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Fire continues to rage in Uttarakhand forests; locals complain of govt inaction

Forest officials admit that they are facing resource crunch when it comes to tackling forest fires

                    Around 898 hectares of forest land has been engulfed by forest fire in Uttarakhand with 542 fire incidents reported across the hill state till April 28. Credit: Vikas Choudhary
 Around 898 hectares of forest land has been engulfed by forest fire in Uttarakhand with 542 fire incidents reported across the hill state till April 28. Credit: Vikas Choudhary

Forest fire has been raging in Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand for five days now. Srinagar, the largest town in the Garhwal Hills, is the worst affected with fire engulfing different parts of the forest area.

While locals residing in proximity to raging forests complain of inaction on the part of the administration, the forest department and Kalagarh tiger reserve officials admit that their efforts are being hindered by insufficient resources and manpower. According to media reports, the department has admitted that it has limited vehicles and equipment necessary to tackle forest fires.

Locals have been trying to douse the flames themselves in absence of intervention from the authorities. They also complain of difficulty in breathing due to the smoke. District Commissioner Dalip Jawalkar refused to comment on the situation when Down To Earth reached out to him.

Credit: Global Forest Watch
Credit: Global Forest Watch

Javalkar has reportedly expressed concern over the consistent rise in forest fire incidents in Pauri district. While addressing media last week, he stressed that the forest department has to take additional efforts and prepare a plan for tackling the problem. He reportedly admitted that efforts made so to tackle the problem have not been sufficient.

Around 898 hectares of forest land has been engulfed by forest fire in Uttarakhand with 542 fire incidents reported across the hill state till April 28, according to data compiled by the forest department. While 171 fire incidents were reported in Kumaon division, 371 occurred in Garhwal division. Last year, around 1,228 hectares of forest land was gutted.

Pauri Garhwal district is home to one of the last remaining stretches of dense forests in Uttarakhand.

According to Global Forest Watch, between May 13 and 20, Pauri Garhwal district has witnessed highest number of fire alerts among all districts in the country. It is followed by Amritsar and Ludhiana districts—both in Punjab—where agricultural stubble burning has seen steady rise over the past three weeks despite awareness campaigns and punitive measures.

The forest fire season in the country is between February and June

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P Sainath calls for gherao of Parliament by a million farmers

P Sainath calls for gherao of Parliament by a million farmers


P Sainath calls for gherao of Parliament by a million farmers
Top Indian journalist says farmers and agri-labourers must force a 20-day long Parliament session exclusively devoted to agrarian crisis
In what could be nothing less than a call for a peaceful democratic revolution, India’s foremost journalist chronicler of rural economy, P Sainath, gave a clarion call to the country’s farmers to demand and force a 20-day long special session of Parliament to discuss the agrarian crisis and to march towards Delhi and lay siege to the Parliament as such a debate happens inside.
“I am putting forth a demand before Punjab’s farmers and academics and all those who care about the state of the farmers. The Parliament, which has been making news for disruptions lately, should convene for 20 days and stay focussed only on farmers’ issues. Such a session should be divided into 5-6 narrow areas of three days each. And, meanwhile, farmers from various states should move towards Delhi and encircle the Parliament,” Sainath, who has been touring Punjab since April 27, said publicly at various places in Patiala, Barnala, Mansa, Ludhiana and others.
Sainath, who is known for his field work and reporting on farm suicides, rural wages, condition of farmers and labourers and economic skew in development pattern, said he is in talks with various political parties to force the issue.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award winner and widely respected journalist is expected to reiterate his call for such a siege to Indian Parliament at the Desh Bhagat Yadgaar Haal in Jalandhar on May 5 at an event that coincides with the 200th birth anniversary of Karl Marx.
Sainath, who is known for his field work and reporting on farm suicides, rural wages, condition of farmers and labourers and economic skew in development pattern, said he is in talks with various political parties to force the issue.
“It has been twelve years that Swaminathan Report is gathering dust. It is time Parliament finds the time,” he thundered at a public lecture at Tarksheel Bhawan, Patiala.
“For three days, Parliament should only discuss Swaminathan Commission report and decide the MSP issue. For another three days, it should discuss loan, loan waiver, access to bank credit. The next three days should be devoted to discussing the issue of water and making drinking water a fundamental human right. Also, it should discuss privatisation of water.”
Sainath said the next three days of such a 20-day Parliament session should be spent thrashing out whether India should proceed with community-led farming or corporate farming.
“And the last three days, the survivors of the agrarian distress should stand in the Central Hall of India’s Parliament and tell the nation what happened to them. Let them tell their own story. No lobbyist, no journalist, no mantri-santri, but farmers and labourers themselves. It is time the country hears their voices,” said Sainath, often seen as a conscience keeper of the India of our times.
He said encircling the Parliament was necessary as only a strong show of power will bring the government to the negotiating table.
On the last 3 days of such a Parliament session, the survivors of the agrarian distress should stand in the Central Hall of India’s Parliament and tell the nation what happened to them…It is time the country hears their voices,” Sainath said.
“When farmers and labourers will show their power, the government will come around to negotiate…In Mumbai, more than 45,000 tribals and farmers had converged from just two districts. Imagine the multitudes we can bring flooding to Delhi!” Sainath said.
He said farmer organisations should join heads and plan for a year for such a revolution.
Referring to massive scams and juxtaposing the amounts involved with the much hyped loan waivers in states, including in Punjab, Sainath said, “Of the Rs 7.5 lakh crore NPA of public sector banks, more than 70% involves loans given to the corporate sector…The farmers are not seeking alms. They are not beggars. Chotta kisan barre bank ko nahi loot raha. They are not Vijay Mallya or Nirav Modi. Credit is the right of the farmers.”
The Agriculture distress is not only the crisis of farmers. The fact is that farmers and labourers are being looted in the domain of education and health, he said.
Who are the ruling classes in India? Socio-religious fundamentalists and economic market fundamentalists have joined hands.
“All economists who were with the UPA are today with the BJP. Look at the likes of Surjit Bhalla and Bibek Debroy, came from Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. They are market extremists, market jihadis. We need to understand all this. These are the guys who are India’s rulers,” he said.
Encircling of the Parliament by a million farmers was necessary as only a strong show of power will bring the government to the negotiating table. Farmer organisations should join heads and plan for a year for such a revolution, he said.
He slammed those claiming that farmers’ suicides were not too extraordinarily high, and said people like Arvind Panagariya and journalists like Swaminathan S Ankleswaria Aiyer were wrong in projecting the numbers of farmers as 69 % of the population.
“Not everyone is a hero or an actor in Bollywood. Not everyone in the education sector is a teacher. Similarly, not everyone in rural India is a farmer. Farmers comprise a mere 8% of our population,” Sainath said.
Sainath also strongly condemned the proposition that public sector banks should be privatised. “Earlier, when these banks were not nationalised, the failure rate of the banks was astronomical,” Sainath said.
Former NITI Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya had recently advocated privatisation of public sector banks (with the exception of SBI) and even urged the political parties to include the proposal in their manifesto for 2019 general elections.
Sainath’s interactions with small groups of farmer leaders, academics, intellectuals and activists at various places in Punjab often saw him seething with anger and slamming various governments when it came to their attitude towards farm crisis

