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ASHA Kisan Swaraj
21
Nov

November 19th 2010: In Kolkata – a seed diversity exhibition, public meeting, street play , rally and press conference fill up the day

The Yatra was in Kolkata today. The early morning bustle of this city, with hundreds of people waking
up, taking a bath and cooking on the streets, greeted those of us who woke up early and went in search
of a morning cup of tea. It was striking compared to other cities that we had woken up in.

The first event was the seed exhibition cum public meeting that was organized in YMCA, Esplanade.
Ardhendru Chatterjee of DRCSC, Dr Ratindra Nath Basu, Dr T K Bose, Kavitha Kuruganti and Bibhash Basu
of CPI-ML were some of the people who spoke. As part of the programme, many
organic farmers, including several women farmers were felicitated to loud applause.

A lot of time was left for interaction with the audience. Issues raised included the importance of cow in
Indian agriculture, “cow economics”, paddy grown in drought conditions in KBK districts of Orissa and
so on. There was a question on how do we mobilize farmers’ organizations to make them into a force
to reckon with, and it was informed that most of the farmers’ organizations in this country are already a
part of this Yatra.

Ardhendu Chatterjee explained how the public sector discourages farmers from saving their own seeds
and then rather than supply good seed to farmers, leaves them to the exploitation of private companies.
He said that what was really needed was an even playing ground where private companies do not
come with an undue advantage. He also emphasized the fact that organic farming alone might not
help farmers come out of the current distress that they are mired in. He felt that farmers need to be
organized, both for the spread of ecological farming and for putting pressure on the government to take
agriculture in the right direction.

Prof Bose lamented the fact that there has been no Prime Minister in India who hailed from the
farming community and said that this fact probably explains the current fate of farmers. He emphasized
the need for implementation of the State Agriculture Commission’s recommendations, of which
he was a Member. He urged the Yatris also to pick up the recommendations of the Commission in
their articulation of demands. He talked about the dangers to Indian farmers and farming from GM
seeds, from the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, the Seeds Bill, the new Green Revolution
proposals for Eastern India, the Seeds Bill, the Biotech Regulatory Authority of India Bill etc.

Mr Sukhdeb Mondal, a farmer who practices integrated farming with pisciculture integrated into his
paddy farming, shared his experiences and practices with the audience.

Dr Leo Rebello emphasized the need for health reforms in India. Prof Basu talked about IAASTD and how
there is no alternative in front of us other than ecological farming.

There was a play enacted by volunteers of Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Sangh (PBKMS) after the
meeting.

After lunch, there was a rally through the main streets of Kolkata, from Esplanade to Gandhi Murti. Here, the Gandhi statue was garlanded with a mala of paddy seeds. This was followed by a press conference, after which the bus left for Bankura district.

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