GREEN MANIFESTO FOR PUNJAB: ASKING ALL POLITICAL PARTIES TAKE NOTE

7:50 pm in News by Kavitha

Green Manifesto for Punjab

Agenda for Punjab’s  Prosperity, Food Safety, Health, Happiness and Sustainability

 

The main outcomes that are sought through this Green Manifesto are:

  • Ensuring environmental sustainability and profitability in Punjab’s farming
  • Revival, restoration and conservation of environmental resources including (ground) water and tree cover, and addressing the environmental crisis of the state firmly and urgently
  • Addressing the environmental health crisis of the state through remedial and rehabilitation measures, and by ensuring food safety and removal of environmental toxins
  • Lay the ground for medium and long term environmental revival and sustainability by sincere promotion of environmental education in the state
  • Ensure that rural industrialization is agro-based, employment-providing, non-polluting and resource-conserving.

CONTEXT

  • Punjab has only 1.5% geographical area of country but has the highest intensity of pesticide usage (per unit of land) – about 6620 metric tonnes of technical grade material get used annually on an average, on only 79 lakh hectares of cropped land in Punjab, as compared to 43,660 metric tonnes on 1950 lakh hectares at the national level!
  • The same applies to chemical fertilisers’ use in the state. While at the national level, the per hectare fertiliser consumption is 125-130 kgs/ha, in Punjab it is about 250 kg/ha.
  • Punjab has 84% of its land under agriculture with cropping intensity of 186%. This means great exploitation of natural resources, and also widespread prevalence of deadly toxins from agriculture in its ecosystem.
  • Only 3.3% of Punjab’s land is under forests and 3.4% under (non-forest) tree cover.
  • Out of 138 development blocks in Punjab, 109 blocks are over exploited and critical. Each year, the water table in Punjab is going down by 4 feet on an average. 145% of the available water is being drawn already.
  • There are around 14,500 tube wells in Punjab (one on an average for every 10 acres of cultivated land) and each year thousands of farmers are forced to deepen their tube wells resulting in greater use of energy, greater drawals of water from deeper aquifers. Meanwhile, Punjab’s average rainfall is only 500 mm, with most districts having lesser rainfall than this.
  • Apart from water depletion, water contamination is a major concern in the state both with pesticides and nitrates and other chemicals from fertilisers.
  • Soils are degraded, including with water logging.
  • More than 10000 farmers and farm labourers are estimated to have committed suicide in the past 15 years in the state.
  • Within the 14 lakh agri-households in the state, 53.2% are estimated to be indebted with an outstanding loan in 2013 of Rs.1.2 lakh rupees per household. This is the highest in the country. For the households in the smaller landholdings categories, the institutional credit coverage is between 30% to 45% only. Another estimate shows that farmers are under a debt of 75000 crores in the state.
  • For more than 2.2 lakh households in the state, total income from all sources is less than total expenditure per month. For about 7.2 lakh households, income from the farm enterprise is not adequate to take care of household expenditure.
  • Rs. 12520/- is the average farm business-related net income per agri-household in Punjab. At 2 adult workers per household, this works out to around Rs. 200/day per person. Minimum wages in agriculture in Punjab is Rs. 277/day.
  • Increase in cost of cultivation is outpacing increase in receipts. Livestock farming is fetching increased incomes in the recent past.
  • While that is the state of environmental resources and farm economics, Punjab is also fast heading towards a severe environmental health disaster. Allergies, Auto-immune diseases, Intestinal and Respiratory diseases, Psychiatric disorders, Thyroid Dysfunction and Cancers etc. are playing havoc with our health. Our reproductive system has been grossly damaged. Falling Sperm Count, Declining quality of semen, Spontaneous Abortion, Premature Births, Congenital Abnormalities, Childless Couples, Menstrual Disorders and Hormonal Disruptions etc. all have tremendously increased. Similar disease pattern and reproductive problems are being seen in our cattle. The number of many wild animals is declining fast. Some have become extinct while many more are on the way to extinction.

