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Getting worried about the farming crisis, an elected official (elected officials don’t usually worry about this) was asking the assistant how they can get more people to adopt farming.

The assistant simply said – we can create an advertisement in all

leading news papers in all local languages. The official agreed it’s a good idea and asked the assistant to prepare the ad. When the assistant was done with the ad the official understood why the farming situation is turning into a crisis but not an opportunity.

And the ad goes

Looking for a hard working individual who

  1. Should be willing to toil hard in the sun, get drenched in the rain
  2. Should work 7 days a week
  3. Should be prepared to just eat once a day
  4. Should be enterprising and innovative
  5. Should have the following management skills
  • –> seed management
  • –> soil management
  • –> crop management
  • –> pest management
  • –> weather management
  • –>
  • –> money management
  • –> price management
  • –> market management
  • Should be willing to act ignorant despite having all the above management skills
  • Should be willing to work without any appreciation
  • Should forgo any career growth ambitions
  • Should sign a contract to never go on a strike
  • Should be willing to part with the land
  • Should be willing to work without any insurance – insurance, crop insurance none of them 
  • Most importantly the individual should be willing to work without a salary every now and then

The largest organic farming confluence in the world – over 2,500 participants from 22 states of India – gathered at the National Organic Convention in Chandigarh from Feb 28 to March 2, 2015. The flood of registrations had to be stopped a month in advance. Such zeal surely signals the growing recognition of agro-ecology as a burning imperative of our times, reflecting the Convention aim to ‘Mainstream Organic Farming!’

At the concluding session, Shri Prakash Singh Badal, Chief Minister of the frontline state of India’s ‘Green Revolution’, ironically hailed organic agriculture as “the need of the hour,” marking the full turn of a circle. He mourned the heavy burden of chemical poisons that the land, farmers and people of Punjab have had to bear, admitting sadly that “Mother Earth, Father Water, and Guru Air” have all been desecrated. Toxic pesticides have devastated the health of Punjab. “You people,” said Badal – addressing a packed auditorium of organic farmers, seed savers, ecologists, scientists and activists – “are the heroes of this new struggle to save the nation!”

The CM called for making Punjab the leading organic farming state of India, with diversification in place of present extensive monocultures. Announcing a 50% state subsidy for rearing indigenous cattle breeds, he also offered to provide retail/distribution shops and facilities for selling organic produce. Declaring the setting up of an Organic Farming Board, he promised panchayati land to set up a demonstration organic farm in every block of the State.

Earlier, at the Convention, Shri Manohar Lal Khattar, Chief Minister of Haryana, accompanied by his Agriculture Minister, pledged state support to turn at least 10% of its total cultivable land to organic farming. Smt Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister of Women and Child Welfare, rang out a grim warning against the highly dangerous neo-nicotinoid pesticides (used for treating Bt Cotton seeds) that were slaughtering the pollinating creatures like bees, an estimated 70% of which have already been wiped out. This would severely harm agriculture, unless banned, as in the European Union. “The owners of Bt cotton lied to us,” declared the Minister. “They told us that it doesn’t require pesticides… but now, we find that Bt cotton cannot grow without the most dangerous pesticides in the world.”

A few years ago, the beacon IAASTD World Agriculture Report bluntly stated: “Business as usual is not an option!” Prepared over 4 years by 400 international agricultural scientists/experts and 1,000 multi-disciplinary reviewers, this Report was endorsed by 58 nations, including India, as also representatives of FAO, World Bank, World Health Organization, UNEP, UNDP. Its recommendations stressed the urgency to adopt bio-diverse agro-ecological farming, and to support small family farms – to overcome the many serious problems confronting world agriculture. GM crops, it added, are not an answer to hunger, poverty and climate change, or to ecological, energy and economic challenges.

