# India – Dr Sunilam Farmer Leader Reaps Bitter Harvest #Madhyapradesh #fabricated


Social activist Sunil Mishra, who dared to fight for farmers’ rights in MP, gets lifer in a rioting case dating back to 1998. Prakhar Jainreports

Fabricated lies? Sunil Mishra, the founder-president of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, was charged with murdering a fire engine driver and assaulting police officers in 1998

Photo: AFP

DAYS AFTER he spoke about State-led persecution of social activists at a public hearing on fabricated cases in Delhi, Sunil Mishra was sentenced to life imprisonment on 18 October by a local court in Betul district, Madhya Pradesh. He was found guilty in three of the 66 false cases filed against him in 1998.

Mishra, a noted social activist and founder-president of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (KSS), has been charged with murdering a fire engine driver, attacking a police officer with the intent to take his life and setting an inspector on fire during the 1998 farmer’s agitation in Betul district.

On 8 January 1998, the KSS had organised a rally of nearly 75,000 farmers in Multai town of the district demanding compensation for crops destroyed in the winter.

Buckling under pressure, the district authorities announced a compensation of 400 per acre. However, this failed to satisfy the farmers and they decided to intensify their protest. On 12 January, more than 10,000 people laid siege to the Multai tehsil office. The police opened fire, killing 24 farmers and injuring 115 others.

Following the incident the Digvijaya Singh-led Congress government filed a series of false cases against Mishra. He was arrested and tortured for three days, ahead of being produced before the magistrate. He was later imprisoned for three months, before being granted bail on 27 March 1998. Of the 66 cases registered against him, most were withdrawn later. However, he continued to face prosecution in 16 cases.

The state government later ordered a judicial inquiry into the firing. The report is yet to be made public. Activists say requests made under the Right to Information Act have revealed that it is untraceable.

The same year, Mishra fought the Assembly election from Multai as the “people’s representative” and won by a margin of over 50 percent.

It did not take long before Mishra became an eyesore for both the ruling and the Opposition party and he has faced the consequences of raising his voice.

The kind of storm he has been able to generate can be understood by the fact that there have been eight attempts to take his life and he has been arrested more than 125 times with over 130 cases filed against him.

Following his latest arrest on 18 October, Mishra, in an open letter, has denied all the charges levelled against him.

“The judgment does not even record the cross-examination done by us. It is disappointing. We are going to appeal against it in the Jabalpur High Court,” says his lawyer Anuradha Bhargava.

Mishra’s conviction has taken the activist fraternity by surprise. Gautam Bandopadyaya, a water rights activist from Chhattisgarh, who has followed Mishra’s work for over three decades, says he is being persecuted for playing the role of an active opposition when political parties have turned a blind eye to the plight of farmers.

“For years, he has taken the issues of the streets to the Legislative Assembly and now false charges are being used to stop him from contesting next year’s election. We will reply to this politically by taking these issues to the people,” says Bandopadyaya.

‘What happened with Binayak Sen is being repeated with Sunilam,’ says Medha Patkar

THAT MISHRA, popularly known as Sunilam, still enjoys considerable support on the ground was evident by the fact that when the judgment was pronounced, the town of Multai suspended all business in protest.

The National Alliance for People’s Movements, an umbrella organisation of several NGOs, has strongly condemned Mishra’s conviction, saying, “This is nothing but a travesty of justice, since those who need to be punished are serving in the police force and have been promoted since then, while those who were struggling for the rights of farmers have been sentenced after 14 years.”

A strongly-worded protest note signed by activists such as Medha Patkar and Prafulla Samantra says, “The wrong sentence given to Sunilam is one thing, but one is left to wonder when the 24 farmers (who were killed) and their families get justice?”

“What happened with Binayak Sen is being repeated with Sunilam,” says Patkar. “He is a non-violent social activist and is being targeted because of his protest against some of the corporate projects. There are loopholes in the judicial process too and the higher judiciary would be approached for relief.”

