops and traditional knowledge, but also their food sovereignty. After liberalisation, India has become an importer of Pulses and Oilseeds due to th ill-conceived policies of previous governments.


The UPA government never framed any policy to increase production of Pulses and Oilseeds in the country. Farmers did not get remunerative prices for Pulses crops, therefore Pulses production could not increase. The import of Palm oil in large quantity by the UPA government badly damaged our Oilseed sector.


This is not all. Farmers all over India are reporting a loss of soil fertility and new problems such as water logging, excessive salt deposits and complete loss of land fertility. In Punjab, the main culprit of the loss of land is the industrial-chemical model of agriculture that has not only destroyed the livelihood of millions of farmers it is also directly responsible for the present cancer epidemic spreading across the length and breadth of India.


I was recently at the Monsanto Tribunal at The Hague as an expert witness to testify against these companies that have cheated Indian farmers from Vidarbha (Maharashtra) to Punjab with their “technology” and false claims. Their pesticides and seeds of suicide, Bt Cotton, have spread nothing but death and destruction in rural India. Let the example of Bt cotton be a warning to all proponents of industrial agriculture and biotechnology in India. 300,000 farmers have committed suicide because of Bt Cotton and Rs 5000 crore have been extracted illegally from poor Indian farmers and yet the agro-business corporation want more profits from our farmers, wants more royalties. India should learn from a rich cotton producing country in Africa, Burkina Faso, and ban this Bt Cotton for the welfare of our farmers. 


We need to evaluate the true cost of the damage done because of industrial agriculture. We asked the Government to make the corporation compensate the widows and orphaned children of the 300,000 Indian farmers who have committed suicide. But under corporate pressure, there are anti-farmer people in our bureaucracy, certain bought scientists and media persons that are acting as zamindars for the international agro-business cartel and misguiding our Prime Minister and our public. GM mustard is centre to the debate right now.


Let me inform you that I have personally visited the National Mustard Directorate in Bharatpur, and seen not one but many varieties of native mustard such as Rohini, Urvashi, RH-749 etc., that not only outperform the GM and herbicide tolerant (HT) DHM-11 but are also adapted to various climatic zones of India.


Research from all over the world already tells us that the GM mustard does not give higher yields. In fact by their own admission, DHM-11 was compared to inferior varieties of mustard in the field trails. Since this GM HT DHM- 11 does not give higher yields, it is only modified to absorb more herbicide sold by Bayer, called Basta (a neurotoxic glufosinate-based herbicide).


So now the question arises, will GM HT DMH-11 help India be sovereign in oilseeds? No. But it will, through patents, which by the way are illegal in India as per Article 3 (j), allow for more sale of Bayer’s pesticide.


It is notable that the basic patents on the gene system used to develop GM HT DMH-11 are with Bayer. At this point, one wonders for whose benefit are we debating the introduction of GM Mustard? It is definitely not for Indian farmers, for exports, or for consumers. In fact, Basta will destroy the pollinators such as bees and contaminate our mustard which will lead to reduction of exports and huge economic loss to India. This will come with a sharp decline in food production as bees contribute immensely to agricultural productivity. 


MNCs want to destroy the native traditional seeds and agriculture so they can control our food security through their seeds, by illegal patents. We shall not allow this second “Company Raj” over Indians through sabotage of our food systems. I demand that the Government prepare ‘white papers’ so that Indians can know who the people on the payroll of these corporations are.


Today, we have enough scientific and agronomical data to know that the industrial chemical model of agriculture has failed all over the world. Plus it is extremely detrimental to the small farmers of India due to high inputs costs, and less productivity. But unlike previous Governments, our present government has taken scientific steps to increase yields and not fall for blind propaganda.


As I have mentioned, the irrigation scheme under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) is extending and bolstering the land under irrigation. It empowers all farmers by making ensuring ‘Har khet ko pani’ and is creating real time solutions in terms of water resource management and distribution.


The present government has not created fractured policy, but has taken steps to ensure a multifold approach to doubling farmers’ income and their yields. There is diversification of ideas to improve Indian agriculture. The second step is setting up of the soil testing facilities and soil labs in India. This will reinforce earlier efforts under the irrigation scheme to improve yields. This is a highly progressive step. The government is accepting that soil health is rapidly deteriorating due to the unsustainable practice of chemical agriculture. This tries to overcome the damage done to the soil and lays the foundation for a new regenerative system of agriculture.


Now the final step that completes this trinity of agricultural reform is the consistent emphasis on organic agriculture. In front of millions of people globally, through the Monsanto Tribunal, I was proud to say that our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Ministry of Agriculture have worked to make Sikkim the first organic State in India and have declared the entire Himalayan valley as dedicated to organic agriculture. It is an achievement as our Government has realised the importance of organic agriculture as an answer to food sovereignty. It is the first government that has brought organic agriculture into the dominant discourse on agriculture. Aside from adding tremendously to our export credits and boosting India’s economy, it has given millions of Indians access to toxin-free natural foods. It has opted for self-reliance and swadeshi philosophy in agriculture.


The Indian organic trade sector in my opinion is growing, especially exports which are increasing by 50% each year. This is a direct positive sign.


But not all is well with the agricultural sector. Red tape and age-old inefficient bureaucracy works as an obstacle. They are misguiding Indian farmers and also distorting the vision of India’s leadership. The Ministry of Agriculture’s National Centre of Organic Farming (NCOF) in Ghaziabad has become a den of corruption and allows the eroding of the organic policy, thus subverting government directives.


Why do we need for a somnolent department in India? While Prime Minister is taking strides towards transparency and efficiency, the attitude of this department belongs to the dark ages. What could be the reason for this? When governments all over the world are promoting organic agriculture as the way to battle climate change and gain food security, why is our government department (NCOF) under Ministry of Agriculture still sleeping?


India has had a long tradition of sustainability in our society and agriculture. All that NCOF has to do is revive this tradition; yet no efforts are being made. The Prime Minister should urgently intervene and stop this sabotage of progressive policy. We should not allow corporate or bureaucratic control of our agriculture.


If India is to be a world leader, we have to first have total food sovereignty and ensure that no child is hungry or suffering from disease due to poisonous GM food. We as a people have to ensure our country is free of toxic chemicals in agriculture and embrace the wisdom of our sages and not be trapped by corporate propaganda and greed. India is a land of diverse and rich cultural heritage and to build Indian society we have to build India’s agriculture. I strongly urge the government to act and reform the obstacles that are not only disrupting India’s growth, but also maligning our leadership and acting against Indian farmers.


The author is chairman, Bharatiya Krishak Samaj

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