A riot of colours, costumes, cultures and cuisines greeted visitors at the ‘Nature and Kisan Mela’ and its ‘Organic Food Festival’ and ‘Biodiversity Festival’ that continued alongside the deliberations of the National Organic Convention. The Organic Food Festival, with ethnic organic fare from several Indian states, was a big hit. The Biodiversity Festival presented a dazzling display of over 2,000 distinct seed varieties of crops, brought by 270 seed conservator-farmers from all over India. Half a dozen new publications were released. Several book stalls, film screenings and cultural programmes of song, music and dance enhanced the charm of the memorable Organic Mela, dampened a bit midway by rain and wind.

The Convention was jointly organized by the Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI), Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), and Kheti Virasat Mission, in collaboration with the local host organization, the National Institute of Technical Teachers Training and Research (NITTTR). The deliberations were bilingual, with communications in Hindi translated into English for the participants from the south, and vice versa. Parallel translations into other regional languages – for those who understood neither Hindi nor English – were self-organised by the various state delegations.

The National Organic Convention simultaneously hosted meetings of the Bharat Beej Swaraj Manch (India Seed Sovereignty Alliance). This pledged to regenerate and widely share the enormously rich diversity of traditional crops and crop varieties in India as a collective open-source heritage belonging to all, free of any private/corporate Intellectual Property Rights. The Alliance also sought to reclaim the many thousands of native crop varieties collected from farmers all over India by national and international germplasm banks. It was suggested that every farmer or family should adopt at least one crop variety for decentralized on-farm seed conservation and open-source propagation.

In sharp contrast, Mr Swapan Dutta, Dy Director General, ICAR, declared a few years ago in an interview to the Wall Street Journal, that India had over 4,00,000 varieties of plant germplasm (both cultivated and uncultivated). These included crops with unique features like nutritional/medicinal qualities, drought tolerance, flood tolerance, salinity tolerance, and pest resistance, all of which it was willing to offer corporates for a small share of profits!

GM crops were categorically rejected as an unnecessary technology with numerous potential hazards. The serious contamination risk by recently sanctioned open field trials of GM crops – disregarding the recommendations of several Government, Parliament and Supreme Court appointed Committees – was warned.

Also part of the National Organic Convention was a scientific conference organized by the Society of Agro-Ecology, and the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture. This saw scientists from prime research institutions discussing with farmers and farmer-scientists their observations and research on soil health, plant nutrition, plant protection, water management, and Iivestock development, especially indigenous breeds.

With so many outstanding farmers around, and multiple parallel sessions on offer, participants felt they could barely whet their appetite. But they carried back a collective energy and renewed confidence, knowing they had a growing fellow community of organic pilgrims and path-finders they could call upon when needed.

Missing the vibrant presence of veterans like Nammalwar, who passed away last year, and of ailing Bhaskar Save, who completed 93 years in January 2015, the 5th National Biennial Organic Convention paid tribute to these towering, dedicated stalwarts, noting that they have inspired innumerable others on the natural, organic path. Tribute was also paid to Sir Albert Howard, considered ‘the father of sustainable agriculture’ in the west, who confessed more than a century ago that he learnt it all from humble peasants in India.

In 2016, the international community will return to draw fresh inspiration from India. It was announced that the ‘International Organic Farming Convention’ organized by the ‘International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements’ (IFOAM) will be held that year in India.

The final 16 point declaration from the convention pledged to safeguard and regenerate our soil, water, forests, biodiversity and seed sovereignty; and to work towards mainstreaming ecological farming in the country as “the only way forward for meeting the nutritional, livelihood, socio-cultural and spiritual needs of our people, including those of future generations.”

The Convention further declared that land under food cultivation must not be diverted for other purposes through forced land acquisition.

PM Narendra Modi called for the North-eastern and hilly states to become an organic hub. But ‘achhe din’ (good organic days) must include all of India! What we need to ‘Make in India’ is an agro-ecological paradise that gratifies all basic biological, aesthetic and spiritual needs, not a global factory for a growing array of resource-hogging and pollution-spewing, non-essential industrial and consumerist goods.

