Monsanto’s ‘threat’ to withdraw: A blessing in disguise?

Taking note of  Monsanto’s ‘threat’ to withdraw its genetically modified crop technology from India, following the Centre’s plan to cut the company’s royalty fees, it gives an opportunity to trace Monsanto’s journey in India, and how it came to be known as “seed of suicide”.

1988, Monsanto arrived in the Indian market, bringing in wide-ranging change in the Indian seed sector. The 1988 Seed Policy enforced by the World Bank, demanded deregulation of the seed market by the government. Things started changing with Monsanto’s entry. While on one side joint-ventures and licensing arrangements increased the concentration over the seed sector, seed that had been the farmers’ common resource earlier, became the “intellectual property” of Monsanto. The company began collecting royalties, which increased the costs of seed, bringing in trouble for farmers. Genetically modified hybrid seeds replaced open pollinated cotton seeds. Most importantly, cotton, which had earlier been grown as a mixture with food crops, now had to be grown as a monoculture, that were more vulnerable to disease, drought, pests, and crop failure.

It also began to use public resources to drive its non-renewable hybrids through public-private partnerships (PPP).  However, Monsanto’s determined control over the seed sector in India is worrying, and has come under the scanner multiple times.  It has been blamed for farmer suicides and agrarian anguish which is driving the farmers’ suicide epidemic in parts of India, mainly in the cotton belt.

In 2012, an internal advisory by the agricultural ministry stated that, “Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.” As Monsanto’s profits grew, farmers’ debt grew side by side. It is in this situation, Monsanto’s seeds came to be known as “seeds of suicide.”

However, Monsanto received a big blow, as cotton farmers across north India, are switching to “desi”, and indigenous variety of cotton, which comes at half the cost, and also allows farmers to save and replant the seed next near. Cotton farmers are disposing of Monsanto’s genetically modified Bt cotton, in a bid to use local variety of seeds. India is world’s biggest producer and second-largest exporter of cotton and this move is spelling trouble for Monsanto’s biggest after USA.  According to a Reuters, in India, sales of the seed are down by 15% year on year, worth $75 million. While Monsanto’s genetically modified variety of cottons remains dominant, the Indian government is promoting home-grown varieties, which caused Monsanto, a loss of around 5% in 2016 alone.

The water-intensive crop of Monsanto is resistant to pest such as the bollworm, which is an advantage over the local variety. However, local varieties seeds appear more resistant to whitefly, common in India’s during dry seasons. Experts are of the opinion that, the indigenous cotton seeds developed by the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), which comes under the farm ministry, would catch on over time, as the indigenous cotton looks promising. In Vidharba, community seed banks have been created to help farmers go organic.

Special attention is being given to encourage and educate farmers to produce their own seeds so that they can cultivate the seeds with less production cost. However, if Monsanto’s threat is a worrying note, or a sigh of relief for the seed sector and the agriculture industry, will be proved with time.

Jaitley’s Budget will help India’s Economic Growth: Advani

Union Budget for the financial year 2016-17 was tabled in the Lok Sabha today in the afternoon by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The budget presented in the august house was much appreciated by Lal Krishna Advani, a veteran member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“I have seen several budgets being presented in the Parliament but the one presented by the Finance Minister, is certainly one of the best budgets that the country has ever received.”  said Advani earlier in the afternoon today.

He further added that the budget has the potential to boost the economy of the country with employment generation without any social imbalances. The budget also includes unprecedented provision for development in the infrastructure sector in modernizing highways, railways etc. while the global economy remains weak the growth in the Indian economy is commendable.

Advani also said that it is praiseworthy that the Finance Minister has put more emphasis on the agricultural sector and rural development. With the central theme of ‘Antyodaya,’ the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister have adopted ways to improve the economy of the society.

While Arun Jaitley presented the budget in the lower house of the Parliament, he put more importance towards transforming the nation with incentives from agriculture and farmer’s welfare, rural employment and development of infrastructure. He also stressed on the healthcare issues as well as making India, a knowledge based and productive society.