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Over half of world’s population lacks access to essential healthcare services – WHO

More than half the global population lacked access to essential healthcare services, the latest annual report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed on Thursday, May 17, 2018.

Peter Salama

Peter Salama, WHO’s Deputy Director-General of Emergency Preparedness and Response

The report, titled “World Health Statistics: Monitoring Health for the Sustainable Development Goals”, is WHO’s annual snapshot of the state of the world’s health.

The 2018 edition contains the latest available data for 36 health-related Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators.

In total, more than 50 SDG indicators measure health outcomes or health service provision.

“Less than half the people in the world today get all of the essential health services they need,” the report stated.

According to the report, weak health systems in a large number of countries are at fault for the lack of access to basic health services.

“In many countries, weak health systems remain an obstacle to progress and lead to shortages in coverage of even the most basic health services, as well as poor preparedness for health emergencies,” the report stated.

The WHO report disclosed that for the period of 2007-2016, 76 countries reported having less than one physician per 1,000 of the population.

Also 87 countries reported having fewer than three nursing and midwifery personnel per 1,000 of the population.

According to WHO, medicines for palliative care and pain management are considered essential.

However, data from health facility surveys conducted nationally in 29 countries during the period 2007-2017 showed that only 64 per cent of public sector facilities surveyed in low income countries.

Also, only 58 per cent of public sector facilities surveyed in lower middle income countries stocked medicines for pain management and palliative care.

The report identified that apart from access to basic and necessary healthcare, challenges also persist in attaining the eight Millennium Development Goals [MDG], which range from combating AIDS, malaria, and other diseases to reducing child mortality.

“In spite all the progress made during the [MDG] era, major challenges persist in the MDG priority areas.

“These challenges will need to be addressed if further progress is to be made in reducing maternal and child mortality, improving nutrition, and combating communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria,” the report stated.

The SDGs were adopted by UN member states in 2015 as the world’s objectives for the next 15 years.

They comprise 17 interlinked goals and 169 targets to be achieved globally by 2030.

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India -Rooftop solar power’s massive job potential untapped

India has only met 9.5 per cent of the target for roof-top solar power, which has the maximum job potential

Rooftop solar power is more labour intensive than other renewables, with potential to provide 24.72 job-years per MW. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Rooftop solar power is more labour intensive than other renewables, with potential to provide 24.72 job-years per MW. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Centre’s inability to meet its ambitious target of installing 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022 is likely to hit the sector’s huge job potential—estimated to be over 300,000, as per the recent ILO report titled World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with Job. The Centre has failed to meet the renewable physical targets in the past two years.

