State Policy On
By Umendra Dutt
23 March, 2006
Indian State of Punjab is going to have a state policy on organic farming
very soon. The Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh has announced
this in current session of the assembely.Though announcements made are
always political but, policies always drafted without any political
vision.This lack of vision takes policies always away from the very
people on whose name and welfare the policies were declared.
Organic farming is gaining
growing importance in the agriculture sector of a number of countries,
irrespective of their stage of development. In several developed countries,
organic agriculture has come to represent a significant portion of the
food system (10% in Australia, 7.8% in Switzeriand) and many others
are experiencing growth rates that exceed 20% annually (e.g. USA, France,
Japan, Singapore). Some of the developing countries have small domestic
organic markets (e.g. Egypt) and a few have begun to seize the Iucrative
export opportunities presented by organic agriculture ( e.g. exports
of Mexican coffee, Ugandan cotton.)
India had historically practiced
organic farming. Sir Albert Howard, who was sent to India as an Imperial
Economic Botanist to work at the Indian Agriculture Research Institute
in the year 1905 to improve Indian agriculture, soon concluded that
agriculture, as practiced by the India peaseants, was rooted on the
sound principles of sustainability. Howard who was elected President
of Indian Science Congress in 1926, observed that agriculture research
should not be misused to make the farmer exploit the soil reserves but
to teach him the know-how to transfer capital in the shape of soil fertility
and the reserves of his livestock to his profit and loss account.
The Indian peasant, for
Howard, epitomized 'good farming' by faithfully copying Nature in their
agriculture. Livestock were not merely source of nutrition in the form
of milk and meat, or of energy in the form of draught animals, their
urine and dung was a crucial cog in the progress of growth. So were
growing leguminous crops, ploughing back crop residues and the extensive
use of green manure. Howard's research proved the improved efficacy
of humus for crop yield and resistance to pests and diseases, as compared
to chemical fertilizers. He developed the Indore process of composting,
which is even today being practiced widely by organic farmers.
Since the era of Howard,
a lot of changes and those too fast changes have taken place in the
growth of agriculture both in India and in the world.
The pesticide centric agriculture
had taken centre stage in country's planning and preception and Punjab
has become most vital component of this chemicalized agriculture system.
Sence then, the Punjab was projected as the model state for the success
of green revolution; it has become the centre of intensive agriculture
practises from 50's. During last five decads, India has increased the
consumption of pesticides from 154MT in 1953-54 to 80,000 MT in 1994-95.
Therefore, Punjab is leader in the high use of pesticides. Consumption
of grade pesticides in Punjab is highest in country. Punjab is consuming
7100 MT of pesticides for its 7693 hecters with the percentage of 923
gms per ha. Punjab has highest pesticide load among the Indian states.
More over the cotton belt of Malwa is consuming highest pesticide density
in country. Punjab is just 2.5% area of total agriculture land in India
and it consumrs near 18% pesticides of the country, where as the cotton
belt comprisies only 15% area of Punjab and it consumes nearly 70% pesticide
of the state.Thus, making equation more dengrious. Malwa's cotton belt
is less then 0.5 % geographical area of country but almost 10 % pesticides
of country are used here.
From last five years there
are number of documents brought up by various government agencies and
institutions. In 2001 Ministry of Agriculture and Coopration, Government
of India had formed a Task Force on Organic Farming headed by Dr.Kunwarji
Bhai Jadav that brings out its report in November 2001. In September
2001, the Working Group on Organic and Biodynamic Farming, constituted
by Planning Commision submitted another report.
The Task Force on Organic
Farming had made several recommendations, few are very important, as:
i) Economic value of chemical
fertilizers and organic manures may be equated in terms of their over
all effect on soil productivity, crop production and then Government
may provide the support accordingly.
ii) The technology packages
on organic farming as developed by farmers, NGOs and others may be evaluated
and the successful technology may be expanded in larger areas.
iii) Bullock drawn implements
should be encouraged.
iv) Bankable model schemes
on organic farming may be prepared and circulated among the States for
its adoption and popularization.
v) Each of the agricultural
universities in the country may start a course at the Post-Graduation
level on organic farming.
vi) Each KVK may set up a
vermi compost unit and a biological control unit for demonstration and
dissemination of the techniques. These centres may also provide worms
to the farmers afer their training.