The overarching eco-spiritual tradition of this land is the unity of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – the earth is one family in one home. Mother Earth, the only known cosmic body with a living biosphere, must not now become a spew-chamber of chemical-industrial toxins, her inner vitals vandalized for short-sighted economic growth. The organic community is waking to the enormous challenges ahead.

Related reading: Declaration of the Organic Farmers community of India at the 5th National Organic Farmers’ Convention, 2015, Chandigarh, India

Guest post by Bharat Mansata

Nagpur: A severe drought gripping many parts of Maharashtra did not deter spiritual leader Asaram Bapu from celebrating a pre-Holi function and wasting many litres of water here Sunday, said a social group. Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (ANS) condemned Asaram Bapu’s alleged Goli play and staged a protest. “A person [...]

Hydrological drought in Maharashtra has decimated all but the most drought resistant plants and .... sugarcane. Low rainfall in the Marathwada region where agriculture is largely rainfed, brings immediate drought conditions.

As Alertnet reports the story of Anil Joshi, who pioneered innovation in green technology for the humble Gharat (water wheel) that transformed energy production. The gharat powers a flour mill by day, and generates electricity by night. These turbines produce a whopping 264 megawatts of electricity per hour in Jammu And Kashmir, Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh.

"Development" has led to Maharashtra drought with widespread physical water scarcity. Rampant industries vie with fresh water intensive cash crops that sideline food production in a desperate race into oblivion. 40% of Maharashtra suffers from hydrological drought, and Maharashtra's Water Policy gives priority to non-agricultural uses of fresh water and sets the stage for rural indebtedness. Additionally, 6% of cultivated area producing sugarcane takes up most of the fresh water in the irrigation systems. Political clout has led to violations in equitable water management result in agricultural irrigation systems falling short of water not receiving hoarded water upstream. The crunch is directly on rural India.

Jalna has farmers cutting down healthy sweet lime trees to conserve water for a smaller number to survive the water scarcity. Buldhana gets water once a month and no more quantity than a bucket and half per person per day. Women are walking for hours in search of water, people are spending hundreds of rupees transporting water, while others are spending thousands on booking private tankers. Aurangabad is supplying water with 1,153 tankers to 931 villages and 506 wadis and 2,475 wells have been acquired to source fresh water.

There are still more thermal power plants and water intensive industries planned in a fossil fuels orgy of "development" in a region where water is scanty, while water conservation remains a distant dream. Coal burning power plants are the in thing and there is little effort to harness alternative energy. According to an excellent report in Down To Earth, 140 thermal power plants with a collective capacity of 55,000 MW have been planned for the region. 27 new plants are proposed along the Wardha river basin according to Yogiraj Doodhpachare, an environment scientist at Janata Mahavidyalaya in Chandrapur. Thermal power plants in Vidarbha have received  2,049 million cubic meter (mcm) from agricultural irrigation systems in the region contributing to physical water scarcity for agriculture.

Sharad Pawar has announced Rs.1000 crore for converting all sugarcane farming to drip irrigation systems, which may not be adequate to make the  region water sufficient. In contrast, a method of organic farming using mulch in the irrigation canal, that needs virtually no investment and drastically reduces need for water as well as other inputs is being ignored. Swimming pools in five star resorts, water parks or even distilleries in the state continue to operate.

Itron claims that metering Mumbai's water supply has helped the Municipal corporation to find and fix leaks - which would sound like a great thing, except Itron Chief Executive Officer Philip Mezey said in an interview “If you’re able to meter the product and charge a fair price for it, a very low price but a fair price, it gives the utility enough return on their investment that they can develop more lines and capacity.” Itron is now installing or has contracts to install such meters in Navi Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore. Remember the article on Privatizing water?

Badly maintained sewage channels are choked and overflowing and have led to contaminated drinking water in Ganeshnagar, Mangalnagar, Belthikanagar, Gujarnagar, Jai Bhavaninagar and Duttnagar in Thergaon in Pune. So carelessness and lack of adequate equipment to maintain an is yet another toll on water.In Goa, leakage of pumping mains at the Opa water treatment plant, led to restricted water supply on March 17, to Ponda taluka and part of Tiswadi taluka, including all industrial establishments.