As per a Parliamentary Standing Committee Report, just 9.5 per cent of the rooftop solar target has been met so far, even though the sector has the potential to create maximum green jobs in the renewable sector. Rooftop solar power is more labour-intensive than other renewables, with a potential to provide 24.72 job-years per MW in comparison with 3.45 job-years per MW for ground-mounted solar power and 1.27 job-years per MW for wind power, says a June 2017 report titled Greening India’s Workforce: Gearing up for Expansion of Solar and Wind Power in India.

Of the 10,000 MW target for installed rooftop solar power capacity by 2017-18, only 953 MW has so far been achieved, suggesting a gap of 90.5 per cent.

Job potential

Over 300,000 workers will be employed in the next five years to achieve India’s solar and wind energy targets, mostly in the rooftop solar sector to meet the government’s ambitious 175 GW renewables target by 2022. An additional 45,000 jobs will be created to fuel the domestic solar module manufacturing industry, says the June 2017 report by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water.

As per the latest government estimates, 390 million people—or 83 per cent of the total workforce—are employed in unorganised sector.

So, if India attains its renewable targets, it will reduce the country’s carbon footprint and at the same time partially address the unemployment challenge. This is important as the country has seen over 480 student protests in 2016, which is close to 40 protests a month. This is worrying as close to 35 per cent Indians are young (15-34 years)

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The India village ‘on the verge of extinction’

Representational imageImage copyrightAFP
Image captionIron ore mining was a major source of jobs in Goa

When India‘s Supreme Court banned iron ore mining in the western state of Goa in February 2018, many villages in the state had already been ravaged by decades of mining. Journalist Supriya Vohra visited Sonshi, one such village that is struggling to survive.

“We were literally eating dust,” says 45-year-old Kusum Gawade. The dozens of trucks going to and from the village’s mining pits used to pass by Ms Gawade’s house regularly.

Nearly everyone who lives in Sonshi belongs to an indigenous tribe that has a common last name, Gawade.

“I had to clean my house at least three times a day,” Ms Gawade adds. “The dust was everywhere. It entered our rooms, sat on our utensils, went inside our food, our water. It was a part and parcel of our lives.”

The Goa high court ordered the trucks to use an alternative route after a local non-profit filed a case in April 2017 citing damage to the environment and health due to mining.

Bright green nylon sheets, which were meant to absorb the clouds of dust, now flank the roads in Sonshi. But the mines have been closed since February this year when the Supreme Court cancelled all mining permits in the state, saying that new licenses were needed for the mining to resume.

The court shut down all 90 mines, once a thriving source of jobs in the region. Between 2010 and 2012 alone, Goa exported 55 million tonnes of iron ore annually.

A man walks down a street in SonshiImage copyrightSUPRIYA VOHRA
Image captionSonshi is a tiny village of 60 households

Sonshi is a tiny, dusty speck on Goa’s eastern mining belt. It has approximately 60 households, a government-run primary school where the attendance has gradually decreased over the years, a defunct dispensary and a playground.

Nearly everyone in Sonshi says their family once owned fields of paddy and cashew. But over the years they all came to depend on the mining industry.

“All of this used to be quite green,” said Sandeep Gawade41, a former truck driver who lives in Sonshi. “We used to have cashew plantations where you now see these hills of dumps.”

The “dumps” are mounds of soil that was once covering the mineral but was dug up and cast aside to reach the ore. This is typical of open pit mining, which is practised in Goa.

A map of Goa
Image captionSonshi is in eastern Goa, which is a region rich in minerals

Many locals say their agricultural fields were “taken over” by mining companies and used for excavation or as a site for “dumps”. Sonshi, like the rest of eastern Goa, has soil that is rich in minerals, especially iron ore.

It is unclear how many people voluntarily leased their lands to mining companies. According to local environmentalists, many of the agreements were signed when Goa was a Portuguese colony. They believe only 10 mining leases have been granted since the state became a part of India in 1961. State officials did not respond to requests by the BBC for comment.

Activists say most of the mining has been carried out in ecologically sensitive areas, many of which are inhabited by tribal communities.

“The transportation has spread noise, dust, destruction and death through the interiors of Goa, affecting health, agriculture and livelihoods,” says Abhijeet Prabhudesai, a Goa-based environmentalist. He added that the deposits from the mines were also polluting the underground water that “feeds springs and sustains all life in Goa”.

A dried up water well in Sonshi.Image copyrightNEIL D’SOUZA
Image captionMining has polluted underground water, say environmentalists

Since most wells and streams have dried up, locals say they began to depend on mining companies and the state for regular supply of water. They say it is not potable and that they have to use their own methods to filter it.

In September 2015, a national scheme was introduced to provide for the welfare of mining-affected areas across India, using funds generated through contributions from mining companies – the fund for Goa alone amounted to about $26m (£19.2m).

A senior official familiar with the matter told the BBC that the fund had not been utilised yet and that the court was monitoring the matter.