vii) Each KVK may lay out
one demonstration on organic farming by taking major crops of that area
as test crops.
viii) Farmers training about
cost-benefit relationship in organic farming and about export of roganic
produce may be organised through some designated institutions specialised
in this area. The Government may support such institutions, which may
ix) The organic markets for
supply and purchrase of inputs and outputs for organic farming may be
x) Adequate numbers of certification
agencies may be identified, registered/recognised. The certification
agencies may be financed by the Government to carry out free certification
for the farmers for intended export of organic produce.
xi) In the areas of high
production, the shifting to organic farming system may result into loss
of produce in the initial years. For such switch over, farmers may need
to be compensated for initial 2-3 years.
xii) All the Central Government
farms may set up vermi compost units, develop, and demonstrate the system
of re-cycling of crop residues. This may be demonstrated by reduced
consumption of chemical fertilizers on the Government farms.
xiii) All the State Government
may be advised to consider to device the system as introduced by Government
of Madhya Pradesh about the experimentation and demonstrations on Government
farms on 50:50 area basis on organic on organic farming and other forms
xiv) The biodynamic means
of preparing nutrients may be standardized and the technology may be
xv) The crop residues should
not be permitted to be burnt. Suitable legislation may be thought of,
xvi) Adequate information
may be made available to the farmers about the cropwise residues arising
and equivalent nutrient value per unit area through such crop residues.
xvii) The ventures of vermi
compost, compost, press mud and other forms of generation of organic
nutrients for crop production may be exempted from levy of all kinds
of taxes, excise and income tax etc.
xviii) The agriculture being
a Sate subject, the State Governments may be effectively involved in
the National programme to be prepared for promotion of organic farming.
xix) Each Sate may set up
a State level cell or create a suitable unit at the Headquarter of Dirctorate
of Agriculture to oversee the promotion of organic farming in the State.
Most of recommendations stays
there in files only.Some how in 2003, Government of India had accepted
one of important recommendation of Organic Farming Task Force and National
Centre for Bio-Fertilizers was converted into National Centre for Organic
Farming in 2004. Moreover, National Project on Organic Farming was approved
with an outlay of Rs.57.05 crores for production, promotion and market
development organic farming in the country during 10th Plan.
Apart from Central Government,
five states have their state policies on organic farming this includes
Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pardesh and Uttaranchal.Andhra
Pradesh is in the mid of drafting process. Moreover, Himachal Pradesh
has initiated a state level project on organic farming. The North-Eastren
states had also prepared an elaborative plan for organic farming promotion.
Every policy has few indecipensible
components- the vision, the ultimate objective and the inbuilt capacity
to fulfill peoples' aspirations. The policy should address its core
issue holistically. Its guiding principal lies in the well-being of
community and the nation at large. It reflects the traddition, the heritage
and socio-economic and civiziational thought process, preceptions and
prograssive unfoldment of the society. For this, policy has to be evolved
by the involvement of community and its inputs. These are the fundamental
of participatory democracy - a key word for sustainable development
in true sence.
The announcement made by
the chief minister is quite important may be converted in to timely
initiative. As organic farming is gradually picking-up in Punjab with
more and more farmers joining the sustainable stream.Several civil society
groups has started the organic farming across the state by involving
farmers either as indiduval or as a group.
The Punjab Agro Export Corporation
has taken a lead in this by initiating an export-oriented project. The
consultants were appointed by Punjab Agro for this project and as per
claims they are working with more then 1200 farmers covering near 8000
acres of land.Some central government institutions like CAPART, KVIC
and NABARD had also comeup with scheams for supporting the projects
of vermicomposting, organic farming and marketing. Apart from this,
large numbers of farmers are converting their farms to organic by their
own or in collaboration with some priviate company, cheritable or religoius
insitution and even Gaushalas. On the other side, showrooms or corners
for the sale of organic produce are also coming up in major towns. The
general awareness is also spreading by the virtue of debate on health
and ecological crisis in Punjab courtsy the pro-active role of Media.
The media had also played very important role in promoting organic farming
The PAU has also come up
with a project in Department of Agronomy, though it is still in infant
This is the appropriate time
to raise the public debate on state policy for organic farming in Punjab.
As the Chief Minister himself assured to formulate a state policy therefore,
one can hope that Punjab state policy on organic farming will soon become
a reality. Nevertheless, an important question must be answred that
what should be the priorties in Punjab. What is meaning and relevance
of organic farming for Punjab ?
