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by Kavitha

WHAT DO FARMERS’ MOVEMENTS IN INDIA WANT FROM BUDGET 2017-18?

6:13 pm in News by Kavitha

In the immediate run, we demand an exemption from demonetization to all farm-related transactions. Demonetization impact on farming community has been very severe. This is the time of both kharif harvest and marketing, and rabi sowing and cultivation. Farmers are facing a serious hit on both fronts – with harvested crop piling up with the traders unable to pay in cash, inability to buy seed and other inputs for rabi sowing, inability to pay the agricultural workers for farm operations, problems in transporting grain, and so on. The government should immediately exempt all farm-related transactions – especially sale of harvested crops and purchase of inputs – from the demonetization. Appropriate safeguards and facilitation mechanisms can be put in place at market-yards/retailers. Cooperative Banks in rural areas should be allowed to exchange the old notes (Rs.500 and Rs.1000) with immediate supply of sufficient cash of lower denomination – easing the cash crunch in rural areas.

1. Farm Incomes: The Budget 2016-17 speech talked about ensuring “income security” and reorienting its interventions to double farmers’ incomes by 2022. Given the current distress condition and very low incomes of majority of the farmers, the target of doubling incomes in 6 years is highly insufficient. It will leave the distress completely unaddressed, and the real situation of the farming community unaltered. Furthermore, there was no mechanism put in place to ensure Income Security for farmers.

In Budget 2017-18, the Government should give an assurance of doubling the incomes in 3 years. It should establish a permanent, statutory Farmers’ Income Commission to ensure basic living incomes to all agricultural households. Especially in the light of 7th Pay Commission coming into force, the incomes of the employees in organized sector will see a substantive increase, whereas the incomes of farmers are either stagnant or declining (taking inflation into consideration). A Farmers’ Income Guarantee Act is being demanded by farmers’ organizations across the nation, and the government should announce this if it is serious about tackling the long-term crisis in agriculture. There should be budgetary allocations made for 2017-18 to set up the Farm Income Commission and get the institution up and running towards a full-fledged income security mechanism from 2018-19.

2. Overall increase in allocations for the farm sector: First and foremost requirement is for a major increase in allocations for Agriculture sector. In the Budget 2016-17, the government spoke about major increase in allocations for agriculture, but in reality, it was highly inadequate. The major reason for the jump to Rs.35,984 crores under Dept. of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare (DACFW) came from moving Rs.15,000 crore of interest subvention to this head (which was not the practice until Budget 2015-16). As shown in the table below, without including the interest subvention, the budget of DACFW was only Rs.20,984 crores which is lower than the allocations of 2013-14 and 2014-15!

Ministry/Departments

2013-14 BE

2014-15 BE

2015-16 BE

2016-17 BE

Dept of Agriculture and Cooperation* (*not including interest subvention)

21,934

22,652

17,004

20,984

Dept of Agricultural Research & Education (DARE)

5,729

6,144

6,320

6,620

Dept of Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries

2,110

2,266

1,585

1,882

Sub-total Budget under MoA (not including interest subvention)

29,773

31,063

24,910

29,486

Interest Subvention

6,000

6,000

13,000

15,000

Total Budget under MoA including Interest Subvention

35,773

37,063

37,910

44,486

3. Adequate disaster relief outlays: Natural Disasters including drought and floods are a major cause of farm distress. Farmers reeling from two consecutive years of Drought got very little timely support from the government – as established in the Supreme Court too. A serious overhaul of the Disaster Relief system is urgently required, including the institutional machinery between Finance, Home and Agriculture Ministry streamlined and overhauled. Meanwhile, outlays for disaster relief to farmers should be increased to at least 25000 crore rupees, going by the drought experienced this year in various states (this is based on requests from states after their assessment of loss) for SDRF/NDRF to respond promptly to extreme weather events even as crop insurance system has to be improved drastically.  

4. Higher allocation for PMKSY with special focus on Rainfed Areas: Only 1660 crore rupees was allocated to Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), which combined several existing irrigation schemes. If the government is serious about expanding the area with irrigation access, this allocation should be at least doubled. Moreover, there should be a clear prioritization for Protective Irrigation projects and watershed development, with the aim of providing Protective Irrigation to dry crops in rainfed areas. The rainfed areas which constitute 60% of the cultivated area are most distress-prone and they are also the areas where there is a great potential for enhancing production and farm incomes. Watershed investments need full attention and cannot be scaled down in any way. This should be seen as a drought proofing effort in the context of climate change and in the context of India’s predominantly rainfed agriculture, and should be given dedicated support.

5. Access to Credit for real cultivators: Ensuring that tenant farmers or lessee farmers get access to bank loans should be a high priority, given that their numbers are increasing and they form a high-distress category. In view of the Bhoomiheen Kisan Credit scheme and NITI Ayog report highlighting the need to support lessee farmers, we propose that a Credit Guarantee Fund be set up to increase the bankers’ confidence in lending to non-land owning “licensed” cultivators, both as individual farmers and in Joint Liability Groups. Such a Fund needs to be established and can have around 5000 crore rupees set aside for the purpose in 2017-18.

6. Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) should be the focus of a really meaningful Startup India mission. All the incentives being provided under Startup India mission should be extended to FPOs, including tax exemptions, provision of capital and infrastructure. Though agricultural income of farmers is exempt from income tax, the income of FPOs is taxable at 30% from the very first year – this is a major disincentive for farmers to come together to establish collective business entities. With proper support systems, FPOs would lead to better profitability for small farmers. Government should provide investments into working capital, decentralized storage infrastructure, processing and value addition facilities for farmer collectives, for more direct and branded marketing by producer collectives etc. Allocation should be taken up to 3000 crore rupees.

7. Scaling up investments on risk-reducing, profitable ecological agriculture: The Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) is the first national level scheme of its kind which seeks to promote organic farming and thereby, resilient farming to reduce riskiness in agriculture (whether of risk related to complete crop loss that afflicts monocropped, intensive agriculture systems, by introducing biodiverse cropping systems based approach, or by way of reducing out of pocket investments and thereby indebtedness of farmers). Such is the demand for agro-ecological approaches to be scaled up and mainstreamed that PKVY targets have been exceeded in the first year of implementation. This investment is also to be seen as both a mitigation as well as adaptation effort in the context of climate change, given that this approach reduces GHG emissions, as well as captures more carbon in the soil. From 421 crores in 2016-17, the outlays may be increased to at least 1000 crore rupees. Within this, a specific component of reviving traditional crop diversity in all farms of India may be introduced, to complement the efforts of revival of traditional cattle breed and agro-ecological farming.

8. Market Support: For existing as well as new price support and marketing schemes, including Price Deficiency Payments (new proposal to make MSP effective and meaningful beyond procurement by government of a few commodities in some locations), Market Intervention Scheme (for perishables and those products not covered under price support schemes) or Price Stabilisation Fund (for plantation crops), we seek enhanced outlays. This is one of the most crucial aspects to farm profitability. In fact, the Market Intervention Scheme should be expanded to cover more crops, and should also have more investments from the Centre. The Public Distribution System should be used to procure pulses and millets too, to increase the food basket for poor consumers and to encourage farmers to diversify through assured markets. Right now, a scheme like Price Stabilisation Fund has only 436 crore rupees infused under the scheme. This aspect of Indian agriculture needs serious attention, and at least 5000 crore rupees have to be set aside for this.

9. Incentivising Pulses and Oilseeds Production: Cultivation incentive should be announced for pulses and oilseeds on the basis of extent cultivated. Minimum Support Prices should be effectively implemented for pulses and oilseeds, operationalizing the new MSP concept articulated in Economic Survey 2016-17 (social and environmental rationalization of MSP) so that these various measures incentivize the higher production of pulses and oilseeds in the country.

 

For more information, contact: Kiran Vissa at 9701705743 / kiranvissa@gmail.com

This is a note put out by ASHA on the eve of the Finance Minister’s pre-budget consultation on agriculture, on 18th November 2016

 

 

by Kavitha

ASHA’s Statement on the IB report & India’s GMO-Free Movement

1:26 pm in News by Kavitha

IB’S REPORT ON “IMPACT OF NGOs ON DEVELOPMENT” (dated June 3rd 2014) and THE GMO-FREE MOVEMENT IN INDIA: Statement from ASHA

 

An Intelligence Bureau report dated June 3rd 2014 that is seen by many to have been deliberately leaked to select media houses, is creating a public sentiment in India at this point of time on civil society movements coming in the way of India’s economic development. The said report summarily concludes that the negative impact on GDP growth [from “concerted efforts by select foreign funded NGOs to ‘take down’ Indian development projects” which is the subject of the 21-page report] is assessed to be 2-3% p.a.