Activists say that villages like Sonshi have been coerced into becoming dependent on iron ore mining, which was a major contributor to Goa’s economy. But since the Supreme Court shut down the mines, these villages have been struggling.

The roads are still dotted with trucks that carried iron ore from the mines to a processing plant nearby. Most of them are owned by locals who drove them to transport iron ore and earned up to 2000 rupees ($29.8) a day.

Mining machinery in Sonshi is now parked next to a primary school.Image copyrightNEIL D’SOUZA
Image captionThe end of mining has cost locals their jobs

Chandrakant Gawade, 53, runs a hotel in his house, where employees of mining companies would rent rooms. Ever since mining stopped, business has gone down. He lives in the house with his wife, three children, a dog and a cat. He says he sells buffalo milk for a living now.

Most families in Sonshi have a similar story to tell. Locals worked as security guards, drove trucks that transported the ore, worked in mines or docks to load and unload the ore, ran machines in the mines or ran hotels for visiting executives or rented rooms to non-locals who worked in the industry.

“Sonshi is on a verge of extinction,” says Ravindra Velip, a local activist. “The land is destroyed. A lot of people have already migrated to cities. There is no water. There is nothing left for the village folk. What do you call such a place?”

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India – Kudankulam is on way to Chernobyl

interview with V T Padmanabhan


V.T.Padmanabhan is a researcher continuously involved in a rigorous study of the technological, safety and generation history of the #Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant’s (#KNNPP) first two units. Mr. Pon Chandran, a human rights activist, interviews him on behalf of #TuNo Media.


This is an interview of great historical significance. The operational history of these two units highlight all the problems that crop up when a developed, technologically advanced nation like Russia collaborates with a less advanced one like India, to build nuclear reactors. However, the case of these two Indian examples give us a very special lesson because of the prior presence of a nuclear bureaucracy. One is able to understand clearly, without any doubt, the effect that geo-politics has on the day to day operational history of these plants. This interview shows clearly that the #nuclear reactors built in such a structural world #environment, are quickly sliding in to the path that the doomed #Chernobyl reactor took.

Here is Ponniah Chandran’s interview with V T Padmanabhan, in English:

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India – Adivasis Are Not Begging For Charity, But Their Constitutional Rights

Government or the bureaucracy doesn’t consider Adivasis as a community/social group and not even as a citizen with their own social and cultural identity. Renowned writer and Dalit intellectual Sunny M Kapikkad has stated, “ The government considers Adivasis as state subjects. What government does is to feed its subjects. First of all these projects have to be withdrawn.”

When the Adivasi children of Attappady are dying of starvation caused by the destruction of their ecosystem and their traditional agricultural practices, what the government does is to give them some rice and dal curry through community kitchens! Instead of giving adivasis their constitutional rights of self governance and forest rights Left Front Government in Kerala is behaving like a totalitarian state. The government’s attitude towards Adivasis is just like any other totalitarian state. The Kerala government doesn’t even consider Adivasis as citizens, not to speak of the constitutionally guaranteed special rights. What Adivasis need is not charity but their constitutional rights.

The Sabotage of Adivasi Self Governance

Act 244 (1), Schedule (5), (6) of Indian constitution guarantees Adivasi areas right to self governance. Schedule (6) applied only to  the North Eastern states of Assam, Meghalya, Tripura and Missoram. The Government of India has agreed in 1976 to bring all other Adivasi areas of India under Schedule (5) and declare them are Scheduled Tribe areas. Once the area has been notified as Scheduled Tribe, Adivasi Gramasabhas (Adivasi advisory council) will get sovereignty of the designated area. In these scheduled areas most decisions will be made by these Adivasi Gramasabhas, including land transfer and the restrictions on it, development of the area, trade and money transfer etc. Most importantly the authority to implement the laws made by central or state governments in the designated area wrests with the Gramasabhas. If they deem it’s not in the interest of the Adivasis, they will have the right not to implement it in the scheduled areas. Adivasi self governance gives the right to protect their ecosystem and farming practices. Adivasi rights got big boost when in 1996 PESA ACT (Panchayath Extension to the Scheduled Area, Act 1996 ) was implemented.

These are the main provisions of the PESA Act:

  1. The laws that the state government makes about Panchayats should be compatible to the ritualistic laws of Adivasis, their social and religious customs, the handlings of the common resources of the Adivasis.
  2. The projects and programmes that the Panchayat initiates for the development of the Adivasis should be approved by the Gramasabha
  3. Panchayat and the Gramasabha should arrive at a consensus if land of the scheduled areas is to be acquisitioned for development projects and also on the rehabilitation of the evicted Adivasis.
  4. Gramasabhas has the authority to re-acquisition the Adivasi land lost to the Adivasis
  5. The authority to run village markets
  6. The authority to extend control over all parties who are in social service sector working in the scheduled area
  7. The authority to control locally planned projects and its financial management including the Tribal Sub-plan fund

Even though there was constitutional mandate and the relevant laws were passed, Kerala government and civil society did not find it necessary to discuss or enact the Adivasi self governance laws or PESA Act until Adivasis started the historic ‘Kudil Ketti Samaram’ in August 29, 2001. After 48 days of strike, on October 16 government agreed to give land to all landless Adivasis, for this government would allocate land including forest land and to implement Adivasi self-governance. The government also agreed to implement it in a time bound manner.