In other news, the Delhi Jal Board forged on relentlessly with its wish to privatize. It seems the guys who laid the pipes cannot control leakage, and it will take new and efficient guys who couldn't dream of creating a project of such magnitude to fix it. Having launched three projects as Private Public Partnerships in Delhi, there is now a conference on water privatization. In typical sarkari fashion, all criticism is welcome as long as the greed is not prevented.

India is a signatory to the UN Resolution of 2010, which recognizes 'Right to Water as a Human Right'. India also passed a National Water Policy in 2012 that encourage the role of private companies and minimize the role of government in supplying water. What happens when the poor
"water users" are unable to pay bills on time is left to our imaginations.

8

Increasing privatization of necessities means citizens are forced to make purchases from private entities that are opaque to scrutiny and unaccountable to people. It is a permanent profit.

Privatizing essentials for living is undemocratic, because private corporations are not chosen by the people and they are not accountable to the people. We are a democracy, though these days many thought leaders seem to see it as a handicap. Things defined as necessities and included in the human development index MUST have government provided options, even if private entities offer their own services too. Like phones, healthcare, PDS or buses. Some things – air, water, land and sunlight – must NEVER be turned into the hands of anyone not accountable to citizens. Our ancestors weren’t fools to worship them – they are the foundations of life itself. Better than saving the cows, the Nationalists should save these.

Shifting the burden of responsibility from accountable government to opaque, private entities

This may seem like a small matter, but it is not. This is the government forcing people to make purchases from private entities, and I don’t see how any government has the right to impose them on people in a democracy. If companies want to sell better water, let them create their own networks for whoever wants to buy it – and source it from anywhere except this country – make it from the sea for all I care. It is possible. It requires technology, but the fancy corporates have abundant and better tech, I hear. Shouldn’t be a problem.

Supposed experts argue that the government is inefficient and that is why we need private companies. This is pro-privatization bull shit. Indian Government organizations run some of the most amazing, intricate and huge infrastructures in the world. ISRO has some of the greatest space programmes in the world for a fraction of the budget of the NASA and definitely not proportionately less capacity. Our Army is one of the largest in the world. We are capable of achieving quality. Not to mention we have indigenously developed nuclear capacities. We aren’t stupid. It is strange how we excel in some services and are miraculously incompetent where corporate alternatives exist. Or perhaps, those with possible profits in privatization keep quality low to prepare the stage by saying, oh, the government can’t do better, we are not private.

Are corporations really more efficient?

India’s telephone network is one of the largest in the world. Public transport, water pipelines… We can reach to every citizen of the country for things like vaccination, census, elections. Show me the corporation that has capabilities of this scale. We privatized electricity in Mumbai, but show me the corporation that electrified the many villages that need it instead of taking over already profitable areas. That is still this “incapable” government’s job and tax payer’s expense.

Why are there corporate subsidies, bailouts and bankruptcies if corporates are more efficient? Of course necessities being privatized will not go kaput, because we’ll cover the losses no matter what for our own survival needs. Unless they do fail and then it will be a humanitarian disaster that the tax payer must bail out to prevent humanitarian catastrophe. In other words, corporates are able to sell “better” on the basis of advertised efficiency, and make the tax payer suffer the inefficiencies that later emerge. Which CEO or upper management doesn’t get paid when the company is going bankrupt? With essentials, the consumer is powerless with choice between several corporations with similar methods and prices.

We blame the government for not making profit while operating in areas of all kinds of lack of development and think corporates that only run in profitable environments and still can make losses are better? What crap logic is this?

Does privatization bring solutions?

