Tag Archives: Medha Patkar

The Dying Fields

“To my generous, courageous and compassionate readers, I believe this movie is a must see for everyone concerned with the farmer suicides in India.  I solute the filmaker Jagdish Baghwati. May we all live healthy, harmonious lives not at the expense of others.”  -KV

Video: Full Episode.

July 11th, 2011
The Dying Fields

Introduction

About the Issue

India has increasingly embraced free trade and, since 2002, has had one of the world’s fastest growing economies. But only images of this new prosperity have reached the impoverished rural areas where two thirds of India’s 1.1 billion people live. Left behind by India’s soaring economic boom is Vidarbha, a region of hilly forests in the middle of India. It used to be known as India’s cotton belt – but now captures headlines as its suicide belt. In 2006, 1,044 suicides were reported in Vidarbha alone – that’s one suicide every eight hours.

Vidarbha farmers face a grim reality of crop failures, sinking global cotton prices and crushing debts. Farmers in default at the bank frequently resort to illegal moneylenders who charge up to 100 percent interest. And, the government safety net – that once kept cotton prices closer to the cost of production – has all but disappeared. Under India’s new free trade policies, Vidarbha’s 3.2 million cotton farmers – most of them small landholders – must compete in a global market that includes formidable, often subsidized rivals, including American cotton farmers.

About the Film

At a moment when India is enjoying record economic growth, THE DYING FIELDS turns to Vidarbha’s four million cotton farmers who have been left behind, struggling to survive on less than two dollars a day. WIDE ANGLE cameras follow Kishor Tiwari, former businessman turned farmer advocate, whose tiny office in the heart of this cotton-growing region functions as the archive and watchdog for the suicide epidemic; traveling salesmen hawking genetically modified – and costly – cotton seeds that require irrigation that few Vidarbha farmers have; the last rites of a farmer who couldn’t pay his debts; a tour of the poison ward at the local hospital, where beds are always filled; and a visit by then-president of India, A.J.P. Abdul Kalam, whom the farming widows beseech for help in convincing the government to forgive their debts.
_____________________________________________

Thanks for watching and reading. You may be excited to find out that ActNaturally.org has gone from flow charting and visualizing to planning. Very soon we will introduce Act Naturally to a global audience asking for support for our grassroots efforts to provide relief to farmers in India.

Inshallah,

until next time.

Understanding India and its Acts Part II: Land Acquisition a Tool for Development

 

P R E AM B L E

 WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to

constitute India into a

SOVEREIGN

SOCIALIST

SECULAR

DEMOCRATIC

REPUBLIC

and to secure to all its citizens :

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship ;

EQUALITY of status and opportunity;

and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and dignity of the nation;

 IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty six day of

November, 1 9 4 9 , d o HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND G IVE TO

OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.

 Introduction

 Land is necessary for everything that we do in life, from parking a car to growing food. Modern industrial man views land in terms of real estate and development value, and how much is produced from it. First world Peoples, forest dwelling tribes, pastoral and farming livelihoods have a necessary and direct relationship to land for survival.

 Complex industrial, beurocratic and capitalistic relationships exchange a direct and reciprocal relationship to land for one of distance. It is in this distance, where, divested intentions, greed and corruption can grow. It is also in this distance where we lose something precious to our sanity. As more and more we drive to a grocery outlet to buy branded and packaged foods, we leave behind the knowledge of how to feed ourselves, and in one or two generations flow on an autopilot of reliance with only a whispering from time to time in an old photo or a glimpse of an empty field that something wild once existed in our past.

It is not a question of can we survive with multinationals involved and controlling every aspect of the food chain from seeds, farms, and weather modification, to what foods are popular verses which are the most nutritious, and how inflation ceaselessly drives up prices. Ultimately some of us will survive through the repercussions – cancer, auto immune disorders, multi-resistant staff bacteria (MRSB), loss of psychological health and so on. Rather, it is a matter of what we are losing – the biodiversity of human and environment and our independence that creates a troublesome picture of the future.

 I shy away from suggesting that we all can return to some utopian agrarian lifestyle as our material social existence has left  complex consequences, on such a vast scale, the likes of which agrarian life has no answers for because it never had to deal with such things. Take for instance water polluted with pcbs and dioxins, prior to the chemical revolution these things did not exist. So when the fish are dead and the generations of downstream people are mutating from drinking poisoned water and spraying it on their crops, it would be a mistake to suggest that we can solve all our problems with one solution; but I’m bold enough to say we can stop creating new problems by reshaping our values to include ideals that could not create or propagate those same problems again.

A quick survey of the problems in the 20th and now 21st century shows me that this would mean placing nature at the center of our existence instead of money.

 Instead of developing into extinction and homogenizing those cultures who already center around nature, we should learn from them and extend every legal protection we can. Those who have not been assigned a number in the system, or had their livelihood co-opted by disposable culture, who still retain native diets and native knowledge, are a valuable link to our freedom from corporations . We need successful, peaceful examples that shows us a thriving life is still possible when we live in relationship to nature and thus we don’t need corporations to use their methods of exploitation to deliver our meal and market us happiness. These people show us by example that it can be done. And we need the farming lands, now being displaced by  mines, roads, chemical plants, and car factories (etc.), so when we finally wake out of our infantile obsession with the market place, there will be good earth to grow the food for a burgeoning worldwide population.