This is a note from ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) on this IB report, as the said IB report makes a mention of Kavitha Kuruganti (one of the Convenors of ASHA) as an individual activist and about ASHA and IFSF (India For Safe Food, a campaign for pesticide-free/GMO-free farming and food systems) as two of the NGOs listed under its anti-GMF section (Section 3 – Anti Genetically Modified Organisms activism).

 

About ASHA:

 

ASHA is an alliance/coalition of hundreds of organizations and individuals, including numerous farmers groups, from more than 20 states of India and works on promoting sustainable agriculture and sustainable farm livelihoods. It refers to its work as that of protecting our Food, Farmers and Freedom (seed and food sovereignty (please visit www.kisanswaraj.in for more information).

 

From the dialogues that emerged during the Kisan Swaraj Yatra undertaken by more than 220 individuals and nearly 400 organisations in 2010 when ASHA was created and subsequent work, ASHA articulates a 4-pillared Kisan Swaraj Neeti and calls on governments to adopt the same. This policy articulation provides a framework for a forward-looking agricultural policy approach for India. The four pillars of Kisan Swaraj are (1) income security for farm households; (2) ecological sustainability of agriculture; (3) people’s control over agricultural resources like land, water and seed; and (4) access to safe, healthy, nutritious and sufficient food for all.

 

The work of ASHA is centred around (1) setting up ecological farming alternatives, (2) ensuring seed diversity revival and secure seed self reliance, (3) highlighting any negative unsustainable approaches in farming – for eg., the UPA government’s BGREI (Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India) programme based on corporatisation of seed resources, chemicalisation of eastern Indian agriculture, water use intensification etc., (4) seeking minimum living incomes for farm households to enable them to continue a dignified life in agriculture, (5) understanding and advocating a different dispensation to adivasi agriculture and food security, and (6) campaigning against hazardous agri-chemicals including pesticides and fertilizers through the India For Safe Food platform (7) creating an informed debate on risky technologies in agriculture like GM crops, especially centered around the issues of biosafety and seed sovereignty.

 

ASHA’s stance on GMOs in our environment, and its work on creating an informed public debate on the matter comes out of its understanding that transgenics are unsustainable and incompatible with agro-ecological, organic farming, apart from being potentially detrimental to consumer health and conservation of biodiversity as one of the bedrocks of economic and ecological sustainability. Experiences across the world and in India have shown that GM crops also facilitate the control of our seeds into the monopolistic hands of a few multinational seed corporations, which is not just a threat to livelihoods of our farmers but our nation’s sovereignty itself. It is an established fact that one US company Monsanto now controls more than 95% of the cotton seed market in our country through its proprietary Bt cotton. In fact, even the Planning Commission in the 12th Five Year Plan document points this out as a worrisome scenario.

 

ASHA is a coalition and associated organizations and individuals raise their own respective resources, foreign or Indian, for the cause of sustainable farm livelihoods and safe food.  Some organizations indeed receive foreign funds for setting up ecological farming alternatives, for agro-diversity conservation, for creating awareness on GMOs, for taking up relevant research etc. These organizations and individuals comply with prevalent laws. Greenpeace India, Navdanya, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, INSAF and Gene Campaign are only a few of the hundreds of organizations and lakhs of Indians who subscribe to healthy GM-free food and farming. This is neither an anti-national or anti-development agenda except perhaps in the eyes of corporations and those who are unaware that GM in agriculture is a technology rejected by most countries around the world.

 

ASHA’s contribution or the contribution of organizations and individuals associated with ASHA towards building sustainable rural livelihoods and to reduce agrarian distress is a constructive and transparent agenda on record, on its website and in the public domain.

 

The (non-) accusations of the IB report:

 

On Page 9 of this secret IB report called “Impact of NGOs on Development”, the accusations against the GM Free India activists are that they received “free-funding” (this is a new coinage by India’s Intelligence officials). It accuses ASHA and its IFSF campaign to be headquartered in one address in Katwaria Sarai in New Delhi, along with 4 other NGOs. Yes, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture is headquartered there from where INSAF operates, and yes we run a campaign against pesticides called India For Safe Food. It is not clear however what is illegal or objectionable to this, to have several outfits share a space within their meager resources.

 

The IB report also makes a mention of INSAF’s FCRA registration being frozen in 2013 but does not reveal that the Delhi High Court, after hearing INSAF’s petition against this action, has subsequently ordered a de-freezing of the account on procedural grounds, allowing INSAF to function with its resources, foreign or otherwise.

 

Page 10 continues its accusations against ASHA thus: “the above NGOs were active facilitators of news articles, liaison with other activists and social media activism, which contributed to the three-year-old moratorium on Bt brinjal and the ban/moratorium regimes recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee (August 9 2012) and the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court (October 7, 2012).

 

Indeed, ASHA does bring information and news with regard to GMOs into the public domain, so that an informed debate is created on the subject. And yes, liaisoning with other activists and using social media are part of what we do. This is part of spreading awareness on a technology which ASHA has sound evidence to believe is not in the interest of farmers, consumers, environment, national seed or food sovereignty – it is unclear once again what is illegal or objectionable about this.

 

It appears that the IB has nothing to note or object to, about foreign MNCs like American seed giant Monsanto spending their vast resources to take up their aggressive PR work, including advertisements that have been found to be baseless and the corporation pulled up for the same, inserting “paid news” in leading national dailies and taking journalists on junket trips including to the USA. These are incidentally corporations that have been convicted of various crimes and offences.

 

The informed public debate contributing to the Government of India putting a moratorium by ‘being responsive to society and responsible to science’ is something to be welcomed. However, to believe that the Government of India which placed a moratorium on Bt brinjal, and various institutions and panels like the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture (which included UPA members as well as NDA members in its unanimous report) or the SC’s TEC can be influenced only by our ‘facilitation of news articles, liaisoning with other activists and social media activism’ is a serious insult to these credible and democratic bodies. Is the IB employed by the Government of India accusing its Ministers and elected Parliamentarians of being incapable in their work?

 

Like stated earlier, foreign corporations, foreign funded industry bodies, foreign funded public sector bodies are also ‘facilitating news articles, liaisoning with each other other and active on social media’. When the PSC and the TEC have given their independent analysis and recommendations on the subject, it would be an insult to credible individuals, experts and people’s representatives to claim that they have been swayed by activism alone and not by the substantive scientific and socio-economic evidence on the negative impact of GMOs across the world. Such evidence was provided by leading biotech and agricultural experts, amongst others, who debunked the claims made by biotechnology corporations and fully foreign-funded NGOs and industry associations that promote GM in Indian agriculture.

 

On Page 11, the IB report accuses INSAF of transferring FCRA NGO funds to non-FCRA NGOs, and that there are individual recipients of such funds too. But as mentioned earlier, it is this accusation with which MHA froze INSAF’s FCRA account. However, the Delhi High Court ordered the de-freezing of INSAF’s account subsequently. And if individuals have received some funding, there is nothing illegal about it.

 

Para 11 further accuses that “pro-GM researchers, biotech companies and other field enquiries have not been able to verify any such deaths, raising questions on the credibility and integrity of reports generated by these activists”, citing the case of sheep and cattle dying after ingesting Bt cotton leaves in Warangal district.

 

It is laughable that the IB expects pro-GM researchers and biotech companies to verify such deaths and bring to light the facts. There have indeed been field enquiries including by government departments in AP which have supported the NGO reportage. Further, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture points out to a scientific study which reinforces the NGO findings. NGOs do a national service when they flag such problems for investigation in the interest of sustainable development, and it is not for the IB to decide what is appropriate ‘development’.

