Proposal to ban SEZ on tribal land, farms


English: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodha...

English: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the ITC Green Centre in Gurgaon, outside of New Delhi. The ITC Green Centre is the world’s largest “Platinum Rated” green office building. Department photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BASANT KUMAR MOHANTY, Telegraph

New Delhi, June 26: A ban has been proposed on the setting up of special economic zones (SEZ) on land in tribal areas and agricultural land.

A meeting today between rural development minister Jairam Ramesh and unofficial members of the National Council of Land Reforms (NCLR) also suggested that homeless rural people should be given homestead land.

These issues will be on the agenda at a full meeting of the NCLR headed by the Prime Minister. The council members include five cabinet ministers, chief ministers of 10 states, including Bengal, and a few unofficial members who are experts on land reforms.

The council, set up in January 2008, has never met in four years. It is supposed to lay down guidelines on land reforms based on the recommendations of the committee on state agrarian relations and unfinished task of land reforms, headed by Ramesh

The committee has studied inequality in availability of land and its impact on the economic condition of people. It submitted its report in September 2009.

The NCLR and the committee were set up after the Ekata Parishad, an organisation working for land reforms, organised a march by landless people in January 2008.

P.V. Rajagopal, the parishad president and an NCLR member, claimed the Centre was not giving desired importance to land reforms.

“The unofficial members of the NCLR had a meeting with the rural development minister today. But it is unclear when the full NCLR meeting will be held. The government is dragging its feet on the issue of land reforms because corporate houses are demanding land,” he claimed.

The meeting finalised a few issues for discussion at the full council meeting, including a proposal to ban SEZs in scheduled areas and areas predominantly inhabited by tribal people, and restriction on transfer of common property and agricultural land in other areas for such zones.

Massive transfers of agricultural and forest land for industrial, mining or infrastructure projects have led to rural unrest and distress migration.

According to the report of the committee on state agrarian relations, about 7,50,000 acres have been transferred for mining and 2,50,000 acres for industrial purposes in the last two decades.

SEZs have mostly focused on prime agricultural land, causing misery to poor peasants, the report said. Large chunks of land have been degraded because of industrial waste and effluents. Unplanned urbanisation has frequently resulted in illegal grabbing of significant chunks of agricultural and common land.

“We have discussed the major issues on land reforms. I have asked the unofficial members to give their feedback by Sunday. Once I get their comments, they would be submitted to the Prime Minister for further discussion in the NCLR meeting,” Ramesh said.

Scientist’s warn Assam could go Chhattisgarh way on farmer suicides


TNN Jun 3, 2012, 01.08AM IST

GUWAHATI: Agriculture scientist GV Ramanjaneyulu on Saturday said Assam could go the Chhattisgarh way in terms of farmers‘ suicides if the state government fails to implement concrete measures in protecting the interests of farmers.

The scientist was speaking at an interactive session titled “The Current Crisis in Indian Agriculture and the Way Forward” held in Cotton College State University, organized by its department of economics. He emphasized on the comparisons between Assam and Chhattisgarh in terms of production of different varieties of rice and engagement of tribals in farming and agriculture.

“What happened in Chhattisgarh was quite unfortunate because the state government had decided to introduce hybrid rice which almost made the traditional varieties extinct. Besides, there were many flawed measures introduced by the government which proved disastrous. Farmers have become an endangered species,” said Ramanjaneyulu, executive director Centre for Advanced Sustentative Agriculture, Hyderabad.

“That state has witnessed a large number of farmers committing suicide. But Assam has the lowest record of farmers’ suicide. However the situation could go wrong if the state government decides to introduce hybrid variety and Assam could suffer the same fate as Chhattisgarh. The government must put a check on farming by migrants as they tend to use fertilizers because they don’t have any bond towards the land,” added the scientist.

The scientist also took a dig at chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s recent announcement to allocate Rs 33 crore for organic farming by stating that until and unless there are some concrete policies regarding how and where to promote such farming, the entire money could go waste.

On the issue of green revolution being shifted to the eastern region of the country, Ramanjaneyulu said, “It needs to be properly addressed. If there are pesticides involved in agricultural fields in the upper-stream, then there are possibilities of them being disposed in the downstream. Assam has a rich history of producing different varieties of rice. But it has lost most varieties now.”

A bitter Harvest for Farmers in India BT cotton and Monsanto


A woman picking cotton in a field near Nagarju...

