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23 farmers seek Prez permission to end lives

Posted by Ramoo on September 17, 2008

17 Sep 2008, 0230 hrs IST, Proshun Chakraborty,TNN

WANI: For the distressed farmers of Yavatmal in Maharashtra, the reasons driving them to suicide have been crop failure and crippling debts. There is another now: pollution by state-owned coal mines.
The spraying of coal dust on the fields by the hundreds of trucks rolling out of Coal India Ltd’s Western Coal Fields has severely hit farmers in the region.
Farmers say the coal dust from the open mines settle on the top soil and on crops jeopardising farming. As many as 23 farmers of Pinpalgaon, Junad and Brahmani in Wani, about 130km from Nagpur, have now written to President Pratibha Patil saying they want her “permission to end our lives”.
“The open mines of WCL in Wani shower heaps of ash on our farms. The flow of water too is restricted because of these heaps. There have been heavy crop losses,” says Balu Pundalik Khamankar, former sarpanch of Brahmani village and a farmer.
As many as seven farmers have killed themselves in Vidarbha region in the last month alone.

Posted in Environment, Maharashtra, Vidharba Crisis | Leave a Comment »

Economic globalisation has become a war against nature and poor

Posted by Ramoo on March 16, 2007…

by Vandana Shiva

RECENTLY, I WAS visiting Bhatinda in Punjab because of an epidemic of farmers’ suicides. Punjab used to be the most prosperous agricultural region in India. Today every farmer is in debt and despair. Vast stretches of land have become waterlogged desert. And, as an old farmer pointed out, even the trees have stopped bearing fruit because heavy use of pesticides has killed the pollinators — the bees and butterflies.

And Punjab is not alone in experiencing this ecological and social disaster. Last year I was in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh, where farmers have also been committing suicide. Farmers who traditionally grew pulses and millets and paddy have been lured by seed companies to buy hybrid cotton seeds referred to as “white gold”, which were supposed to make them millionaires. Instead they became paupers.

Their native seeds have been displaced with new hybrids which cannot be saved and need to be purchased every year at a high cost. Hybrids are also very vulnerable to pest attacks. Spending on pesticides in Warangal has increased 2,000 per cent from $2.5 million in the 1980s to £50 million in 1997. Now farmers are consuming the same pesticides as a way of killing themselves so that they can escape permanently from unpayable debt.

The corporations are now trying to introduce genetically engineered seed, which will further increase costs and ecological risks. That is why farmers like Malla Reddy of the Andhra Pradesh Farmers’ Union had uprooted Monsanto’s genetically engineered Bollgard cotton in

On March 27th, twenty-five-year-old Betavati Ratan took his life because he could not pay back debts for drilling a deep tube well on his two-acre farm. The wells are now dry, as are the wells in Gujarat and Rajasthan where more than 50 million people face a water famine.

The drought is not a “natural disaster”. It is “man-made”. It is the result of mining of scarce ground water in arid regions to grow thirsty cash crops for export instead of water-prudent food crops for local needs.

It is experiences such as these which tell me that we are so wrong to be smug about the new global economy. It is time to stop and think about the impact of globalization on the lives of ordinary people. This is vital if we want to achieve sustainability.

Seattle and the World Trade Organization protests last year have forced everyone to think again. For me it is now time to re-evaluate radically what we are doing. For what we are doing in the name of globalization to the poor is brutal and unforgivable. This is especially evident in India as we witness the unfolding disasters of globalization, especially in food and agriculture.

WHO FEEDS THE WORLD? My answer is very different from that given by most people.

It is women and small farmers working with biodiversity who are the primary food providers in the Third World and, contrary to the dominant assumption, their biodiversity-based small farm systems are more productive than industrial monocultures.

The rich diversity and sustainable systems of food production have been destroyed in the name of increasing food production. However, with the destruction of diversity, rich sources of nutrition disappear. When measured in terms of nutrition per acre, and from the perspective of biodiversity, the so-called “high yields” of industrial agriculture do not imply more production of food and nutrition.