Prakhar Jain is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
prakhar@tehelka.com

 

Kerala Farmers- Payment mode takes the sheen off subsidies


Paddy farmers at work in fields near Palakkad on a rainy day just ahead of Farmers’ Day on Chingam 1, which falls on August 17. Poor rain has delayed sowing and harvesting in many areas. An expected poor harvest has already triggered a price rise. Photo: K.K.Mustafah

K. A. MARTIN , The Hindu

Paddy farmers at work in fields near Palakkad on a rainy day just ahead of Farmers’ Day on Chingam 1, which falls on August 17. Poor rain has delayed sowing and harvesting in many areas. An expected poor harvest has already triggered a price rise. Photo: K.K.Mustafah
The HinduPaddy farmers at work in fields near Palakkad on a rainy day just ahead of Farmers’ Day on Chingam 1, which falls on August 17. Poor rain has delayed sowing and harvesting in many areas. An expected poor harvest has already triggered a price rise. Photo: K.K.Mustafah
KOCHI, August 17, 2012

New problem for farmers is in addition to poor monsoon and high fertilizer prize

A rain deficit and spiralling price of fertilizers have combined to turn 2012 into one of the worst years for farmers in Kerala in recent memory.

Adding to their woes is the introduction of the new system for payment of various subsidies through bank accounts, prompting many small-time farmers to even forgo the government doles.

The introduction of the new subsidy payment regime, aimed at ending malpractices, has resulted in farmers not getting any benefit so far though the first season paddy crop is only about a month away from harvest.

V. Gangadharan, a paddy farmer in Palakkad, says that those who bought fertilizers for the first crop have not received any money so far though he feels that the new system will be of help in the long run.

K. Krishnamurty, paddy farmer, fears that subsidies will come late this year. The new system is proving cumbersome for farmers and the mandatory registration of farmers, despite several deadlines, is not complete yet, he says.

K. R. Jyotilal, Secretary, Agriculture, says that the new system is being streamlined though there are a few technical hitches. One of the problems, he says, is the treasury-bank link, which is being looked into. Otherwise the system is working perfectly, he says pointing out that farmers’ pension under Swabhiman scheme is being disbursed through the new system.

Mr. Jyotilal says there are some vested interests spreading canards about the regime.

PADDY CULTIVATION

Paddy cultivation has been the hardest hit by poor rains as exemplified by Palakkad, where yield is likely to be down by about 40 per cent. Besides, the harvest will be delayed because of the dry conditions. In Alappuzha, both Pokkali areas and Kuttanad have been hit by the monsoon shortfall.

About 150 hectares of Purakkad Karinilam lies fallow for the ongoing Virippu season because of excess soil acidity, which traditionally used to be treated with rain water. Around 250 hectares of Pokkali fields are remaining fallow for want of rain. Forty hectares of Pokkali, which came under sowing, does not promise normal yield, according to sources in the Agriculture Department.

A total of 12,000 hectares have come under the Virippu crop this season though the crop is at various stages between 30 and 60 days. Sources point out that the lack of rain threatened to hit the upcoming Puncha season, during which larger areas come under paddy in the district.

VEGETABLES

Cool season vegetable production in the high ranges of Idukki district is down about 50 per cent because of unseasonal rain. Rains in May caused potato seed stocks waste and poor rains in early June created a drought-like situation in Vattavada and Kanthalloor areas.

V.V. Pushpangadhan, chief executive officer of Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam, says that the present estimate is that potato production in the two areas will be down about 50 per cent this season.

Production of other cool season vegetables like beans, carrot and cabbage as well as garlic has been hit by lack of rains in the high ranges this year.

FERTILIZERS

Despite poor offtake this season, fertilizer prices continue to move up. Price of the popular fertilizer mixture Factamfos is hovering around Rs.19,000 a tonne this season compared to Rs.14,000 last year. Similarly, the price of muriate of potash has gone up to Rs.16,700 a tonne from the previous level of Rs.12,000, industry sources said.

Ammonium sulphate, though not widely used in Kerala, has also seen price moving up a little this season to hover around Rs.11,000 a tonne from the previous level of Rs.10,000.

Urea, the price of which is still controlled by the government, has not seen any appreciation leading people to use an excess of the input this Virippu season, sources said.

Documentary ‘Cotton For My Shroud’ on Vidarbha farmers bags National award


NAGPUR: “If a quarter million farmers kill themselves over a span of 16 years, then it is genocide and not suicide. The globalization of economies has given rise to a new form of agrarian warfare where seeds are the new weapons.” This observation formed the basis of the documentary ‘Cotton For My Shroud’ made by Nandan Saxena and his wife Kavita Bahl.

The 90 minute film, shot in the hinterlands of Vidarbha, which have earned the infamous sobriquet of farmer’s graveyard, has won a Rajat Kamal for the best investigative film at the 59th National awards announced in New Delhi on Wednesday. The film has been winning accolades since it was first released at Mumbai Film Festival in April last year, and has also received the Gold for best script at the IDPA in Mumbai in October 2011.