As usual the government cheated on the Adivasis and didn’t implement the committed assurances. It is in this context that in January 3, 2003 that Adivasis began their ‘Kudil Ketty Samaram’ in Muthanga forest.  When the agitators announced that they are only reinforcing the constitutionally guaranteed right to self governance and that Muthanga forest where they set up hutments is a scheduled tribe self governance area, the government and the media spread the lie that ‘Adivasis are trying to create a separate country.’ They rubbished and denied  the constitutional rights of Adivasis. On 19 February 2003, police forced opened fire on innocent Adivasis. Jogi, an Adivasi died on the spot. Police also unleashed a brutal physical assault on the hapeless Adivasis. At least 10 Adivasis died later on who became sick from the brutal police assault. Many became bedridden. Over 700 Adivasi women, children and elderly were jailed. In spite of all laws protecting child rights, 148 children were jailed. This is one of the greatest blot on modern Kerala history. Still, Adivasis haven’t got justice.

When all doors were closed on the Adivasis, On July 9, 2014 Adivasis started a ‘standing protest’ (Nilpu Samaram) in front of the Kerala secretariate with the slogan that “ To keep word is a democratic decency”. Adivasis continued this standing protest for 162 days under scorching sun and pouring rain with the demand that Adivasi self governance and the forest rights acts must be implemented.  On December 18, 2014 Congress led Oomman Chandy government agreed the main demands of the protesters. Government gave a report to the central government to implement PESA Act in 2445 Adivasi ooru in 31 Panchayats and 3 municipalities of Wayanad, Palakkad, Idukki, Kannur and Malappuram districts. This report was given on April 7, 2015.

The communist party led Left Front Government assumed power on May 25, 2016. Ever since the new government assumed office they are scuttling the process to implement the earlier recommendation of the UDF government to implement PESA Act. The government even care to do follow up on the report given to the central government.

A question was raised in Kerala Assembly as to the process of implementing PESA Act. The Scheduled Tribe Welfare minister A.K Balan gave an evasive answer. He said, “ There is no clarity on the boundaries of Adivasi ooru.  The problems that may come up in implementing Adivasi self governance areas within the same Panchayt wards have to be looked into in detail.”

The ministers stand bewilders Adivasis, since it has been clearly pointed out how PESA Act can be implemented in the Kerala context during the 2014 ‘standing protest’, before that during the ‘kudil ketty samaram’. It is indeed a fact that PESA Act can not be implemented in its entirety in Kerala except in the Adivasi majority Attappady Block of Palakkadu district, Edamalakkudy Panchayat in Idukki district and Aralam in Kannur district. All other Adivasi areas are not Adivasi majority areas and are interspersed with local population. It was pointed out that if the government enacts a law that acknowledge the Adivasi ooru as gramasabha the problem can be solved. The same thing was advised by Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) in a study conducted in 2016.

PESA Act only acknowledges the legacy rights of Ooru. This includes land also. To determine the land boundaries is not such a difficult. The government can determine boundaries and do the mapping within months, if it wishes so. Still the Scheduled Tribe Welfare (?) minister informs the assembly that this is an impossible task. This shows the intention of the government not to implement PESA Act in Kerala.

On August 9, 2017 Scheduled Tribe Welfare minister informed the Kerala Assembly that a high power committee has been formed to determine scheduled tribe areas. Efforts to find out the workings of this committee never materialized. When the issue was raised to the director of KILA who is a member of this committee, he feigned ignorance and kept silence.   It is reliably learnt that this committee has never met. From the functioning of the Communist led Left Front government so far, it can be understood that they have no interest to implement PESA Act or to give self governance to Adivasis.

On the other hand the government is very proactive in giving land rights to the migrant communities of Idukki and Wayanad. Even the Chief Minister himself chaired many meetings for this. Why this negligence towards Adivasis? It is nothing other than racist and casteist attitude towards the Adivasis.

When the Adivasis youth Madhu was lynched in Attappady in a racist act by the settlers this racist attitude of the government reached its logical conclusion. Adivasis of Kerala are fighting for their survival. The Adivasis of Kerala will overcome this casteist and racist attitude of the government with a new democratic movement.