 

In fact, what the IB overlooked is the tremendous contribution that civil society organizations/NGOs working in the field of sustainable agriculture have made in helping our farm communities come out of the input-intensive corporate-controlled paradigm of agriculture which catapulted them into the current agrarian distress, into one that is an ecologically-sustainable, economically-viable and socially-just paradigm. One of the many examples of that is the Non Pesticide Management (NPM) Programme in Andhra Pradesh which has spread to more than 30 lakh acres in the state over the last 9 years and which is now being promoted by other states like Maharashtra, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh etc. This has not only helped farmers get out of the debt and suicide cycles but is also ensuring poison-free food for our citizens.

 

All of this brings us to a question on how intelligent is this IB report, actually.

 

How intelligent is the IB report?

 

This is important to debate since the government is expected to take cognizance of such reports.

 

The IB report appears to be shoddy with no actual content to project.

 

This is a report that has unnecessarily stamped itself “Secret” for no good reason, since the organizations and activists named in the report (and ones not named) have not garnered and mobilized so much support by disguising their intent: they have expressly shown their commitment to social and environmental justice, and citizens of the country have responded. In fact, it is citizens’ own causes that have been picked up by many activists to ensure that marginalised voices are heard in a democracy. Similarly, the plans of these organizations are in the open, and the IB report just picks some bits and pieces here and there, and makes it look sinister.

 

Its plagiarized portions or unconnected, illogical arguments or even absence of any sound accusations are apparent. In the anti-GMO section too, it shows itself for very poor research and analysis. The IB’s lack of knowledge and information of current scientific research across the world that has led to many bans and restrictions, including recently by China in the case of its army rations, is visible in this report.

 

The IB cannot be expected to understand the scientific issues here. Just as it cannot be expected to arrive in any rigorous fashion at its conclusions related to how much GDP growth got affected by the NGOs it named. As media articles indicate, even the most liberal pro-market analysts are scoffing at the IB’s ability to assess such impacts and are asserting that NGOs can do very little economic damage. The Intelligence Bureau of India has no business coming up with such a report when the best of econometric analysis cannot make such definitive cause and effect correlations related to GDP growth rate. More importantly, the IB cannot be expected to arrive at conclusions about what is good development.

 

The report also has factual errors. There is no Karuna Raina who is an anti-GM campaigner, for instance. Kavitha Kuruganti did not join this campaign from 2010 onwards, as another example. Activists named have not received increasing support and resources from Greenpeace International in the last four years as stated in the report, as yet another instance.

When the IB prepares such reports, what is also of importance is to check the magnitude of such funds and be able to assess whether a few lakh rupees of foreign funds, countered by crores of foreign corporations’ PR funds, would have indeed created the impact of the kind that the IB makes a bogey of as the impact on India’s development and whether it believes that all legitimate concerns should be muzzled in a democracy. Some analysts have already done so in popular media articles from the time the debate has been created on the subject a few days ago, and the IB analysis has indeed become a laughing stock there.

 

Just one glance at the report is enough to note the extremely shoddy way in which certain pre-decided narrative was laid out, without any basis or logic. It is shocking that India’s government is expected to act on such poor quality “intelligence”.

 

Foreign Hand/Funding:

 

The foreign hand bogey is not new. It is well known that this was used by the Indira Gandhi regime and that the Manmohan Singh government used it too, as an intimidation tactic and as a tactic to dilute public support on particular issues. It is apparent that this IB report was prepared for the UPA government and was for some mysterious reasons shoddily put together now and presented to the current government.

 

However, this argument around foreign funding ignores the fact that it is not just NGOs, foreign funded or otherwise, which are creating public debates on particular issues. Governments themselves are foreign-funded. Government policies are being directed or influenced heavily by foreign agencies including by large charitable foundations that promote the larger agendas of their governments and corporations in their countries.

 

What about the fact that political parties have been found to have violated FCRA rules by receiving funds from foreign corporations (High Court of Delhi WP ©131/2013, with judgement delivered on March 28th 2014?)? How is it that the IB does not find any relevance to this fact in its analysis?

 

In the GMO debate in India, more foreign funds are being spent by foreign MNCs than any NGO. It is reported that just one American biotech major has recruited the services of at least eight PR agencies in Delhi alone for its pro-GM work. If this is about foreign forces influencing domestic decisions in India, why is it that the IB does not think that it is objectionable that biotech industry led by these foreign MNCs is into heavy lobbying, PR and influencing? Incidentally the whole project through which Bt Brinjal was created under a project called Agri-Biotechnology Support Programme (ABSP II) is initiated by foreign agencies like USAID and Cornell University with active funding from Multinational corporations like Monsanto.

 

It appears that the mandate given to the IB, probably by the UPA government, does not include any investigation into these aspects.

 

As ASHA, our loyalty is towards Indians, both farmers and consumers. Our commitment is to India’s interests and India’s sustainable development. However, can this be said of various foreign agencies that seem to wield a lot of clout in this country, with their accountability to their shareholders and their allegiance to their (super) profits alone? Their loyalty is not to India and its people – it is to their own ‘development’ agenda supported by the agendas of the developed world they are based in.

 

We also want to point out that in India’s independence struggle also, the Father of the Nation Gandhi ji, has received foreign funding. In nation-building, foreign funding has played a part and will continue to do so and this cannot be used as a bogey to silence genuine debates on matters of national interest by Indian citizens. The question that needs to be asked and answered is whether such initiatives lead to keeping our country the sovereign, socialist, secular republic that our Constitution envisages.

 

Muzzling of Debate and Dissent:

 

What is objectionable is that the IB report is not just about foreign-funded NGOs. It is about quelling of dissent and opposition, including of groups which are not NGOs, or funded or foreign-funded; this is apparent from some of the details included in the Report of some non-funded outfits.

 

This IB report pre-supposes that we as a nation have decided on a particular development paradigm and GDP growth as the sole agenda, even to the extent of riding roughshod over issues of social, economic and environmental justice, democracy, plurality and sustainability. It is by debate that a nation arrives at its own collective wisdom on such issues and stifling such peaceful and democratic debate is short sighted at best.

 

It is not clear if the IB is saying that evidence and experience that the activism brings to the fore (including of violations of Indian laws, and denial of constitutional rights) should be ignored or worse, stamped out? Is the IB saying that studies cannot be commissioned to research on particular potential impacts, and that public awareness cannot be created?

 

It should be remembered that most innovations that the nation benefited from in the field of development, came from dissenting NGOs which sought alternatives in various sectors, going against status quo. This is in the field of post-modern agriculture, natural resource conservation management, renewable energy, sanitation, food security etc., in addition to the social themes like human rights, decentralized, accountable and transparent governance etc.

 

There are a number of movements created and led by local people to protect their lives and livelihoods. As a nation, we need to respect their views, voices and resistance, and their struggle to uphold their own dignity and way of life.

 

Social, economic and environmental justice are at the core of the debates that the IB so facetiously chose to do some sensationalism around. It cannot be a crime to raise issues of environmental and social justice, no matter where the funds come from. If India is not for economic, environmental and social justice, then it is indeed a matter of concern. As a nation, we must encourage debate and allow dissent, to preserve our democracy.

 

The Movement to keep our farms, food and environment free from GMOs will continue, since the technology does have potential adverse impacts, is based on unproven claims of benefits, and because it is unneeded:

 

For the Intelligence Bureau’s information, we would like to state once again that transgenic technology in our food and farming systems and in our environment does have adverse impacts, which have been scientifically documented. This has been presented to the Indian government and public by groups like ASHA time and again in the national interest. This has also been brought to the fore by various experts and scientists. It is also apparent that real, lasting solutions lie in agro-ecological approaches to farming and GMOs contaminate and irreversibly destroy the freedom to choose for both farmers and consumers.

 

The GM-Free India movement cannot be bracketed conveniently into “five activists and six FCRA NGOs who are foreign funded”. The current Home Minister to whom the IB report has been presented has indeed expressed his reservations about GMOs in the past in written statements supporting protest movements. There are hundreds of scientists including current and retired experts from the NARS and public sector scientific establishment who have been expressing their reservation on GMOs and advocating a precautionary approach. There are Ministers in the present and earlier government who have voiced their views and even recorded their decisions against GMOs. There are major farmer unions (including ones who are affiliated to the ruling dispensation) who are against GMOs including for reasons related to seed sovereignty and farmers’ rights. There are several retired Supreme Court judges who have expressed their concern about the right of choice which is destroyed for farmers and consumers once GM is adopted. The movement also has seen spiritual and cultural leaders coming out against such GMOs pointing to the socio-cultural as well as ethical dimensions of the debate.  Last but not the least, there are state governments who are saying NO to environmental releases of GMOs.

