Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dr.Joshi and cycle yatra team with Shri.Sundarlal Bahuguna
The Agri march which started on 12th January 2008 came to an end when it reached Dehradun on 16th March 2008 .The team was recieved at the Press club ,Dehradun by noted environmentalist Shri Sundarlal Bahuguna along with huge number of farmers, public and people from press.The yatra team members shared the stories of their experience.Addressing to the gathering. Team Leader Dr.Joshi urged everyone to think seriously on the issue of farmers and farming .He again talked about the subject that needs a serious thought.Like:
#Redefine "farmer"-Big farmers can be called as Businessman as their condition is very different from the small and marginal farmer.
# An agri act must come in order to stop the diversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.
#Agri education should be part of school curriculum
#Role of bank - Redefine
Also seen that cultivation of staple food is being replaced by cash crops.The diversion of agricultural land (which in any case is limited) to commercial farming and even industries, is further limiting ability to grow enough foodgrains. "Contract farming" is being encouraged thereby opening new avenue of exploitation of farmers. What has not been understood is that any tinkering with the agriculture sector that encourages farmers to abandon their land and move on to cities in search of a livelihood is sure to lead the country into a dark abyss.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Herbs healing FARMERS in Doiwala

Farmers, in Uttarakhand, have over the years brought more and more land under the plough for the production of cash crops like sugarcane, relatively more profitable. Area under cultivation of rice, particularly Basmati, has thus shrunk. In the year 1997-98 /40703 Hectare area was under sugarcane and total produce was 2537913 Quintal. Average production is 623.52 Quintal per Hectare. In the Udhamsingh Nagar district there are six sugar factories in Jaspur, Kashipur, Bazpur, Gadarpur , Kichha , and Sitarganj . These sugar factories consume sugarcane from neighbouring districts Bijnour , Rampur Bareilly and Pilibhit. To help the sugarcane farmers the cane department has six cane committee in Kashipur , Bazpur , Gadapur, Kichha , Pantnagar . A cane committee is there in Nadehi sugar mill.

Today more and more farmers are leaving sugarcane for other crops .The price for the crop has dropped considerably in recent time .The price of Sugarcane in Uttarakhand in between Rs.120-125/quintal. In UP, the rate has were not declared. Farmers are complaining, as they have not been paid for the last lot.

In Doiwala, Dehradun farmers have found a better option. According to Gurdeep Singh , a farmer ,there is mill in the area where farmers of the village used to sell the cane .The same mill consumed sugarcane from nearby regions as well. The sugar mill was a Pvt.Mill and was establised in year 1950-51.It became a Government enterprise in year 1998.

In year 1990, a company called ‘Flax Food Company’ came to the village and motivated villagers to produce different vegetable and plants. The farmers tried their hands on it. In the beginning mushroom and strawberry along with vegetables like Broccoli was cultivated and supplied to the company. Slowly company asked them to grow herbs. Common herbs grown are:
1. Parsley
Carum petroselinum
Family: Umbelliferae
2. Dill
Anethum graveolens
Family: Umbelliferae
3. Basil
Ocimum basilicum
Family: Lamiaceae
when the company approached farmers only 20 farmers agreed . Two-acre land was under herb cultivation at that time. Today the land area under cultivation has increased to eight acre and a total of 200 framers are involved in it.
The company guides farmers for cultivation . There are strict instructions on the percentage, type and time of the fertilizers to be used. Farmers follow the instructions and sell the produce to them. The company pays directly. Usually a single crop is cut thrice .The production is around 500 kg /bigha that means on an average from a single crop the farmer produces 1600 kg /bigha in a year. The produce is sold at the rate of Rs.6/kg. This company has a consumption capacity of 5000 tonnes and it exports the processed products to countries like England, Germany, and Denmark .
Though the rate at which the company sells the products is not disclosed to the farmers, they are still happy as their economic condition that has improved remarkably. Gurdeep Singh also pointed out that herbs need more care and attention and this requires extra labours as well. This has improved the condition of the labour class as well. He also felt the rate should be reviewed from time to time.

The company at the same time provides farmers with manure, pesticide etc .It is however not compulsory to buy from the company only. Farmers however prefer company’s product as they are more reliable and at reasonable rate as compered to public services.

The sugarcane has suffered a lot as the whole belt, at one point of time, produced sugarcane. This includes: Shyampur, Satyanarayan, Panchwani, Chhidrawala, Kanwali, Vikasnagar. Today area under sugar cultivation is either lost completely or has decreased considerably .The farmers fear that in the present condition the sugar mill in the region will not sustain for long.

