NATIONAL

Farmers' suicides nothing but genocide, says Vandana Shiva



Special Correspondent

"Artificial scarcity is being created to justify wheat imports meant to kill the domestic market"

The policy is to transform Indian agriculture into large-scale corporate industrial farmingFarmers to be trained in low cost ecological organic farmingFarm organisations planning countrywide movement

NEW DELHI: Farm organisations and groups are organising a movement across the country against farmers suicides and the recent decision of the Centre to import 35 lakh tonnes of wheat during the rabi harvest season.

The Director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, Vandana Shiva said the suicide by more than 40,000 farmers since 1997 to date was nothing but "genocide."

"This genocide is a result of deliberate policy imposed by the World Trade Organisation and implemented by the Government. It is designed to destroy small farmers and transform Indian agriculture into large-scale corporate industrial farming."

Releasing the fourth edition of `Navdanya' report on Farmers Suicides and Seed Monopolies, she said the suicides were a result of debts which were a consequence of the rising cost of production and falling prices, both linked to free trade and trade liberalisation policies in agriculture. In this context she said Congress president Sonia Gandhi had recently cautioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not to rush headlong into Free Trade Agreements.

The report shows the trends of growing dependence of farmers in the suicide belt on hybrid and genetically modified seeds, which were costly and could not be saved. It also refers to the growing attempts to privatise seed supply and emergence of multi-national seed monopolies.

`Bija Yatra'

To press their demand for a moratorium on Bt cotton planting and for a full and independent study of the socio-economic impact and the effect on health and environment of Bt cotton with citizens' participation, the Foundation and several farmers groups will organise a "Bija Yatra" through the three cotton growing States of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh where farmers suicides had occurred in large numbers.

The Yatra would be launched from Sewagram in Maharashtra on May 10 to mark the 150 years of India's struggle for independence by building a movement to stop the genocide of farmers and reclaim India's food sovereignty. The Yatra will create awareness amongst farmers on GM crops, corporate farming and seed monopolies. Farmers would also be trained in low cost ecological organic farming. It would also distribute indigenous seeds as "seeds of hope."

On March 10, the farmers organisations would go on an indefinite dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi to oppose wheat imports. Dr. Shiva alleged that an artificial scarcity was being created to justify wheat imports that were meant to "kill the domestic market, the mandi system and the Public Distribution System."

She alleged that at the same time the government was changing the norms of food safety by lowering standards of safety for imported wheat.

Farmers groups such as the Bharat Krishak Samaj, Vidharba Organic Farmers Association, Maharashtra Organic Farmers Association, Andhra Pradesh Ryatu Sangham, Modern Architect for Rural India, All-India Kisan Sabha, Bharat Krishak Samaj, Shetkari Sangathana and Kisan Sabha would participate in the "Yatra" and demonstration.

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