Ex-Journo’s Org Helped Turn 30,000 Farmers Organic in Punjab, Revived Millets

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Read full article by Rinchen Norbu Wangchuck@TheBetterIndia PhotoCredit:TheBetterIndia

Battling ignorance, the establishment, and sometimes even hunger, the Kheti Virasat Mission brought about an organic revolution in the heart of a Green Revolution ‘success story’. #GrowOrganic

In the winter of 1996, Umendra Dutt, an editor with a Delhi-based news publication covering agriculture, met with farmers in Fazilka district, Punjab to discuss the benefits of organic farming and the adverse impact of Green Revolution. However, he was told by a participant up front that none of them had even heard about ‘organic farming’.

He received the same response in every informal meeting he went to in Abohar, Ferozepur, Patiala, Bhatinda and several other districts, and would later find out the reason—back then, Punjab did not have a single plot of land where organic farming was practised.

Lone Ranger
Punjab, the ‘Food Bowl of India,’ was a shining example of how the Green Revolution driven by heavy mechanisation, monoculture crops, chemical pesticides, artificial fertilisers, and high water consumption, made the country self-sufficient.

However, through his work in journalism since the early 1990s, Dutt had uncovered a darker dimension of the Green Revolution—from the rise in cancer cases in the region attributed to indiscriminate use of agrochemicals, rising costs of farming, destruction of soil cover, overexploitation of groundwater to a food chain and ecosystem contaminated by toxins.

He read reports published by the World Health Organization (WHO), sifted through government statistics, and met with people from a broad ideological spectrum ranging from Anupam Mishra of the Gandhi Peace Foundation to Dattopant Thengadi, the founder of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Vandana Shiva of Navdanya and journalist Devinder Sharma.

Dutt also read books like ‘One Straw Revolution’ by pioneering Japanese organic agriculturist Masanobu Fukuoka and interacted with some of the earliest practitioners of organic farming in India like Manohar Bhau Parchure, Suresh Desai, Dr. Claude Alvares and Dr. Preeti Joshi, among many others.

Skills

Posted on

May 25, 2020

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