June 01, 2014

AIKS on Save Environment, Save Agriculture Day

THE All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) has urged upon the entire Indian peasantry and the people at large to observe June 5, 2014, the World Environment Day, as the ‘Save Environment, Save Agriculture Day’ as a mark of opposition against the dire environmental consequences of corporate driven capitalist development and its impact on agriculture and industry all over the world.  A statement issued by the All India Kisan Sabha from New Delhi, May 23, said environment is a matter of great concern to the organisation. The peasantry and agriculture are facing a serious crisis mainly due to the neo-liberal economic policies, and due to the environmental degradation and other related problems which these very policies have accentuated. The large scale acquisition of farmland, unscientific and indiscriminate use of fertilisers and pesticides leading to soil degradation, elimination of green growth that leads to water scarcity and desertification, illegal mining, rampant pollution of air, water and soil etc --- among other factors --- are compelling the farmers to quit farming. In this context, the AIKS has expressed the hope that commemoration of the World Environment Day could serve as a reminder to rededicate ourselves to the important issue of protection of environment along with the protection of livelihoods of the peasantry and the working class. The growing risks and vulnerabilities --- particularly as a result of the global warming and climate change like delayed monsoons, unseasonal rains, frost, hailstorms, droughts and floods --- are adding to the woes of the peasantry. The government has no long term planning and has no contingency plans in place to meet any such eventuality. The impending threat of the El Nino effect is also expected to have an adverse impact on productivity. The indiscriminate exploitation of groundwater resources has also led to a precarious groundwater table in most parts of India. Despite these significant portents, there are no efforts to have a scientific water management policy. There are no efforts to resuscitate the aquifers, proliferate the water harvesting measures and watersheds, protect as well as recharge the existing water bodies like lakes and ponds, and other environment friendly scientific strategies to cope with the problem. Instead, further problems are being created by privatisation of water and talking of ambitious projects like river linking, tunnelling, diversion of rivers and the like which could cause irreversible damage to the environment and people’s livelihoods.  According to the AIKS, the high external input dependent intensive agriculture and indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides have not only made agriculture more expensive but also led to soil degradation and other related problems. It has also led to serious threats to health of both the peasantry and the consumers, and also wiped out friendly insects and pollinators. The judicious use of fertilisers, supplementing it with adequate organic materials, adoption of scientific sustainable agro-ecological approaches and better agronomic practices are not being promoted. The AIKS said it has been demanding a national soil amelioration and replenishment programme to address the issues of alkalinity, acidity, soil erosion and degradation, but the government has so far not moved in this direction. The AIKS has demanded more government spending on the promotion of sustainable agronomic practices and also use of bio-fertilisers. The predatory agribusinesses have been promoting technologies that are aimed at maximising their profits. There have been serious threats to biodiversity in the recent past and many crops have been removed out of the purview of the Biodiversity Act, opening the gates for these companies to gain access to different strains and also later patent the product of their research on such crops. The hasty permission for field trials of the genetically modified (GM) food crops is the latest case in point. In addition to these problems the indiscriminate exploitation of forest and mineral resources has also led to a serious threat to the environment. The AIKS says it stands opposed to illegal mining, quarrying, felling of trees and illegal constructions aimed at profiteering. It believes that there should be a comprehensive plan for protection of fragile ecosystems and people’s livelihoods and that it should evolve through the widest possible consultative process. The AIKS says it also stands against the indiscriminate conversion of paddy lands and commons for real estate or other purposes. The large scale loot and pollution of natural resources under corporate capitalism the world over belittle the existence of both nature and humans. Without protecting the nature and environment, no human existence and livelihood is possible. The Indian state power often tries to counterpose the protection of environment to the livelihood of the peasantry and other working people. The latest instance has been the effort to forcefully impose the anti-people recommendations of Western Ghats ecology expert panel’s and the high level working group’s reports, popularly known as the Gadgil-Kasturirangan reports. In this context, peasants and agriculture workers have to defend the Indian agriculture by protecting the environment --- soil, water and atmosphere --- and pressurise the government to give up policies that harm agriculture and environment, and undertake schemes for their protection. The AIKS has called upon all its units to galvanise collective action with various activities like shramdaan for water harvesting, protection of water bodies, soil amelioration and replenishment measures, tree planting drives, awareness campaigns, seminars etc. The AIKS will organise a workshop on environment and agriculture at New Delhi on June 5.