 

It seems that Punjab is heading towards becoming a “Dying Civilization”. It is clear that Punjab needs to be pulled back from this brink of devastation.  The environment of Punjab is no longer safe for human survival. We must analyze where we have erred. The success of a development agenda that we create for the state will depend on whether we have learnt from any past mistakes or not, and in incorporating best practices from everywhere into our planning. The first thing we must acknowledge is that only an ecologically sustainable Punjab can be economically sustainable. The development agenda will now have to include intelligently planned conscious activities for the revival and restoration of our ecological foundation. The primary task of the new Government would hence have to start with an acknowledgement and full assessment of this ecological disaster. Then, we have to take steps on a war-footing, for ecological restorative activities, that would include social and environmental remedies to restore human health. We should establish guidelines and policies, followed by necessary Acts and institutions regarding the future management of these life support systems, so that we do not repeat the mistakes which jeopardize our survival. This would mean policies that should take a broad look at our development paradigm (model) vis-à-vis environmental security and would have to address the sectors of agriculture, health, education, social welfare, food, water and industrial development.

It is in this context that we wish to draw the attention of the all Political Parties of Punjab to the following Charter evolved through a consensual process by numerous citizens’ groups in the context of the upcoming elections in Punjab (2017). 

AGRICULTURE: ENSURING SUSTAINABILITY & PROFITABILITY IN FARMING

Despite high yields in a few major crops, farmers in the state are one of the most indebted in the country. Farm suicides continue unabated, the worst symptom of this agrarian crisis. Excessive use of toxic agro-chemicals, mono-cropping and water mining has led to severe degradation of environment which has in turn led to health crisis. To reverse this, all political parties should commit themselves to making Punjab’s farming economically viable and environmentally sustainable – these are not mutually exclusive, but interlinked objectives. If we want to save Punjab, we have to save agriculture and peasantry. The following are needed for the same.

  • A Policy that Empowers Farmers and makes Agriculture Sustainable.  Such a policy will focus on farm suicide prevention, reduction of debt burden on farmers, promotion of sustainable agriculture and guaranteeing minimum living incomes to farm households.
  • A state level Pulses and Oilseeds Mission should be set up, to improve crop diversity in the state. Such a Mission should aim to make the country self-sufficient in pulses and oilseeds.
  • Establishment of a Natural and Organic Farming Board to develop and implement a road map for promoting natural and organic farming from research to marketing.
  • Setting up of a State Institute of Natural and Organic Farming to take up research and training related to agro-ecological farming.
  • Setting of ambitious and achievable targets for scaling up agro-ecology: Apart from using existing Government of India schemes, special state level schemes should be instituted to scale up agro-ecological farming all over Punjab. This should be accompanied by large scale campaigns on the ill effects of agro-chemicals and advantages of sustainable agro-ecology.
  • Ensuring separate and appropriate investments for marketing of natural and organic produce: One of the most important ways of incentivising agro-ecological approaches in farming is to ensure that farmers get remunerative markets for the high-quality and toxin-free production practices that they adopt. For this, there has to be adequate investments on storage, processing, value addition and retail infrastructure.
  • Regulation of agro-chemicals and GMOs rigorously, to protect health and environment: Promotion of organic farming also has to be accompanied by a plan to phase out agro-chemicals, and stopping environmental release of GMOs.

 

