Published: Wednesday 31 October 2001

Organic potential

It was pleasant to read the article 'Untapped potential' (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 8, September 15) in the context of the export potential of the organic food, particularly produced by small and subsistence farmers. However, the main problem with these farmers is that they are widely dispersed and their resources cannot be easily tapped. They are even unable to get subsidies and other incentives given by governments to improve agricultural production. One of the most potent ways is to organise them into cooperative farming societies.

Considering the advantage of organic farming, large-scale farmers should also practice this. The farmers of Punjab and Haryana have been largely depending on fertilisers and chemicals since the introduction of the high-yielding crop varieties. Organic manure also helps in improving texture and structure of the soil.

New Delhi...

Indigenous knowledge

It is happy to note that though slowly, the indigenous practices and empirical sciences of the village folk are gaining recognition withstanding the challenges posed by the corporate world.

Anyone who tries to analyse the post development scenario of the country would be tempted to conclude that the corporate world always stood against the knowledge of the villagers. With sheer profit motive they always ruthlessly exploited natural resources. Also, with the big fortunes they unduly made, they could influence the policy-makers and the bureaucracy.

However, the truth cannot be hidden for ever and this is what we see in the recent awakening and upsurge among the villagers in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh in building water harvesting structures. With decisive mind and voluntary action they are forming themselves into a whirlwind against the umpteen corporate technologies that torpedoed their lands and lives alike. It is good that social workers are able to save environment and man from the jaws of fake technologies. Anna Hazare and Rajendra Singh stand in front of us as examples.

Palakkad, Kerala...

Sustainable farming

The comprehensive report on organic farming (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 8, September 15) is interesting. Organic farming is similar to the other sustainable farming systems like natural farming, ecological farming, biological farming and biodynamic farming. The main principle in all these systems is to work in synergy with nature. The only distinguishing feature of organic farming is the certification which puts it out of the reach of small farmers. Even the term looks sophisticated. If the certification procedure is made indigenous and cost effective, I think thousands of farmers even from the irrigated areas who indiscriminately use irrigation, fertiliser and pesticides (ifp), will easily adopt this system. They have already started without bothering about the certification.

Only a small part of the total agriculture produce of the country is being exported, that needs certification from a foreign agency. Local certification can be adopted for the produce used within the country.

The article says that most of the farmers (about 65 per cent) who come from dryland and north-east India are forced to do organic farming only because of climatic factors and lack of availability of ifp , and the organic farming movement can be started from these areas. Further, shifting to organic farming needs to be followed by integrated nutrient management and integrated pest management for a few years to reduce the dependence on external synthetic inputs without affecting the farmers' economy.

Jodhpur, Rajasthan ...

Poisoned to death

As many as ten elephants have been killed recently inside the Nameri National Park, located in the Sonitpur district of Assam on the north bank of Brahmaputra. According to a newspaper report, pesticide residues of organo-phosphorus has been detected in the carcass of an elephant during post mortem examination. It is suspected that the killers took advantage of the elephants' weakness for rice-beer and fed them this drink poisoned with the pesticide.

Rice beer is a common drink of a large section of the villagers both in the hills and plains of Assam. It is fermented in large earthen pitchers. The

elephants can smell it from a long distance and normally guzzle the beer putting their trunks through the windows of bamboo huts. They are so addicted to it that if the pitcher is placed out of its reach, the elephants will bring the whole hut down to have the drink. But there was no case of poisoning of elephants by the villagers. This is the first instance of killing elephants with poisoned drinks inside a national park.

Guwahati, Assam...

Needs attention

The existing sewage system of Thiruvananthapuram city is virtually ineffective to convey the voluminous sewage load of the city to the disposal area at Valiathura. As population and area of the city increases, the present system based on the obsolete technology of fodder farming became precarious. The sewage farm, which was constructed about 40 years ago, is unable to manage the increasing sewage load. Only 10 to 15 per cent of the total sewage produced is being utilised for the fodder cultivation. About 80 to 90 per cent of the sewage is not passed through the farm and finds its way to the nearby water canal and spreads to the low-lying areas.

