Farmers and activists, especially those involved in organic farming, have raised objections against the provisions of a State legislation which, they say, will suppress the transmission of traditional knowledge among farmers.
The Tamil Nadu State Agricultural Council Act introduced in the recent budget session stipulates that only persons with certain qualifications “shall practice as agricultural consultant within the State of Tamil Nadu or render agricultural services.”
The qualifications are restricted to B.Sc. and B.Tech. degrees in agriculture, forestry, home science, agricultural engineering, agricultural information technology, bio-informatics, energy and environmental engineering, food process engineering, agri-business management and horticulture, offered by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, the Madras University and Annamalai University.
Sultan Ahmed Ismail, a soil biologist teaching at the New College, says that the term “agricultural services” includes almost all branches of agricultural activity. Since most of the farmers belong to the unorganised sector, they largely depend on each other or on “unqualified persons” for these services.
Inclusion of organic farming would also hurt the traditional knowledge transmitted through farmers and would create an unnatural dependence on “experts” who may not have enough experience, he argues.
At a recent meeting of activists, participants questioned the intention behind the Act. Though it claims that regulation of agriculture is its main intention, the Act would only spell trouble for “unqualified” farmers who had lots of practical expertise, they said.
They argued that the creation of an Agricultural Council consisting of persons who are not practitioners of farming but are only involved in laboratory activities was unlike the Bar Council or Medical Councils which involved practitioners themselves.
Ramasubramanian, director, Samanvaya Consulting, said that a protest meeting would be organised in Chennai on August 30, with organic farming enthusiast Nammalvar, columnist Devinder Sharma and others participating. Other protest meetings would also be held, he said.
The Agriculture Minister Veerapandi S.Arumugam, however, said in a press release carried in the ruling party organ “Murasoli” that the Act would in no way harm organic farmers or traditional knowledge practitioners and would only create a professional body for the regulation of agriculture and horticulture.