October 2nd, 2010
Smt Sonia Gandhi,
Chair, National Advisory Council (NAC) in the PMO
(& Chairperson, United Progressive Alliance (UPA)),
Government of India, New Delhi.
Dear Smt Sonia Gandhi,
Sub: Save farmers and their resources – Support self-reliant, ecological farming
We are deeply troubled that the key policy-makers in this country including the Prime Minister of India are articulating and pursuing a vision of development which has no place for farmers in the villages of India and which is creating a hostile environment for farmers, making them flee from farming. It is unconscionable that some senior policy-makers are dreaming about displacing millions of Indians from their villages in the name of development – this country is going to witness the largest displacement ever in human history by way of such a hostile environment.
This hostile environment is by way of anti-nature, corporate-driven, hazardous technologies; by grabbing the very productive resources based on which millions of rural Indians survive whether it is land, water, forests or seed; agreements like the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture which seek to change the regulatory regimes in Indian agriculture in support of American and other corporations and are designed to be anti-farmer; by allowing the public sector research and extension systems to become mere arms of profit-hungry corporations; by policies which divert food crop lands to non-food uses even as the country witnesses unprecedented hunger and malnutrition; by irresponsible and unaccountable free trade agreements in the food and agriculture sectors; by commodification and corporatisation of everything in farming whether it is inputs or outputs, including at the retailing end; by policies that do not allow for fair and remunerative prices to primary producers so that they can earn a decent living and can also employ others at fair wages that allow for dignified living in India’s villages.
Your Agriculture Minister in particular has proven himself not just incapable of evolving any sustainable solutions to protect and support farmers but had actively pursued anti-farmer policies. While he never organized any formal or deep-thinking investigation into the phenomenon of farmers’ suicides or the all-pervasive agrarian distress in the country, he had participated in numerous agri-business initiatives that are centred around “opportunities” in Indian agriculture even as farmers are dying and fleeing from farming. When a moratorium on Bt Brinjal was announced in the country, based on democratic processes of consultation and on the scientifically- and legally-valid precautionary principle, he called it an ad-hoc decision and said that it would demoralize scientists – such sentiments or alacrity was not evident with regard to millions of Indian farmers being demoralized to the point of committing suicides. This year, the Agriculture Ministry has evolved plans for further expansion of markets for agri-business corporations by introducing a new programme around Green Revolution in Eastern India through which hybrid seeds are being promoted in a region which has the richest rice diversity in the world. This is also being done by ignoring large evidence constantly emerging to show the adverse impact of such Green Revolution models towards farming.
There is a systematic discounting of all evidence related to self-reliant, sustainable farming practices as a solution to the current agrarian crisis and no efforts are apparent for large scale promotion of such resilient, sustainable farming systems in this age of climate change.
We, the citizens of India, farmers and consumers who took part in and supported a nation-wide KISAN SWARAJ YATRA as an Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture, after having studied various anti-farmer measures by the Government which also jeopardize our health and environment, and after realizing that the largest displacement in our history of millions of poor people from their livelihood source of farming is being orchestrated by such measures, and after also having experienced successful alternative ecological farming options, present our Charter of Demands hereunder for the Government of India to take action on immediately:
- Prevent corporatisation and commodification of all inputs into agriculture (including Seed, Land and Water) and outputs from agriculture, including at the retailing end; no IPRs on agricultural resources and related knowledge which belong to farming communities
- Stop diversion of agricultural lands to non-agricultural uses and diversion of food crop lands to non-food uses (even as real choices of small and marginal farmers are safeguarded); ensure that access and control over all such resources which support the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, are in the hands of such vulnerable, particularly women
- Promote and incentivise bio-diverse, pro-Nature agricultural technologies & practices and support systems for the same, including by integrating MGNREGS and other such programmes with sustainable agriculture, and stop all toxic and unsustainable technologies including chemical pesticides, GM/hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers
- Fix fair and remunerative prices for all crops ensuring the largest share of retail prices at any point of time to primary producers and procure all food crops at this price including of millets, pulses and oilseeds; recast all food security schemes including the PDS into universal and decentralized systems of local production, storage and distribution. All of this should squarely address the issue of constant under-valuation of agricultural labour and agricultural produce over the years leading to impoverishment in rural India.
- Provide direct income support to all agricultural workers and farmers, beginning with dalit, tribal, women-headed, marginal and small landholding families.
- Enact and implement a (much-delayed) comprehensive social security legislation for all agricultural workers and farmers to cover pensions and health/accident/life insurance.
- Cancel all agreements with Monsanto in India (including in agricultural universities) and provide no extension to the Indo-US KIA.
- Stop all free trade agreements in agriculture.
- Mitigate contribution by agriculture to Climate Change and help farming communities adapt to Climate Change by promoting sustainable farming based on resilient systems and appropriate traditional knowledge; it becomes more urgent than ever to provide comprehensive crop insurance to all, with each farmer as the unit.
- Ensure that seed diversity in farmers’ hands and fields is protected, with rights over seeds squarely in the hands of farmers and by developing farmers’ breeding skills where needed.
We urge that you, in coordination with all concerned Ministries, address the above demands immediately in order to save the farmers of this country and to ensure sustainable food security with adequate, safe, diverse, nutritious, culturally appropriate foods for all Indians.
cc: (1) Prime Minister of India (2) President of India