  • Setting up of a State Farmers’ Income Commission, to ensure dignified minimum incomes to every farming family. Commission should assess, track and intervene with a basket of measures to improve farm incomes in the state and ensure minimum incomes delivered. Farmers here include agricultural workers also, as per the definition of National Farmers’ Policy 2007. Further, Farmers here mean Cultivators and others and not (absentee) landowners. This should not be equated with only direct income support, but accountability of all agricultural and rural development interventions in the form of minimum living incomes realised by all farm households. This measure will force governments to focus on Incomes and not just the currently used performance indicators like Yields, Mechanisation levels, Seed Replacement Rates etc. This will bring sharper focus on particular regions, crops and categories of Farmers in government interventions so that all farm households are able to realise minimum, dignified incomes.
  • Establishment of a Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP) within the Farmers Income Commission (like in the state of Karnataka) to work out costs and MSP in a comprehensive way, and to provide fair returns to farmers with living margins over their real cost of cultivation. Procurement in the state have to be worked out at prices recommended by this CACP which can be a bonus over and above GOI’s MSP announcements where needed.
  • Instituting of more incentives in various schemes for farmers in the age group of 20 to 40 years, to make sure that young farmers feel motivated to continue their agricultural enterprise in a viable fashion. Similarly, women farmers and their collectives should be specially incentivised and supported.
  • Development of an alternative marketing strategy, especially for Organic Produce, and crops other than rice and wheat. Separate organic mandis should be set up in addition to more direct marketing channels from farmers to consumers.
  • Legalising land lease especially where marginal/smallholders are leasing in land, so that their cultivation is made formal, and access to various support services is made possible.
  • Revival of and investment on Cattle and Animal Wealth given that it is a significant source of income for farm households in Punjab.
  • Creation of a clear road map for unwanted animals including cows and wild animals: At some places wild animals destroy the crops at a large scale-that also need to be tackled effectively.
  • Commitment to intervene in case of anti-farmer policies adopted by Centre: Agriculture is a state subject. In spite of this, agriculture in the states is affected by many policies adopted by the Centre under the pressure of WTO, IMF or other international bodies. Parties should commit to constantly watch out for any anti-farmer policies adopted by Government of India and must oppose any such moves so as to protect the interests of the state’s farmers.

 

REVIVAL, RESTORATION AND CONSERVATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES

  • Huge awareness campaigns to be launched. The government has to spend resources on launching huge awareness campaigns on the matter of environmental degradation of all kinds.
  • Taking up an Ecological Audit: Political parties should commit to conduct an audit of the state of health of soil, water, animals, cattle and human beings. At present we don’t know the levels of various toxins in air, water, soil, cattle and humans. We must know this to formulate an action plan.
  • Setting up of a State Environment Commission which shall work as the highest agency for all issues related to environment and natural resources. The commission should be empowered to act as per the needs of the environment and to protect the environmental rights of people of Punjab to get clean air, pure water, safe and nutritious food and prevention and treatment of environment related diseases. The fundamental right-“Right to Life” has no meaning without ensuring above said rights.
  • Setting up of, and raising resources for Punjab Environment Fund, by pledging Rs. 1000 crores by GOI as initial money, and raising resources by appealing to Punjabi community and particularly to the Punjabi diaspora settled abroad to donate. Industry and business establishments could also be motivated for this.
  • Ensuring that all solutions are put into place, including special guidelines issued under MGNREGS or PKVY or any suitable scheme, to stop the stubble and straw burning problem that is spreading and getting well-entrenched in Punjab, with various deleterious effects for the environment and health.
  • Improving Tree Cover: Forest and Tree Cover in Punjab is the lowest in the country. Large-scale state-wide Tree Plantation and Afforestation program should be taken up with massive citizen participation (and by using MGNREGS and other schemes), with a target of increasing the Forest & Tree cover to 15%. Eucalyptus plantations which are affecting state’s biodiversity should be substituted with biodiverse plantations. This will transform the ecology of the state in a big way – with massive improvements in air quality, groundwater levels, temperatures and rainfall.
  • (Re)Formulation and adoption of a State Water Policy which encourages and ensures conservation and equitable supply and use; revival of traditional water sources; harvesting of rain water; protection and stringent punishment for misuse and pollution of water sources. Such a policy should discourage water-guzzling crops, should severely regulate groundwater exploitation, should incentivize collective conservation and usage of water resources through participatory community action and should devise ways for promotion of technologies which reduce the use of water for various activities. The policy should also commit to removal of illegal encroachments on water bodies, including wetlands. Further, it should address the misuse of water in urban areas also. Bottled water use has to be brought down. Alternatives to community RO plants have to be invested upon through such a policy.
  • Adoption of a watershed approach in planning and management of water resources: We should understand the natural flow of water at smallest level, in our streams, rivulets and rivers and adapt watershed approach to use and conserve that water in different ways. With public participation such an approach will give excellent results.
  • Enforcement and incentivizing of water conservation: There is an urgent need to encourage and enforce less water-consuming crops in areas with acute water shortage. While disincentives may be thought of for growing wrong crops and also strict regulation on tubewell digging and on particular kinds of extraction, conservation measures like SRI, mulching, sprinkler and drip irrigation, and any other practices of natural farming should receive extra support.
  • Making rain water harvesting mandatory: The government would have to make rain water harvesting mandatory in the whole of Punjab. This programme should cover rural and urban areas. Farmers should be encouraged to make farm ponds in their farms.
  • Reviving water bodies: Thousands of water bodies, ponds and wetlands of Punjab have disappeared over the past decades due to large scale encroachments, destruction of catchments areas, unmindful construction of water channels and other reasons, ruining the entire water ecology of the state and damaging biodiversity as well. This has also caused steep fall in ground water recharging rate. There is an urgent need to evolve a strategy to revive ponds, reservoirs and wetlands. Bold steps are needed for the removal of encroachments. We must stop the use toxic chemicals for agriculture and industry in the catchment areas. Drains and rivulets should be developed as water harnessing structures.
  • Giving life back to Rivers, to make Punjab a state of rivers again: Punjab government must evolve a river action plan to revive life in rivers and rivulets, and this should include measures to prevent contamination by sewer water and poisonous chemicals into the rivers.
  • Making Pollution Control Board accountable: Industrial toxic waste being disposed of into water bodies-rivers, canals, seasonal drains, sewers and even in the groundwater through pits, wells and tube wells etc. is a major cause for concern. Pollution Control Board is not discharging its duty with full accountability and this needs to be addressed with community participation and education.
  • Penalising polluters: It is important to put into place heavy deterrents and penalties for polluters of our environment, using all the existing laws and rules available.
  • Adopting Zero Waste approaches: Throwing of toxic and non-biodegradable waste in the water bodies and on the land is playing havoc with the environment in Punjab. Government must adopt a Zero Waste approach for waste management. We should eliminate the concept of waste, by adopting use of recyclable and reusable materials. We should avoid the use of throw away, land filling or incineration of waste. This is also expected to give a number of jobs in producing such sustainable materials instead of the polluting materials like plastics.
  • Putting into place and implement Land Use Plans, which also include cropping systems plans, and adopt a policy of non-diversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural uses.