Because change moves slowly in a complex system, we can personally try to regain the commonwealth of our food supply through a. urban, backyard and community gardening, b. remediation of arable sites including parking lots, rooftops, etc., c. migrating displaced farmers back to their lands, d. honoring the vocation of farming as we do engineering through a shift of focus in vocational and secondary education and e. supporting changes in legislation to protect our remaining farmland from development and at the very lease supporting the rights and stabilization of first Peoples and farmers who are still connected in to the nature matrix.

 If we do not rally in support of our farmers and first Peoples, they will continue to be bulldozed over (accidentally or intentionally) by those who value economic development over these peoples ways and knowledge. Their land is easily put up on the auction block for powerful interests and governments, including India,who use certain acts to provide legal framework for acquiring land for public purposes. And those purposes as we shall see are undefined and easily manipulated when the people whose land is acquired, are poor  with less sociopolitical power.

 So lets look at the Acts … The Land Acquisition Act 1894.

The root of this act lies in the British Empire, created while Britain still colonized India. Regulation 1 of the Land Acquisition Act was set up in 1824, and gave Britain a type of eminent domain to set up public projects like roads and canals on lands purchased from their inhabitants at a “fair price” in the provinces of West Bengal. It was later expanded to Calcutta in 1850, then to Bombay and Madras, and finally to all of British India in 1857. In 1947 after Indian “idenpendence” the Land Acquisition Act was adopted as a tool to acquire privately held land for public purposes. Once a land has been identified as needed for public purpose a process of notification to said parties on said land begins.

 It is logical to suspect that something written in 1894 must have gone through some changes. First, the original act had no definition for what public purpose was. This created alot of confusion and corruption, and several attempts including one in 1984, and then in 2007 were made to hone in a definition.

Other changes have set the climate for the Land Acquisition Acts interpretation. The primary one is whether or not property is a fundamental, protectable right.

“The original constitution before the 44th Amendment of 1978 maintained that the right to own property was a fundamental right. Articles 31 & 19 (1)(f). The consitution also provided that in case of any breach or an attempt thereof of any fundamental right, the aggrieved person can approach the Supreme court for redressal. This was viewed as a hurdle by the Government that could impede its ambitious plan of acquiring land for public purpose or for a company.”

 “Thus, ever since 1951, the Govt. started, through the 1st & 4th amendment, to incorporate various land reform acts. This it did by incorporating schedule 9 of the Constitution. Time and again, the government felt that the right to property was a roadblock for it. It therefore sought to amend the constitution and aimed at abolishing the right to property. It did so in the year 1978 by the 44th amendment to the Constitution of India.”

 The road to this amendment was not very easy through. The Supreme Court had constantly held that the legislature did not have the power to amend the constitution thereby altering its basic structure. This could be seen in the case of:- Shankari Prasad V/S Union of India- Where the Court held that the legislature had ultimate power to amend the constitution even the fundamental rights. The decision was upheld in the case of Sajjan Singh v/s State of Rajasthan.Then, in Golak Nath v/s State of Punjab, the Supreme Court held that the Parliament did not have any power to amend the constitution and that article 368 of the Constitution only provided the procedure for amendment.”

“This was then finally overruled in the Keshavanandi Bharati case where it was held that the Parliament has power to amend the Constitution but not doing so to the basic structure of the constitution…….”

 “Thus as mentioned above, the 44th Constitution Amendment Act, abolished the right to own property as a fundamental right but it declared that it would remain to be ‘legal right’. Thus it could have been now possible for the Government to acquire land without apprehending any litigation challenging its act of acquisition in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.”

Quoted from an article written for online site www.legalservicesindia.com called Constitutional Validity of the Land Acquisition Act 1984. “

As more  blending of Government and Corporate interests have utilized the system of Land Acquisition in an “expanded way”, associations of displaced farmers and tribal Peoples have filed petitions for clarification as to what “public use” means and to challenge the 44th Constitutional Amendment which took away the right to own property as a fundamental right. An article in The Hindu Dated 19/10/2010 outlines the latest attempt by the people to restore property rights as a method of avoiding schemes of acquisition.

Court rejects plea to make property a fundamental right

J. Venkatesan

“New Delhi: The Supreme Court has dismissed a public interest litigation petition seeking a direction to make ‘right to property’ a fundamental right under the Constitution.”

“Though the ‘right to property’ was deleted by the 44 {+t} {+h} Constitution Amendment in 1978, it was challenged only in 2007 in the context of acquisition of large extents of land for Special Economic Zones, and the court issued notice to the Centre.”

“It was contended in the PIL petition that nowadays, further inroads into the right to property were evident in the newly formed policy on SEZs, “which has as its goal the taking over of the property of individuals, small peasants and farmers under the Land Acquisition Act without reference to their reasonableness.”

“On Monday, a Bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar, however, rejected the petition filed by Sanjiv Kumar Agarwal, founder of the Kolkata-based Good Governance India Foundation. Its dismissal is likely to have a bearing on land acquisition for SEZs.”

“When counsel Gopal Sankaranarayanan said the right to property was deleted by the 44 {+t} {+h} Amendment, the Bench said, “It has to be read along with the 42 {+n} {+d} Amendment by which the word ‘socialist’ was inserted in the Preamble to the Constitution. The CJI said: “If your contention is to be accepted, then we will have to reverse earlier judgments on property rights. Recently we dismissed the Gudalur Janmam petition seeking similar relief. We can’t reopen the issue.”