Yield usually refers to production per unit area of a single crop. Output refers to the total production of diverse crops and products. Planting only one crop in the entire field as a monoculture will, of course, increase its individual yield. Planting multiple crops in a mixture will have low yields of individual crops, but will have high total output of food. Yields have been defined in such a way as to make the food production on small farms, by small farmers, disappear.

This hides the production by millions of women farmers in the Third World — farmers like those in my native Himalaya who fought against logging in the Chipko movement, who in their terraced fields grow Jhangora (barnyard millet), Marsha (amaranth), Tur (pigeon pea), Urad (black gram), Gahat (horse gram), soy bean (glycine max), Bhat (glycine soya), Rayans (rice bean), Swanta (cow pea), Koda (finger millet). From the biodiversity perspective, biodiversity-based productivity is higher than monoculture productivity. I call this blindness to the high productivity of diversity a “Monoculture of the Mind”, which creates monocultures in our fields.

The Mayan peasants in the Chiapas are characterized as unproductive because they produce only two tons of corn per acre. However, the overall food output is twenty tons per acre when the diversity of their beans and squashes, their vegetables and fruit trees is taken into account.

In Java, small farmers cultivate 607 species in their home gardens. In sub-saharan Africa, women cultivate as many as 120 different plants in the spaces left alongside the cash crops, and this is the main source of household food security.

A single home garden in Thailand has more than 230 species, and African home gardens have more than sixty species of tree. Rural families in the Congo eat leaves from more than fifty different species of tree.

A study in eastern Nigeria found that home gardens occupying only 2% of a household’s farmland accounted for half the farm’s total output. Similarly, home gardens in Indonesia are estimated to provide more than 20% of household income and 40% of domestic food supplies.

Research done by fao has shown that small biodiverse farms can produce thousands of times more food than large, industrial monocultures.

And diversity is the best strategy for preventing drought and desertification.

What the world needs to feed a growing population sustainably is biodiversity intensification, not chemical intensification or genetic engineering. While women and small peasants feed the world through biodiversity, we are repeatedly told that without genetic engineering and globalization of agriculture the world will starve. In spite of all empirical evidence showing that genetic engineering does not produce more food and in fact often leads to a yield decline, it is constantly promoted as the only alternative available for feeding the hungry.

THAT IS WHY I ASK, who feeds the world?

This deliberate blindness to diversity, the blindness to nature’s production, production by women, production by Third World farmers, allows destruction and appropriation to be projected as creation.

Take the case of the much-flaunted “golden rice” or genetically engineered vitamin A rice as a cure for blindness. It is assumed that without genetic engineering we cannot remove vitamin A deficiency. However, nature gives us abundant and diverse sources of vitamin A. If rice were not polished, rice itself would provide vitamin A. If herbicides were not sprayed on our wheat fields, we would have bathua, amaranth, mustard leaves as delicious and nutritious greens.

Women in Bengal use more than 150 plants as greens. But the myth of creation presents biotechnologists as the creators of vitamin A, negating nature’s diverse gifts and women’s knowledge of how to use this diversity to feed their children and families.

The most efficient means of rendering the destruction of nature, local economies and small autonomous producers is by rendering their production invisible.

Women who produce for their families and communities are treated as “non-productive” and “economically inactive”. The devaluation of women’s work, and of work done in sustainable economies, is the natural outcome of a system constructed by capitalist patriarchy. This is how globalization destroys local economies and the destruction itself is counted as growth.

And women themselves are devalued, because for many women in the rural and indigenous communities their work co-operates with nature’s processes, and is often contradictory to the dominant market-driven “development” and trade policies, and because work that satisfies needs and ensures sustenance is devalued in general. There is less nurturing of life and life support systems.

The devaluation and invisibility of sustainable, regenerative production is most glaring in the area of food. While patriarchal division of labour has assigned women the role of feeding their families and communities, patriarchal economics and patriarchal views of science and technology magically make women’s work in providing food disappear. “Feeding the World” becomes disassociated from the women who actually do it and is projected as dependent on global agribusiness and biotechnology corporations.