In the medium and long term, this also requires significant investments on Environment Education.

Extensive Education of environment: An intensive campaign of educating all citizens about environment should be launched. Such an education should be part of the syllabus for all schools, with a focus on educating about environment, ecology and culture of Punjab. This should also include knowledge about biodiversity, traditional food and lifestyle in relation to health, economy, ecology and culture of our state. Practical training must also be imparted about ways to prevent environmental pollution, how to monitor environment and how to restore the damage already done to the ecology. All educational and other big institutions must have eco-clubs to undertake activities related to environment.

Inclusion of Ecological Farming in syllabus: In a predominantly agricultural state such as Punjab, the students in schools and colleges must know, learn and practice agriculture as part of their curriculum. This would instil in them a respect for this divine work, and at the same time, encourage them to continue farming in their families.

HEALTH & FOOD SECURITY, INCLUDING SAFE, NUTRITIOUS, DIVERSE FOODS

  1. Phasing out of Pesticides and other agro-chemicals in order of known toxic categories in a time bound manner & latest by 5 years.
  2. Field trials, cultivation, sale and import of GM foods to be banned.
  3. Shift to post-modern organic and natural farming within 5 years. Organic Kitchen Garden should receive a large boost in rural as well as urban areas.
  4. Regular monitoring and public reporting of residues of environmental toxins in our food, air, water and soil should be mandatory. For this, setting up of at least 5 Accredited independent Food and Water Testing Laboratories for detection of toxic residues of pesticides, heavy metals and industrial toxins in all types of food materials and drinking water is urgently needed.
  5. Epidemiological Mapping of entire state of Punjab to identify toxic hotspots. Commissioning of Epidemiological studies in areas where clustering of cases like Cancer, Hepatitis-C and other chronic and incurable diseases is suspected/reported. There is an urgent need for an epidemiological study of such disease patterns prevalent in Punjab. Lab testing of human tissues for levels of toxic chemicals will correlate their levels with the disease pattern. Simultaneously, environmental mapping should be done for levels of toxic chemicals in air, water, soil and food items. The correlation between the three will establish cause-effect relationship. This will identify local factors and consequent elimination of such factors.
  6. Setting up of a standing ‘Task Force for Mitigation of Environmental Health Crisis’. The primary work of this Task Force would be to prepare and implement a Comprehensive Relief and Remedial Programme in affected areas.
  7. Establishment of Accredited Environmental health laboratory to constantly monitor & publish Environmental health data for systematic remediation.
  8. Establishment of State Institute of Environmental Health for continued Research, Collection and Collation of Environmental Health data and provide inputs to Government for solutions.
  9. Labeling of nutritional information on all foods should be enforced.
  10. Compulsory factoring-in of Human and Veterinary health during formulation and/ or implementation of Agriculture as well as industry/ commerce policies hence mandatory clearance from Health experts/ Environmental Health Commission.
  11. Allocation of Minimum 30 % of Health budget for preventive health strategies over and above the Hospital budgets.

