CHILDREN IN KERALA SHOW THAT THEY ARE CONSCIOUS OF ENVIRONMENTAL & FARMERS’ ISSUES; LONG, WINDING RALLIES MARK THE DAY
After a cozy stay at an organic farmer’s house, we woke up to a misty morning and a cup of black tea. We quickly settled down after breakfast and made our way to Edappal, Mallapuram district. After an hour’s drive we reached our first venue for the day, Edappal Higher Secondary School. We were welcomed by an enthusiastic set of students, staff and local people. The first meet of the day was hosted by Mallapuram Organic Farmers’ Movement. The dignitaries present included Dr VS Vijayan (Former Chair, Kerala State Bio-Diversity Board), Dr Jacob Vadakkanchery a popular health activist and Smt Anandavalli Ammal (Head Mistress of the school). Dr Vijayan explained the local and regional practices of farming within the district. The district has always been famous for its strong urge to move to organic as a way of achieving sustainability. He also went on to explain a classic case of a particular farmer, who has been practicing organic farming for many years and whose family has been living off the organic farm by integrating innovative cattle and organic farming techniques.
The Yatris shared their experiences and also shared the story of Punjab – the failure of the over-hyped Green Revolution and the sorry state of the farming community out there today. They also cited the famous example from Chengalpet near Chennai during the colonial times where 9 tons of paddy was harvested per hectare, which shows the potential of our way of agriculture. Even after the Green Revolution and the tall talk surrounding its high yields, we have never been able to achieve these yields, it was informed. Further, a story from Bundelkhand where farmers kept their seed stocks for the next generation’s use without consuming these even during an extended period of drought was shared, to narrate the importance that our farming communities accorded to Seed.
The ironic situation surrounding chemical companies was highlighted – those which sell farmers their toxic chemicals are also into manufacturing and selling pharmaceuticals knowing fully well that the ailments are a fallout of their own inputs. The latest weapon is that of GM seeds, with which they can gain markets of both seeds and chemicals. So, it is indeed not surprising that they call themselves “Life Sciences” corporations, impacting just about everything possible related to life, wrongly though!
Dr. Jacob Vadakkanchery spoke at length on various issues such as Food being used as the latest weapon by the West, Obama’s arrival with a large contingent of agri-business corporations etc. He highlighted how many corporations can easily influence government’s decision making, quite often against public and farmers in particular.
He spoke of ‘non- cooperation’ as the best tool India has given the world and equated KSY to a second independence struggle. He said it was a great coincidence that the yatra was present in Eddappal, Ponnani land where the famous uprising happened during the 1st independent struggle. He also got the whole hall on its feet, singing along with him with an energetic song.
After having a delicious lunch at the school, Yatris set off to Nilambur, located in Mallapuram district. The second meeting for the day was organized by ‘Haritha Sena’, an organic farmers’ collective. This group has been particularly focusing on the issues of debt and farmers’ suicides, and on sustainable agriculture as the way out. The members of the collective received us with a warm welcome reinstating the importance of Kisan Swaraj Yatra. Pradip of the Haritha Sena highlighted the need for ‘arogya swaraj’ and a healthy life style as the only way forward for the people of this country. He opined that this can be achieved through farmers’ swaraj and by fighting for freedom of food. The meeting ended with a song ‘Varika Varika Sahaja re’ by Dr Jacob Vadakkanchery. The crowd sang along cheerfully, emphasizing the need to get together for justice, through non-violence. The Yatra then moved east towards Wayanad.