Industrialization and genetic engineering of food and globalization of trade in agriculture are recipes for creating hunger, not for feeding the poor.

Everywhere, food production is becoming a negative economy, with farmers spending more buying costly inputs for industrial production than the price they receive for their produce. The consequence is rising debts and epidemics of suicides in both rich and poor countries.

ECONOMIC GLOBALIZATION is leading to a concentration of the seed industry, the increased use of pesticides, and, finally, increased debt. Capital-intensive, corporate-controlled agriculture is being spread into regions where peasants are poor but, until now, have been self-sufficient in food. In the regions where industrial agriculture has been introduced through globalization, higher costs are making it virtually impossible for small farmers to survive.

The globalization of non-sustainable industrial agriculture is evaporating the incomes of
Third World farmers through a combination of devaluation of currencies, increase in costs of production and a collapse in commodity prices.

Farmers everywhere are being paid a fraction of what they received for the same commodity a decade ago. In the us, wheat prices dropped from $5.75 to $2.43, soya bean prices dropped from $8.40 to $4.29, and corn prices dropped from $4.43 to $1.72 a bushel. In India, from 1999 to 2000, prices for coffee dropped from Rs.60 to Rs.18 per kg and prices of oilseeds declined by more than 30%.

The Canadian National Farmers’ Union put it like this in a report to the senate this year:

“While the farmers growing cereal grains — wheat, oats, corn — earn negative returns and are pushed close to bankruptcy, the companies that make breakfast cereals reap huge profits. In 1998, cereal companies Kellogg’s, Quaker Oats and General Mills enjoyed return on equity rates of 56%, 165% and 222% respectively. While a bushel of corn sold for less than $4, a bushel of corn flakes sold for $133. In 1998, the cereal companies were 186 to 740 times more profitable than the farms. Maybe farmers are making too little because others are taking too much.”

And a World Bank report has admitted that “behind the polarization of domestic consumer prices and world prices is the presence of large trading companies in international commodity markets.”

While farmers earn less, consumers, especially in poor countries, pay more. In
India, food prices have doubled between 1999 and 2000, and consumption of food grains has dropped by 12% in rural areas, increasing the food deprivation of those already malnourished, pushing up mortality rates. Increased economic growth through global commerce is based on pseudo surpluses. More food is being traded while the poor are consuming less. When growth increases poverty, when real production becomes a negative economy, and speculators are defined as “wealth creators”, something has gone wrong with the concepts and categories of wealth and wealth creation. Pushing the real production by nature and people into a negative economy implies that production of real goods and services is declining, creating deeper poverty for the millions who are not part of the dotcom route to instantaneous wealth creation.

WOMEN — AS I HAVE SAID — are the primary food producers and food processors in the world. However, their work in production and processing has now become invisible.

According to the McKinsey corporation, “American food giants recognize that Indian agro-business has lots of room to grow, especially in food processing. India processes a minuscule 1% of the food it grows compared with 70% for the US, Brazil and
Philippines.” It is not that we Indians eat our food raw. Global consultants fail to see the 99% food processing done by women at household level, or by small cottage industry, because it is not controlled by global agribusiness. 99% of
India’s agroprocessing has been intentionally kept at the household level. Now, under the pressure of globalization, things are changing. Pseudo hygiene laws that shut down the food economy based on small-scale local processing under community control are part of the arsenal of global agribusiness for establishing market monopolies through force and coercion, not competition.

In August 1998, small-scale local processing of edible oil was banned in
India through a “packaging order” which made sale of open oil illegal and required all oil to be packed in plastic or aluminium. This shut down tiny “ghanis” or cold-pressed mills. It destroyed the market for our diverse oilseeds — mustard, linseed, sesame, groundnut and coconut.

The take-over of the edible oil industry has affected 10 million livelihoods. The take-over of “atta” or flour by packaged branded flour will cost 100 million livelihoods. These millions are being pushed into new poverty.