K. Santhosh Kumar is a social activist working for dalit/aadivasi land and resource rights

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Maharashtra Govt Fails to Fulfil Promises, Farmer Organisations Call For ‘Jail Bharo’ Protest

Around two lakh farmers will court arrest on May 14, which is the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj.
Various farmer organisations, under the banner of Shetkari Sanghatana Sukanu Samiti, have called for a ‘Jail Bharo Andolan’ on May 14, across the state of Maharashtra. The court arrest, by over two lakh farmers, is slated to take place on the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj. They will be protesting against the ‘anti-farmer’ attitude of the state government.
Their grievances are the ill implementation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Sanman Scheme (loan waiver scheme), failure to secure Minimum Support Price for milk farmers and waiver of power bills of farmers.
Farmer organisations, which have called for the protest include Shetkari Sanghatana, All India Kisan Sabha, Baliraja Shetkari Sangh, Satyashodhak Shetkari Sabha, and Akhil Bharatiya Shetkari Sangh, among others.
“Despite giving assurances, the government did not implement the schemes. We have conducted various agitations so far, like not paying electricity bills, observing fasts, launching a protest march etc., but the farmers could not get any relief,” PTI quoted Kishor Dhamale of Satyashodhak Shetkari Sabha as saying.
A failed attempt at alleviation
Responding to the deplorable condition of farmers, Maharashtra’s chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced the so-called historic farm loan waiver – titled Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana – in the state on June 24, 2017. The Rs 34,000 crore farm loan waiver scheme intended to help 89 lakh farmers in debt, out of which loans of around 40 lakh farmers were to be completely written off.
However, as reported by Firstpost, the scheme benefitted only 31 lakh farmers and loans worth Rs 12,262 crores were waived till January 2018. The report mentioned technical glitches, mismatches in data and tussles in bureaucracy, as reasons for the slow progress, turning the Aadhaar-linked farm loan waiver scheme into a nightmare.
The mismatch, caused due to the Aadhaar-mapping of loan accounts, resulted in the first combined master list of only 2.39 lakh valid applicants who were eligible for loan waiver, which is just 3 percent of the applications received from farmers by the government.
Pointing towards this fiasco, Raghunathdada Patil, leader of Shetkari Sanghatana said, “After the announcements of farm loan waiver, around 2,000 farmers have committed suicide. The loan waiver hasn’t helped in stopping farmer suicides. We don’t accept the government’s loan waiver. It should be a complete loan waiver for all farmers”.
Only “broken promises” for milk farmers
After a week-long strike by the farmers in Maharashtra, the government, in June 2017, promised better prices to milk producers, a likely increase of Rs 3 per litre. The revised price at which the dairies were to purchase cow milk was estimated to be at Rs 27 per litre.
However, the promise turned out to be just another ludicrous attempt of the state government to appease the angry farmers.
Expressing anguish over the present situation of milk farmers, Kishor Dhamale of Satyashodhak Shetkari Sabha said, “Around three crore litres of milk is produced every day in Maharashtra. The government had promised the rate of Rs 27 per litre, but farmers are getting the rate of Rs 20 per litre. They have to bear losses of Rs 21 crore every day which means the losses of Rs 7,000 crore (from June 2017) till today.”
Unending tale of agrarian crisis in Maharashtra
Last year, a state-wide farmers’ strike was called in Maharashtra by Kisan Kranti, which rocked Madhya Pradesh as well and resulted in the deaths of six farmers in Mandsaur district. After the passage of one year, the reality of farmers is still the same, resulting in a sentiment of discontent towards the state. Considering the perpetual endeavours of different governments to only play politics in the name of alleviating the condition of farmers, maybe jail is the only place left for survival.

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India diverts 10 million hectares of productive agri-lands, replaces them with barren lands for cultivation #WTFnews

Point of No Agri-returns Part 7:

Government report terms this as the ‘often overlooked’ aspect of the agrarian crisis in the country

                    Credit: Flickr
 Credit: Flickr

As the reports of the Committee on Doubling farmers’ Income—a flagship promise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has, of late, defined his electoral narrative—start piling up, assessing the country’s agriculture sector, the crisis gets deeper.

In its seventh report, the Committee has found a systemic change in land use that has been hurting farmers’ income. According to this report, India has been diverting large tracts of productiveagricultural lands for other purposes like making way for new townships and to accommodate expanding settlements besides being given for industrial purposes.

This is a known story. But what the report finds disturbing is that more and more barren and uncultivable lands are being brought under farming. This has impacted the farmers’ productivity, income security and also viability of cultivation.

Since 1970-71, the area under non-agriculture has increased by 10 million hectares (mha).  This, the report suggests, is basically of productive agricultural lands being diverted for other uses.  On the other hand during the same period (1971-2011-12), lands under the barren and uncultivated category have declined from 28.16 mha to 17.23 mha. It is more than a million hectares.

The report argues that given India’s net-cultivated area remaining the same, this indicates farmers are now more dependent on barren and uncultivable lands for survival. “The often overlooked fact behind the almost stagnant net-cultivated area is a significant diversion of prime agricultural lands for non-agricultural purposes and the simultaneous induction of barren and uncultivable lands. An apparent logic behind this statement is that the expansion of cities and towns and other developmental/infrastructural activities often take place in prime agricultural lands around cities/townships,” says the report.