44th Amendment

“The petition challenged the deletion of Article 19 (1) (f) from the Fundamental Rights chapter of the Constitution by the 44th Amendment. According to the object of this Amendment, “In view of the special position sought to be given to fundamental rights, the right to property, which has been the occasion for more than one amendment of the Constitution, would cease to be a fundamental right and become only a legal right. Necessary amendments for this purpose are being made to Article 19 and Article 31 [compulsory acquisition of property] is being deleted.”

“The petitioner contended that over the years the importance of the right of individuals to private property was limited in scope and size and was constantly invaded by schemes of acquisition without any safeguard as to the reasonableness of the law or their ultimate purpose.”

“The right to property, which existed as a fundamental right on April 24, 1973 when the court decision in the Kesavananda Bharati case was pronounced, was part of the basic structure and could not have been amended, leave alone deleted.”

“The petitioner said Article 19 (1) (f) was inextricably linked to Articles 19 (1) (d), (e) and (g), viz. the right to move, the right to reside and settle in any part of the country and the right to occupation, which together formed the fabric of unity and integrity of the nation. And without the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property, these other rights would become ephemeral and meaningless.”

“The petitioner, therefore, sought a direction to strike down the 44th Amendment as being violative of the basic structure of the Constitution.” URL:http://www.thehindu.com/2010/10/19/stories/2010101962311300.htm ) outlines

An explanation from the Economic Times

“Generally, acquisitions for companies have been undertaken under Part II of the Act. This part concerns acquisitions by government entities for public purpose. It does not impose the above restrictions on acquisition for companies, but requires the compensation to be paid out of public funds. In order to justify acquisition for companies under this part, states have been contributing nominal amounts toward the cost of acquisition. Some governments have gone to the extent of contributing just. 100!….”

“Companies clearly find it profitable to use the state machinery to acquire land at subsidised rates; direct purchases from the owners, in contrast, are costlier and time consuming. Indeed, the acquisition process stands captured by private interests of companies and the decision-makers.”  18 Nov, 2010, 05.33AM IST, Ram Singh

As an example of  the acquisition process being captured by private interests of companies and the decision-makers, Tata Motors started constructing a factory in Singur, West Bengal to manufacture a small car called Nano. The State government of West Bengal used the 1894 Land Acquisition Act to conduct an eminent domain, forcible takeover of 997 acres of multi crop farmland to build the Tata factory.

 Critics, including myself point out that the state is not taking over privately held land for public purposes but rather for development by private business.

Ultimately Tata pulled out  in the face of direct activism and villager protests, though they still hold the lease on the land. Leaders of the ruling party of West Bengal the CPI-M (Communist Party of India – Marxist ) who is responsible for attracting Tata in the first place, verbally attacked protestors. Then on December 18, 2006. Supporters of the CPI-M brutally gang raped a 16 year old village girl  Tapasi Malik who had rallied farmers against land acquisition for Tata Motors’s Nano project. They then set her on fire alive and threw her in a pit saying that she had committed suicide. The police forced the father to sign a petition that said his daughter had committed suicide. Later after more protesting and media coverage the CPM was found guilt of involvement in her murder. The  party heavyweight from Singur Suhrid Dutta and supporter Debu Malik were  sentenced to life imprisonment.

Though Tata has pulled out of the project, the fertile land still remains gated and unused for food production, waiting for the next vulture. The CPI-M really want Tata to come back. Anil Basu, the secretary of the CPI-M’s farmers’ wing in Hooghly district, told a huge rally here attended by people mostly from that area. That “there was no force on earth which could prevent the project from taking shape again if the Tatas decided in its favour.” Judging by the brutality toward Tapasi Malik, these statements should be regarded as premeditated murder toward more opposition to come. 

In an attempt to define what Public Purpose means the Land Acquisition (Amendement) Bill of 2007  was put forth, and then tabled in Parliament and as of 2010 still had not been passed. Here is a quick overview of what the Act attempts to address:

  • The principal Act permits land acquisition if the land is to be used for a ‘public purpose’ project. ‘Acquisition’ refers to forcibly obtaining land without consent of the land owner. ‘Public purpose’ includes land needed for village-sites, town or rural planning, land for residential purposes for poor or displaced due to natural calamities, land for planned development (including education, housing, health and slum clearance), or land needed by a state corporation. The Bill changes ‘public purpose’ to allow land acquisition only for (i) strategic naval, military, or air force purposes, (ii) public infrastructure projects, or (iii) for any purpose useful to the general public where 70% of the land has already been purchased from willing sellers through the free market.
  • The Bill defines ‘infrastructure’ as any project relating to electricity, construction of roads, highways, bridges, airports, rail, mining activities, water supply, sanitation and sewerage, and any other notified public facility. (Not sure why mining is a public infrastructure -KV)
  • Currently, private land may be acquired on behalf of a company for a ‘public purpose’ project. The Bill prohibits land acquisition for companies unless they have already purchased 70% of the land needed.

One disturbing aspect of the bill is that it  “bars the jurisdiction of civil courts on all matters related to land acquisition. It is unclear whether there is a mechanism by which a person may challenge the qualification of a project as ‘public purpose.”

Excerpt from RPS Legislative Brief.  By Priya Parker and Sarita Vanka who are researchers with PRS Legislative Research, a unit of the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. PRS is an independent initiative to make the process of law-making in India more transparent, better informed and participatory.

In upcoming posts I will present the Special Economic Zones Act and how this in conjunction with the Land Acquisition Act are laying the legal take over of  privately held farmland for development by private business .