 

In fact, the BJP Manifesto itself in 2009 stated the following about GMOs: “No genetically modified seed will be allowed for cultivation without full scientific data on long-term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers. All food and food products produced with genetically modified seeds will be branded as ‘GM Food.’ The promise has been repeated by BJP in its 2014 election manifesto again.

 

It is therefore highly specious that the IB presents a picture of foreign-funded NGOs behind the active efforts to keep our country GM Free.

 

The GMO debate should and will continue in India, with or without foreign funds and Indian funds. Hasty decisions, citing economic growth arguments without clear evidence of safety and sustainable development, will indeed be resisted by people. The activists and NGOs named in the report will not be intimidated in their efforts to create an informed debate on the subject, keeping the best interests of our farmers, consumers and environment in mind. ASHA is committed to presenting sound evidence and experience on not only GMOS but on sustainable alternatives which create a win-win situation for everyone.

 

We urge the new government not to follow the practices of the previous government to use the Intelligence Bureau as a tool for promoting interests of large corporations, including foreign corporations. It appears that agents of such vested interests are playing an influential role in the offices of our policy-makers as well as the Intelligence agencies. We hope that the government will shield itself from such influences.

 

Meanwhile, ASHA urges the Government of India to pro-actively implement pro-people, pro-Nature policies and programmes, and fulfill the many positive commitments made to the people of this country in the BJP manifesto. We attach herewith our earlier letter to Shri Narendra Modi on the subject (http://www.kisanswaraj.in/2014/05/29/asha-letter-to-pm-narendra-modi-fulfilling-the-bjp-promise-of-according-highest-priority-to-agricultural-growth-increase-in-farmers%E2%80%99-income-and-rural-development/).

 

 

For more information, contact Kavitha Kuruganti at 09393001550; kavitha.kuruganti@gmail.com

 

 

by Kavitha

ASHA Letter to PM Narendra Modi: Fulfilling the BJP promise of according highest priority to agricultural growth, increase in farmers’ income and rural development

2:35 pm in News by Kavitha

To:                                                                                                                   May 28, 2014

Shri Narendra Modi,

Prime Minister,

Government of India.

 

Dear Sir,


Sub: Fulfilling the BJP promise of according highest priority to agricultural growth, increase in farmers’ income and rural development – reg.

 

Greetings! ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) is a large, nation-wide informal network of more than 400 organisations drawn from 20 states of India, that have come together in 2010 to organise a Kisan Swaraj Yatra, a nation-wide mobilisation to draw attention to issues pertaining to our FOOD, FARMERS, FREEDOM. The network consists of farmers’ organisations, consumer groups, women’s organisations, environmental organisations, organic farming collectives, individual citizens and experts who are committed to the cause of sustainable and viable farm livelihoods in rural India including by ensuring that productive resources are in the control of farming communities and thereby, safe, nutritious, diverse and adequate food for all Indians. From the dialogues that emerged during the Kisan Swaraj Yatra and subsequent work, ASHA articulates a 4-pillared Kisan Swaraj Neeti and calls on governments to adopt the same. This policy articulation provides a framework for a forward-looking agricultural policy approach for India. The four pillars of Kisan Swaraj are (1) income security for farm households; (2) ecological sustainability of agriculture; (3) people’s control over agricultural resources like land, water and seed; and (4) access to safe, healthy, nutritious and sufficient food for all.

 

Before India walked into the general elections, more than hundred farmers’ organizations, representing lakhs of farmers had come up with a Charter of Demands (http://www.kisanswaraj.in/2014/03/06/farmer-unions-demand-income-guarantee-and-ecological-sustainability-in-farming/ and http://www.kisanswaraj.in/2014/03/06/towards-rural-rejuvenation-our-charter-of-demands/) and several of these demands have found a resonance in the commitments that BJP made to the nation.

 

Sir, we welcome the emphasis that Bharatiya Janata Party has placed on Agriculture in its 2014 Election Manifesto.

 


1. Profitability and Income Security for dignity in farming

 

One of the first things that BJP promises is to “take steps to enhance the profitability in agriculture, by ensuring a minimum of 50% profits over the cost of production, cheaper agriculture inputs and credit, introducing latest technologies for farming and high yielding seeds and linking MGNREGA to agriculture”.

 

Getting at least a 50% margin over the cost of production is something that many farmers’ organizations including ASHA have been demanding for some time now. As you are kindly aware, this is a recommendation from the National Farmers’ Commission too. An important way of ensuring this is by way of remunerative prices and effective market intervention and procurement of course. One of the proposals that ASHA has is that of a Price Guarantee or Price Compensation or Deficit Price Payment mechanism wherein estimates of cost of production are improved within the Comprehensive Scheme of the Department of Economics and Statistics, followed by announcing a Minimum Guaranteed Price (MGP) that has a margin of at least 50% over the cost of cultivation that is legally guaranteed, followed by an improved decentralized procurement system that covers a variety of grains locally suited and an effective, recast market intervention scheme that has government agencies stepping in whenever prices fall below the MGP and finally, a price compensation mechanism of directly paying up the difference to cultivators wherever realized price is below the MGP.  Attached (http://www.kisanswaraj.in/?attachment_id=1241) is a note on the same and we urge your government to actively institute a scheme for such a price compensation mechanism to be implemented.

 

Also important is an overarching institutional framework that ensures minimum living incomes and profitability in farming. You would kindly recall that a BJP government in Karnataka was the first to make an effort in this direction and set up a Farm Income Commission. We urge your government to also set up a Farm Income Commission mandated with ensuring minimum living incomes to all farm households, including through a process of annual farm income assessments for various categories of farmers (particular cropping systems, regions and landholding class as well as for landless farm households and sharecroppers/tenant cultivators). A note drawn up by ASHA, on ensuring minimum living incomes is attached (http://www.kisanswaraj.in/?attachment_id=1604) herewith.

 

Sir, the BJP Manifesto promised a Price Stabilisation Fund in the context of food security. If such a fund is set up for farmers, for effective market intervention and to administer the price compensation mechanism also, given the de-coupled nature of remuneration for farmers, it would ensure that food inflation is not a matter of worry for consumers even as it pays our producers their due share.

 

Apart from cheaper agriculture inputs, reducing cost of cultivation by promoting appropriate low-external-input technologies is very important. Also important is redesigning our agricultural insurance system and improving coverage and implementation to cover tenant farmers and others (this is something that the BJP manifesto has promised).

 

 

  1. Promoting and establishing ecological agriculture across the country in a time-bound fashion

 

Sir, BJP has also aptly recognized the importance of organic farming when it promised to “set up the Organic Farming and Fertiliser Corporation of India” to promote organic farming and fertilizers, and provide incentives and support for marketing organic produce. We note that organic farming policies have been created under BJP governments in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh etc.

We welcome the Manifesto promise around organic farming. Attached (http://www.kisanswaraj.in/?attachment_id=1437) is a roadmap for scaling up ecological agriculture that we had earlier submitted to the Planning Commission of India in the runup to the 12th Plan. We believe that institutional approaches and not just programmatic, are required for promoting organic farming on a large scale. In terms of incentivising ecological farming, we propose that a system of Payment for Ecosystem Services being rendered by organic farmers be instituted.

 

We also urge your government to set up organic market yards of at least one such yard per taluka all over the country, with separate storage and processing facilities for organic produce (which requires segregation and traceability systems to be put into place all the way to the retail point which is one of the major difficulties being encountered in the organic supply chains at this point of time).

 

Further, organic farming collectives need financial support for capital for procurement of produce from members, for storage and processing facilities so that marketing prospects improve for these producers.

 

 

  1. Focusing on agro-diversity revival and seed self-reliance

 

“Conserving agro-biodiversity and preserving rare indigenous varieties” is something that finds a mention in the BJP Manifesto and we welcome this, Sir. Agro-diversity is the very basis of sustainability in agriculture as well as farm livelihoods.

 

We urge your government to translate this into reality by ensuring that agro-diversity is not relegated to ex-situ gene banks, but by promoting diversity-based farming, including to combat climate change. Further, due recognition of the immense value that indigenous/desi varieties have, especially for resource poor farmers, has to be realized, including in the form of nutritive value of such varieties.