In a telephonic chat with TOI from New Delhi, Saxena says that he has been screening the docu-film at various forums and people have been stunned by its content. “The film is meant for both, victims as well as those who can change this dismal scenario. It is easy to blame the simple farmer for not managing his resources.”

“The cotton farmer is torn between aggressive marketing of supposedly ‘better varieties’ of transgenic crops by the state, and his traditional wisdom of low-cost and eco-friendly agriculture. He thus falls prey to the honey trap of Bt. The result is in an unending cycle of debt and misery.”

Narrated in the first person, the film looks at the macro picture while following the lives of three families. Saxena says that he learnt about the plight of the farmers in Vidarbha while researching water linked projects they were handling in Rajasthan. “It was so horrible that we began looking for more information. When we called up Kishor Tiwari, president of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, which has been drawing attention to these tragedies, he told us to check it out first hand. My wife and me arrived and began moving around in Yavatmal, Raipodh, Pandharkawda and Kolijhari, which were worst hit by these tragedies.” It was not easy for the couple to win the confidence of farmers. Saxena says that the families of victims were weary of media spotlight.

“We came without booking our return tickets.We had all the time and were willing to wait. Gradually, they began to open up,” he says. The research and first hand conversations helped them put together a narrative.

“There were two triggers for the suicides. The first at the time of sowing, when the cash strapped farmer is pushed to buy seeds he can ill afford, so he takes credit. The next is at the time of harvest, when he arrives in the market and realizes that he will not get the price that will enable him to repay the loan. That’s when the desolate fellow has no option but to consume pesticide.” Saxena,who admits to leftist leanings, says that once they had put together the film it was difficult to edit it, as they had to relive these heart wrenching stories once again. “But we overcame our emotions and released it in 2011.” Awards aside, the duo feels that true recognition would be when farmers stop taking their lives and sustainable agriculture becomes a policy.

Times of india, march 9,2012

The Seed Emergency: The Threat to Food and Democracy


Vandana Shiva

Patenting seeds has led to a farming and food crisis – and huge profits for US biotechnology corporations.

The seed is the first link in the food chain – and seed sovereignty is the foundation of food sovereignty. If farmers do not have their own seeds or access to open pollinated varieties that they can save, improve and exchange, they have no seed sovereignty – and consequently no food sovereignty.

The deepening agrarian and food crisis has its roots in changes in the seed supply system, and the erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty.

Seed sovereignty includes the farmer’s rights to save, breed and exchange seeds, to have access to diverse open source seeds which can be saved – and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled by emerging seed giants. It is based on reclaiming seeds and biodiversity as commons and public good.

The past twenty years have seen a very rapid erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty, and the concentration of the control over seeds by a very small number of giant corporations. In 1995, when the UN organised the Plant Genetic Resources Conference in Leipzig, it was reported that 75 per cent of all agricultural biodiversity had disappeared because of the introduction of “modern” varieties, which are always cultivated as monocultures. Since then, the erosion has accelerated.

The introduction of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement of the World Trade Organisation has accelerated the spread of genetically engineered seeds – which can be patented – and for which royalties can be collected. Navdanya was started in response to the introduction of these patents on seeds in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade – a forerunner to the WTO – about which a Monsanto representative later stated: “In drafting these agreements, we were the patient, diagnostician [and] physician all in one.” Corporations defined a problem – and for them the problem was farmers saving seeds. They offered a solution, and the solution was to make it illegal for farmers to save seed – by introducing patents and intellectual property rights [PDF] on those very seeds. As a result, acreage under GM corn, soya, canola, cotton has increased dramatically.

Threats to seed sovereignty

Besides displacing and destroying diversity, patented GMO seeds are also undermining seed sovereignty. Across the world, new seed laws are being introduced which enforce compulsory registration of seeds, thus making it impossible for small farmers to grow their own diversity, and forcing them into dependency on giant seed corporations. Corporations are also patenting climate resilient seeds evolved by farmers – thus robbing farmers of using their own seeds and knowledge for climate adaptation.

Another threat to seed sovereignty is genetic contamination. India has lost its cotton seeds because of contamination from Bt Cotton – a strain engineered to contain the pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium. Canada has lost its canola seed because of contamination from Roundup Ready canola. And Mexico has lost its corn due to contamination from Bt Cotton.