The forced use of packaging will increase the environmental burden of millions of tonnes of plastic and aluminium. The globalization of the food system is destroying the diversity of local food cultures and local food economies. A global monoculture is being forced on people by defining everything that is fresh, local and handmade as a health hazard. Human hands are being defined as the worst contaminants, and work for human hands is being outlawed, to be replaced by machines and chemicals bought from global corporations. These are not recipes for feeding the world, but for stealing livelihoods from the poor to create markets for the powerful. People are being perceived as parasites, to be exterminated for the “health” of the global economy. In the process new health and ecological hazards are being forced on Third World people through dumping genetically engineered foods and other hazardous products.

Recently, because of a wto ruling, India was forced to remove restrictions on all imports. Among the unrestricted imports are carcases and animal waste parts that create a threat to our culture and introduce public health hazards such as mad cow disease.

The US Center for Disease and Prevention (cds) in Atlanta has calculated that nearly 81 million cases of food-borne illnesses occur in the us every year. Deaths from food poisoning have more than quadrupled due to deregulation, rising from 2,000 in 1984 to 9,000 in 1994. Most of these infections are caused by factory-farmed meat. The us slaughters 93 million pigs, 37 million cattle, 2 million calves, 6 million horses, goats and sheep and 8 billion chickens and turkeys each year. Now the giant meat industry of the us wants to dump contaminated meat produced through violent and cruel methods on India.

The waste of the rich is being dumped on the poor. The wealth of the poor is being violently appropriated through new and clever means like patents on biodiversity and indigenous knowledge.

PATENTS AND INTELLECTUAL property rights are supposed to be granted for novel inventions. But patents are being claimed for rice varieties such as the basmati for which theDoon Valley — where I was born — is famous, or pesticides derived from the neem which our mothers and grandmothers have been using. Rice Tec, a US-based company, has been granted Patent No. 5,663,484 for basmati rice lines and grains.

Basmati, neem, pepper, bitter gourd, turmeric . . . every aspect of the innovation embodied in our indigenous food and medicinal systems is now being pirated and patented. The knowledge of the poor is being converted into the property of global corporations, creating a situation where the poor will have to pay for the seeds and medicines they have evolved and have used to meet their needs for nutrition and health care.

Such false claims to creation are now the global norm, with the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement of the wto forcing countries to introduce regimes that allow patenting of life forms and indigenous knowledge.

Instead of recognizing that commercial interests build on nature and on the contribution of other cultures, global law has enshrined the patriarchal myth of creation to create new property rights to life forms just as colonialism used the myth of discovery as the basis of the take-over of the land of others as colonies.

Humans do not create life when they manipulate it. Rice Tec’s claim that it has made “an instant invention of a novel rice line”, or the Roslin Institute’s claim that Ian Wilmut “created” Dolly denies the creativity of nature, the self-organizational capacity of life forms, and the prior innovation of Third World communities.

Patents and intellectual property rights are supposed to prevent piracy. Instead they are becoming the instruments of pirating the common traditional knowledge from the poor of the Third World and making it the exclusive “property” of Western scientists and corporations.

When patents are granted for seeds and plants, as in the case of basmati, theft is defined as creation, and saving and sharing seed is defined as theft of intellectual property. Corporations which have broad patents on crops such as cotton, soya bean and mustard are suing farmers for seed-saving and hiring detective agencies to find out if farmers have saved seed or shared it with neighbours.

The recent announcement that Monsanto is giving away the rice genome for free is misleading: Monsanto has not made a commitment to stop patenting rice varieties or other crops.

Sharing and exchange, the basis of our humanity and our ecological survival, have been redefined as a crime. This makes us all poor.

Nature has given us abundance. Women’s indigenous knowledge of biodiversity, agriculture and nutrition has built on that abundance to create more from less, to create growth through sharing. The poor are pushed into deeper poverty by being made to pay for what were their resources and knowledge. Even the rich are poorer because their profits are based on theft and on the use of coercion and violence. This is not wealth creation but plunder.

Sustainability requires the protection of all species and all people and the recognition that diverse species and diverse people play an essential role in maintaining ecosystems and ecological processes. Pollinators are critical to the fertilization and generation of plants. Biodiversity in fields provides vegetables, fodder, medicine and protection to the soil from water and wind erosion.