India’s net-cultivated areas remain stagnant at around 140 mha since 1970. But lands under non-agricultural purposes have gone up from 19.66 mha in 1970 to 26.19 in 2011-12. In the decade of 2000-2010 alone, India has added close to 3 mha in this category.

Source: Report Of the Committee On Doubling Farmers' Income  Volume 7
Source: Report Of the Committee On Doubling Farmers’ Income Volume 7

On the other hand, lands under the barren and uncultivated category, has come down from 28.16 mha in 1971 to 17.23 mha in 2012. In the decade of 2000-2010, it saw a dip from 18 to 17.23 mha.In both the above categories, land use changes have followed complimentary trends.

More importantly, this tract of new lands is going to decide India’s self-sufficiency in food production. Most of these lands are rain-fed. The government’s ambition of doubling farmers’ income faces a big challenge here. “As new lands inducted to croplands are extremely poor in terms of fertility status and overall health, a careful monitoring and management is obviously needed to make them productive and economically remunerative,” says the report.

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Submission to the Draft National Clean Air Programme policy (NCAP)

by-Rohit Parakh
NCAP (National Clean Air Programme) has been published here below. Given clean air/air pollution touches many aspects (forests, waste management, agriculture, transport, fossil fuel/energy/renewable energy, subsidy accountability, healthcare, construction, architecture for indoor pollution) there are a huge variety of points that must be properly reflected and implemented. This also provides an opportunity for different stakeholders to come together as well.
Last date of submission is 17th May 2018. Comments to be sent to Dr Shruti Raj Bhardwaj (MoEF&CC) ; email at [email protected]
 Below is an attempt to cover (not complete by any means but) wider gaps on National Clean Air Programme policy draft. This touches wildlife (polluted air has an impact on animals, birds, fishes), agriculture (beyond stubble burning, pesticides/fertilizers have an impact on air pollution too), forests, fossil fuel subsidies, impact on health, environment-friendly housing, waste management.

Links below, last date of submission is 17th May, 2018. Email at [email protected]