A woman picking cotton in a field near Nagarjuna Sagar, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bt Cotton, a bitter harvest for farmers
Kavitha Kuruganti
It is clear that the mounting evidence that is coming into the public domain, including the internal advisory from the agriculture ministry linking farm distress and suicides with Bt cotton, is causing panic among GM promoters and their lobbies in the country as their false hype and failed promises lie exposed. The biotechnology industry constantly claims that Bt cotton is responsible for the impressive yield growth in cotton that the country witnessed for a few years in the recent past.
Just two common-sense questions are asked to bust the myth: how can Bt technology increase yields when the pest incidence itself, across crops and not just cotton, has been low over the past decade? Two, how does one explain cotton yield increases in India that have happened at an impressive rate when the same is not present in any other country that has adopted Bt cotton? Even a lay person can point out that the reasons lie not in Bt cotton, but on good old factors like large-scale shift to hybrid seed sources (it is only in India that Bt cotton comes in hybrid seed form and not varieties). In the past decade, the area under cotton hybrids rose to 85.5 per cent of our cotton area from being around 40 per cent in 2000. Uptil 2005, 100 per cent of cotton area in the north zone was under varieties; now, 95 per cent of cotton cultivated in Punjab and Haryana is with hybrid seed. Similarly, there has been a significant shift to irrigated cotton cultivation. Sixty-five per cent of Gujarat’s cotton is irrigated today while it was only 39.5 per cent in 2000, contributing 84 per cent of the state’s cotton production, even as Gujarat is the largest cotton producer in the country. The state’s average productivity figures complete the story: in irrigated conditions, it is 689 kg per hectare of lint whereas in unirrigated conditions, it is a mere 247 kg per hectare.
What’s more, the top cotton scientists in the country have this to say: “The use of irrigation facilities, bringing new lands under Bt cotton, low pest activity, well-distributed rainfall, the overwhelming shift towards hybrid cotton and introduction of pesticides with novel modes of action are important factors that helped cotton productivity, not just the introduction of the novel Bt gene.”
Analysis of yield also shows that impressive productivity increases in cotton have happened before Bt cotton became prevalent. In the five-year period from 2000-01 to 2004-05, yield increased by 69 per cent. In the Bt cotton period starting from 2005-06, a moderate 17 per cent increase in yield is shown over three years up to 2007-08 (554 kg per hectare compared to 470 kg per hectare). Further, the yields show a downward trend since then.
If we look at the chemical pesticide usage, one more Bt cotton lie gets exposed. Insecticide usage in cotton (value) increased from `597 crore in 2002 to `880 crore in 2010 (data from CICR’s director). Pesticide consumption data in volume across crops from Government of India shows an increase in pesticide use in all the major cotton-growing states (Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka) except Andhra Pradesh. The most damning number to expose the hype around Bt cotton is related to farm suicides in a state like Maharashtra. The annual average number of suicides in the state during 1997-2002 was 2,833 and it was 4,067 during 2003-08 (P Sainath’s information, based on NCRB data). If nothing else, it is clear that Bt cotton has not provided any solution to the crisis here, but only seems to have exacerbated the distress.
Behind all the hype and lies around Bt cotton, the truth is that it has been a bitter harvest for Indian cotton farmers and a bonanza of prosperity for seed and pesticide companies. The story of Bt cotton once again showcases how sustainable, safer and affordable alternatives, even though they exist, do not receive the attention and investment that they deserve. Ten years after Bt cotton introduction, the government should examine the cotton crisis independently and in a nuanced manner undeterred by aggressive propaganda by seed companies. It should also step in urgently to promote alternatives like non-pesticide management that have a proven track record and direct public sector seed companies to produce high quality conventional cotton seeds to provide genuine choices for cotton farmers.

Kuruganti is national convenor of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture

Turning the Tide: Women’s Lives in Fisheries and the Assault of Capital


By Nilanjana Biswas

Economic and Political Weekly

Over the years, research on women in the fisheries moved from a framework of political economy to a framework of political ecology. This meant that analyses shifted away from labour, production relations and surplus value extraction typically grounded in Marxian modes of analysis, in favour of those focused on environmental sustainability, livelihood sustainability and a discourse on poverty. During this period, women’s labour has been mobilised at an unprecedented scale and concentrated in the most exploitative jobs to fuel economic growth in fisheries. Even as industrial fisheries thrive on the labour of poor women, new analyses and new forms of organising are needed to fundamentally challenge this exploitation. Capital cannot be left unfettered to do as it pleases, but must be forced through stringent regulation to heed other considerations apart from profitability alone. Donor aid is, however, driving the non-governmental organisation increasingly towards conciliatory, mediatory roles, incapable of seeking solutions outside the framework of capital. Read more here

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