As humans travel further down the road to non-sustainability, they become intolerant of other species and blind to their vital role in our survival.

In 1992, when Indian farmers destroyed Cargill’s seed plant in Bellary, Karnataka, as a protest against seed failure, the Cargill Chief Executive stated: “We bring Indian farmers smart technologies which prevent bees from usurping the pollen.” When I was participating in the United Nations Biosafety Negotiations, Monsanto circulated literature to defend its Roundup herbicide-resistant crops on grounds that they prevent “weeds from stealing the sunshine”. But what Monsanto calls weeds are the green fields that provide vitamin A rice and prevent blindness in children and anaemia in women.

A world-view that defines pollination as “theft by bees” and claims that biodiversity “steals” sunshine is a world-view which itself aims at stealing nature’s harvest by replacing open, pollinated varieties with hybrids and sterile seeds, and at destroying biodiverse flora with herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup. The threat posed to the Monarch butterfly by genetically engineered bt. crops is just one example of the ecological poverty created by the new biotechnologies. As butterflies and bees disappear, production is undermined. As biodiversity disappears, with it go sources of nutrition and food.

When giant corporations view small peasants and bees as thieves, and through trade rules and new technologies seek the right to exterminate them, humanity has reached a dangerous threshold. The imperative to stamp out the smallest insect, the smallest plant, the smallest peasant comes from a deep fear — the fear of everything that is alive and free. And this deep insecurity and fear is unleashing violence against all people and all species.

The global free-trade economy has become a threat to sustainability. The very survival of the poor and other species is at stake not just as a side effect or as an exception but in a systemic way through a restructuring of our world-view at the most fundamental level. Sustainability, sharing and survival are being economically outlawed in the name of market competitiveness and market efficiency.

We need urgently to bring the planet and people back into the picture. The world can be fed only by feeding all beings that make the world.

In giving food to other beings and species we maintain conditions for our own food security. In feeding the earthworms we feed ourselves. In feeding cows, we feed the soil, and in providing food for the soil, we provide food for humans. This world-view of abundance is based on sharing and on a deep awareness of humans as members of the earth family. This awareness that in impoverishing other beings, we impoverish ourselves and in nourishing other beings, we nourish ourselves is the basis of sustainability.

The sustainability challenge for the new millennium is whether global economic man can move out of the world-view based on fear and scarcity, monocultures and monopolies, appropriation and dispossession and shift to a view based on abundance and sharing, diversity and decentralization, and respect and dignity for all beings.

Sustainability demands that we move out of the economic trap that is leaving no space for other species and most humans. Economic globalization has become a war against nature and the poor. But the rules of globalization are not god-given. They can be changed. We must bring this war to an end.

Since Seattle, a frequently used phrase has been the need for a rule-based system. Globalization is the rule of commerce and it has elevated Wall Street to be the only source of value, and as a result things that should have high worth — nature, culture, the future — are being devalued and destroyed. The rules of globalization are undermining the rules of justice and sustainability, of compassion and sharing. We have to move from market totalitarianism to an earth democracy.

We can survive as a species only if we live by the rules of the biosphere. The biosphere has enough for everyone’s needs if the global economy respects the limits set by sustainability and justice.

As Gandhi reminded us, “The Earth has enough for everyone’s needs, but not for some people’s greed.”

Posted in Economix, Environment, Farmers Suicides, Globalisation, Policy issues | 22 Comments »

Failure in Irrigation

Posted by Ramoo on February 21, 2007….

Business Standard / New Delhi February 21, 2007

Farmer suicides and distress in the countryside have taken on the dimensions of a national scandal. What farmers need most of all is assured water for irrigating their crops; indeed, many suicides by farmers have been traced to the disastrous drilling of bore wells that turn out to be dry or to crop failure because the rains did not come. That is why the rapid expansion of irrigation was made one of the six components of the ambitious Bharat Nirman project. So it is a tragedy that the objective has been lost sight of when it comes to budgets and programme execution. The harsh fact today is that there is no noticeable increase in the pace of irrigation development. Even the accelerated irrigation benefit programme, launched over a decade ago with the well-conceived idea of focusing resources on easy-to-complete projects, seems to have failed to deliver results. Despite all the ambitious planning, no more than 1.4 million hectares of additional irrigation potential is reported to have been created in the 10th five-year Plan, due to end next month. If this is indeed the case, it shows a sharp drop in the speed with which new irrigation potential is being created. For more than half a century, the country has added close to a million hectares of irrigation potential annually. Compared to that, the 10th Plan’s record is dismal.