This story was an excellent example of the direct relationship between farmer and industry. Paying fairly good price to the farmers for their produce serves their purposes and is beneficial to the industry as well. But still a partnership with the industry will secure the future in better way.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Farmers cheated in the long Profit chain

The price of all the products have risen in the past years .The farm input cost has also risen sharply. But the price that a farmer gets for a crop is still the same . For e.g. the cost of soybean oil has increased from Rs.25 to Rs.50 in last ten years but farmers are paid for soybean at the same price of Rs.900 per quintal since beginning.
Secondly a farmer never gets the right share of profit .A quintal of wheat for example is fixed at the price of Rs.1100.A farmer sells wheat trader or middle man or mill owners ,at the rate of Rs.600-700 per quintal because the middleman pays him right away.The middle man sells it at the fixed rate of Rs.1100 there by earning major profit straight away. At the same time,mill owners on the other hand produce the following products from a quintal of wheat:
Suji 10 kg @Rs. 20=Rs.200
Maida 10 kg @Rs. 20=Rs.200
Aata 70 kg @Rs. 12=Rs.840
Choker 10 kg @Rs. 10=Rs.100
Total earning =Rs.1340

Similarly Mustard has a fixed price of Rs.3100/quintal.Farmer is paid it at the rate of Rs.1500 by middleman.Trader sells it at Rs.3100.Out of one quintal, the following products are made by processing mills:
Mustard oil 45 kg @Rs.70=Rs.3150
Khali 55 kg@Rs.7=Rs.385
Total profit==Rs.3535

The story is same for other crop produce and processed forms.Why cant a farmer get a share in this profit chain?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Rajasthan to Dhaulpur-Story of cold storages

A large number of agri products go waste due to absence of proper storage facilities especially the perishable items like fruits, vegetables, fish/sea food. There is high shortage of storage facility in the country. Especially at the places where there is comparatively high productivity –For e.g. rich agriculture or fruit belt. Often a huge quantity of he produce perishes in the absence of preservation. Especially for the small and marginal farmers who first of all do not find the storage facility and secondly even if they find it they often end up spending a lot of money. From Rajasthan to Dhaulpur, the story of the storage facility reveals the same fact .It was found that this belt produces potatoes in huge quantity. The farmers have to go to the nearest cold storages for making arrangements for off seasonal sale. The team visited the two cold storages. One Mr.Mittal’s, Eye specialist in the region and the other one of Mr. Jagan’s who is a local MLA.
The team was amazed to see kilometer long queue of tractors loaded with mainly potatoes .All waiting for the storage to open. The farmers usually stay there day and night because the space is limited and there is no other storage facility in the region. Farmers on the way were waiting for last 7 days. But storage did not open .It was however opened for the big farmers.
There is again a plot against farmers here .The storage owner buys each bag of potato at the rate of Rs.40/quintal from the big farmer and charges Rs.50 from small farmers. There are usually 120 bags in one tractor. There is no law that under which storages operate here. The owners fix the price. The tractor is hired by the farmers at the rate of Rs500 /day. Apart from this the storage owners sell their own bags to farmers with a price of Rs.16 per bag. The owners do not entertain any farmer until and unless the produce is filled in their own bags. That is an added burden on the farmers’ .In their long wait, the potato or any other produce, often gets dried up or spoiled. There is no control of the government on storage operations in the area, so the owner can refuse the farmer or adjust the price according to its convenience. Here the farmers sell its produce at the rate of Rs80-100/quintal, and if he opts for the second option and goes to Mandi he gets Rs.60-80 for the same quantity. So in both cases the farmer is at loss. In the storage, when a farmer goes to collect its material the owners return the spoilt one and are not responsible for the spoilage of any sort. If the storage is being used for a longer period the farmer has to pay a certain amount of interest to the owner.

This is clearly a form of ‘Exploitation’

On this, the owners store their own commodity and give spare space to farmers on their own price. Usually the price is not fixed and the owner is the sole authority as far as price fixing is concerned.
The farmer in short has no place to go.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Water scarcity is often the reason for conflict among different communities .

The yatra team ,after a series of meetings and discussions with local communties found that a proper management of water is urgently required.The team witnessed many traditional systems of water conservation.Growing needs , and depleting water resources both call for local water management.
In Andhra pradesh and Tamilnadu the local community is using local water bodies for irrigation and other purposes.They used to have ponds , through which the rain water is conserved and havested.