If privatization is the solution to everything not working, then the previous year is proof that we must privatize the Parliament instead of merely letting puppets of corporations run it. Let’s do away with elections, stop calling us a democracy and simply go with the “better option”. Let’s privatize the police force. It is far more inefficient than water supply. Whoever thinks people need cops more than they need water is insane. We take water for granted, because we still have it. As in, you and I – witness the massive protests by those whose water gets threatened over dams being privatized, built, destroyed or water sources being polluted… but wait, you didn’t hear about them.

It is also funny how the “need” for privatization is visible only in the areas where massive infrastructures built at the tax payer’s expense are peddled away to a company that couldn’t have dreamed of creating them. A company that will then bill the same tax payers more for using their creation. Big profits are made – from the “big market” India is. As economy slows, sales drop, stocks drop. No such risk with essentials. You will sell your gold and your house and yourself before you live without water.

Is no one connecting the dots to this massive collusion between government and private players? Why is this happening? Because India is a "developing country" in spite of massive undevelopedness and has delusions of being a superpower. Unfortunately, GDP cannot be faked. The money hemorrhaging through scams, misgovernance, lousy policies and plain posturing needs to come from somewhere. So we are now doing what a drunkard does - selling belongings to pay for booze.

Is it really development to sell away what the government owns?

Like the broke farmers selling their land and borrowing from moneylenders, we are selling or leasing our assets to corporates to afford running the country. We are walking this path, because we didn’t take the farmer suicides seriously enough to UNDERSTAND what was happening. Like the farmer who can’t afford seeds and sells more and more of his life till nothing is left, we can’t afford our outgoing.

Payments over $100 billion coming up. We have a few reserves, but using them will make us less super power and be the stamp on the government’s lack of credibility with money. Time to sell something. The FDI in Retail flopped because massive outcry was raised. Some other FDIs still happened. India is assuring Wallmart that the FDI too is going to happen. Pranab Mukherjee is candid “I need the money“. Never mind that a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce report on FDI in Retail in May 2009 recommended against it. Now water privatization. A bomb proof market of citizen’s needs is sold for vast amounts of money, as guaranteed, stupendous profit.

Corporations are less corrupt is a popular perception – because they 1. legitimize many payments that come out of the customers pocket (compare salaries like CEOs, perks to top management, meeting and conference and such expenses, corporate branding, dress codes, running expenses… for example) and 2. they are not transparent, so you don’t know anyway. You can’t file an RTI to find out even if you suspect. But make no mistake, you pay for the glitter. It isn’t corruption if they tell you upfront. It is only unfortunate and these costs are unavoidable cost of running the operation and you want water from it and now you must pay your bill.

Who is responsible if the poor cannot afford life essential services from private operators?

I have no wish to dictate what corporates do with their operations with non-essentials, but I think in a country with massive poverty, necessities must be as lean and subsidized as possible without trying to “recover investments” at the cost of human rights. There are arguments about “welfare state” and such. I don’t know when the word welfare itself became a bad word, but I cannot understand why it is wrong to ensure a basic human need like water for all regardless of their ability to pay for it.

Is our country really saying that staying in the country is different from having water for living in it? What next? Air? Sunlight? Earth? With India being the most polluted country in the world and radiation increasingly recognized as unsafe, they are possible. Imagine piped breathing air for enclosed spaces from villages or other areas with trees and low pollution, portable air decontaminators with bluetooth pairing with your phone and computer. Radiation and other contamination free properties available for a price. Huge roofs over cities for solar power and you can pay to enter and spend some time in the sun… But only privatized after the tax payer first pays for creating the infrastructures. And then the rest of the people should live with the lousy contaminated state of their “services” or pay up. Our experts would talk about India’s prowess in taming the four elements of our ancient texts.

Why have development indexes by country at all? Privatize all needs, and ask UN to speak with service providers over people dying of hunger and thirst, who will simply say that they are not customers, and they are not answerable for those they don’t provide service to. We can always say that we cannot help epidemics, since we don't have a service to monitor them, and we don't have the service because no one wants to pay for a service that monitors epidemics where mostly poor die. So we at least don’t appear so bad.