Organic Farming in Punjab
is like reintroducing some thing a man has lost due to some accident
or in pursuer of circumstances. Though it is being said that organic
farming is comparatively new field for the farmers of Punjab, although
they practiced it since time immemorial, It was during the green revolution
years of sixties and seventies of twentieth century that the abandoned
it. The revival of sustainable and organic farming practices in Punjab,
can be called as a rescue mission and an effort to retrieve the lost
heritage. So it is the appropriate time to discuss the problems of organic
farming in a very vast spectrum. To support those brave farmers of Punjab
who have dared to adopt organic path of agriculture in the very capital
of green revolution some one should take an initiative to bring expertise
debate right in to fields of Punjab. There isn't any piece of land in
Punjab where crops can be grown without inorganic synthetic fertilizers
and pesticides. Virtually the total land of Punjab has turned barren
because it has lost its natural nutrient pool. The situation is alarming
and the signs are ominous.
We seem to be quite close
to a stage, which can rightly be called "agriculture chaos "
The time to act is now . In the present circumstances, organic farming
is perhaps the only alternative, which can help us to come out of this
agricultural and ecological crisis in Punjab . There is a need to shift
from 'Quantity' to 'Quality' and that is possible only if the issue
is understood holistically.
Impact on ecology and health:
A slight change in the eco system can cause very devastating and long-term
effect on the health of all living organisms including humans. Use of
very high doses of lethal agro chemicals in agriculture during these
days is responsible for the spurt of many diseases, which were very
rare in the past.
Economics of debt and suicides:
The cost of inputs in agriculture is increasing day-by-day; land holdings
are simultaneously decreasing making agriculture unviable for majority
of farmers. Baring some big farmers, almost all are caught in the debt
trap and are unable to repay their loans. The land is mortgaged with
the moneylenders, who some times use hard tactics for recovery. Farmers
live in the fear of loosing their lands. It is not surprising that Panchayat
of Harkishanpura in district Bathinda and Mal Singh Wala in Mansa district
had passed a resolution announcing that the village was up for sale.
In Punjab, honour is a sacred word, the people here are a proud lot,
and they attach great importance to their dignity. Due to their inability
to pay back the huge debts, the hundreds of farmers have committed suicide
in Punjab. Green revolution has not only gone sour, it has now turned
red. The huge number of suicides is a testimony to the entire equation
In addition, there is a need
to earnestly orchestrate an organic farming revolution in which following
issues need to be given stress and close attention: -
1) Generating awareness among
the farmers to change their mindset.
2) Guiding and helping the
farmers in the proper implementation of organic farming techniques.
3) Making proper arrangement
for marketing the organic fertilizer and organic pesticide.
4) Helping the policy maker
and administration to come forward with sound policies to help the farmers.
5) Increase agro-bio diversity
through mix-cropping, conserving water resources and increasing genetic
To accomplish this very difficult
but urgently required task two things are very important -the will to
work and a congenial environment for growth of organic movement in Punjab.
The Organic Farming vision
of the policy should be mission-oriented and farmer-centered, unlike
the popular view of organic farming that has a commercial orientation
and is corporate-centered.
Making agriculture sustainable
economically & ecologically- The modern agriculture systems now
proved to be exhaustive, exploitative and abusive towards nature, man
and civilization. Therefore, we have to adopt a perspective and agriculture
system, which can bring back the very pride of our farmer, his self-respect,
his self-confidence, and his faith in the agriculture heritage of his
own ancestors. This agriculture perspective will based on SWADESHI KRISHI
DARSHAN comprising of on-farm composting by farmer, preparation of bio-fertilizers,
bio-pesticides and other inputs by farmer her/him-self and by local/area/regional
resources to make minimal dependence of farmer on market forces. For
this, we have to establish a network of organic farmers, which can facilitate
as a hub for exchanging and sharing of experience, creating a farmer
managed pool of knowledge system and resources.
Marketing Arrangements and
Organic Consumer Network– This aspect is related to the survival
of the farmers as the yield of organically produced crops are initially
low during transition or evolution period and subsequent price is not
sufficient and remunerative to sustain organic farming. For this awareness,
integrated with the intricate network of consumers for regular supply
chain for quality health food free from poison is also very important.