Andhra Pradesh was known for its traditional water bodies at one point of time .Today large number of such bodies have vanished .
In Adilabad district there were at least 350 ponds but today only 10 are left.The water bodies are managed by the local people only.
Village Etchora in Adilabad have the total supply of water through ponds . No pump or machinery is used.The ponds catered needs of the vilage.Another important thing that was noticed was traditionally 10% of the total produce of the village was used for the to maintenance school and other community institutions.There was a “community system”.Later when Britishers entered the village and introduced the Patta system.This broke the community system of the village.

Similarly in Mysore there were around 50,000 small and big ponds.The community in the District still believe in the tarditional system and at one of the village the villagers were digging the pond with the help of cattle and it was also decided whosover from the village goes to the site should dig it .A community approach was seen here.Moeover there was a concept of plantation around such water bodies “Nirmal Shrubs” as they are called were palnted around, so as keep the surrounding clean.

At another place a chain of ponds was catering the local water needs.The ponds were made in way that, allows excess water from one pond to flow naturally through a trench into the next one . Thus, rainwater flows horizontally, at lower velocity, with minimum degradation of silt.

Yatra team found that Andhra Pradesh and Tamil nadu has impressive local water harvesting systems. When the country is facing water crisis and it is only going to worsen in future, an initiative to conserve and harvest water by traditional methods can be a good and a sustainable solution.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Brick making in agricultural fields..More and more farmers in MP are turning to brick making.The reason?Not enough water for irrigation and the agri produce do not fetch enough money .

The food is fallng short for the uncontrolable and ever increasing population of the country .As far as food is concerned the rich is getting whatever he can think of whereas the deprived community is still restricted to simple Dal –Roti .The condition of both farmer and farming is alarmingly unhealthy. The growing agrarian crisis is giving a clear signal of the food scarcity in the days to come. A major portion of the population in the underdeveloped nations is mal nourished. Especially the children aged 5 years or less. In fact their nutritional levels are shamelessly comparable to children in Eithopia. Human development report 2007-08 predicts worse situation in the time to come. According to this report climate change is impacting one in nineteen people in developing nations and only one in 1500 people in developed world .The nation which claims to have an economic boom with a pretty good, organized and stable political situation there are still people who sleep without food, die of starvation and children are mal nourished .It is just not sad but unfortunate.

Climate change is going to reduce the agriculture up to 40% and it will lead to less food and growing resentment among the deprived section of the society .The resentment often leads to what we term as ‘Terrorism or naxalism’. A deprived person will have no choice but to snatch things from the so called rich section of the society. Taking example of water ,nobody thought that a day will come when it will sold .Today we have packaged water and what not .If this can happen with water why cant it happen with food. We already have a number of packaged food in the market and cost is going to rise in future.

Thus,there is an urgent need to re launch agriculture and revive the policies so that it addresses to the growing needs of the country. One important thing is to take the climatic advantage and go for ecological farming.

Agriculture Education : Social Respect

"Agriculture should be included in the school curriculum"-this has been felt by a number of people that yatris have interacted with on the way.It is a general opinion that if agriculture is introduced to the farmers in the early stage it will develop their interest in the subject. Especially the student s who come from agriculture families will venture into the field with greater confidence of making it big with their expertise and knowledge .
Today the farmer do not want his kids to continue farming as it doesnt fetch good money.Most of them also feel that in this Agrarian country farmers are not respected and are among the ones who are ignored the most.
At some places teh situation is worst .The social impact of the agarian crises can be very well explained by this fact that the farmers are not getting brides because no one wants to marry a farmer who is poor, debt ridden and doesnot own land.This was a serious issue in Tamilnadu.

A Journey Tough – Tougher

As the yatra is in Dhoulpur today ,all charged up and with so much to share .The journey has not been very easy (as expected) but team managed it all and supported each other well.The weather, winds ,all came on one side to make the route more difficult.The elevation through out made things little problematical .The yatris had slogans like Ghat started and Ghat ended that they used to tell the fellow men know that here comes elevation and 'Thank god the elevation is over' And there were more than 100 such ghats. Another problem was water.Few members of the team including the leader Dr.Joshi ,fell ill with Diarrhoea.The water consumed from different sources caused this .DrJoshi fell ill for about a week but that didnot deter him or other yatris from continuing the march.Dehydration was another problem faced by the yatris as the hot weather persisted throughout the route.

The team depended least on the organisers as they arranged for their stay themselves.As far as the food was concerned the yatri's collected the ration from the community on the way .What ever they could get they cooked themselves.Though organisers were always a support but the team was managing by its own.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Serious discussion
Pledges all along...

