Monday, October 11, 2010

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Sign Petition to Protect farmers’ livelihoods and resources – Support self-reliant, ecological farming

Here is a petition from the Kisan Swaraj Yatra [Farmers Sovereignty Caravan]. Agricultural problems are not just those of farmers and rural communities but of all consumers and citizens too. We urge everyone to sign this petition to rebuild India's agriculture towards a self reliant, ecological farming that brings dignity to rural communities and health to all consumers.

Can be signed at this link:- http://www.kisanswaraj.in/petition/

Smt Sonia Gandhi,
Chairperson, National Advisory Council (NAC) in the PMO
and Chairperson, United Progressive Alliance (UPA)
Government of India, New Delhi.

Dear Smt Sonia Gandhi,

Sub: Protect farmers’ livelihoods and 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 that has no place for farmers in the villages of India and are creating a hostile environment for farmers, forcing them to flee from farming. It is unconscionable that senior policy-makers talk about reducing the farming community to 15% of the population in a matter of years – that would mean the largest displacement ever in human history (half a billion people) mostly through distress migration and land acquisition. Obviously India needs a completely new vision.

The hostile environment for farmers is being created by grabbing the very productive resources on which millions of Indians survive whether it is land, water, forests or seed; the promotion of high-cost agriculture which is driving farmers into debt as well as damaging soil fertility and poisoning our food and water; agreements like the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture which seek to change the regulatory regimes in Indian agriculture in favour of American and other corporations; by policies that do not allow fair and remunerative prices to primary producers so that they earn a decent living and can employ labour at fair wages; by allowing the public sector research and extension systems subserve the interests of companies rather than farmers and many such actions and policy directions.

The Agriculture Minister in particular is seen around the country as not just incapable of evolving any sustainable solutions for farmers but actively pursuing anti-farmer policies. While he never instituted any deep investigation into farmers’ suicides or the all-pervasive agrarian distress, he has always batted for large corporations in the name of creating agri-business “opportunities”, and has refused to incorporate price control of seeds into the Seeds Act, despite the demand by all farmer organizations and even the A.P. state government. When a moratorium on Bt Brinjal was announced based on democratic consultations and scientific grounds, he called it an ad-hoc decision that would demoralize scientists – while such concern was never shown regarding the extreme demoralization of farmers. The new program of Green Revolution in Eastern India is causing great concern with the Minister’s promotion of hybrid rice in a region of great rice diversity and ignoring the large evidence of adverse impacts of such Green Revolution models.

We are driven by a sense of urgency that a whole new paradigm is required for agriculture in India. Heartening new directions have already emerged, including some successful government programs such as the CMSA program in Andhra Pradesh where lakhs of farmers are practising sustainable agriculture with zero chemical pesticides, the decentralized PDS system in Chattisgarh with procurement at farmers’ door-step and lakhs of farmers in Tripura cultivating organic paddy using SRI method.

However, the magnitude of agricultural crisis demands that the government completely re-thinks its approach to agriculture and farmers’ livelihoods. It should be driven by the realization that (a) the nation’s food security and the rural economy depend on making agriculture profitable for all farmers, (b) self-reliant, sustainable agriculture improves livelihoods as well as soil fertility and long-term productivity and development is not likely to take place by pushing farmers in distress conditions into unskilled labour, rural or urban.

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 that also jeopardize our health and environment, and with the firm belief that India can and should chart a new course for building a pro-farmer, ecologically sustainable agricultural economy that can be a model for the world, and that pursuing the corporate-dominated Western agricultural model will be a historic disaster not only for the farmers but for the rural and urban economies as a whole, present to the Government of India our Charter of Demands, which we believe should form the basis for deciding policies regarding agriculture and farmers:

1. Stop treating agricultural resources like Seed, Land and Water as commodities for the benefit of business corporations – instead, conserve them as basic livelihood resources of India’s people, which are theirs as a matter of right. No IPRs should be allowed on agricultural resources like seed, and on the knowledge belonging to farming communities. Ensure that seed diversity in farmers’ hands is protected.

2. Prevent forcible acquisition and diversion of agricultural lands, both rainfed and irrigated, to non-agricultural and non-food uses. Abolish the current Land Acquisition Act. A mandatory land audit should be undertaken every five years.

3. Promote and provide incentives to low-cost, pro-nature agricultural technologies & practices, which are also more suitable for sustainable livelihoods for small farmers, and put into place support systems for the same (incl. building farmers’ institutions), including integration of MGNREGS and other such programmes with sustainable agriculture.

4. Phase out all toxic and unsustainable technologies including chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and stop the entry of GM seeds into Indian agriculture. Free farmers from pesticide poisoning. Ensure safe and nutritious food for all without contamination by chemicals and GMOs.

5. Ensure fair and remunerative prices for all crops by recasting the MSP regime and by timely procurement and price stabilization fund; recast all food security schemes including the PDS into universal and decentralized systems of local production, procurement, storage and distribution, while including millets, pulses and oilseeds as an integral part. All of this should squarely address the issue of constant under-valuation of agricultural labour and agricultural produce over the years leading to increasing impoverishment in rural India.

6. Guarantee a minimum family income to all farming families, prioritizing dalit, tribal, women-headed, marginal and small land-holding families including tenant-farmers. Set up a statutory Farmers’ Income Commission to ensure the minimum income, by augmenting with direct income support if necessary, to make farmers’ incomes on par with incomes in the organized sector.

7. Enact and implement a (much-delayed) comprehensive social security legislation for all agricultural workers and farmers (incl. tenant farmers) to cover pensions, healthcare and accident/life insurance.

8. Cancel all government agreements with Monsanto, Syngenta and other agri-business MNCs in India (including in agricultural universities) and do not extend the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture.

9. Stop all international free trade agreements in agriculture, until a comprehensive review to assess the full implications for farmers is undertaken with involvement of all stakeholders.

10. 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. The proposed National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture should focus on ecological farming practices along with increasing biodiversity both at the crop and farm level which will act as the best adaptation for climate change, instead of false solutions like ‘climate proof’-GM crops.

11. Build a thriving rural economy by developing extensive facilities for farmer-led agricultural processing, storage and marketing in rural areas, in ways that enhance farmer incomes.

12. Implement comprehensive support systems for rainfed and dryland agriculture by promoting appropriate cropping patterns, sustainable production methods, water management and markets for dryland crops.

13. Redirect the attention and agenda of NARS (National Agricultural Research Systems) to shift them from being the breeding ground of corporate driven, high-input intensive technologies which do not benefit the country and the farmer in the long run and re-focus on farmer-led, agro-ecological approaches that ensure sustainable food security for the country and livelihood security for the farmers. The NARS should be made accountable to this pro-farmer agenda.

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.

Sincerely,

——————————–

cc: (1) Prime Minister of India (2) President of India

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