Thus, organic consumer can play a vital role to encourage more and more
farmers to adopt organic farming. The social groups, educational institutions
and off course private commercial ventures, can help to organise these
organic consumers networks
Handling, Packaging and Warehousing
– The products for marketing needs attractive packaging, efficient
handling and storage during the off-season.
The transition period after
harvesting and before marketing is indeed a crucial phase as a number
of insects and other living organisms and climatic variation influence
the stored harvest. For this, farmers and persons dealing with organic
produce need proper training.
Cost, and Logistic – As Punjab is facing acute environmental-health
challenges so, the preference should be given to local consumers of
Punjab . Nevertheless, if we think about export, few issue need to be
addressed. For exporting the organic food to other states as well as
to foreign countries, or for placing these products in the super markets
of metro cities, certification is required. Its procedure, cost involved
in obtaining the certificate and keeping WTO in view, the farmers needs
specialized training and support.
The present system of so-called
certified organic products is very corporate oriented and mindlessly
copied from abroad (where the "food miles" are longer), pushing
the Indian farmers out of the organic market. In this context, one thing
is clear: that for local or domestic market we should evolve certification
processes and standards that are indigenous and community-based. This
can create scope for civil society groups to promote organic food.
Organically Certified Seeds
– For a good yield, certified seeds form the backbone of the organic
farming. This aspect needs special emphasis and attention from the scientists
and agriculturists of our universities. The market oriented organic
farming system causes serious implications on the traditional seed keeping
practices. Especially, the TRIPS regime of WTO is posing threat to farmer's
right over bio-diversity and indigenous seed verities.
We should encourage our farmers
to become seed-keepers, as they are already doing this through traditional
Role of Bio-inputs Companies
– As India is a large country and the consumption of inputs for
agriculture is very high, there is a need for serious business acumen
for producing specialised bio-inputs, which may include organic manure,
pesticides/insecticides and growth related agents. The standardization
of bio inputs also needs serious and thorough attention. This is very
important to safeguard the interest of organic farmers so that the standardization
process and its implementation should be made mandatory. BIS and other
agencies may evolve procedures in this regard. The NGOs and organic
farming groups should be given the role of monitoring in this regard.
Involvement of Women: The
women are playing very significant role in restoring nature and making
organic farming a success in several places throughout the country.
As organic farming can be termed as family enterprise, the involvement
of women can provide organic farming the requisite motherly care. This
shall also provide the enhanced opportunity for women to take part in
this endeavor of transforming the agro-cultural scenario. Civilization
and its spontaneous evolution cannot be imagined without the active
participation of a major part of the population, which is a woman.
Incentive and subsidies:
The subsidies and other incentives shall play a crucial role for the
promotion of organic farming and it becomes more relevant in the present
WTO regime. Infact, the subsidies paid by the American and European
governments are indeed very high and form the backbone of their farmers.
Government schemes for promotion of organic farming should consider
this aspect. Appropriate schemes and policies for the development of
organic farming in the state are needed. These must be farmer oriented
and may require rising of special funds.
Rising incidents of suicides
by the Punjabi farmers is another pointer of their woes. The cost of
inputs is increasing day by day, the pests attacking the crops are becoming
resistant to even the most lethal chemicals insecticide, pesticides
and other synthetic parathrides agents, thus creating huge losses to
already struggling Punjabi farmer.
GE Crops and Organic Farming:
Into this situation, Genetic Engineering is being imported as the solution
(BT Cotton for example) whereas it has the potential to further worsen
the situation given all its potential environmental and health hazards.
No one should be misled by the propaganda of GE seed companies taking
Bt.crops as pesticide free organic; where as Bt.crops are as bad and
devastating as pesticides were. So, at no point Genetically Engineered
or Bt. Crops can be considered as organic at all.
Kheti Virasat Mission is
of firm belief that organic farming is the appropriate answer in this
context; it is need of hour to motivate the farmers of Punjab to gradually
switch over to the organic farming practices.
Punjab government should
invite suggestions and inputs from all the stack holders and partners
for sustainable development of state before formulating any policy.
Public Hearings and dialogue must be initiated to make policy people
oriented and realistic.
(Author is Executive Director
of Kheti Virasat Mission . Jaitu, Faridkot district based environmental
NGO. He can be contacted on 01635 503415 / 9872682161)