RURAL, AGRICULTURE-BASED INDUSTRIALISAITON

Farmer Producer Organizations should get same benefits as “Start-up Companies”: The Start-up India initiative gives a lot of incentives and support systems for start-up companies – with all the attention going to “high-tech” start-ups. But it is the Farmer Producer Organizations and small agro-enterprises that will provide much higher employment generation and income generation for those at the bottom of the pyramid. All FPOs should receive the same benefits as being offered under Start-up India initiative. Ensuring access to adequate financing, incentives and exemptions for the first 3-5 years until they become financially viable, and providing support systems – are really crucial elements to enable FPOs to succeed. Otherwise, the farming community will continue to get left behind.

  • Providing Funding Support with a Corpus of INR 1,000 crores
  • Credit Guarantee Fund for Start-ups
  • Tax Exemption for first 3 years (from income-tax)
  • Clear norms of public procurement for start-ups

Given the jobless growth of non-agricultural sectors, we have to refocus our industries into the slogan of “Production by the masses rather than mass production” with development of micro and small enterprises that generate mass employment and support the rural (agriculture) sector with additional jobs. Any drive to industrialize the State should be clearly with the following focus:

  1. Industries should be non-polluting, or resource-eroding/resource-degrading, but use resources that are replenish able, locally available and help the local economy most.
  2. Industries should be sustainable in the long run, depend on local and domestic market and are not seriously influenced by external factors.
  3. These should be enterprises that use agricultural raw materials, providing ready markets for primary produce, and have a huge domestic demand. There should be special incentives for health foods and traditional foods’ revival as part of this rural/cottage industrialisation thrust.
  4. Industries should be such that do not need huge amounts of subsidies and special incentives such as those is being offered in SEZs.
  5. Industries should be those that do not displace already locally available livelihood, for example the multi-national retail sector that will destroy local traders.

Emphasis on rural MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) should be at the centre of industrialization. Particularly, agro-based enterprise and industry is very much necessary, based out of rural areas so that incomes of rural families go up with non-farm livelihood opportunities, and unsustainable urbanization is prevented.

  • Agro-processing industry on a micro-small scale, set up and run by FPOs, including dal mills, oil mills, millet processing units and any such enterprises
  • Food Processing and Value addition units on a micro and small scale, set up and run by FPOs
  • Enterprises for production of organic bio-inputs for farming
  • Manufacture of small equipment and machinery for agriculture operations, particularly labour-saving rather than labour-displacing, and adapted to use by women who do most of the farm work, with a focus on drudgery reduction.

There is a need for a statutory Public Commission for Green Punjab, which will be a watchdog to ensure that those who are unaccountable in their discharge of duties have to leave their positions. This Commission should evaluate all investments and schemes to ensure that our core objectives for a Green Punjab are met. The Commission should monitor commitments made in Election Manifestos and adequate fulfilment of the same. The constitution of such a Commission should comprehensively and adequately represent various stakeholders of society.

Future Plans: Building social movement for Green Manifesto

·         We will submit this green manifesto to the leaders of all political parties/alliances who are having their stake in coming elections

·         We  will send it to President and Vice-president and Prime minister

·         This agenda shall also be sent to Chief Justice of India and Chief justice of Punjab and Haryana

·         We also plan to take this green manifesto to the people of Punjab by organizing public debates in all the districts of Punjab

·         In the hope that all the political parties shall include our green agenda in their respective manifestos, a jury shall examine the election manifestos of all the political parties in order to evaluate “How green are their manifestos?”

We appeal to all parties to include this agenda in their manifestos. We will educate the people by all means and rate the parties according to the adaption of this agenda during the elections. After the formation of the new Government, we will pursue the agenda and watch for its implementation.  

 

THIS CHARTER HAS BEEN PROPOSED BY:

 

Devinder Sharma          Gobind Thukral           Dr R S Ghuman           Dr G P I Singh                    

 Gyani Kewal Singh                  Dr Amar Singh Azad            Umendra Dutt

 

SOME USEFUL DATA

 

CHANGES OVER A DECADE IN THE SITUATION OF FARM/AGRI HOUSEHOLDS IN INDIA & PUNJAB

 

All India

Punjab

Parameter studied 70th Round (in Year 2013) 59th Round (in Year 2003) 70th Round (in Year 2013) 59th Round (in Year 2003)
Estimated Number of Rural Households 156.14 million 147.90 million 27.5 lakhs 29.8 lakhs
Estimated No. of Agri. Households 90.20 million 89.35 million 14 lakhs 18.5 lakhs
Proportion of agri households 57.80% 60.40% 51.10% 62%

Farmer/Agricultural Households classified as per their Principal Source of Income

Cultivation 63.50% 57% 45.60% 45.6%
Farming other than Cultivation/Livestock 3.70% 3% 9.20% 2.6%
Other Agricultural Activities 1.10% 4% 0.80% 4.9%
Wage / Salaried 22% 36% 31.90% 46.9%
Non Agri Enterprises 4.70% 5.10%
Others (Pensions/Remittances etc.) 5.10% 7.40%

Breakup of Average Monthly Income per Farm/Agri Household in %age (in Rs)

All India

Punjab

70th Round 59th Round 70th Round 59th Round
Total average monthly income 6426 2115 18059 4960
Cultivation 47.9% (3081) 45.82% (969) 60.1%(10862) 57% (2822)
Livestock 11.9% (763) 4.3% (91) 9.2% (1658) 4.7% (236)
Wages/Salary 32.2% (2071) 38.72% (819) 26.5% (4779) 29.5% (1462)
Non-Farm 8% (512) 11.16% (236) 4.2% (760) 8.8% (440)

Picture of Monthly Expenditure (In Rs)

All India

Punjab

70th Round 59th Round 70th Round 59th Round
Avg Total Monthly Consumption Expenditure 6223.00 2770.00 13311 4840
Avg expense on productive assets 513 198 1087 731
Avg monthly exp on Crop Prodn/Cultivation 2192 733 11768 2162
(Avg monthly receipts from crop production) 5542 1693 28117 5512
Avg monthly expense on Livestock Farming 1388 501 3561 1981
(Avg monthly receipts from animal farming) 2604 593 5303 2217

 

Breakup of Expenses for Crop Production/Cultivation

Seeds 11% (250) 16% (1404) 5.4% (637) 8.1% (176)
Fertilisers/Manure 24% (526) 23% (1993) 15% (1765) 19% (412)
Pesticides 8% (165) 7% (625) 11.2% (1314) 13.5% (292)
Irrigation 3% (70) 12% (1038) 0.6% (71) 12% (259)
Machinery maintenance 2% (43) 2% (170) 2.9% (345) 4.4% (94)
Interest 1% (32) 1% (108) 3.7% (436) 2.1% (46)
Lease Rent for Land 7% (158) 5% (463) 26.4% (3101) 12.8% (277)
Labour 22% (493) 22% (1976) 13.2% (1558) 18.6% (402)
All other Expenses 21% (455) 12% (1017) 21.6% (2541) 9.5% (204)

Intebtedness in Farm/Agricultural Households

Number of Agri Households indebted 52% 49% 53.20% 65.40%
Average Outstanding Loan, in Rupees 47000 12585 119500 41576
Proportion from Institutional sources 60% 48.5% 71.70% 47.90%