 

For this to happen, the exaggerated emphasis being placed on Seed Replacement Rates has to be addressed, especially in the “post-modern agriculture science” scenario; further, departments are required to actively promote diversity based farming and devise ways of distributing desi/indigenous varieties to farmers. This also requires the government to address squarely the regulatory systems related to seed which favour the private sector without any liability and accountability worth the name. Aggressive marketing by seed companies is also correlated with erosion of agro-diversity and this has to be curbed given that Seed is an Essential Commodity as per Indian Law.

 

We urge you to actively encourage farmer seed-breeders through special efforts; to get agri-research institutions to take up seed breeding in organic growing conditions given that today, all seed breeding in India is done only in a chemical-responsive situation; to characterize and popularize traditional/desi seed varieties; to take up participatory varietal selection and seed breeding; and by the government setting up community seed banks everywhere. All such efforts should specifically recognize the skills, knowledge and role of women.

 

  1. (Lack of) Need for, and Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

 

Sir, we are deeply reassured by BJP’s promise to the citizens of this country that GM foods will not be allowed without full scientific evaluation of their long term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers. This would also ensure that we do not jeopardize the livelihoods of our producers with risky technologies. There is ever-growing scientific evidence on the adverse impacts of Genetically Modified Organisms and we attach a compilation of such studies. Each passing year, more regions around the world are actively rejecting GM crops. Sir, this is also not just about biosafety, as you know. GMOs are seen a dangerous and costly distraction from real solutions that have to reach farmers immediately, which already exist. As you are aware, hundreds of scientists from across the country have been writing to the government advising caution on GMOs and pointing out that there are viable, safe, farmer-controlled alternatives for all the problems that GMOs are touted as a solution for. They have also effectively shown that food security myths around GM technology are unfounded and unrealized (some relevant material is available on www.indiagminfo.org on this subject). In this context, we urge you to direct the stoppage of all open air field trials of GMOs in this country, given the risk involved in such trials/open air releases of new organisms in Nature, which take place without any scientific evaluation of biosafety and other socio-economic risks.

 

 

  1. Control of productive resources in the hands of farming communities

 

BJP has promised to adopt a “national land use policy” for scientific acquisition of non-cultivable land, to protect interest of farmers and to meet food production and economic goals of the country. A Land Use Policy is welcome – it is however ideally evolved through Land Use Planning from Gram Sabha upwards and we urge you to initiate such a process. Here, it is important to ensure that land is secured for the landless, that no forcible land acquisition takes place and that cultivable land is not diverted to non-agricultural uses. You would recall that it was the BJP which proposed that land lease and not land acquisition should be the norm during the debate on the land acquisition statute in the country.

 

We urge you to similarly protect the country’s and communities’ seed sovereignty by making sure that Seed is not monopolized through any IPRs and that bio-piracy is actively prevented. We advocate an open source seed system that prevents any exclusive rights of ownership on Seed, and we also believe that the existing passport information on our seed bank accessions should be treated ‘prior art’ to prevent biopiracy in screening any IPR applications. Certain clauses in the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, which could prevent such biopiracy are yet to be activated by the concerned institutions and we urge your government to ensure the same.

 

 

  1. Rights of Women Farmers in India

 

As you are kindly aware, an overwhelming majority of women workers in India find that agriculture is the mainstay for their livelihoods. It is also common knowledge that women make enormous contribution to Indian agriculture – however, they are invisible and their invaluable knowledge and skills are undervalued by the nation. BJP’s Manifesto refers to women as the nation-builders and promises strict implementation of laws related to women. The manifesto expressly promises to remove any remaining gender disparities in property rights. We urge you to kindly ensure that the concerned line departments are made accountable when it comes to implementation of women’s property inheritance rights. Best practices from some states have to be scaled up at the national level to ensure de jure and de facto rights of women, to their land as well as towards various support systems in their own right as farmers.

 

  1. Adivasi food and farming systems

 

We are glad to note that BJP has promised that tribal land will not be alienated. The importance of minor forest produce has also been acknowledged. What is not recognized and incorporated into policy discourse is the importance of forests as food-producing habitats for adivasi food and nutrition security. Such a recognition will certainly ensure different approaches to food security, forestry, land use and agricultural policies and we urge your government to take this path-breaking approach in all your policies, schemes and programmes meant for adivasi empowerment.

 

Your party has also rightly placed emphasis on water conservation recognizing the importance of rural water resources. We hope that there will be concrete action to follow.

 

We urge you and the concerned Ministries to address all the above, so that we can indeed make agriculture into a sustainable and dignified source of livelihoods for millions of our Anna Daatas.

 

 

Thanking you,

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Kavitha Kuruganti

National Co-Convenor

Mob: 09393001550

 

Cc: (1) Shri Radha Mohan Singh, Minister for Agriculture, Government of India;

(2) Shri Prakash Javadekar, Minister of State for Environment & Forests, Government of India.

by Kavitha

Pesticides Management Bill 2008: Issues

7:52 pm in News by Kavitha

A Bill by the name of Pesticides Management Bill 2008 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in October 2008. The same was then referred to the Department-related Standing Committee on Agriculture on 30th October 2008 for examination and recommendations. The Standing Committee gave its report (46th report) in February 2009. This Bill is now to be discussed in Rajya Sabha, with amendments proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture. This Bill, if passed, will replace the Insecticides Act 1968 under which regulation of pesticides takes place in India as of today.

Earlier, in 2003, in an unprecedented development that forced the nation to take note of the harmful effects of synthetic pesticides, a Joint Parliamentary Committee was constituted to look at the issue of pesticide residues, after a civil society group’s findings on the unacceptable level of pesticide residues in drinking water, soft drinks etc. created nation-wide furore.

The Insecticides Act 1968 was enacted after a tragic accident took several lives in India with the accidental mix-up of a deadly pesticide with food consignments. The evidence related to the ill-effects of pesticides was small and the use of pesticides in the country was low when the Act was brought in.

However, vast scientific evidence had been built over the decades both on the negative impacts of synthetic pesticides on various fronts (on human health, on environment, on wildlife, on trade security, on farm economics etc.) as well as on alternative science and practice of pest management in agriculture. Today, NPM (Non Pesticidal Management) of crops is gaining huge traction where on lakhs of acres of land farmers are proving that agriculture is indeed possible and viable without the use of synthetic pesticides. However, the Pesticides Management Bill 2008 ignores both kinds of evidence in its regulatory framework as well as the details contained therein.

It is apparent today, looking at what is unfolding in states like Punjab, that any new statute on pesticides management should adopt the precautionary principle and get into registering of pesticides only if there are no alternatives are available. Regulation from a bio-safety-centred focus is once again proven to be important (this was the central focus in the Insecticides Act when it was created, but in its implementation, this was lost).

Further, given the scenario of privatisation of various agri-inputs including pesticides, concomitant with the deep agrarian distress witnessed by indebtedness and farm suicides all over the country, it is important that pesticides’ regulation should focus on price regulation also. The need to bring in accountability in any such trade, that too of toxic materials, continues to be there and has to play a central part in any such statute.

However, the pesticides management bill 2008 appears to be weak on all these fronts (precautionary approach, biosafety, alternatives, accountability etc.). For instance, not everything that is possible, to ensure bio-safety, has been built into the Bill. Therefore, many of our suggestions are to address this.

Similarly, regulation of pesticides in India has suffered a serious setback in terms of public confidence and credibility of the regulators with various scandals plaguing such regulation (unacceptable levels of residues jeopardising trade security, such residues as well as illegal and unscientific recommendations and use compromising health safety, bribery scams etc.). Crop management recommendations of the public and private agri research establishment and the pesticides industry need to be made liable for the illegalities they are indulging in today. It therefore is important to make the regulation free of conflict of interest, transparent and rigorous in its scientificity, whereas the Pesticides Management Bill is not geared towards doing all of this at this point of time.

It is also important that regulation incorporate evolving evidence from world over even as it seeks to ensure that safety assessments do keep medium and long term impacts in mind. This does not find a place in the current regulation or the proposed regulation unfortunately.

The Pesticides Management Bill 2008 is also limiting itself to agricultural pesticides whereas pesticides used in the health sector and domestic pest control are also major areas of concern. Similar is the case with post-harvest pesticides. This is unfortunately neglected by this Bill.

