Bhaskar Save's second open letter to Swaminathan (18/8/2006)

We recently circulated Bhaskar Save's Open Letter to M S Swaminathan - the 'father' of India's 'Green Revolution' and a key promoter of GM crops - challenging him to find a new way forward, given 'the tragic condition of our soils and our debt-burdened farmers, driven to suicide in increasing numbers every year.'

You can read the Open Letter here: http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6839

The other supporting documents sent to Swaminathan with Bhaskar Save's first letter are available here: http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6853


Open Letter – 2
From: Bhaskar Save,
'Kalpavruksha', Vill. Dehri, Via Umergam,
Dist Valsad, Gujarat.
(Ph: 0260 - 2562126, 2563866)

To: Shri M.S. Swaminathan,
Chairperson, National Commission on Farmers,
Union Ministry of Agriculture,
New Delhi
16 August, 2006

Subject: Mounting Suicides and National Farm Policy:
Revitalising Indian Agriculture through Natural/Organic Farming
Reference: Your Reply dated 31-07-06 to my Open Letter dt. 29-07-06

Dear Shri Swaminathan,

1) I thank you for your prompt and concise reply dated 31 July, 2006, received by post about 6 days ago. You state:

"I have long admired your work, and I am grateful to you for the detailed suggestions you have given. You have made valuable comments and recommendations. We shall take them into consideration in our final report."

2) While your reply conveys that you are in broad agreement with my letter, I would be grateful if you let me know specifically – which of my suggestions you endorse and propose to recommend in your final Report. Please also inform me of any comments or suggestions in my letter dt. 29-07-06 – and this letter dt. 16-08-06 – regarding which you have some reservation, questions or disagreement. I would be happy to answer your queries and clarify any doubts.

3) You have enclosed with your letter, a paper by you and Shri PC Kesavan, titled 'From Green Revolution to Evergreen Revolution: Pathways and Terminologies.' I have requested some well-wishers to translate it into Gujarati or Marathi, so that I can respond to it, hopefully within a week or two.

4) Considering that less than 5 % of Indian farmers understand English, I urge the ‘National Commission for Farmers’ to please supplement with vernacular translations, your future important communications to farmers – including any Interim Draft Report – for seeking our opinion. Such a gesture may significantly help your consultation with farmers become truly participatory and fruitful.

5) Special, urgent effort needs to be made in seeking out senior/old traditional/organic farmers, women and men, who will not be around too long to pass on their vital knowledge, insights and wisdom. All documentations (and translations) of interaction with such living repositories of practical knowledge of sustainable, organic farming in different regions, need to be widely disseminated. A related, similar effort, on an emergency footing, is needed to conserve – in their decentralised, natural habitats – our rich treasure of plant diversity, both of crops and uncultivated species. We have many thousands of these, now increasingly neglected and threatened with extinction.

6) I am encouraged that my Open Letter dated 29-7-06 has generated so much interest. While most people have been appreciative, a few have responded with specific criticisms and/or questions. I address some of these below:

(i) Honest Science and Non-invasive Technology

A few people wrote that I should not seem to denigrate all 'science' and 'scientists', especially reputed figures who have worked for the nation. I clarify that I do not devalue science or scientists per se. But I do believe it is unscientific, indeed hazardous, to uncritically trust 'scientific authorities', especially regarding wider safety considerations of commercial or patented technologies and inputs promoted by them.

The kind of technology we need, must be wedded to compassion, foresight and wisdom. It should, first and foremost, do no harm. Additionally, it should empower people to be self-reliant in all basic needs, rather than increase their dependence on – and vulnerability to – distant, external factors and forces. Hence, maximum emphasis must be given to local needs and rights, and to local, decentralised resources and know-how. Any dependence on external, purchased technologies and inputs – especially for our most basic needs like clean water and wholesome food – is fraught with grave dangers. This, I believe, is starkly self-evident.

(ii) Did not the 'Green Revolution' Avert Famine?

It may be more true to say that the 'Green Revolution', through ruining our soils and depleting our groundwater, has been progressively creating the conditions for widespread future famine. Mal-distribution, hunger and malnourishment are already with us, despite (or because of) huge, national stockpiles of grains, rotting in our warehouses and feeding rats. But other vital foods (vegetables, fruit, pulses, millets, etc.) are all in short supply. Thanks to the 'wheat and rice obsessive Green Revolution' that its initiators failed to rein in!

All the famines witnessed at certain periods in some regions of our country – including the Bengal Famine – were largely (if not entirely) man-made. Before Independence, it was excessive colonial exploitation, particularly during periods of war, that was the major cause. Forced cultivation of cash-crops, often for export; high extraction of taxes and levies; consequent neglect of common resources like irrigation tanks, … etc., were the key factors resulting in villagers going hungry. And even then – as today – it was mal-distribution, rather than overall scarcity, that was the real culprit. Our heritage of natural resources and traditional farming knowledge, was doubtless among the richest in the world. We certainly did not need any west-bedazzled 'lab and pulpit' agricultural scientists telling us how to grow our food.

It has been further pointed out to me that:

According to Government records, both the compound annual rates of growth in 'total production' as well as 'productivity' (yield per unit area) – including 'all' crops – for India as a whol

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