Calls for a comprehensive new path for sustainable agriculture
A Kisan Swaraj Yatra (rally for farmers' sovereignty) has set out from Sabarmati in Ahmadabad to Rajghat in New Delhi to create awareness on issues relating to farmers and farming.
“Driven by a sense of urgency,” the yatra is a nation-wide mobilisation drawing fresh attention to the continuing agricultural crisis in the country. Participants have found that on the ground farmers are “in distress and deeply disillusioned with lack of support to the agriculture sector.”
Centred on “food, farmers and freedom,” the yatra calls for a comprehensive new path for sustainable agriculture that will provide livelihood and food security for small farmers and “keep our soils alive and our food and water chemical-free.”
Comprising NGOs, civil society groups, youth and farmers the yatra will pass through Punjab and Rajasthan before arriving in Delhi on December 11.
“The immediate problems of farmers relate to pricing, lack of regulation to protect their interests, resource-grabbing by corporations, lack of infrastructure facilities, water policies that favour industry over agriculture, seed failures. There is much evidence in the countryside on resource degradation impacting farmers' livelihoods,'' members of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, who are a part of the Yatra, said here.
According to Kavitha Kurunganti of the Kheti Virasat Mission, a whole new paradigm for Indian agriculture is required, which is centred on secure livelihoods for the farming community, preserving their control over seeds, land and water, and promoting agricultural methods which do not destroy the natural resources that the farmer depends on.
“The issue of seeds has become very relevant for farmers. The yatra is trying to put out a message of hope to farmers that they can come out of the current agrarian distress by adopting self-reliant, ecological farming to improve their net incomes and to ensure farming without debts.”
En route to Delhi, the yatra members spoke with agri-research establishments on the issue of appropriate technologies and discovered that many agri-experts were just as concerned about increasing seed monopolies and corporatisation of the seed sector threatening the country's seed sovereignty.
The yatra has received good response from farmers in various States and has obtained the support of the governments of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh and agriculture universities. Cutting across party lines, elected representatives, including MLAs and MPs, extended their solidarity at several places.
Several villagers, including Ralegaon Siddhi, under the leadership of Anna Hazare, declared themselves free from genetically modified organisms as the yatra wound its way through the area. Hundreds of farmers vowed to shift to ecological farming after speaking with the yatris.
The yatra will culminate at Rajghat with a dialogue with various politicians at the Gandhi Darshan here. Pioneering organic farmers and seeds breeders from across the country will be honoured on the occasion.
They will also present a petition to United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on their concerns and demands.