Life essential needs are not merely products and services, they are what make life possible

The big, fatal mistake is in buying the government and corporate bullshit that basic needs are services. They are the backbone of a country. They are the resources of the nation entrusted to elected representatives to govern to the advantage and well-being of all. That is why you don’t have corporations who built millions of kilometers of water pipelines. They developed with the taxes paid by the average person to develop the country – over decades, a little at a time. In ANY country. Like building your own home, but as a country. For your whole family. You speak of national unity and staying together and such? This is it that we are kicking away and wondering why people are breaking free.

It isn’t about corporates offering better quality or not, it is about representatives of the people being directly in control of their basic needs. Quality can be improved. You can’t ask a corporate why it provides a certain service to a certain area more than others. You can’t ask a corporate why you don’t get water, but the theme water park in your locality does or make it pay or suffer. Elected representatives have to listen or they get voted out. They have to answer. You can’t ask a corporate just how much profit it is making out of selling water to the “domestic and agricultural sector” and how much of the water is throttled and diverted to other large corporations for their purposes. It is happening already, but now you can file an RTI at least.

In theory, you could regulate what a corporate offers, manage prices, force service to needy areas, even force RTI – which should be done anyway for publicly offered services… but then you would end up taking responsibility for consequences too – witness Kingfisher and its bankruptcy over being forced to service less popular destinations. Now imagine Kingfisher selling your water. Either the poor go thirsty, or bail us out. The corporate becomes beyond the reach of any result, because it has the people by their needs.

If corporations are more efficient, why do they take over what is already working well instead of developing new assets?

Why not ask corporations interested in working in the “water sector” to pick areas with water problems and no infrastructure and develop them and bill the people for a set period before handing control over to the country?

Why not hand over our poor, damaged, polluted, destroyed water bodies to corporates, let them clean up, sue industries that are wrecking them, and make them usable again in return for using them to sell water for some years? They have the resources to make it possible, unlike citizens who cannot and governments who will not. Why not ask for development in return for controlling development? Why can’t corporates be expected to participate in building the country like citizens?

Wouldn’t that be a more logical use of a “more efficient entity”? We have huge areas with drought and such. They could do with a “solution” that is more effective than the government. Water and sewerage of Mumbai is separate from BMC to be eventually privatized. What is the problem with Mumbai’s already excellent water that privatization will fix and the BMC cannot?

Apparently, it is only the government’s inefficiencies that corporates fix. Apparently these corporates that are better than the government cannot create from scratch. And stupid citizens believe this bullshit, because we have people dedicated to telling them over and over that the Emperor is wearing this miraculous robe that is visible to the intelligent. So they ignore draining wallets and pretend to be smart rather than be publicly known as fools or worse “low society people who can’t even afford so much”.

Because we don’t expect capitalism to have a soul. We only expect it to churn out cash. Cash it earns from the masses and delivers to those in power as the price of keeping even more for itself. It is a one way flow. Few citizens other than employees have any way of earning back from these entities. Then we have the amazing numbers of inequality that activists will quote and get criticized for. We admire progress. Increasing numbers. They manage to sink once in a while in spite of such odds when their customers are no longer able to pay more to sustain them.

But asking such questions will not work. I will get a bunch of trolls calling me socialist as if it were a curse – even though I have little knowledge of socialism and am simply questioning what I am seeing being promoted as a good idea – like everything else questioned on this blog, because the maths seems fake.

Make no mistake, the strategic “experts” hit bulls eye when they say the next wars will be fought over water – apparently they don’t coordinate their bullshit with the development experts, and this is not on their bullshit agenda. Both between countries, and inside countries – as water resources become scarce, people will kill and die for water. Our government here is giving corporations the tools for future genocides, or “anti-national elements” tools for the next French Revolution. Because NO ONE can live without water.

But the mainstream media will continue to tell us that they are anti-national people wanting “our” water as long as we pay the bills.