An excerpt from: Organic Farming in India: Relevance, Problems and Constraints

ORGANIC FARMING IN INDIA : RELEVANCE, PROBLEMS AND CONSTRAINTS

Summary from the Report submitted by DR. S. NARAYANAN from the Department of Economic Analysis and Research National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mumbai 2005

2.2 Need for Organic Farming in India
The need for organic farming in India arises from the unsustaina-bility of agriculture production and the damage caused to ecology through the conventional farming practices.The present system of agriculture which we call ‘conventional’ and practiced the world over evolved in the western nations as a product of their socio-economic environment which promoted an over riding quest for accumulation of wealth. This method of farming adopted by other countries is inherently self destructive and unsustainable.

The modern farming is highly perfected by the Americans who dispossessed the natives of their farms right from the early period of the new settlers in US (Wadia, 1996). The large farms appropriated by the immigrants required machines to do the large scale cultural operations. These machines needed large amount of fossil fuels besides forcing the farmers to raise the same crops again and again, in order to utilize these machines to their optimum capacities. The result was the reduction of bio-diversity and labour. The high cost of the machines necessitated high profits, which in turn put pressure to raise productivity. Then, only those crops with high productivity were cultivated which needed increased quantities of fertilizers and pesticides. Increasing use of pesticides resulted in the damage to environment and increased resistance of insects to them. Pesticides harmed useful organisms in the soil.

………….

The monoculture of high yielding seeds required external inputs of chemical fertilizers. The fertilizers also destroy soil organisms. They damage the rhizobia that fix nitrogen and other micro organisms that make phosphates available to plants (Wadia, 1996). The long term effect was reduction of crop yields. The damaged soil was easily eroded by wind and water. The eroding soil needed use of continuously increasing quantities of fertilizers, much of which was washed/leached into surface and underground water sources.

The Indian agriculture switched over to the conventional system of production on the advent of the green revolution in the 1970s. The change was in the national interest which suffered set backs because of the country’s over dependence on the foreign food sources. The national determination was so intense that all the attention was focused on the increase in agriculture production.

The agriculture and allied sectors in India provide employment to 65 per cent of the workers and accounts for 30 per cent of the national income. The growth of population and the increase in income will lead to a rise in demand for foodgrains as also for the agricultural raw materials for industry in the future. The area under cultivation, obviously, cannot be increased and the present 140 million hectares will have to meet the future increases in such demands. There is a strong reason for even a decline in the cultivated area because of the urbanization and industrialization, which in turn will exert much pressure on the existing, cropped area.

Science and technology have helped man to increase agricultural production from the natural resources like land. But the realization that this has been achieved at the cost of the nature and environment, which support the human life itself, is becoming clear. It has been fully evident that the present pattern of economic development, which ignores the ecology and environment, cannot sustain the achievement of man without substantial erosion of the factors that support the life system of all living things on the Earth. The evidence of the ill effects of development is well documented. As said earlier, we in India have to be concerned much more than any other nation of the world as agriculture is the source of livelihood of more than 6-7 million of our people and it is the foundation of the economic development of the country.

There were times when people lived close to nature with access to flora and fauna in healthier and cleaner surroundings. One has to look back at our present metropolitan cities or other large towns before the past fifty years as recorded in history/memmories of the present elder generation to see the striking differences in the surroundings in which the people lived there. Land, water and air, the most fundamental resources supporting the human life, have degraded into such an extent that they now constitute a threat to the livelihood of millions of people in the countiy.

Ecological and environmental effects have been highly publicised all over the world. Many times, these analysis have taken the shape of doomsday forecasts. Powerful interests in the developed western countries have also politicised these issues to take advantage of the poor nations of the world. Efforts to impose trade restrictions on the plea of environment protection are a direct result of these campaigns. But we have to recognize that the abysmal level to which we have degraded our resources ,requires immediate remedial measures without terming the demand for them as the ploys of the rich nations to exploit the poor.
Another turn of the events has been the blame game for ecological problems stated at the Earth Summit and other international conferences. The developed countries, it is true, are to a great extent instrumental to degrade the environment. However, the poorer countries of the world including India cannot delay or ignore the need for remedial measures, which are to be effectively implemented. We cannot gloss over the fact that we have also contributed to the degradation of ecology; look at the droughts and floods, disappearance of forests, high noise level and air pollution in the cities which are our own creations.

Organically cultivated soils are relatively better attuned to withstand water stress and nutrient loss. Their potential to counter soil degradation is high and several experiments in arid areas reveal that organic farming may help to combat desertification (Alam and Wani, 2003). It is reported that about 70 hectares of desert in Egypt could be converted into fertile soil supporting livestock through organic and biodynamic practices. India, which has some areas of semi-arid and arid nature, can benefit from the experiment.
The organic agriculture movement in India received inspiration and assistance from IFOAM which has about 600 organizational members from 120 countries. All India Federation of Organic Farming (AIFOF) is a member of IFOAM and consists of a number of NGOs, farmers’ organisations, promotional bodies and institutions.

The national productivity of many of the cereal crops, millets, oilseeds, pulses and horticultural crops continues to be one of the lowest in the world in spite of the green revolution. The fertilizer and pesticide consumption has increased manifold; but this trend has not been reflected in the crop productivity to that extent. The country’s farming sector has started showing indications of reversing the rising productivity as against the increasing trend of input use.
The unsustainability of Indian agriculture is caused by the modern farming methods which have badly affected/damaged production resources and the environment.