There is also the serious issue of the inability to regulate or fix liability at the end-user end (farmer) stage; the recent Bihar incident of children being killed due to pesticides-poisoned food is another instance of the potential mishaps that are waiting to happen – in such a context, it is very important to understand the need to regulate at a more primary level by ensuring that such poisons are brought into the market in the first instance only when absolutely needed, only when there are no other alternatives. Even here, monitoring and reviewing for rigorous implementation and improvements in both the law and its implementation are missing as of now.

Most importantly, the regulatory body should not be under the administrative control of the Ministry of Agriculture, which constitutes an objectionable conflict of interest. Such a regulatory body should be either under the Ministry of Health or Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Available here are detailed amendments that we are seeking to the Pesticides Management Bill 2008.

by Kavitha

India loses historic opportunity of correcting WTO wrongs

6:16 pm in News by Kavitha

“Agreements at Bali jeopardize Food and Livelihood Security of millions in the name of international trade and this is unacceptable”

New Delhi, December 7th, 2013: Expressing deep disappointment with the official and media hype around India’s ‘win’ in the WTO Bali Ministerial Conference, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) said that India lost a historical opportunity of correcting deep-seated problems with the World Trade Organization. Even as the Indian government delegation claims that it was a great win, India did not actually gain from the “Bali package” despite its correct stand on food and livelihood security being of paramount importance. On the one hand, the agreement on Public Stockholding compromises on certain crucial positions taken by G-33 and India, thus resulting in restrictions on future food security program and price support interventions for small farmers. On the other hand, the agreement on Trade Facilitation gives the developed countries all the freedom from restrictions they wanted, which is a threat to the interests of millions of small farmers in India. Moreover, this revives the WTO process and Agreement on Agriculture without addressing the fundamental imbalance and injustice built into WTO. ASHA believes that the net result is that the Bali round has jeopardized the interests of the nation’s farmers as well as the food security of its citizens, in the long term and possibly in the short term.

While it appears that the 4-year deadline is not included in the so-called peace clause in the ‘Bali Package’ text, the work programme in reality aims at producing a permanent solution in four years. This is unrealistic given that years of negotiations have not resulted in any improvements on some fundamental equity and justice issues in the WTO rules. This peace clause is also weakened in its language where other member countries are only agreeing to ‘refrain from’ challenging India in the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism. This is not language that ‘bars’ other members from dragging India to the dispute settlement mechanism, according to analysts.

Further, it appears that the interim solution is mainly in the context of the AoA (Agreement on Agriculture) and not the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM) which can still leave room for other nations to drag India to the dispute settlement mechanism (this is based on the analysis of the 6th December draft text). It also appears that India has given in to pressure without keeping future priorities of the country in mind – the solution (as per the December 6th draft text) circumscribes the food security stockholding to interventions that exist now (as on the date of the Decision) and to ‘staple food grains’ without allowing India to take care of food/nutrition and livelihood security of millions lying outside this scope. India has also opened up its domestic policies, programmes and mechanisms to international scrutiny unnecessarily at this point of time, with large data and reporting mechanisms to be put into place.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma’s statement in the opening plenary that the ‘survival’ aspect of agriculture far outweighs any of its ‘commercial’ aspects, and that any trade agreement must be in harmony with shared commitments globally of eliminating hunger and ensuring the right to food which are an integral part of the MDGs, that our people’s food security is non-negotiable and that there is a legitimate obligation and moral commitment of our government to food and livelihood security were all the most important principles to be kept in mind in any trade negotiation, including this Bali package in the WTO. It is indeed unfortunate that this opportunity of keeping these cardinal development principles alive in all WTO agreements, or opting to quit WTO if needed, was thrown away. This is an injustice to the poor and hungry in India as well as in other developing and least developed countries.

“If in 1995 many countries like India walked into the WTO without realizing or comprehending the rigged rules of the game, but only lured by the tall promises made, it was perhaps excusable. But in 2013, when it has become amply clear that the mechanisms of categorizing into Green Box and Amber Box, and trade-distorting and non-trade distorting, are rigged in favour of the developed countries, and that these rules only undermine all our support systems to farmers, there is no excuse for India to have bartered away anything at WTO. Where was the need for India to accept this draft at all? Was the reiteration of so-called commitments just an election-related PR exercise? This is unacceptable”, said ASHA in a statement released here today.

The statement also said: “It is apparent from the beginning that the Agreement on Trade Facilitation was the main point of this WTO meet, which is what the developed countries and WTO leaders are seeing as the major achievement. In the media and public debate in India, the issues with trade facilitation have been sidelined, with the focus on food security issue. And the US plan seems to be precisely that – to use the public stockholding agreement as a trade-off for trade facilitation. While they have hard bargained on the public stock-holding, India has not bargained on trade facilitation at all, apart from giving away a lot on food and livelihood security”.

“It is disappointing that the Bali package has done nothing to redress historical wrongs – the fact that the developed world has rigged the rules from the beginning, that they continue to provide massive subsidies in various forms circumventing the free trade ideology touted at the altar of WTO, and pricing out smallholder producers of the developing world. The larger fight against unfair trade has to continue”, said ASHA.

ASHA is a nationwide network consisting of farmer organizations, civil society groups, academics and scientists, working for Kisan Swaraj – based on livelihood security for all farming families, ecologically sustainable agriculture, rights of farming community over seed, land and water, and access to safe, nutritious food for all.

Contact:

Kavitha Kuruganti: 9393001550; kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com

Kiran Vissa: 9701705743; kiranvissa@gmail.com

by Kavitha

Sept. 22-24th, 2013: Short Training Course on Sustainable Agriculture

7:49 am in Upcoming ASHA events by Kavitha

Training Course on Sustainable Agriculture – Theory & Practice, organised by ASHA and CSA.

Venue: Nai Talim, Gauri Bhawan,  Bapu Kuti, Sewagram, Wardha, Maharastra

The course broadly covers:

• Understanding agrarian crisis.

• Basic understanding of Pests & Diseases and management through Farmer Field School approach.

• Basic understanding of Soil Fertility Management.

• Basic understanding of Seeds Management.

• Importance of Institutions / Institutional building.

The participants will visit the field – do the FFS, observe various preparations.

The training would be in the form of lectures, discussions, interactions and field visit.

Note:

• Participants are requested to bring their own blankets.

• Participants are requested to book their tickets to Wardha / Sewagram.

• People, who are arriving the previous night /previous day, please inform Vijay Kumar, CSA, phone No: 040-27017735/27014302 in advance so that local accommodation could be arranged.

• Seats/No of Participants: 30

• Medium: The entire course would be in Hindi.

• Participant: The course is designed for development professionals working to promote ecological farming/ organic farming/sustainable agriculture. Persons that need technical exposure in the organisations working in agriculture field can apply.

Send your nominations to:

Mr. G. Chandrasekhar, Ph: 040 – 27014302 / 7735. Email: training@csa-india.org

Last date: August 25th 2013

by Kavitha

Sept. 12-13th, 2012: Kisan Swaraj Sammelan in Bhopal

11:17 am in Upcoming ASHA events by Kavitha

A Kisan Swaraj Sammelan, consisting of farmers’ leaders drawn from nearly 20 states of India to discuss the Kisan Swaraj Neeti is scheduled for September 12th and 13th 2012, at Bhopal. The participation is by invitation and confirmations through Nilesh Desai of Sampark (the host organisation), Pankaj Bhushan and Kiran Vissa, Co-Convenors of ASHA.

by Kavitha

ASHA & XIM-B to organise a workshop on “markets that empower farmers (and consumers)”

11:10 am in News by Kavitha

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE PROCEEDINGS REPORT OF THE WORKSHOP, INCLUDING LINKS TO PRESENTATIONS AND VIDEOS, HERE.

It is widely acknowledged by civil society groups seeking to improve agricultural livelihoods on the ground, that interventions have to focus on re-casting particular technological approaches (towards low-external-input, low-risk, diversity-based sustainable farming) as well as ensuring remunerative markets for the outputs from farming. It is also well-appreciated that grassroots institutions of farmers, especially the marginalized, are a sustainable means towards such livelihoods improvement.

