New Delhi/Bhubaneswar, November 16th 2010: The pan-Indian Kisan Swaraj Yatra, a nation-wide mobilization drawing fresh attention to the continuing agricultural crisis in India, and calling for a comprehensive new path for Indian agriculture, reached Bhubaneswar today on its 46th day of a 71-day tour covering 20 states of the country. In Orissa, it is demanding the scrapping of the partnership of the state government with Monsanto under a project called “Project Golden Days” for promotion of hybrid maize with tribal farmers in the state. This will only allow seed monopolies, environmental unsustainability and would impact the socio-cultural and economic lives of tribals of the country, members of ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture, organizing the Kisan Swaraj Yatra) pointed out. A paper outlining issues and concerns with regard to public private partnerships with companies like Monsanto, called ‘Monsanto-ising Indian Agriculture’ was released on the occasion.
“It is apparent that corporations like Monsanto are only out to grab ready markets for themselves through taxpayers’ funds whereas it is the responsibility of the government to protect the livelihoods of the marginalized. It is clear from what is emerging on the ground with projects such as ‘Project Golden Rays’ that high-external-input-driven farming with hybrid seeds will only increase indebtedness of farmers, is already changing their dietary habits posing questions on future nutrition security, is threatening environmental sustainability in fragile eco-systems and is taking away our seed and food sovereignty. There is a need to question the intentions of the government when it partners with corporations like Monsanto which have a sordid history of corporate crimes, falsification and omission of data, bribing and anti-farmer behaviour like suing and jailing farmers in the name of IPRs”, said Kavitha Kuruganti, Member, AHSA.
The Kisan Swaraj Yatra, which drew in more than 400 organisations across twenty states of the country in its mobilization effort, will reach Rajghat on December 11th 2010 and has already reached out to thousands of citizens in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh. In its first leg in Orissa, it interacted with hundreds of adivasi farmers in Koraput on November 11th, before going to Chattisgarh. Yesterday, it re-entered Orissa through Sambalpur where a massive rally of farmers put forward demands to the state and central governments on issues concerning farmers.
In the public meeting at Bhubaneswar on November 16th, eminent citizens like Professor Radhamohan, the pioneer of Organic Farming movement in Orissa and former State Information Commissioner; Natabara Sarangi, a seed conserver who has been growing more than 350 varieties of traditional rice; Rabi Das, senior journalist; Sudhir Patnaik, Independent Film Maker; Akhshay Kumar, Gandhian; Saroj Mohanty, farmer activist; Aditya Biswal, a safe food activist; Prafulla Samantra from NAPM; Biswajit Mohanty, environmental activist; Abhiram Behera, President of All India Kisan Sabha–Orissa; representatives of Small Traders’ Association of Orissa; Brahmakumari Iswariya Viswa Vidyalaya; Art of Living representatives and more than 1000 farmers from 15 districts of Orissa participated in addition to representatives from Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra traveling in the Kisan Swaraj Yatra.
The Yatris had a big rally from Master Canteen to Lower PMG square earlier in the day. The rally had tribal dance and music interspersed with slogans against the MoU between Government of Orissa and Monsanto to promote hybrid maize in the state, against the “Green Revolution in Eastern India” plans, conversion of food-growing land for non-food purposes, use of pesticides in agriculture, the disempowering provisions of the pending Seeds Bill 2010 and for promotion of local resource-based, farmer-centered sustainable agriculture. The rally ended with a powerful street play that drew attention to farmers’ suicides and agrarian distress in Orissa.
Saroj Mohanty of Paschim Odisha Krushak Samanway Sanghatan, Kavitha Kuruganti of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) and Debjeet Sarangi of Living Farms spoke on behalf of the Yatra and presented the demands related to income security for all farming households in the country, protection of farmers’ rights and resources and on the need to secure environmental sustainability and food safety in our farming.
Professor Radhamohan and Natabar Sarangi, released a booklet titled “Monsanto-ising Indian Agriculture” outlining the corporate strategies being deployed to take over Indian farming by corporations like Monsanto. The yatra demanded large scale promotion and adoption of self reliant ecological farming as the only way forward for Indian farming.
For more information, contact:
1. Debjeet Sarangi, Living Farms: 099-385-82616
2. Saroj Mohanty, Paschim Odisha Krushak Samanway Sanghatan: 09777154149
3. Kavitha Kuruganti, ASHA: 09393001550