2.2.1 Affects of Modern Farming Technology
The role of agriculture in economic development in an agrarian country like India is a pre-dominant one. Agriculture provides food for more than 1 billion people and yields raw materials for agro-based industries. Agricultural exports earn foreign exchange. Modernization of Indian agriculture began during the mid-sixties which resulted in the green revolution making the country a foodgrain surplus nation from a deficit one depending on food imports. Modern agriculture is based on the use of high yielding varieties of seeds, chemical fertilizers, irrigation water, pesticides, etc., and also on the adoption of multiple cropping systems with the extension of area under cultivation. But it also put severe pressure on natural resources like, land and water. However, given the continuous growth of modern technology along with the intensive use of natural resources, many of them of non renewable, it is felt that agriculture cannot be sustainable in future because of the adverse changes being caused to the environment and the ecosystem. The environmental non-degradable nature of the agricultural development and its ecological balance have been studied in relation to the modem Indian farming system by experts which shows exploitation of land and water for agriculture, and the excessive use of chemicals.

Chemical Contamination
Fertilizers
Consumption of chemical fertilizers {N,P,K) has been increasing in India during the past thirty years at a rate of almost half a million tonnes on an average, a year. It was only 13.13 kg/ha in 1970-71, 31.83 kg/ha in 1980-81 and 74.81 kg/ha in 1995-96. It shot up to about 96 kg/ha during 1999-2000. Table 5 shows the consumption of fertilizers in India from 1970-71 to 2001-02.

Table 5 : Consumption of Chemical Fertilizers in India. Go to page 40.
Source : Indian Agriculture in Brief.

The present use of about 96 kg of fertilizers per ha in India appears to be modest compared to the advanced countries. Currently about 80 per cent of the fertilizer is consumed in only about 120 districts constituting less than 33 per cent of the gross cultivating area. Experts point out that the efficiency of fertilizer use in India is only 30-35 per cent as the balance 65-70 per cent reaches the under ground water. The intensity of their use in a few regions and a few crops are causes of serious concern to human health, soil, water, environment and thus to the sustainability of agriculture production in the country.

It is true that the increasing use of fertilizer at high rates has boosted agricultural production in the country. But it has also caused adverse impact on soil and water as well as environment. Several studies on the effects of high level of fertilizer application on soil health have confirmed the adverse impacts (Singh et. al., 1995).

Both drinking and irrigation water wells in large numbers have been found contaminated with nitrates, some of them are having even 45 mg per litre, well above the safe level.

Long term continuous use of high doses of chemical fertilizers badly affects the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil. A study at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore confirmed the deterioration of soil health because of the reduction in water holding capacity, soil pH, organic carbon content and the availability of trace elements such as zinc in case of ragi crop even with the application of normal doses of fertilizer in the long run (Hegde, et. al., 1995).

In the long run, increasing nitrogenous fertilizer use leads to the accumulation of nitrates in the soil. The application of sulphatic fertilizers leaves sulphates in the soil. Rainfall and excessive use of irrigation water cause these chemicals to change the alkaline or acidic nature of the soil. The nitrates go to the rivers, wells, lakes etc. And also leak into the drainage system which goes into the drinking water contaminating the environment. It also causes depletion of the ozone layer adding to the global warming. Use of nitrogen in the form of ammonium sulphate in the rice crop emanates ammonia polluting the atmosphere. The heavy metals present in the fertilizers and sewage sludge leach into ground water. Table 6 shows the content of some heavy metals in fertilizers and sludges.

Table 6 : Content of Heavy Metals in Fertilizers and Sludges Go to page 41.
Source : Deb and Joshi (1994).

Pesticides
The use of chemical pesticides began with the discovery of toxicological properties of DDT and HCH during the Second World War. Many chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides like aldrin, dieldrin, toxaphane, chlordane, endosulfan, etc. came into the market during the second half of the last century. Simultaneously, organophosphate and carbonate compounds were employed in agriculture. A new group of insecticides, such as premethrin, cypermethrin, fenalerate, etc. which were effective at low doses came into being in the 1970s.

The use of pesticides has helped in increasing agriculture production and also led to the development of resistance in pests, contamination of the environment and resurgence of many pests.

There are about 1000 agrochemicals in use in the world over. India accounts for about 3.7 per cent of the total world consumption. At present, our consumption is about 90,000 tonnes of plant protection chemicals. It comes to about 500 grams per ha compared to 10-12 kg/ha in Japan and 5 kg/ha in Europe. However, the use of pesticides in India is uneven like the fertilizers. While in cotton it is about 3 to 4 kg/ha, in pulses it comes to below 500 grams/ha (Kathpal and Beena Kumari, 1997). Pesticide application is also concentrated in some areas as in the case of fertilizers mentioned earlier.

Agricultural chemicals have become a major input in Indian agriculture with the increasing demand for food, feed and fibre. The pesticide consumption was about 2000 tonnes annually during the 1950s. India happens to be the second largest manufacturer of pesticides in Asia after Japan. It is also of interest to know that in spite of increased consumption of plant protection chemicals, the produce loss due to insects and pests increased by 5 times during the period from 1988 to 1995.

