Feb 27, 2011

Green Revolution: Toxic flows the tears

Economic Survey 2011 too suggests strengthening Green Revolution in eastern India as the probable route to increase food production. The other day I heard Ashok Gulati of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) saying on the TV that extending Green Revolution to eastern India would provide a sustained supply of surplus food for the next 30 years or so. Well, if you followed the work of IFPRI, this shouldn't come as a surprise.

IFPRI is essentially a PR agency for agribusiness industry masquerading as a research institute.

Green Revolution has already played havoc with the intensively farmed regions in India. The use and abuse of chemical inputs have already taken a heavy toll. Soils are poisoned, environment is contaminated, aquifers have gone dry, and the resulting the food chain has become unhealthy. The devastation wrought by the NPK model of agriculture, and the unwanted application of chemical pesticides, have in many ways caused a kind of a Holocaust that remains hidden from public glare.

The destruction that Green Revolution has inflicted has been deliberately kept under wraps. 

In fact, the large number of farmer suicides that we witness in India -- more than 250,000 in the past 15 years -- are actually the outcome of the failure of Green Revolution. We are now hell bent on extending the great tragedy of Green Revolution to the hitherto verdant lands and people of eastern India.

I am aware the moment one talks about the devastation brought about by Green Revolution the entire scientific community rises in chorus to defend it. You will hear that if we are alive today it is because of Green Revolution, so we should be thankful to the chemical industry for bailing us out. I have often responded that we cannot continue to live in the past. The damage the Green Revolution has done to the environment and human health is a small sacrifice that the nation must pay for the larger good.

What a shocking apology. I thought a sensible society is the one that draws lessons from the past, and then forges on a more sustainable path. But we somehow continue to live in the past, not even slightly remorseful for the bloodbath that continues to be enacted on the farm across the country.

At a time when policy makers/agricultural scientists/economists are swayed to the virtues of Green Revolution, and this is because they have rarely stepped out of their cosy confines of their air-conditioned offices, it is heartening to find that a young Dutch researcher has been able to portray the 'evils of Green Revolution' and that too in the heart of the food bowl. Tom Deiters, who had come to India six years ago to carry out research on farmer suicides in Lehragaga area, as an academic exercise, was moved by the destruction that the pesticides were wreaking that he decided to stay-on for a longer time, says a report in The Times of India

'Toxic Tears' is the name of his documentary. Here is the news report for you:

Toxic Tears: A tale of many Punjab villages

By Priya Yadav

CHANDIGARH: It is a juxtaposition of contraries that has now become ironic. Even though Punjab government has found a negligible number of farmers who merit Rs 2 lakh compensation, given to those who are driven to suicide because of debt, a Dutch researcher has been overwhelmed by the tragedy which has almost become an every house tale in the villages.

Tom Deiters, who had come to India six years ago to carry out research on farmer suicides in Lehragaga area, as an academic exercise, was moved by the destruction that the pesticides were wreaking that he decided to stay-on for a longer time.

His documentary "Toxic Tears" profiles the heart-broken men and women in Punjab's villages who had lost their sons to the faulty farming practices. An old woman, her face heavily creased with age, in Chottian village, broke down as she narrated how her eldest son had drunk the very pesticide, which had trapped him in a debt, to end his life four years ago.

A year later, her younger son, unable to tolerate a failed crop and more debt, followed suit. Tom, whose thesis was for doing Masters in International Relations, a part of political science, at the University of Amsterdam in Holland, is now using the Punjab model, to highlight how globalization is far removed from reality. "The evils of so called "green revolution" are so stark in Punjab," said Tom Deiters, while talking to TOI.

"I want to use Punjab's example to show how the policy makers are not connected to the reality. This is important because other states in India like Bihar want to follow Punjab's footsteps," he said. Frustrated by the pattern of the vicious trap that he had seen replicated across the villages, Toxic Tears, highlights how motivated people, especially commission agents, are taking pains to deny the very existence of farmers' suicides.

"Farmers are borrowing money at outrageous rates from agents, many of whom are doubling up as agents of pesticides and fertilizers. There is a strong bias at work, "said Tom, who is now more focused on solutions. Punjab government too had been in a state of denial regarding the suicides and had maintained that these were only isolated cases.

"Organic farming, free of chemicals, is a way out, though it has own set of problems. But, there are farmers who are waking up to this fact. I am trying to map organic farmers in Punjab and start a self help group. The organic farmers can get together, learn from each others' experience, market their produce together and watch the community's interests, " said Tom Deiters who has travelled extensively to Europe to study organic farming. 

Here is the link: http://bit.ly/ef878t

No comments: