Ananthoo's updates

When all trees have been cut down, when all animals have been hunted, when all waters are polluted, when all air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money. - Cree Prophecy

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Potato sad story - road to more suicides:-(

Really wanted the potato story to be read n its message assimilated..so plugging it separate from that WB blog of yesterday..
Jayasree Singh grows only native traditional potatoes.. they can be stored for a year! Unlike the hybrid ones that is grown mostly, have very short shelf live..but yields a bit more..so the greed takes over..
the previous year was a bumper year for potatoes in Bengal..farmers shud be happy isn’t? but no..sadly that was the year of higher farmer suicides in WB..that is bcos of this variety..the potato that they all grew and had bumper crop had very short shelf life..so farmers always had to sell them immediately after harvest..that wud still be ok as long as the market was ok.. like what happens for onions else where, some traders come in and skew the pick up rate and hoard..still farmers were growing it..but that year when they had bumper crop, due to glut, rates fell..ofcourse traders wud have connived too..
so they had to throw the potatoes and were stuck..those in deep loan loop were forced to commit suicide..such is the market dynamics of farming..not so easy for us all to get a grasp..u never know what hits them..govt policies or high interests or lack of financial support or insurance or lack of fair/right prices or traders cartel or seed monopoly or high input costs..
Jayasree also wrote about it (thankfully in Bengali media and says strongly that if she has to point at one thing that is the reason for farm suicides it is ‘mono crop’)
but sadly, most of the policies of governments today, the thinking of ICAR or agri universities, the seed lobby, cash crop mentality all point to mono crop..

if only they had grown this traditional variety they cud have atleast held on for long and saved.. their lives and livelihoods..how sad..

Monday, August 07, 2017

The west Bengal trip- Shantiniketan and more..

The West Bengal tour started with Desi- the cotton story workshop in kolkata followed by Tula exhibition..as always Kolkata interactions throws many interesting characters..so many questions, ideas and ideals..this time too it was full of that..so many exchanges around khadi and muslin and weaving..
Thanks to MGGSS- arup & rubi combo for a very productive and useful time..

Then we went to the weavers place in Burdhman about which we have seen earlier..so we go on to new ones..
next was to shantiniketan..so many attractions there..
first and foremost is the ToTos- the battery run small autos that take people and go all over shantiniketan..




its such a quaint place with so much greenery and am told when rabindranath tagore came in, it was a barren land..like auroville it was turned in to a sanctuary in a few years with a few individual's brain and bran..each building is a beauty..RT is demi god here.. people even forget to breathe when they start talking about him and its all anecdotes every where..and while u r in the museum, there is so much oof’s and haa’s bcos people are over awed at seeing his chair or pipe or glasses or stick or some such thing..oh man, Bengalis and Robindranaath..




Arup our dear friend himself is full of RT stories and so much adoration..
RT himself has tried so much out there.be it the different mud houses or variety of trees or path ways or gardens or the institute itself..the man used to live at diff buildings each time and has tried so many things and like Gandhi has improved up on the construction each time..



 

what a place shantiniketan is..in its full glory days it wud have been such a sight..so many art and craft, students, books, library, hostel…but many say its not the same any more..sadly, like most gandhian institutes this also has gone the mainstream way:-(

Arup is a man with so much knowledge of the terrain and interior Bengal..each time he takes us anywhere there will be so much..food will always be in the most interesting of places.. here too he takes us to a nearby tribal village and a traditional food that one can never stop gaping and gulping..wow..lipsmacking tasty traditional food..served in non-plastic neat ecofriendly cutleries..



and then we are taken to the next village where this Gentleman works on wood..what a work..see some samples here.. on fantastic old wood..mostly recycled..and what all he makes..


We are then taken to a beauty of organic farm..one of the first organic farms in this side.. that of BirendraKumar roy! This 4 acre farm has been organic since 18 years ..Biru da is a great man with a big history..and such a self reliant man with so many sustainable practices..his market?  at his gate..and gate alone..people come from all over and buy.. infact most of it is pre booked..even tribals living here buy from him! he converts most of his products..to squashes, juices, pickles..and has small machines to aid him..simple mostly non-energy dependent machines..he hardly goes out of his farm..so much diverse crops..so many fruit trees. 22 varieties of mango, roseberry, falsa, wood apple & more..What a diversity..all vegetables for the house is grown out there..turmeric too!
cows, the native ones..there is a beautiful farm pond with fishes..surrounded by so much greenery..its all there, thriving..when am overawed and mention about the greenery and diversity he mutters ‘its only the macro and micro climate environment that helps an organic farmer..’
what a man.. the only thing he cant do is travel around, rather go out even.. as they both are busy with one or other activity in the farm..