After contamination, biotech seed corporations sue farmers with patent infringement cases, as happened in the case of Percy Schmeiser. That is why more than 80 groups came together and filed a case to prevent Monsanto from suing farmers whose seed had been contaminated.

As a farmer’s seed supply is eroded, and farmers become dependent on patented GMO seed, the result is debt. India, the home of cotton, has lost its cotton seed diversity and cotton seed sovereignty. Some 95 per cent of the country’s cotton seed is now controlled by Monsanto – and the debt trap created by being forced to buy seed every year – with royalty payments – has pushed hundreds of thousands of farmers to suicide; of the 250,000 farmer suicides, the majority are in the cotton belt.

Seeding control

Even as the disappearance of biodiversity and seed sovereignty creates a major crisis for agriculture and food security, corporations are pushing governments to use public money to destroy the public seed supply and replace it with unreliable non-renewable, patented seed – which must be bought each and every year.

In Europe, the 1994 regulation for protection of plant varieties forces farmers to make a “compulsory voluntary contribution” to seed companies. The terms themselves are contradictory. What is compulsory cannot be voluntary.

In France, a law was passed in November 2011, which makes royalty payments compulsory. As Agriculture Minister Bruna Le Marie stated: “Seeds can be longer be royalty free, as is currently the case.” Of the 5,000 or so cultivated plant varieties, 600 are protected by certificate in France, and these account for 99 per cent of the varieties grown by farmers.

The “compulsory voluntary contribution”, in other words a royalty, is justified on grounds that “a fee is paid to certificate holders [seed companies] to sustain funding of research and efforts to improve genetic resources”.

Monsanto pirates biodiversity and genetic resources from farming communities, as it did in the case of a wheat biopiracy case fought by Navdanya with Greenpeace, and climate resilient crops and brinjal (also known as aubergine or eggplant) varieties for Bt Brinjal. As Monsanto states, “it draws from a collection of germ-plasm that is unparalleled in history” and “mines the diversity in this genetic library to develop elite seeds faster than ever before”.

In effect, what is taking place is the enclosure of the genetic commons of our biodiversity and the intellectual commons of public breeding by farming communities and public institutions. And the GMO seeds Monsanto is offering are failing. This is not “improvement” of genetic resources, but degradation. This is not innovation but piracy.

For example, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) – being pushed by the Gates Foundation – is a major assault on Africa’s seed sovereignty.

Agribusiness

The 2009 US Global Food Security Act [PDF] also called the Lugar-Casey Act [PDF], “A bill to authorise appropriations for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 to provide assistance to foreign countries to promote food security, to stimulate rural economies, and to improve emergency response to food crisis, to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and for other purposes”.

The amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act would “include research on bio-technological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including genetically modified technology”. The $ 7.7bn that goes with the bill would go to benefit Monsanto to push GM seeds.

An article in Forbes, titled “Why Uncle Sam Supports Franken Foods”, shows how agribusiness is the only sector in which US has a positive trade balance. Hence the push for GMOs – because they bring royalties to the US. However, royalties for Monsanto are based on debt, suicidal farmers and the disappearance of biodiversity worldwide.

Under the US Global Food Security Act, Nepal signed an agreement with USAID and Monsanto. This led to massive protests across the country. India was forced to allow patents on seeds through the first dispute brought by the US against India in the WTO. Since 2004, India has also been trying to introduce a Seed Act which would require farmers to register their own seeds and take licenses. This in effect would force farmers from using their indigenous seed varieties. By creating a Seed Satyagraha – a non-cooperation movement in Gandhi’s footsteps, handing over hundreds of thousands of signatures to the prime minister, and working with parliament – we have so far prevented the Seed Law from being introduced.

India has signed a US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture, with Monsanto on the Board. Individual states are also being pressured to sign agreements with Monsanto. One example is the Monsanto-Rajasthan Memorandum of Understanding, under which Monsanto would get intellectual property rights to all genetic resources, and to carry out research on indigenous seeds. It took a campaign by Navdanya and a “Monsanto Quit India” Bija Yatra [“seed pilgrimage”] to force the government of Rajasthan to cancel the MOU.

This asymmetric pressure of Monsanto on the US government, and the joint pressure of both on the governments across the world, is a major threat to the future of seeds, the future of food and the future of democracy.
TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust

Source: TRANSCEND Media Service, Sunday, February 12, 2012

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