While talking about the agricultural and farmer’s welfare, he mentioned that the government will restructure its agendas where it can focus more on farmer’s income security. The minister has also announced that a Unified Agricultural Marketing E-Platform will be dedicated to the nation on Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on April 14. This platform will help the farmers in accessing the markets which will improve their income.

Sources: ANIBusiness Standard.

Union Budget ‘16: More Focus on Farmers and Agriculture

Earlier today in the lower house of the Parliament, Minster for Finance, Arun Jaitley tabled the Union Budget for the financial year 2016-17. His speech laid more emphasis on the development of farmer’s welfare and agriculture of the country.

The budget also emphasized on the rural and social sector which aimed at the development in the healthcare facilities, educational skills and job creation which would make India, knowledge based productive economy.

The budget speech started on the note of doubling the farmer’s income in the next five years. The various highlights of the day regarding the agricultural sector were:

  1. A total expenditure of Rs. 35,984 Cr. was allocated for various agricultural welfare for the financial year of 2016-17.
  2. Announcements were also made on infrastructure investment to enhance the quality of life.
  3. A budget of Rs. 20,000 Cr. was dedicated to NABARD which is responsible to set up an irrigation project.  Under this project, 28.5 lakh hectares of land will be brought under irrigation.
  4. The minister also added that five lakh acres will be brought under organic farming over the period of next three years.
  5. A nominal premium and highest ever compensation will be paid to the farmers who will face crop loss under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna. This will be set up under NABARD by the government.
  6. Jaitley while emphasizing on the urgency of the conservation of water in the drought prone areas of the country announced an allocation of Rs. 60,000 Cr. for recharging the ground water.

The minister broadly focused on its nine pillars to transform India which included farm, rural sector, infrastructure, social sector, education, healthcare etc. he also allocated Rs. 19,000 Cr. for the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna.

He stressed on the fact that while the world economy is in a turmoil, but India was resilient to this serious crisis. “Financial markets have been battered but Indian economy has held its ground firmly,” he added.

 

Sources: ANIThe Hindu.

Second Green Revolution can start from Odisha: PM

On Sunday, addressing a rally in Baragarh district of Odisha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the second green revolution can start from Odisha. Adding to the statement he mentioned how the state is filled with natural resources and should be used to its best possible advantage.

Modi also added that they want the state to progress like other states in the nation.  He further added, “After UP, if there is any state which has water resources, it is Odisha. I believe second green revolution can start from this state. There are so much of natural resources in Odisha that if it wants, it can be India’s number one agricultural state. I think that our country needs improvement in agriculture sector.”

In an optimistically note, he said that the Centre sees a whole lot of progress in the agricultural sector in this country. He also talked about the income growth of the farmers in the Eastern part of India which should increase by two fold by 2022.

Earlier in the morning the PM inaugurated the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee National Rurban Mission in Chattisgarh. He is schedueled to visit Kolkata in the evening where he will inaugurate the three year long centenary celebration of Gaudiya Math and Mission to be held at the Netaji Indoor Stadium.

Source: ANI

Managing water one ‘step’ at a time

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Pradeep Pawde: ” Everyone supported the idea. Half of the financial help came from the villagers only.”

The relationship between droughts and Kumbharwadi in Ahmednagar district goes back to the 1970s where the village suffered immense hunger and poverty. But today, the story of Kumbharwadi is completely different as it religiously follows ‘water-budgeting’ that helps the villagers in keeping a track of the amount of water being used every week.

In a small chat with Pradeep Pawde, the manager of the village’s water-budgeting, acquaints us with what prompted them to opt for it, the villagers’ contribution and the change it has brought in their agricultural activities.

Q. Why did the village decide to go for water-budgeting system?

A. The watershed development programme initiated by WOTR treated the shallow soils of the village. So, water would get stored easily. But due to less rainfall, the water levels started decreasing. On top of it, we were using the water injudiciously. Last year, when we experienced drought again, WOTR suggested this system.