When it comes to Markets, the current paradigm (which encompasses a general macro-economic policy approach and environment of GDP-led growth, privatization, globalization etc. and specifically, domestic pricing and procurement policies in agriculture, as well as international trade policies/rules) is further contributing to an existing crisis in the farm sector resulting from high-external-input, intensive agriculture. Together, the technological paradigm and the market paradigm end up in unremunerative returns to our farmers, especially the (rainfed) smallholders.

Addressed through strong farmer-led collectives, both production and post-production asymmetries pitted against smallholders today can be changed to improve the livelihoods of farmers (along the entire chain)[1] as initiatives are showing here and there. Markets in this paradigm will have farmers determining a fair and remunerative price for themselves, even as the quality of agricultural produce (diversity, nutrition and safety) will benefit consumers too.

To understand the processes that would create such a paradigm shift better, ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) would be organizing a national workshop in collaboration with Xavier’s Institute of Management-Bhubaneswar, to bring together practitioners, activists and academics together onto a joint platform, for cross-learning and for evolving ideas for future work[2]. This is particularly in the context of organic markets, where some experiences of entrepreneurs emerged from the retail end, while some others, mostly of NGOs, from the farm/farmers’ end.

A platform that allows for cross-learning, learning from mistakes and failures, that facilitates field level insights informing academic discourse, that highlights the gaps in understanding what works and what does not, and has all stakeholders engaging in further work, in addition to presenting proposals to the government, is found to be missing at this point of time and this workshop hopes to take initial steps in bridging this gap.

When & Where:

30th and 31st of July 2012. Bhubaneswar, XIM-B.

OBJECTIVES OF THE WORKSHOP:
1. To create a sharing/cross-learning platform for many organisations and individuals thinking about social enterprises around markets for organic farmers in particular (farmer-controlled and farmer-owned markets in general), which empower both farmers and consumers, so that different models can be brought to one table for discussion, analysis and cross-learning.

 

2. To particularly focus on innovations and ‘best practices’ that seemed to have worked in particular enterprises (with the full appreciation that many models are possible) and have ensured surpluses to farmers at various points in the value chain (case studies of such entities/experiences will be shared, briefly) – with academics adding to the practitioners’ experiences.
3. To come up with advocacy proposals so that numerous such efforts get the support of governments in appropriate forms.

WHO?

It is often seen that academics are not engaging enough on newer business models which represent a paradigmatic shift, especially in the organic markets context. Apart from academics in different business/management schools around the country, the participants of the workshop would be:

  • practitioners who have evolved small-scale retail models of farmers and consumers coming directly onto one platform (Vishmukt Dukaan in Wardha, reStore in Chennai, Organic Bazaar in Aurangabad/Trivandrum, Farmers’ Market in Mumbai etc.),
  • ones that have created rural-rural markets with safe food (Navajyoti Cooperative, DDS’ sangam market, Indira Kranthi Patham’s procurement and food security credit line initiative),
  • ones who have created replicable models in terms of strong farmers’ institutions that run chain outlets or export business or have created brands (Maha Gujarat Agri-Cotton Producer Company Ltd which does not rely only on organic produce but has hundreds of farmers’ malls, Chetna Organic Producers Company Ltd, Morarka Foundation/Morarka Organic etc.) in a profitable enterprise even if they don’t incorporate all the components of an ‘ideal’ market,
  • experts or officials who can make presentations on some innovative schemes that already exist in the government (whether it is NABARD’s producer company or modified NAIS, or warehouse receipt scheme, or small farmer agri-business consortium’s projects etc.), to see how organic entrepreneurs can tap into them.

Questions to be explored will include: how replicable are these models? What can others learn and incorporate in terms of cross-learning? What can we learn from the failures of several initiatives? What does the government have to do to support a multitude of diverse models around the country?

Structure:
The workshop would be for 2 days, amongst 50-55 participants. The detailed structure is given below. It is expected that the following components can be teased out clearly: Present scenario; alternate markets with ‘ideals’ – replicability and way forward; production and quality issues including certification; cost and pricing issues; supply chain issues; retail management and distribution including consumer awareness and demand issues; institutional issues; policy issues. As a tangible outcome from these sessions, it is expected that we can evolve advocacy proposals to be taken to the government on what it should do to support such organic markets.

“MARKETS THAT EMPOWER FARMERS (& CONSUMERS)”

A learning & brainstorming workshop, organized by XIMB and ASHA

Xavier Institute of Management Bhubaneswar, July 30th and 31st 2012

Venue: New Academic Block Room 404

 

DAY 1: JULY 30TH 2012

09.45 am – 10.15 am Registration & Tea
10.15 am – 10.35 am Welcome & Introduction to the workshop Prof Shambu Prasad, XIMB &Ms Kavitha Kuruganti, ASHA
10.35 am – 11.00 am “Markets of the Walk-Outs” A film on the Deccan Development Society’s Sangam Market
11.00 am – 11.10 am Very brief round of introductions

Session 1: Organic Supply Chain interventions for (rainfed) smallholders

CHAIR: Dr D V RAIDU, SERP, GOVT OF AP

11.10 am – 11.40 am Keynote: Institutional asymmetries: Smallholders farming, aggregation, organic production and markets (covering Navajyoti Producer Co experience) Prof Amar Nayak, XIMB
11.40 am – 12.40 pmCase presentations (20 mts each) 1.     Mahila Umang Producer Company2.     Chetna Organic Producer Company

3.     Timbaktu Organic

Ms Anita Paul, UttarakhandMr Arun Ambatipudi, Hyderabad

Mr Bablu Ganguly, Anantapur

12.40 pm – 01.15 pm Discussion
01.15 pm – 01.25 pm DISCUSSANT’S OBSERVATIONS Dr Sudha Narayanan, IGIDR
01.25 pm – 01.35 pm Chair’s Closing Remarks
01.35 pm – 02.20 pm LUNCH

Session 2: Learning from different initiatives

CHAIR: Dr KRISHNA TANUKU, ISB, Hyderabad

02.20 pm – 03.20 pmCase presentations (20 mts each) 1.     24 Letter Mantra2.     Centre for Collective Development

3.     Just Change India

Mr Raj Seelam, HyderabadProf Trilochan Sastry, Bangalore

Mr Jacob ‘Dilip’ John, Bangalore

03.20 pm – 03.35 pm Maha Gujarat Agri Cotton Producer Co. Mr Praful Senjalia, Amreli
03.35 pm – 04.10 pm Discussion
04.10 pm – 04.30 pm TEA BREAK
04.30 pm – 05.10 pm(20 mts each) Role of CreditFinancial difficulties of enterprises Mr Srikantha Shenoy, IDF-BangaloreMr Suryamani Roul, Access Development, Delhi
05.10 pm – 05.40 pm Discussion
05.40 pm – 05.50 pm DISCUSSANT’S OBSERVATIONS Dr Sashidharan, Livelihoods School, Hyderabad
05.50 pm – 06.00 pm Chair’s Closing Remarks

Session 3 (Interactive Open House for students XIMB Auditorium): Growing Organically:

Facilitator: Prof Shambu Prasad, XIMB

06.30 pm- 08.00 pm Maikaal bioReDeccan Organic Producers

GORUS

Sahaja Organics

Jaivik Haat

Earth 360

Dubden Green

Sahaja Aaharam

I Say Organic

 

Mr Rajeev BaruahMr K Sitaram

Mr Ashwin Paranjpe

Mr Somesh B

Mr Ashish Gupta

Mr Dinesh Kumar

Ganesh Eswar

Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu

Mr Ashmeet Kapoor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 2: JULY 31ST 2012

Session 4: Organic Supply Chains

CHAIR: Mr D P DASH, NABARD

09.00 am – 09.45 am Keynote: Organic Supply Chains – emerging issues Prof Sukhpal Singh, IIM-Ahmedabad
09.45 am – 10.25 am

(20 mts each)1.     SVA

2.     Belgaum Organic Food ClubMr Jagadish Pradhan, Bhubaneswar

Mr Suresh Desai, Belgaum10.25 am – 10.35 am   Brief Discussion 10.35 am – 10.50 amTEA BREAK

Session 5: Organic Retail efforts

CHAIR: Mr. JOSEPH THOMAS, CENTRE FOR SOCIAL INNOVATION & ENTREPRENEURSHIP, IIT-M

10.50 am – 12.10 noon 

 