The sewage farm is causing enormous problems to the people in the locality. Around 100 people from the surrounding areas were treated for typhoid between January and July this year. Dysentery and fever are common here. Ground water is polluted due to the seepage of the sewage from the farm. Even the state pollution control board admits that the bod level of groundwater here is high above the safe limit. But the authorities concerned are not taking efforts to improve its condition.

Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala...

Freedom of expression

All efforts should be made to maintain an impartial judiciary which will function without 'fear or favour'. Democracy can survive only with a sound judicial system. But our judiciary has failed to uphold its dignity and at times tries to keep people away from it under the fear of 'contempt'. It is high time Indian judiciary is made accountable and people are not tortured for reasonable and rational criticism.

Millions of poor and illiterate people have suffered from injustices of courts from time to time.There is a demand that Parliament should amend Contempt of Court Act, 1971. It is a myth that ' Constitution is above people', knowing fully well who prepares Constitution of any country.

To condemn an author, intellectual and social activist, who expressed fearlessly her assessment of Indian judiciary in recent time, is totally uncalled for. It is a misfortune for this country that the judiciary through its various judgements, has shown its total contempt against millions of poor and hapless and gone out of the way to safeguard interests of a small minority of well-to- do people. It is a defective judicial system, which is responsible for weakening our democracy.

New Delhi...

Managing drought

We in Kutch can fully confirm your figures that community based water harvesting can ensure food security (Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 3, June 30). The watershed programmes changed the economics of the area by solving the grave problems of drought that affected people or animals.

While Rajasthan government banned water harvesting by villagers, the government of Madhya Pradesh puts people's efforts first. Centre for Science and Environment can request Digvijay Singh to share his great success stories with other chief ministers.


Betrayed people

This is with reference to the article Selective Passage to Nanda Devi Reserve (Down To Earth, Vol. 10, No 9, September 30). Today the people who had started the Chipko Movement are a disillusioned lot. Their journey from Chipko to Jhapto-Cheeno is a story of betrayal by the state. The colonial bureaucracy had alienated the local people of their customary and traditional rights over the forest using the principle that right of conquest is the strongest right, against which there is no appeal. But didn't we win freedom almost five decades back? The British policy was based on greed; forest was seen as a source of revenue that they didn't want to share with the rightful owners, the local people. To prevent 'unquiet in the woods' they had granted some 'terminable concessions'. Most of these the bureaucracy of independent India terminated in the name of conservation. The idea behind the Chipko Movement was simple; there were no biospheres, sanctuaries and national parks in their mind. The women, who hug the trees, protecting them from the contractors' axe, had a natural and cultural attachment to the forests that they and their forefathers had been nurturing through the generations. They knew that their sustainable survival was dependent on the survival of the forest. The forest practices of these communities were baptised through traditional wisdom and strictly adhered to by incorporating them as part of the religious-cultural canons. The simple hill-folk were at first made heroes and were put on a pedestal for initiating the conservationist movement. Not even in their dreams did they think that they would be ousted from their very backyards in the name of conservation.

They cannot go into the forest of Nanda Devi Biosphere to graze their cattle and sheep, nor can they collect minor forest produce for their own consumption. But they can work as porters for the tourists and mountaineers, who will be allowed to enter the biosphere on hefty payments made to tour operators. But then it cannot be denied that our national parks, sanctuaries, and reserve forests have reached a stage of degeneration where they have ceased to be a question of 'rights' and 'privilege'; conservation is the 'categorical imperative' that has to finally guide our actions. An effort in which the urbanites, the villagers, and the forest communities have to get their act together. Perhaps the Neo-Chipko Movement that is simmering in the protected areas of Garhwal and Kumaon will create a paradigm shift that will lead to conservation that is people centric.


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