And his wife is a great lady who was well read has been very much a part of the whole farm activity..she also works with local weavers near by And gets fabric from them and embellishes them and creates market for them..thus better some of the local livelihood..no end to what all one can keep adding if u have the right intent!
And its dark..and we think its all over.. what more one can see or get as the day has come to an end..or so we thought..but this man arup is full of surprises and stuff..and he quietly takes us to an outstanding place in a near by village for staying..
Jayasree’s farm..oh man..what a lady she is..a typical urbanite till recently and worked in travel agency who got bored and burnt out – bored of chasing money..so shifts over to this village and starts farming..yes organically and runs a small beautiful very tastfully done home stay..and food- out of the world..and u think iam deprived bcos I travel so much..infact I always end up adding weight bcos of the sweet hospitality in all these organic places and the amazing persons and the sort of good safe food one is offered..this one rates so high up..

Right from unbelievable welcome drink to herbal tea to snacks to meals..
and Jayasrees experiments, explorations in to farming is such a great story..
Her experiments amazes..what all she tries..be it the crops or the trees or the diversity she has brought in such a short time..
what all she tries..what all she experiments..what all she accomplishes..
her Lorena stove - 3 base mud stove is a beauty..





she has quails (and ducks too I think) which are housed in a caged shelter right above her pond..the base of this is a sieve metal sheet meshed thru which the excreta of the birds fall in to the pond..and in the pond her fish has free food (from this!)..the pond itself is her rain water storage..
Her house, dogs kennel are all wonderful imaginative structures..








She started building a big gallery and see how she starts of..with some cute plates before she raises the wooden columns from the ground to save the wodden structure from the termites which are hungry for anything that they can gobble up..


She has a small canal that is flowing in her land, wide enough that doesn’t allow humans o cross easily..so when she approached architects and engineers they told so many ways to build bridge but all around 10lakhs and above..and our lady is not ready for expensive solutions..she doesn’t have that kind of money anyways..necessity is the mother of inventions, they say..here is the proof.she builds one with her own ideas and a beautiful bridge stays there serving the purpose so well..

 
Jayasree narrated me lots of stories from her corporate days that involved travel..the best was a potato story..(that will be the next post)..she keeps saying money is asuch a menace..it is the source of most problems..people get lost in to chasing that..now am happy am not doing that!
if u go to West Bengal and shantiniketan side, if u don’t visit her, the loss is yours..if u believe in one life time, just go there..enjoy, learn and share..jayasree is such a wonderful soul with so much insights and idea(l)s..






 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Kathiramangalam..



If you thought the ‘Development’ and ‘growth’ that the politicians sell is so nice and worth the chase, u can see the gory (real) side only if  you are the affected party..else its just a far away story..
Some small poor life pawned/battered/murdered for the better good- of a distant urban elite!
We had  gone there in 2014 and covered the story in Thalanmai in 2015!
See here: kaani.org/vaikasi2015/2.html
We had gone bcos Sriram had adopted the ‘Alankudi perumal method’ and had doubled the paddy yield for many traditional paddy varieties..a great production practice.
Even then I had noticed the ONGC’s drilling point and a rig out there near his farm and asked him why they were there? Why were they allowed..and he said they just came and said one fine day “ this land has been ear marked for some helium extraction test’..’ur land has been acquired’ and that’s it..
one cant do anything!
That’s how most acquisitions happen dear friends- for dams, for industries, for oil rigs, for high tension wires, under ground piplelines of ambanis n adanis, for any ‘development project’ like this..and its always the farmers’ lands that are taken at will..
if its tribals or adivasis its even more gory and violent..they are displaced, shoo-ed and thrown far away..and put to so  much physical n mental torture- in te name of Development and GDP!
So here too this monster put its foot long back..but we all thought it will not be as dangerous and evil as it is showing to be now..
Now, come to 2017..one fine day there is a sudden burst of pipeline and a huge artesian well like spray of oil n murky liquid that comes out suddenly just outside this great organic farm..and the oil spill starts getting in to their land..and people of the village are all stunned..
So many rumors go around about its dangers, (in)flammability, etc..but no official statement from the offenders- the ONGC nor any word form the govt..infact the pollution control board that shud have been worried was not there anywhere..the govt and police thought they had to take care of the corporate and oil sharks and not its people and their environment..
A few weeks before there had been another blast and there was fire too, that time..and a women got caught in its vicinity and had severe burns on her body..ONGC and its cohorts acted swiftly, and ensured this news never came out..the woman n her family was warned..ofcourse no media was going to cover this..after all a small poor life..
Now, as 1000s gather outside sriram’s  this discussion about burns, fire  etc are discussed in hush-hush voice..and there is a sudden flame in one corner and immediately all people (1000s) and the police run.. after all the police were the first to flee the venue bcos they always knew there was some thing wrong and dangerous..and so did 1000s who had assembled there..these villagers who were assembled there were not allowed to go in to the farm..not even sriram the owner of the farm..
infact the police was not only outside his farm not allowing him entry, they even were put outside his house and ensuring he never left his house from next day!even when we went day before, the police wud stop us from entering the land..infact i wanted to show the beautiful 50cm X 50cm transplant and his great ecological practise..and the bounty that they harvest - to my other friends..and the police attempted to stop us..
and we explained and went in and when we were coming back, to our surprise we saw bunch of police that had gathered there! such intelligence!!
Oh, yeah, we are a free country, striving for Development at all costs!
And to continue that story of the evening- as all were running away from the leak venue, a fire engine comes in and just runs amok in to the crowd that was running away..and suddenly the police start lathi charging the public randomly and arrested many who are still kept in custody..
The offender ONGC is happy there..the collector has not visited the venue nor spoken to the citizens..obviously politicos are in the hiding..
the village is in such tension..there are 7 such sites in kathiramangalam..and the whole place is mired with under ground pipelines..
Probably carrying this infamous dangerous liquid..and ready to burst and leak anywhere..
Who is accountable here? Who is responsible?
What is the Govts action? (except ridiculously stating its not a big issue)