The cycle Yatra that started for the cause of Indian farmers is reaching Rajasthan tomorrow.The yatris are more than just content about the journey so far.The experience and exposure that they have got is what they could have only imagined.Every yatri now has a very clear picture of the problems that the country is facing today .Here is one liners rom each member of this Yatra:

Madan pal,farmer:"If Government can ignore the people living around roads and highways ,what about others."The access to interior parts is important here.

Anil Joshi,Leader of te Yatra:"We must thank God that every farmer in the country does not commit suicide otherwise they will not have a breathing space. "There is still a lot that can be done to improve the condition of farming and farmers in the country.

Manmohan Singh Negi:"In the states that the Yatra has covered so far it is seen that In Tamilnadu there is maximum dependence on the Government .Other states are still making a lot of local efforts to solve their problems. "It again proves the importance of local solutions,that are more sustainable and also reliable.

Prem dutt Mamgai:"Several factors of mixed nature are responsble for the decline in interest in agriculture.It is for our own interest that we tried to study the climate change impact and other factors because at the end of the day everyone needs the food to eat."

Tanuja Nainwal:"Poor farming returns are borne more by the woman.Even if the farmer kills himself it is the woman who is left to look after the family, pay the debt and get food. "

Nisha Rathore:"Women's contribution in agriculture is grossly underestimated.We all know that her contribution is not less than 60% in farming but still they are least acknwledged for it.Again a Mans World."

Dayaram Nautiyal:"Rapid repalcement of local seeds with hybrid varieties is leading to many problems, the most important is that farmer is losing its control over the seeds."

Meeta Kukreti:"Agricuture should be taught from early stages .This will be extremely beneficial to students coming from families with agriculture as the main occupation."

Hanif Gandhi:"Language is a big barrier in disemmination of the knowledge."

Dwarika Semwal:"If the things go on like this soon the farming will be taken over by industrial houses and contract farming will emerge in a big way."

Anand Negi:"It is sad and unfortunate that no local produce is sold in the local market of the villages covered by the yatra so far.The rural area has become the biggest market for the urban products and this way the dependency on urban area for every need is increasing day by day."

The land of farmer is going away in one way or another .As stated by Sunnaswamy of village Gundal Patti , district Adilabad,Karnataka "Government comes and takes the land for highway,road ,railway or industries and we are hardly given any choice.We do not know where to go .Some times we think that the independence has brought nothing for us.Our condition is still same. Infact Britishers never snatched the land from farmers.We still do not feel that we have got the freedom we are still being ruled, the only difference is that earlier the Britishers ruled over us and now our own fellow man rule over us."

Issues related to agriculture in India

Many new and diverse issues came into picture as the yatra proceeded from one state to another.On the basis of it some suggestions came from Yatris like:

Agriculture may be included in the course curriculum of at least secondary school levelling in all states.

In India more than than 65% of the population depends on agriculture.Hence, agriculture may be given a industrial status and therefore adequate budgetary allocation are needed for its developments .The current budget has taken into consideration a bit of it but still lot still needs to be done.

Population growth in rural areas (>4%) is much higher than the national average (<2%).poor health and education system is the major cause for this imbalance .To reduce its dependency on agriculture and further division of land holding ,population management in rural areas should be one of the top priorities.Hence, its popuation policy should be the integral part of agriculture as a more respectable profession.

Rural infrastructure like all weather road , assured electricity and irrigation facility backed with proper marketing avenues for agriculture input and output will go a long way in addressing its concerns of declining profitability in agriculture and to make agriculture as a more respectable profession .

Agro based industries should essentially be set up near rural areas and they can be located on the wasteland sites or land with poor fertility .This will have a multiplier ffects on rural development and checking in rural migration.

Rural bank/credit needs more reforms so that the system becomes more farmer friendly.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Police out to help Yatris...

Police ....a friend!!

From Kanya kumari till MP the yatris are talking of their experiences.After covering a distance of 2850 km ,interacted with 17000 farmers in 13010 meetings in 1410 villages of 46 districts they are full of stories to share .Once they were crossing cycling along highway in Andhra pradesh a policeman stopped the group .Little scared by this as team thought police means Trouble! After enquiring about where the group was coming from ..thepoliceman got to know the reason behind the yatra and issues that were being raised by the yatris.Impressed by it the Policeman donated a little amount and sponsered the breakfast as well before bidding luck all the yatris!
At another place in Tamilnadu one more policeman arranged Lunch and Press Conference for Yatris .Unlike in the normal routine in which public does not share a comfortable space with police ,these incidents have changed their views that police indeed is a friend ...

