13th state, 51st day of the Yatra was marked by our entry into Jharkhand. It was another early start for the yatris where we all woke up before 4 am and left soon after, from “Basudha”. Everyone knew that it was going to be a long day ahead, since we were to leave for Patna, after the Ranchi programme. Some 700 kms in one single day to reach Patna in the early hours of November 22nd, at 2.20 am. We were witness to beautiful scenery and got to see the largest rainfed-paddy-growing state in India!
We reached Ranchi, got ready and walked right into the meeting without any traces of the tedious travel on our faces, with our usual energetic slogan-shouting. The meeting here specifically focused on the implications of the proposed “Green Revolution in Eastern India” and “Genetically Modified (GM) seeds” in the context of drought in Jharkhand. Organised in the campus of the Society for Rural Industrialisation by the Sukhad Virodh Abhiyan (SVA) in Jharkhand, along with the hosts. Many farmers and activists of Jharkhand were represented in the meeting.
Shri Arvind Kumar of Sukhad Virodhi Abhiyan talked about the importance of the rights of communities over Jal, Jangal and Zameen and how this has been compromised in Jharkhand. After explaining that the formation of Jharkhand was in fact based on these issues, he pointed out that soon after the formation of the separate state, the government went into an Industrialisation mode. He also went on to elucidate about the politics of seed. He also went on to talk about the man-made drought in Jharkhand and how the ground water has gone down so deep. He pointed out that how GM seeds, which ask for more water and irrigation just cannot be compatible in this state. He promised the Kisan Swaraj Yatra members that the SVA members shall work along with farmers in the state and with other associations and run an anti-GM campaign all over the state, to achieve a “GM Free Jharkhand” very soon.
Other speakers talked about how chemical agriculture will not only cost more but also needs much more water and hence not sustainable at all. He shared his experience with organic farming and said that this increases soil moisture content, leading to other benefits in a drought prone region. He also expressed his concern with the felling of many important species in the forests and re-forestation by inappropriate species being undertaken by the Forest department.
Another farmer spoke about the seed conservation and its importance. The only way to win this big war is by having our own seeds in our hands, he observed and also quoted Yayati episode from Mahabharata and stated why soil is our future and that we owe it to the future generations to hand over resources like soil in the same shape as we got from our ancestors.
Anjani Kumar Sahay spoke on water harvesting and the need to renew our efforts towards rainwater harvesting.
Newaran Kalindi spoke about displacement from the Swarnarekha project and how no compensation or rehabilitation has been provided adequately to this day and how even water from the dam is being denied. He urged members of the Kisan Swaraj Yatra to take this up as an issue.
Yatris explained about the impact of GM seeds, how this is a move to ‘colonise’ us through corporate business and how this is an infringement on our basic rights. The technical implications and other areas like stress intolerance of GM crops, lack of proof of biosafety of GM crops, evidence on health and environmental impacts of GM crops, experience of Bt Cotton in India etc., were all presented.
The meeting was followed by a sumptuous lunch after which a small procession was carried out with our slogans echoing in the skies of yet another city, yet another time. Then the KSY bus set off on another long drive for Patna.