It is easy to forecast now that the Bharat Nirman programme’s ambitious goal of extending irrigation to 10 million additional hectares by 2008-09, is not going to be met. Indeed, the evidence now available suggests that the large sums of money being annually pumped into the accelerated programme are probably not being well utilised. All of this translates into wasted agricultural potential and a low-income trap for farmers who cannot get assured water. The net result is that a sizable part of the country’s total irrigation potential—reckoned at 139.9 million hectares, against the earlier assessment of 113 million hectares—will continue to lie unexploited for a long time to come.

One reason for the problem is that irrigation is on the state list of the Constitution, and most states are unable to raise the resources required to be invested in irrigation. Work under even the accelerated irrigation programme has got stuck because of the states’ failure to put in their share of resources—usually a half to a third of the Centre’s allocation. But there are other issues as well. The populist approach towards water and power charges has converted irrigation works from generators of revenue (as they were in pre-Independence days) to a financial burden. This has affected not only the maintenance and operation of irrigation projects but also command area development work so as to make use of the irrigation capacity that has been created. The result is water-logging and soil salinity, which makes irrigation a curse rather than a life-saver. What the country needs urgently are major water sector reforms, including the setting of realistic user charges and creation of water users’ bodies for maintaining and operating irrigation works. It is only when irrigation is made a commercially viable sector that the states will be prompted to invest in the expansion of irrigation.

Posted in Data, Environment, Policies | Leave a Comment »

Sorrow tale of Jajjal: the village cursed by cancer

Posted by Ramoo on February 14, 2007

By Umendra Dutt

14 February, 2007

It is going to be five years that Jajjal village earned fame in media and administration. In 2002 when for the first time a retired government teacher Jarnail Singh bring out the issue of abnormally high incidences of cancer deaths in Jajjal and some adjoining villages. Till then village has witnessed about 20 cancer deaths and several new cancer cases. This small village has 500 odd households with population of 3500. There is no respite for the Jajjal residents. During last five years several experts and study teams from across the country visited the village, the surveys was done and stories were appeared in news papers or aired in news channels. But the sufferer villagers got nothing. If ask villagers about what they got in last five years, you will get an answer with anguish – nothing, accept some visiting cards of media persons, government officials and doctors. We only become infamous for cancer, it is becoming all most a stigma for most of us, says a villager Jaswinder Singh.

It was unfortunate that the Jajjal village and villagers were at the brink of collapse as the high debts, unfit water, dwindling social structures, different types of cancer, male and female reproductive problems, neurological problems, huge expenditures on the treatments, deaths and suicides are all common things. One after the other deaths has wrecked the villagers. Majority of the people do not want to talk about the cancer. Even cancer patients do not talk about the disease but simply say that they went to the ” Bikaner’ which is self explanatory and every body knows the meaning. There is no governmental or other wise good cancer treatment facility in the area like one in Bikaner. People fear that the treatment cost shall be very high once the cancer is declared and they don’t go for a cancer checkup, as they think that the family members shall become worried about the expanses.

Punjab government has made several declarations about cancer, but practically very little was done so far. Take the case of financial relief to the cancer patients. Despite all assurances and declarations only three families got financial relief of Rs 22,500 /- each. Where as village have at least 55 cancer deaths on record. The pathetic condition is so worst that in some families, cancer has ruined the entire family and money. Cancer has taken away our near and dear ones along with our money and savings we had done in decades. We had lost our relatives as well as our prosperity, says a young man. According to a snap survey by a team of Kheti Virasat Mission, 48 cancer cases were reported. 36 persons were died due to cancer where as 10 others are still battling for their life.