Increasing application of fertilizer also leads to increasing use of pesticides to control pests and diseases. The trend of increasing fertilizer use also compels the farmers to enhance the use of pesticides as well. For example, the use of fertilizers in increasing amounts leads to growth of weeds and in the process of weedicide use many plants growing nearby also get killed, which reduces the biodiversity. Meanwhile, the weeds also develop resistance to herbicides and the quest to formulate even powerful herbicides begins.Pesticide consumption in India from 1970-71 to 2000-01 is shown in Table 7.

Table 7 : Pesticide Consumption in India. Go to page 43.
Source : Indian Agriculture in Brief.

Consumption of pesticides increased from 24.32 thousand tonnes in 1970-71 to 75 thousand tonnes in 1990-91 and it slowed down during the subsequent period. Insects, pests and diseases like viral, bacterial and fungal affect the high yielding varieties of crops.

Almost all pesticides are toxic in nature and pollute the environment leading to grave damage to ecology and human life itself. This indiscriminate use leaves toxic residues in foodgrans, fodder, vegetables, meat, milk, milk products, etc. besides in soil and water (Dhaliwal and Singh, 1993).

High doses of pesticides severely affect the aquatic animals, fish and the wild life. Insects develop resistance to insecticides in crops like cotton and in turn force the farmers to the excessive use of them. Cases of pesticide poisoning and human and animal deaths are also reported. Pesticides irritate the skin and the respiratory system in the humans gets damaged.
It was found that all water bodies like, rivers, canals, lakes, tanks and ponds and also the costal water were contaminated with high amounts of DDT, HCH and other organochlorine pesticides. River water is seen as more contaminated than other water sources.

Contamination of drinking water with DDT and HCH is reported from different states. Since the concentrations of contaminants are higher than MRL (0.5 ppb) values fixed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the seriousness of the problem can be gauged.

Pesticides also contaminate animal feeds and fodder. Green fodder, paddy and wheat straw contain residues of DDT and HCH. Several studies have confirmed this trend (Kathpal, 1997).

Milk and milk products are also affected by the pesticide use. Both bovine and human milk showed high levels of pesticide contamination. The sources of contamination of bovine milk are traced to the fodder and feed concentrates and in case of the human milk, the consumption of contaminated food by the lactating mothers is reported to be the reason.

Infant formula/baby milk powders also showed DDT and HCH contamination level ranging from 94 to 100 per cent. Butter and ghee, the other animal products revealed high contamination levels in many parts of the country.
Cereals like wheat and rice were seen contaminated highly by pesticides like, DDT, HCH and malathion. The case of vegetable, vegetable oil, honey, fish etc. is also not different as they too have unacceptable high pesticide residue content levels.

The adverse effect of pesticide contamination on humans in India is understood from the study of dietary intake. Such studies, although a few in number, have confirmed high levels of pesticides (mainly, DDT and HCH) contamination which come to more than 3 to 5 times than the agriculturally developed countries.

The daily intake of pesticide per individual is estimated to be about 0.51 milli-grams which is above the accepted level. The Indian Institute of Horticulture Research has reported contamination of 50 per cent of the fruits and vegetables sold in the Bangalore market with the residues of DDT and HCH (Prakash, 2003).

Use of herbicides over a period results in the shift of the weed flora. The weeds of minor importance, often, become major weeds. Repeated application of weedicides helps the development of resistance in weed at alarming proportions.

 The remedy recommended is rotation of herbicides or the use of other herbicides. Any way, the end result is contamination of ground water and soils inflicting damage on environment.

The number of herbicides registered in India comes to about 28 in 1997-98 which was only 10 before 10 years. This is often compared to about 300 herbicides available in the North America. There are only 10 herbicides manufactured in the country and the herbicides consumption was about 6000 Tonnes during 1994-95. It is reported that the level of herbicide use in rice, wheat, and tea in India is almost the same that of the world at large. Sugarcane, soyabean, groundnut, coffee, cotton, onion and potato are the other crops, which find widespread application of herbicides in India.

The contamination of water, air and soil with toxic synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides leads to increasing deaths of many creatures, and to human illness and mortality.

The end result is loss of biodiversity and natural harmony, increased expenditure to purify water, air, etc. The toxins in the food crops cannot be removed and the threat to human existence itself seems to be real.
The firms engaged in the manufacture and supply of agricultural inputs have a vested interest in keeping the input use increasing. Besides, they influence the government policy towards agriculture.

Salinity and Water logging
Water is one of the important inputs for the vigorous growth and high yields of crops. The modernisation of Indian agriculture has resulted in the increased use of irrigation water. The area under irrigation has grown substantially during the past three decades. Table 8 shows the gross irrigated area in the country. Please see the parent document for a complete showing of tables. 

The gross irrigated area of 38.18 million ha in 1970-71 increased to 49.73 million ha in 1980-81 and the next decade ending 1990-91 saw this further rising substantially to about 62.47 million ha. It increased to 72.78 million ha during 1997-98.

Heavy irrigation is necessary to get high production, as the new varieties cannot withstand water scarcity. This leads to salinity and water logging leaving the land uncultivable. Over exploitation of underground water is another effect. When water table falls, increasing energy will be required to lift water for irrigation.

Irrigation is necessary for the vigorous growth and high yields of crops in the modern method of cultivation. Many of the crops, particularly the rice and wheat high yielding varieties need more irrigation water than the traditional varieties. The area under irrigation in the country is only about 35 per cent and the remaining is still dependent on rains. So, there is a necessity to use irrigation water judiciously. Its excessive use results in severe ecological dangers like water logging of vast cultivated areas by seepages from canals. The loss of water through seepages and evaporation is estimated to be about 38 per cent. Flooding also results in run off and leaching losses of fertilizer nutrients, pesticides and soil particles. Excessive use of canal water makes the field vulnerable to soil erosion. The excessive irrigation in certain areas results in wastage as evident from the water logging of vast cultivated areas caused by the seepage from many virater sources.