  • Acknowledging role of ‘development’– The fundamental point which remains unaddressed is that India‘s economy is copying a Western model advocating greater consumption. This is best evident through the recent news of Pune where there are now more vehicles than residents living in the city! While this surely would have contributed to higher GDP, the impact this would have on increasing air pollution can be easily understood. True development must be understood to be a reduction of wants and greed. Unless the crux of this is addressed, such policy documents as we have for the current policy would at best only bring about half-hearted measures.
  • Local Language Translation for NCAP – NCAP must be made available in local languages, published in local newspapers/magazines, be communicated through government media and must actively reach the population which does not have access to internet through means of public consultation. Sadly more than 70 years after independence such documents only reach a small section of Indian citizens and does not take into account the views of most of the people at the ground.
  • No Emission Reduction Targets– The draft concept note for NCAP released in March, listed targets to reduce 35 % pollution levels in the next 3 years and 50 % pollution levels in the next 5 years. Whilst it was expected that these targets would be elaborated more in the final document to include sector-specific emission reduction targets, even these overall targets have been removed from the final policy document. Not only overall emission reduction targets but sector specific reduction targets must be set and monitored too.
  • Role of Agriculture
    1. Measures to tackle stubble burningmust have a higher focus on promoting usage of stubble as cattle feed, mulch for soil and manure. The focus of the document is more of a punishment-driven (Annexure IV – Page 47) approach on stubble burning rather than bringing in awareness and promoting alternative measures to stubble burning as listed above. Such measures must be primarily implemented by involving farmers rather than forcing/penalizing them. A recent article also points delay in rice-sowing pattern from April to June as pushed by Haryana and Punjab government as additional reasons for the recent increase in pollution due to stubble burning as well. These must be looked in on holistically too.
    2. Whilst role of agriculture in air pollution in the document has primarily focused on stubble burning (See Section 5.4.2 – Page 5, 7.1.1 (iv) – Page 9), the role of increased atmospheric ammoniabecause of agriculture has not been addressed. Data from NASA research published in 2017 discovered increased ammonia concentrations from 2002 to 2016 over agricultural centres in India and other countries. Some of the key factors in increased atmospheric ammonia are fertilizer usage (and the subsidies provided for it), reduction of excess nitrogen in animal diets and recycle of manure in crop systems. An overall push towards organic farming would help in tackling these measures too.
    3. Role of pesticides in pollution (has only been very briefly touched on in 7.1.1 (iv) – Page 9) and death of people due to their inhalation has not been mentioned anywhere and needs to be tackled too. Recent cases in Maharashtra (2 detailed reports available and Tamil Nadu (full report available here where more than 50 people lost their lives must serve as a strong reminder for the same. Detailed suggestions and measures have been mentioned in these reports which must be incorporated as well.
  • Economic Principles –
    1. Polluter Pays – Themes such as polluter pays which are amongst the most fundamental principles in tackling pollution around the world find no mention in the document. Without their being a clear and consistent articulation for the need for polluter to pay for the cost of cleaning up, a critical element of the policy will be left out. Infact, there are rising cases across the world of people holding their governments and corporations accountable (in courts and otherwise) for health damage caused due to polluted air by taking them to courts. Such mechanisms and frameworks must be built and strengthened in India too.
    2. Tackling fossil fuel subsidies– Research shows that India provided subsidies to the tune of Rs 1.24 lakh crore ( was provided in just 2016 to oil & gas, coal and electricity transmission/distribution. This need to be reduced rapidly so as to ensure fossil usage of fuel based resources which contribute massively to air pollution is tackled. The draft report fails to address this critical issue.
    3. Internalizing externalized costs– Often the costs of polluted air are often left to be borne by those who have had no or very little role in pollution of the air itself. A lot of citizens pay for this with increased healthcare costs and bad health overall. There is a significant need to internalize these externalized costs borne by the wider society so that true cost of pollution is tackled holistically. This is missing in the policy document, once this is done – measures to internalize the externalized costs such as higher taxes on the polluting sources amongst others need to be implemented as well.
    4. Extended Producer Responsibility – In addition, the producer of the goods must have the responsibility of managing the goods which cause such pollution at the end of their lifecycle.
    5. Change in Transport Pricing –Transport pricing must fundamentally be changed to strongly incorporate pollution which has currently been externalised. For instance, railway transport in recent years has been getting more expensive whereas air transport has been getting more cheaper. However air transport results in a higher cost to air quality by means of carbon emission resulting in much higher air pollution per passenger whereas pollution caused in rail transport per passenger is much lower. Consequently the pricing of these means as an example must follow their comparative environmental footprint as well.
  • Forests
    1. Focus on conserving older trees, preventing deforestation –Whilst the document talks about tree plantation drive (Section 7.1.8-Page 12), it fails to mention that older trees have a much higher potential for cleaning air than planting new saplings which could take decades to come anywhere closer to have a similar impact on cleaning air as the older trees. Not only that but diverse forests have been found to have a much wider potential for cleaning polluted air than randomly planted trees.  The air policy must have a strong focus on preventing deforestation and diverting forests for ‘development’ related activities.
    2. Concretization– Urban trees and forests are much threatened by increasing concretization, which needs to be addressed and balanced so that they can continue to play their role in cleaning air too.
  • Healthcare – Recourse to good-quality medical facilities for people suffering from air pollution related diseases must be made available for free especially for the economically weaker sections. The country’s health ministry must be involved in this to plan for means to ensure that the economically weaker sections do not have to pay for the polluted air by means of their health and expenses to treat it. This has again not been addressed in the document.
  • Eco-friendly architecture – Underthe section ‘Indoor Air Pollution Monitoring & Management’ (Section 7.1.3 -Page 62) a stronger focus on environment friendly housing design must be kept as well. Materials used predominantly in the construction/housing industry today including cement, paints contribute hugely to indoor pollution. Research shows that houses made of eco-friendly materials including mud, bamboo etc which  are coincidentally also showing a rising demand in Western countries are much more eco-friendly. More awareness and promotion of such eco-friendly technologies must be done too. There is also a need to tackle synthetic paints which further cause greater indoor air pollution too.
  • Vehicles –
    1. Reduction of private transport in cities– the document fails to even mention the need to tackle the massively increasing private transport in Indian cities. More than 3,500 vehicles are registered daily in Bengaluru. Unless the need for such measures is identified, addressing urban pollution cannot be addressed completely. Further, important mechanisms such as implementing congestion charge which have worked very well in reducing private transport and helping build public transport such as cities in London are missing in the document as well
    2. Building Public Transport –
      1. Reduced Ridership in Public Transport– While the report pats government on the back for measures to build public transport network (Section 1.5 – Page 2), it fails to even acknowledge the reduced ridership recently in Delhi for metro and bus because of the multiple increased fare hikes in the former and reduced services on the latter. If this is the condition of public transport in the capital of the country, the issues plaguing public transport in rest of the country can very well be imagined. Unless we can ensure that public transport is truly within the reach of the common man, it will not be fair to refer to it as ‘public’.
      2. Separate Lanes –While the results of the half-hearted experiments for dedicated bus lanes are still being witnessed in different parts of the country, there is a larger need for such separate lanes for buses, cyclists to be introduced throughout the country. At the least more such projects must be piloted throughout the country with lessons used to improve their implementation. This fails to find any mention in the document as well.
  • Miscellaneous
    1. Acid Rain, Eutrophication – Key impacts of polluted air such as acid rain, eutrophication (due to nitrogen pollution) are not even addressed in the document leave aside addressing it.

Cadmium Pollution – In addition to other pollutants, cadmium air pollution must be tracked and measured too. This is measured in Europe too but not mentioned in the NCAP document.

Policy document here below –

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