The cancer victims in Jajjal are facing multiple crises. Every cancer affected family owns debt of one to three lakh at least. But some are worst victims. Cancer does not make difference between rich and poor, land owner and land less laborer. The death is knocking the doors after door, ruining the families, social system and economy of the Jajjal.

The doom is very cruel as it is coming in many ways and is not sparing the elders or new born. Take the case of Kartar Kaur, this 90 plus years old mother lost her three sons one by one due to cancer in front of her eyes. The deadly cancer had snatched her son Choota Singh (45 years) in 2002, Balbir Singh (60 years) in 2003 and then Jalore Singh (45 years) in 2005. The family has taken debt of Rs Nine lakhs for treatment, and after losing three brothers, now family owns debt of Rs six lakhs. It is despite the fact that the family has sold its tractor and some other moveable things. Ironically till date this family got Rs 22,000 as aid and relief from the Government. Today Kartar Kaur is living with her grand sons and three widowed daughter in laws. This is the orphaned childhood due to the violence of environmental toxicity. Who is going to take responsibility for this?

The cruelty of cancer is really heart frightening. Now meet Manish an infant of only two years who is suffering from cancer by birth. His father Tarsem is a daily wager. The abnormally enlarged head of Manish is telling that, some thing is seriously wrong, the boy can not move on his own. His father has already taken loan of Rs 25,000. Tarsem and his wife both are laborers; they had to go for work in near by town of Rama Mandi. This dalit couple is spending hard earned money to save their only child. Manish is called to be future of his poor parents, at the age of two he does not know what has happened with him. He cannot even imagine what hardship his parents are facing. The poor child cannot move, not even toddle. He cannot play with toys. His father knows that Manish’s life is limited he want to give his child more better treatment but he can’t afford. Even he cannot borrow more because no body will give him loan beyond a limit, as he has no land to mortgage. After all money lender want to confirm that from where this labourer return the loan money. Manish cannot treat properly with this limitation. There are many more Tarsem and Manish in whole of Malwa.

Jagdev Singh age 14 was a healthy boy upto the age of 9, but gradually he become handicap and now he is on wheel chair, he can not speak nor does he do any thing on his own. His father Bholla Singh has done best of his efforts but Jagdev remain on wheel chair only. The cancer has snatched smile from the villagers. One daily wager whose 22 year old wife is suffering from cancer is not willing to tell her the truth, of fear that she might loose heart. If a family member suffers from the deadly dieses others tries to hide this heartless fact.

Cancer has ruined the prosperity of even those, who got their cancer cured with expensive treatment. Now 70 year old Mukhtiyar Singh, who got his cancer affected kidney operated, was forced to sell tractor and piece of land to meet expenditure of treatment. But he still owns debt of Rs two lakhs. Mukhtiyar Singh says we are just curtailing our needs, we cook vegetable once a day and take the meals thrice a day with that only. This is the condition of the so called state number one.

Cancer is only one aspect of Jajjal’s eclipsed fate. Today Jajjal is also facing very severe problem of reproductive health. KVM volunteers also came across numerous incidents those are quite upsetting. Then you can find large number of youth having grey hairs. Joint pain and spinal problems are making youths of village older then their age. Skin disease is another blot. These environmental health problems have become so usual that now villagers had accepted it as their fate. However the politicians and bureaucrats do not pay the requisite attention to the problem. Though Punjab government had done a study by PGIMER but after nothing was happened. No high official ever visited since the report is out. No government effort is visible not even a simple early detection of cancer

and its documentation. Neither the Punjab Pollution Control Board after spending more then Rs 15 lakh takes any follows up step nor does the health department taken any initiative for remedial measures. Jajjal is still awaiting a full-fledged environmental epidemiological study and house to house surveillance to tackle the crisis. In this government apathy and darkness there is ray of light also Jarnail Singh is running a Vatavaran Chetna Kendra established by Kheti Virasat Mission in the village. He has also taken step to make Jajjal pesticide free as he has started pesticide free natural farming and he is also motivating other farmers to join this community initiative.