Water logging is harmful to the soil. Seepage of canal water leads to salts present in the lowest layer of soil come up to the surface and the soil may turn alkaline or saline. Dams and multipurpose projects degrade the soil in the command area due to soil salinity and water logging. The chambel region in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the command area of the Bhakra Nangal, etc are the examples of water logging created by huge water irrigation projects.

Crops irrigated by sewage water have adverse effects on the health of the human population consuming the produce. The workers work on these farms also face health hazards.

Depletion of Energy Resources
Chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc are manufactured using the non-renewable materials like the fossil fuels. The global demand for oil and natural gas is increasing and thus the price of the inputs to agriculture is bound to rise. India’s petroleum resources, which presently meet only about 30-35 per cent of the consumption demand, are under pressure. Increasing demand for chemicals and energy in agriculture sector will have affects on our energy sources.
The investments in agriculture have to be increased to meet the rising input costs and larger areas are brought under farming to earn profits. Large farms have to transport the produce to distant areas. Again, energy will be required for transportation, processing and packaging.

The rice-wheat cropping pattern and the cultivation of crops like sugarcane require high irrigation, which results in the depletion of water level. Singh and Singh (1996) found that the water level in the states of Punjab and Haryana had gone down by 0.3 to 1 m per annum during a period of 10 years due to the excessive use of water for paddy crop.

Input-Output Imbalance
A crop, in its growth process, incorporates a part of the soil fertility into the parts of the plant. The roots remain in the soil. The leaves and stems are fed to the cattle/burnt as fuel/directly returned to the soil. The consumed part by cattle and human also go back to the soil. The practice of commercial farming leads to continuous export of the soil fertility to outside the farming areas as the organic matter leaves the locality. The soil nutrients in the form of farm produces continue to be exported. The import of chemical fertilizers cannot compensate the loss of soil nutrients through exports. The soil becomes powdery and gets eroded by wind or rain. If the harvests are exported from the country, the loss is higher (Anon, 1996).

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Expansion of Cultivated Area
Not only the intensive cultivation through the use of technological inputs, but also the extensive crop production through Increase in the area under cultivation has been an important aspect of modern agriculture seen in India. Increasingly areas under forests are brought under plough along with the marginal, sub-marginal and undulating land. The net sown area was 140 million ha in 1970-71 and stood at 142 million ha at the end of 1997-98.

Reduction in Genetic Diversity
The genetic base of crops is very important and a reduction of genetic diversity leads to the emergence of pests on a large scale. Farmers, in olden times, apart from’ using the crop rotation methods to maintain the soil fertility also relied on the genetic means to increase crop production. Relying exclusively on nation’s own reserves of fertility and immunology, the farming community by evolving trial and error methods discovered.Hhybrid varieties of crops by crossing the related strains. These crosses were from the same environment and no violence was used to separate them from nature by maintaining the ecological balance (Alvares, 1996).

The high yielding varieties of crops are the crosses from different environments and distantly related strains. For example, the high yielding rice variety got by the crossing between the dwarf and non-dwarf varieties has major genetic weaknesses. The dwarf gene is susceptible to pest and viral attacks and the seed cannot manifest its potential without chemical fertilizer. Thus, an artificial environment has to be created for the growth of the crop (Alvares, 1996).

Thus synthetic fertilizers supplant natural fertility, which results in larger population of pests. The new technology adopted then depends upon the replacement of the local/traditional varieties of seeds. But this results in the reduction of genetic diversity and increase in genetic erosion. These modern technologies are but the result of clever manipulations of nature’s genes.
Low Productivity
The productivity of cereals, millets, oilseeds, pulses and plantation crops is very low in comparison with those in other countries in the world. This is in spite of our success in improving the quality of seeds and adoption of efficient technology. The impact of green revolution is showing signs of weakness and production appears to have decreased even after an increase in the inputs used (Veeresh, 1999).

The production of foodgrains in the country increased very substantially during 1960 to 1980 to reach 160 million Tonnes from 60 million tonnes. But the decade ending 1990 and 2000 did not witness such increases and the attainment of the targeted production of 240 million tonnes to meet the demand of the population by 2010 seems to be difficult.T

he reasons attributed to the low productivity are the drastic reduction in soil nutrients in the areas where fertilizer is used intensively in which the organic matter is not supplemented (Veeresh, 1999).

2.2.2 Benefits of Organic Farming
Organic agricultural practices are based on a maximum harmonious relationship with nature aiming at the non-destruction of the environment. The developed nations of the world are concerned about the spreading contamination of poisonous chemicals in food, feed, fodder and fibre. Naturally, organic farming system is looked upon as one of the means to remedy these maladies there. However, the major problem in India is the poor productivity of our soils because of the low level content of the organic matter.

The efficiency of the organic inputs in the promotion of productivity depends on the organic contents of the soil. There were many resemblances of organic farming principles in the traditional agriculture of India. But the former gives a more open and verifiable scientific foundation than the latter.