Q. Who financed this programme?

A. After suggested we go for water-budgeting system, I immediately called for a village meeting to get everyone’s opinion. Luckily, everyone supported the idea. Half of the financial help came from the villagers only and the other half from WOTR.

Q. How does this programme work?

A. See, this is a special programme which happens only after the watershed development program has been implemented. Here, that started in 1998 and ended on 2002. The water-budgeting table shows total area of the village, availability of water, temperature, pressure, wind intensity and speed, rainfall measurement of Kumbharwadi. It is updated every week. So, we know how much water is being used. Borewells and open wells are also being measured to find out the groundwater level.

Q. How has this new programme affected the villagers?

A. People are now using water more carefully. They now realize the value of water more.

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The water-budgeting table: Painted on the outer wall of a village house

Q. How are the farmers managing?

A. Crops like tomatoes and onions that require flood irrigation are not being grown anymore. Instead, pomegranates are being grown. They are also using water saving devices like sprinkles. This year, about 30 farmers installed drip irrigation of one hectare each.

Q. So, have they earned any profits yet?

A. It’s been just one year. I can’t say. Initially, only four farmers started drip irrigation. This year, the number reached 30. Next year, who knows? Before water-budgeting, there was no mechanism. Now they can assess rainfall and thus groundwater available after the rains. Accordingly, crops to be planted in the winters can be planned. If there is surplus, summer plans can also be planned. 

66 years on, agriculture still India’s backbone

Agriculture forms 75% of India's GDP | Photo: Nayan Das
Agriculture forms 75% of India’s GDP | Photo: Nayan Das

It is going to be 66 years since Jawaharlal Nehru on the eve of 14th August 1947 spoke his golden words, “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”  So it soon will be 66 years since India woke up.

Every year on Independence Day there are certain number of stories which are always run by media houses, like, “Independence day- just another holiday”, “Is India really Independent?” etc. We also constantly debate over the fact that India has not grown. There is more corruption, more illiteracy, more poverty; it’s a very long list as you know. But what about how much India has grown? What about how India has become one developing nation from an under-developed nation?

The fact that India’s literacy has more than doubled from 30% to 74%, according to the Census of 2011, is completely ignored by all of us. After the implementation and continuous practice of Green Revolution principles, India has become a self sufficient nation in terms of food. No one talk about how Indian agriculture has developed and evolved since independence.

India is known to be an agrarian based society. Our agricultural sector is the backbone of India’s economy.  With its allies like fisheries and forestry the agricultural sector is the single largest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country by contributing almost as much as one-third of the total GDP.

About 70% of the country’s population live in rural area according to the census of 2011 and most of them are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Every farmer toils for at least 10-12 hours tilling and working on a field. Gorango, a farmer in Bhogaram, Orissa, works for almost half the day. He used to work on the land owned by a rich family in the neighboring village, but today he owns a piece of  land all by himself. He works of himself and earns for himself. This is the case of lots of farmers in India.

One of the best things that happened to the Indian agrarian society was the initiative and implementation of the Green Revolution in 1966-67. Prior to the 1960’s India used to rely on imports and food aid to sustain its livelihood. After severe droughts in 1965 and 1966, India decided to change its agricultural policies. The green revolution was a boom in the country. It gave birth to the bread and basket state of India, i.e. Punjab.

According to the Food and Agricultural organization of the United Nations (in 2009), India is the largest producer of a number of crops like jute, milk, select fresh meat etc. and also the second largest producer of wheat and rice. According to Agricultural Development in India since Independence: A Study on Progress, Performance, and Determinants by, Amarnath Tripathi and A.R. Prasad, in India barren and uncultivated land has fallen from 37484 thousand hectares to 17709 thousand hectares since 1950-51 to 2000-2001. The amount of net sown area has increased by 18.44% since 1950-1951.

Still think India has not developed at all? At least the backbone of the country’s economy has. India is going to be 66 years in a few days. We are developing, if not in the speed, but in our minds, we are. By the latest census, India is a country with 1.24 billion people. For a number like this, development takes time and patience.  So this year let us go into this New Year of Independence with what John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not, what your country can do for you. Ask what, you can do for your country.