But on the other hand the Agriculture Department and Punjab Agriculture University does not show any kind of interest in village accepts promoting Bt. cotton. Both have regional centers at Bathinda only 32 Kilometers away. Irony is that officials of department and PAU are prescribing Bt cotton as a remedy to this environmental health crisis. More painful is that the politicians from both camps are also singing the same chorus. They should know that Bt cotton is here from last four years and still the children like Manish are taking birth.

Then another dark side is mounting debt and rising number of farmers’ suicides. It is irony of Jajjal that it has also witnessed about 20 farmer’s suicides in last ten years and there are several others who had moved out of agriculture after selling their land. Now they are land less labourer. Jajjal is in deed a village in acute crisis.

Jajjal needs a new start for life. Let us hope the new government in Punjab takes care of this and evolve a strategy and action plan for cancer free, toxicity free, debt free and suicide free Jajjal. That should be light of hope for thousand of other villages facing the same doom. So, that there should no more Manish and Kartar Kaurs not only in Jajjal but whole of Malwa region. But there is a question – Who has time for this?

(Author is Executive Director of Kheti Virasat Mission. Jaitu, Faridkot district based environmental NGO in Punjab. Phone: 9872682161, E-mail:

Posted in Environment, Policy issues, Punjab | Leave a Comment »

Global warming could cast chill on India’s growth story: UK report

Posted by Ramoo on January 28, 2007…

Global warming and climate change could affect India’s growth story unless a range of steps are taken to address the effects of increased surface temperature and its effect on monsoon pattern and river flows.

This is according to a report released in London today commissioned by UK Chancellor Gordon Brown and authored by Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank. In his 700-page report, Stern calls for an urgent shift to a low-carbon economy in countries like India which could translate into huge business opportunities for the developed world.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair called the report the “final word’’ on why the world must act now. “The case for action is the final piece of the jigsaw to convince every single political leader, including those in America, China and India, that this must be top of their agenda,” he said.

There is a wealth of evidence quantifying the economic costs of climate change in India. Experts from the University of Reading have estimated that mean summer rainfall in India will increase by 10% — along with rainfall intensity — and this will be accompanied by more regional variations. This is likely to affect agriculture and, therefore, GDP growth.

The review identifies three elements of policy required for an effective response: carbon pricing, through tax, trading or regulation, so that people pay the full social cost of their actions; policy to support innovation and deployment of low-carbon technologies and removal of barriers to energy efficiency and measures to inform, educate and persuade.

Some of the key predictions, according to the Stern report, of changes over the next 100 years:

• Regional climate models suggest 2.5-5 degrees Celsius rise in mean surface temperature. Regionally within India, northern India will be warmer.

• 20% rise in summer monsoon rainfall. Extreme temperatures and precipitations are expected to increase.

• All states will have increased rainfall except Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu where it will decrease. Extreme precipitation will increase, particularly along the western coast and west central India.

• Hydrological cycle is likely to be altered. Drought and flood intensity will increase. Krishna, Narmada, Cauvery, Tapi river basins will experience severe water stress and drought condition and Mahanadi, Godavari, Brahmani will experience enhanced flood.

• Crop yield decrease with temperature and rise with precipitation. Prediction of loss of wheat is more. Rabi crops will be worse hit which threatens food security.

• Economic loss due to temperature rise estimated between 9-25%. GDP loss may be to the tune of 0.67%. Coastal agriculture suffers most (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka), Punjab, Haryana, Western UP will face reduction in yield; West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh will gain marginally.

• 100-cm sea level rise can lead to welfare loss of $1259 million in India equivalent to 0.36% of GNP.

• Frequencies and intensities of tropical cyclones in Bay of Bengal will increase particularly in the post-monsoon period and flooding will increase in low-lying coastal areas.

• Malaria will continue to be endemic in current malaria-prone states (Orissa, West Bengal and southern parts of Assam north of West Bengal). It may shift from the central Indian region to the south-western coastal states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala. New regions (Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram) will become malaria prone and transmission duration window will widen in northern and western states and shorten in southern states.

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