Healthy Foods
A study conducted in USA on the nutritional values of both organic and conventional foods found that consumption of the former is healthier. Apples, pears, potatoes, corn, wheat and baby foods were analyzed to find out ‘bad’ elements such as aluminum, cadimum, lead and mercury and also ‘good’ elements like boron, calcium, iron, magnesium sellenium and zinc. The organic food, in general, had more than 20 per cent less of the bad elements and about 100 per cent more of the good elements.

Improvement in Soil Quality
Soil quality is the foundation on which organic farming is based. Efforts are directed to build and maintain the soil fertility through the farming practices. Multicropping, crop rotations, organic manures and pesticides, and minimum tillage are the methods employed for the purpose. Natural plant nutrients from green manures, farmyard manures, composts and plant residues build organic content in the soil. It is reported that soil under organic farming conditions had lower bulk density, higher water holding capacity, higher microbial biomass carbon and nitrogen and higher soil respiration activities compared to the conventional farms (Sharma, 2003). This indicates that sufficiently higher amounts of nutrients are made available to the crops due to enhanced microbial activity under organic farming. The effect of organic cultivation on soil fertility as reported at the farm of Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur is given in Table 9. See the parent  document for all tables.

Increased Crop Productivity and Income
Field trials of organic cotton at Nagpur revealed that during the conversion period, cotton yield was low compared to the conventional (using fertilizer and pesticides) and integrated crop management (using 50 per cent each of organic and inorganic inputs). However, the yields of organic cotton started rising from third year. Cotton yields under organic, conventional and the mixed systems were 898, 623 and 710 kg/ha respectively at the end of the fourth year of the cultivation. The yield of soyabean under organic farming was also the highest compared to the other two systems (Annexure – 2).

The Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur conducted a study of economics of cotton cultivation in Yavatmal district of Maharashta. The cost of cultivation of cotton was lower in the organic farming than in the modern system (Annexure – 3). The low costs were due to the non-use of fertilizers and chemical insecticides. As a result of the low yields during the conversion period, the net income from the organic farm was lesser than the conventional farm. But the yield under organic method increased progressively equalling it to that of the conventional system by the sixth year (Annexure – 4). The input costs were low under organic farming and with a 20 per cent of premium prices of output, the net income increased progressively from fourth year under organic fanning. The appreciation of net income from organic cotton cultivation by the sixth year was 80 per cent over the conventional crop (Sharma, PD, 2003).

Results reported from 1050 field demonstration cum trials under the National Project on Development and Use of Biofertilizers in different parts of the country show* an increase of 4 per cent in yield in plantation crops, 7 per cent in fruit crops, 9 per cent in wheat and sugarcane, 10 per cent in millet and vegetable, 11 per cent in fibre, condiments and spice crops, 14 per cent in oilseeds and flowers and 15 per cent in tobacco (Bisoyi, et. al., 2003).

A study of 100 farmers in Himachal Pradesh during a period of 3 years found that the total cost of production of maize and wheat was lower under organic farming and the net income was 2 to 3 times higher. Both productivity and premium prices contributed to the increased profitability. Another study of 100 farmers of organic and conventional methods in five districts of Karnataka indicated that the cost of organic farming was lower by 80 per cent thanthat of the conventional one (Thakur, et. al., 2003). The cost benefit ratios mentioned for various crops table.  See page  52.

Low Incidence of Pests
The study of the effectiveness of organic cotton cultivation on pests at the farm of Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur revealed that the mean monthly counts of eggs, larva and adults of American BoUworm were far lesser under organic farming than under the conventional method (Sharma, PD, 2003).

Bio-control methods like the neem based pesticides to Ti-ichoderma are available in the country. Indigenous technological products such as Panchagavya (five products of cow origin) which was experimented at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore found to control effectively wilt disease in tomato (Prakash, TN, 2003).

Employment Opportunities
According to many studies, organic farming requires more labour input than the conventional farming system. Thus, India which has a very large amount of labour unemployment and under employment will find organic farming an attraction. Moreover, the problem of periodical unemployment will also get mitigated because of the diversification of the crops with their different planting and harvesting schedules resulting in the requirement of a relatively high labour input.

Indirect Benefits
Several indirect benefits from organic farming are available to both the farmers and consumers. While the consumers get healthy foods with better palatability and taste and nutritive values, the farmers are indirectly benefited from healthy soils and farm production environment. Eco-tourism is increasingly becoming
popular and organic farms have turned into such favourite spots in countries like Italy. Protection of the ecosystem, flora, fauna and increased biodiversity and the resulting benefits to all human and living things are great advantages of organic farming which are yet to be properly accounted for.

The report continues. I will highlight sections throughout the year. If you are interested and would like to download (for research purposes -not commerical purposes) and/or link to the report, please see “Print and Download” in my blog menu bar.

The report continues  with:

  • Proposed objectives in organic farming in India
  • International Conference on “Indian Organic Products-Global Markets” at the end of 2002.
  • Production and Exports
  • Regulations, regulatory framework
  • Accreditation  and certification of Organics. 
  • Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), Coffee Board, Tea Board and the Spices Board.
  • Development and Commerce.
  • Inspections, Research and Training
  • A National Institute for Organic Farming  (setup 2003)
  • Problems and Constraints
  • Absence of an Appropriate Agriculture Policy
  • The cost of certification, Low Yields
  • Vested Interests. Chemical and fertilizer companies.
  •  Lack of Quality Standards for Biomanures
  • Improper Accounting Method
  • Political and Social Factors
  • Prospects
  • Successes