Case presentations, 20 minutes each1.     reStore (Chennai)

2.     Thanal Organic Bazaar (Trivandrum)

3.     Hari Bhari Tokri (Mumbai)

4.     Vish Mukt Dukaan (Wardha)Mr Ananthasayanan, Chennai

Ms Usha Jayakumar, Trivandrum

Ms Neesha Noronha, Mumbai

Mr Dhyaneswar Dhage, Wardha (supported by Ananthoo)12.10 pm – 12.45 pmDiscussion 12.45 pm – 12.55 pmDISCUSSANT’S OBSERVATIONSProf Debi Prasad Mishra of IRMA12.55 pm – 01.05 pmChair’s Closing Remarks 01.05 pm – 02.00 pmLUNCH

Session 6: Government Initiatives & Interventions

CHAIR: DR SUKHPAL SINGH, IIM-Ahmedabad

02.00 pm – 02.20 pmSERP’s CMSA & Food Security Credit LineDr D V Raidu, Hyderabad along with the 2 farmers02.20 pm – 02.40 pmNABARD’s support to supply chain interventionsMr D P Dash, Bhubaneswar02.40 pm – 03.00 pmJaivik Krishi Society of KarnatakaMr Harish Gowda, Bangalore03.00 pm – 03.10 pmMP Govt’s initiativesMr K P Ahirwal. GoMP03.10 pm – 03.20 pmTRIPTI and seed villageMr Pranay Parida, TRIPTI03.20 pm – 03.40 pmParticipatory Guarantee SystemDr R N Bisoyi, RCOF, Bhubaneswar03.40 pm – 03.55 pmPGSOC’s experience on PGSMr Ashish Gupta, New Delhi03.55 pm – 04.05 pm“Ecosystem” issues with organic supply chain interventionsDr Krishna Tanuku, ISB04.05 pm – 04.35 pm    Discussion 04.35 pm – 04.45 pmChair’s Closing Remarks

Session 7: Key Learnings & Closing

04.45 pm – 05.15 pmKey Learnings, from different modelsFacilitator: Mr Santosh Srinivas, ISB & Mr Bishwadeep Ghose, Hivos05.15 pm – 05.30 pmClosing sessionXIMB & ASHA representatives 



 

 

[1] In this changed paradigm, values and concepts like cooperation, trust, transparency, common property and resources, plurality, eco-friendliness, well-being, non-exploitative, participation and ownership of the community over their institutions and so on are seen to ensure that the current adversities related to production and markets can be overcome.

[2] ASHA: Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) is a loose, informal network of organisations that had come together to organize a nation-wide Kisan Swaraj Yatra (a 71-day bus tour) to highlight issues related to current agrarian distress in India and to advocate long term and other solutions for the same. In its analysis of the current agrarian crisis in India, ASHA believes that the ‘politics of knowledge’ and ‘politics of markets’, pertaining to (technological) inputs into agriculture and fate of outputs respectively, play an important contributory role.

 

Xavier Institute of Management-Bhubaneswar: XIM Bhubaneswar, a leading management education institute has in its 25 years sought to connect business to society and runs programmes on rural management and business management. XIMB is involved in brining together academic institutions to engage with practitioners on rural livelihoods and agriculture in particular. Ongoing inititiatives include an action research project on sustainable farm systems with the Navjyoti Producer Cooperative and efforts to work with state rural livelihood missions on augmenting human resource requirements.

by Kavitha

Home

11:00 am in Home by Kavitha

ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture) is a large, nation-wide informal network of more than 400 organisations drawn from 20 states of India, that have come together in 2010 to organise a Kisan Swaraj Yatra, a nation-wide mobilisation to draw attention to issues pertaining to our FOOD, FARMERS, FREEDOM. The network consists of farmers’ organisations, consumer groups, women’s organisations, environmental organisations, individual citizens and experts who are committed to the cause of sustainable and viable farm livelihoods in rural India and thereby, safe, nutritious, diverse and adequate food for all Indians. From the dialogues that emerged during the Kisan Swaraj Yatra and subsequent work, ASHA articulates a 4-pillared Kisan Swaraj Neeti and calls on governments to adopt the same. This policy articulation provides a framework for a forward-looking agricultural policy approach for India. The four pillars of Kisan Swaraj are income security for farmers; ecological sustainability of agriculture; people’s control over agricultural resources like land, water and seed; and access to safe, healthy, sufficient food for all.

by Kavitha

Kisan Swaraj Neeti

11:00 am in Kisan Swaraj Policy by Kavitha

ASHA (Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture), from the dialogues that emerged during the Kisan Swaraj Yatra and subsequent work, articulates a 4-pillared Kisan Swaraj Neeti and calls on governments to adopt the same. This policy articulation provides a framework for a forward-looking agricultural policy approach for India.

The four pillars of Kisan Swaraj are income security for farmers; ecological sustainability of agriculture; people’s control over resources like land, forests, water and seed; and access to safe, healthy, sufficient food for all. Based on the Kisan Swaraj Neeti framework first fleshed out in 2011, ASHA had subsequently put out a Charter of Demands in early 2014.

ASHA Charter of Demands (Kisan Swaraj Neeti, brief) (In Hindi) (In Gujarati)

Longer Explanatory Notes on each of the 4 pillars of Kisan Swaraj Neeti:

Income Security for All Farm Households (In Hindi)

Seed and Land related Sovereignty with Farming Communities (In Hindi)

Environmental Sustainability in Agriculture (In Hindi)

Safe, Diverse, Nutritious & Adequate Food for All (In Hindi)

 

 

 

You can download the Kisan Swaraj Neeti here (December 2011).

A shorter version of the Kisan Swaraj Neeti can be accessed here.

 

INCOME SECURITY:

The detailed proposals with regard to Income Security for all Farm Households can be seen here. The same have been articulated as a Farmers’ Income Guarantee Act proposal in this August 2012 version.

Very often, we are asked various questions of clarification as well as dilemmas around our income security proposals. In June 2014, we put out a FAQs note on this.

ASHA’s discussion note on Price Compensation system for cultivators is given here (this is also referred to as Price Deficiency Payment by some others).

(The above is a discussion note. This is in the context of a substantial number of farmers being left out of the current “MSP and procurement” systems and the many shortcomings of these systems, wherein even the cost of cultivation is not getting covered by the prices of the produce, leave alone leave any living income for farmers for a dignified life. Any feedback might be sent to Kavitha Kuruganti at kavitha.kuruganti@gmail.com).

 

ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY:

The proposals with regard to Scaling Up of Ecological Farming (as submitted to the Planning Commissions’ Steering Committee on Agriculture for the 12th Plan) can be accessed here. A more recent version of the same (2015) is downloadable here. 

 

SEED AND LAND OWNERSHIP:

What we seek on the SEEDS front is articulated in this note, downloadable here.

Our note on Land Rights, with our stand related to the Land Acquisition Bill (along with other people’s movements and farmers’ unions) is given here. The hindi version of this note is present here.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES OF THE KISAN SWARAJ NEETI, MARCH 2014

ASHA Charter of Demands (Kisan Swaraj Neeti, brief) (In Hindi) (In Gujarati)

Longer Explanatory Notes on each of the 4 pillars of Kisan Swaraj Neeti:

Income Security for All Farm Households (In Hindi)

Seed and Land related Sovereignty with Farming Communities (In Hindi)

Environmental Sustainability in Agriculture (In Hindi)

Safe, Diverse, Nutritious & Adequate Food for All (In Hindi)

 

KISAN SWARAJ SAMMELAN, APRIL 2016

FOR THE KISAN SWARAJ SAMMELAN IN HYDERABAD IN APRIL 2016, DISCUSSION NOTES WERE CREATED ON VARIOUS THEMES THAT ASHA WORKS ON. These discussion notes are given below, in addition to the Introductory Note on ASHA that was circulated to the participants and an Introduction to the Resource Persons who dealt with these themes during the Sammelan.

1. Land Rights

2. Income Security

3. Seed Sovereignty

4. Women Farmers’ Rights

5. Free Trade and Agriculture

6. Ecological Agriculture

7. Synthetic Pesticides

8. GMOs in our food, farming & environment

An introduction to ASHA
Brief Intros to Resource Persons in Kisan Swaraj Sammelan