Water -issue of great concern


This is a very popular block known for Peas. Agriculture is the mainsaty of the peope there and because of very fertile soil and available water in the region farmers were getting good reurns .It was termed as 'Small Punjab' because of high productivity of the farm produce.The market was available for the produce so farmers were satisfied and assured that their produce will be sold completely.Mother Diary being one of the main buyers of peas etc.It used to collect at least 20 trucks of peas daily from that block.But the situation has changed now.The collection has resticted to just one truck now.Reason??The productivity has come down due to water scarcity in the region.The available sources are shrinking due to increaed pressure and lack of conservation efforts. Villagers had asked Government to take this into consideration.The officials made fewcheck dams against farmer's will who wanted ponds to be made at higher elevation.The check dams didnot prove very effective.The villagers still want ponds to be made at higher elevation so that the rain water can be harvested .This was the traditional way of water harvesting in region which is losing its existence now.It is going to worth at least Rs.2 Cr. but will benefit at least 30-40 villages in the area.Goverenment has agreed on that but not acted.

The village is losing its identity !

However the lone waive off budget was welcomed by the farmers and they thought this will bring some relief f to the small and marginal farmers but still this was just a relief measures and not a solution . It is important that the reasons or factors need to be identified that make a farmer apply everytime for the loan and his inabilities to pay it back. This should be the first step to find the solution.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Damn the dam!!

Where is the water...!!
Farmers switching to brick making

The Sagar dam in the region came into existence 20 years ago but the farmers in the nearby regions are crying loud for water.The dam has not catered the needs of poor farmers in the region. I is the big farmers who have been benefited.The small farmers have yet again fallen prey to the big dam projects supposedly brining lot of economic empowerment to the local people.The local people , most of the being farmers asked Government to make a canal so that they can also make use of dam water for their thirsty land.It has been years and nothing has been done in this regard.Instead, the dam water is surely being used by one fertilser plant in close vicinty.

The agriculture has suffered in the region due to water shortage .Most of the farmers have lost the hope now have switched to new job of Brick Making.When one visit the region a piles of bicks can be seen in the fields that at one time produced food.

The Yatra team in MP

Indian farmer ..

At fiftieth days the Yatra team is exploring Madhya Pradesh at the moment. In Madhya Pradseh the team has so far covered a distance of 610 km,covering 3600 farmers of 206 villages in 8 districts.There have been more than 210 meetings.The huge number of farmers have received the yatra and discussed the issues of their concern. The isssues included the problem of debt and credit system.They felt the loans or credit are a big problem especially with he small and marginal farmers.At some places Government had waived off the entire debt of the farmers in cases where it was seen that the frmer cannot pay it back.But there are several others who are in serious crises due to their inability to pay the money back.Now they are not paying the money at all in the hope that Govrnment will wave off their debt as well.These are mostly the small and marginal farmers in the region.With the new budget coming in with the announcement to waive off the debt of small and marginal farmers , this has surely given a sigh of relief to all those who have been living in the agony of huge debt and the consequences in case of non-payment.

In a village of Guna district, the political parties promised to give farmers an exemption from the electricity bill in case their party wins . Majority of the farmes voted for the party.But after the party won at the state level , as usual the promise made by the party was broken and the farmers in the villgers got the electricity bill amounting as high as Rs.50,000.The villagers collectively went to the CM He assured them that they will recive a 75% exemption .The assurance also has proven fake as their supply were being disconnected incase of non-payment of total amount.

Apart from this even the nature was playing games .This year the severe cold has destroyed Coriander and Gram crop the most .Gopal singh of Ramanna Village District Guna was very optimistic about the profit from the Coriander that he grew in his 50 acre field , but now he has suffered a great loss.
Similarly ,In Narayanpura village of District Guna in year 2005 a Sahkari Sugar Mill ,basically a public enterprise asked farmers to grow sugarcane as they were ready to buy it at the rate of Rs.120/quintal.The farmrs seeing it as a good option did grow sugarcane in ther fields.Things changed inter, the rate had gone down to Rs.80 /quintal.The farmer in order to sell the crop ,cannot go to the mill directly .He had seek a coupen from Gram Vikas Adhikari before selling it.This also added to their misery.Moreover, 2 kg of sugar after every quinta was cut as a commission .The farmers are so disappointed ,frustrated and angry that some have even burnt their crops....
Surprisingly there was no trace of e-choupals in Guna district.