The day started with Bihari hospitality – after a sumptuous breakfast, we set off for the first event of the day – a debate with the scientists at Rajendra Agriculture University, Samastipur. This is a special university, which refused to take up a GM maize trial for Monsanto last year. Dr. B.C. Chauwdhary, Director-Research chaired the dialogue between the University scientists and the Yatris. What was supposed to have been a 45-minute interaction got extended to hours of conversation which ended only around 2 pm.
The University delegation also included Dr. R.C.Rai, Dr.S.N.Prasad, Dr.S.K.Varshney, Dr.Upendranath Verma, Dr. A.K. Mishra, Dr. Saha, Dr. Lalan Jha among others (Dean-Basic Science, Dean-Agriculture, entomologists, agronomists etc., were part of this team).
The Yatris started by congratulating the University for saying an emphatic ‘NO” to Monsanto for carrying out their trials out here. Then the yatris continued by putting forth the Punjab experience where due to green revolution and its associated overuse of synthetic chemicals, there were major health problems in the society. Infertility, spontaneous abortions, greying of hair in youngsters, early puberty for girls etc., were highlighted. Soil degradation, ground water depletion, loss of soil fertility were all explained too. Hence, learning from the experience of Punjab, the proposals for the new ‘Green Revolution for Eastern India’ put forth by the Union Government should be rejected, the Yatris Observed.
The scientists were requested to look into technological choices with more circumspection and long term vision, as the intensive agriculture model that came along with the green revolution had ruined the livelihoods of most small and marginal farmers. This was substantiated by stories from Punjab, Maharashtra, etc. All these western world’s implements and technology were not suited for India where there are no large holdings but many small and marginal holdings. Hence the University and the scientists should look at the reality more closely with human touch before recommending any hazardous technology, the Yatris said.
Finally a Memorundum with following 3 demands were handed over to the RAU.
- To take up more research on ecological farming
- To shun any GM seed development, trial and commercialisation, from the university side
- To disallow any proposals on Green Revolution in Bihar, based on intensive models a la Punjab
The Director-Research assured us that our points and concerns will be kept in mind when the University takes up its future work; he also shared in detail the work that the university has begun to improve the seed self-reliance of farmers in Bihar – this was received with applause from the Yatris. The University scientists also assured the Yatra people that the GR proposals in Bihar will certainly seek to learn from lessons from Punjab and incorporate the same. On the issue of GM seeds, the university officials indicated that they would like to continue with research and that commercialisation should be thought of only in case there is incontrovertible proof that it is safe and that too taken up as long term independent studies. They felt strongly that conflicting interests should be removed from the decision-making process.
Since the university debate had taken more time than envisaged, we had to break into two teams to attend the next two events without having to drop anything from the schedule.
One team arrived at Village Vidya Jhamp, Block Muraul, Muzaffarpur District where under the leadership of Shri. Devendar Paswan, Chairman, Mahatma Gandhi Kisan Maha Sangh, village Vidya Jhamp, the village declared itself to be a “GM Free Village”. They vowed not to use any Genetically Modified seeds and would also work towards setting up their own local seeds bank.
The other event was a public meeting at Press Club, Muzaffarpur. District Judge Shri Ram Vinod Thakur, the chief guest, insisted that there is no alternative for farmers as well as consumers other than organic and sustainable farming.
BJP State Vice President, Shri Suresh Sharma, Special Guest asked the gathering to adopt organic farming and avoid chemical food and GMO. He also strongly pressed against any GM trials in Bihar and said that Bihar is not a Laboratory for the multinationals and biotech industry.
Dr. Mamta Rani, Principal, MSKB college, Muzaffarpur, praised the yatra and yatris and felicitated the Yatris.
Dr. Sangeetha Shahi, Secretary, Muzaffarpur Bar Association and Kranti Prakash, founder of Jaivik kheti Abhiyan also addressed the gathering. Finally the Vote of Thanks was delivered by Shri Suresh Gupta, State President, GM Free Bihar Movement.