why shud police treat the public as such villains instead of treating the corporation, its contractors and other offenders as guilty and accused?
Why shud corporate goons like ONGC be allowed such free hand- to take over any space at their will?
Why the respective stake holders  are never consulted & their permission sought?
This is the biggest problem of the ‘development craze’..and for the state to unleash violence at will against the already grieved and affected citizens..to think that their role is to ONLY safeguard the corporate and their interests and not public..
Shame on such democracy..and its not only the state govt..its the centre too (whether cong or BJP..

And we cannot and should not be sitting in our distant urban safe confines and think ‘its after all for the country’s good..its after all Development..its after all some small cost paid for bigger growth’..
no..#notinmyname
 #notoKathiramangalams

Thursday, April 06, 2017

One (other) organic source falls:(



One (other) organic source falls:(
caught by us..
It started like this: This man Reddy walks in to give us samples of his mango..his farm was visited and we wud still not pick from him bcos he was a big farmer.. those days we at restore wud strictly take from small  & marginal farmers..(later on for some specific crops and veggies n fruits we deviated a bit)
He wud come again and again, making us feel bad.. then one day he comes with a bottle of mango pulp..value additions are something we always wanted farmers to do.. and so were excited but told him there shud be no synthetic additions
when we asked him how will the shelf life be achieved if he doesn’t add any preservatives, he says he experimented by adding some kachcha (unripe)mangoes while pulping and the sour/citric from that helped..we were very happy..here was a shrewd farmer..a natural scientist we hailed..
And then we told him it shud not come in plastics..
so this man goes back and packs it in glass bottles and brings it..and tell us that infact helped him!! Bcos he could dip the whole bottle after filling in to 350 degrees hot water and that enhanced the shelf life..
we were so thrilled..”see that’s how one shud improvise..” some of us lauded..
So mango pulp bottled in glass bottles came to our shelves..
then in our regular process of random checking (some random 3 products are sent to lab for checking chemical/pesticide residues) this was selected too. And it didn’t have pesticide residues..we were happy again.
oh! Please wait..story is not over..
suddenly we think its not enough if we check only for pesticide residue but for preservatives..
and lo:-( there is benzoic acid..a known preservative..with ill effects and proven hazards..

so it is with heavy heart and a sad bitter taste we have to announce that the Mango pulps sold in neat glass bottles (now sold in almost all organic shops bcos of us recommending it) is not so organic as we thought..
So time to stop it..all organic retailers, pl take note and take the right action..to stop it..

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

the whole length of a News18 debate on farmers issues and farm suicides..
kaalathin kural..
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNVYziWOtWA&feature=youtu.be

Monday, November 14, 2016

demonetisation and demonisation! the rise and fall of hopes of killing black money!!

It looked nice and well thought out..
it was also very nice to experience at personal level- I moved around with just 60 to 70-Rs in my pocket for 3 days..it was a very special experience..i felt I was helping my nation and govt tide over the black money crisis..even if it does in a small way I wud be happy..so I will not crib or complain about it, I swore to myself..but we shudnt forget  my confidence to move around with 70Rs in hand was I cud ask for card from any friend if needed, or do an e-transfer, talk my way out or just pile on to F & R  for food and such like..
Think of a rural India person..a farmer- if all he or she had was one or two notes and if they had to buy some seed or medicine or…pay labour or tractor!
but  this is not about some sob story of some people (prolly some 50-60%) stuck in rural india..nor about their lives n struggles..esp to us urbans. who have no clue about the rural India's sufferings.
but will this move seriously help kill black money?
I don’t think so..I don’t think the tatas, ambanis, pawars and those other biggies wud have stacked cash (alone!)..not even those broker politicos or small level middle men or the local panchayat presidents..may be this bulking n piling of 500 & 1000 wud be done by some..but I dunno if all our collective struggles is justifiable..


-          Unless The elections and mind u the elections are the biggest payers n users of black money..and amount spent by BJP and this “ab ki baar” was the highest ever spent for Indian election..if that was all white, iam happy..and watch out how much will come to play in the next few elections (any one know how much was spent on ab ki baar alone? And that this same govt absolved itself and the cong of not being accountable to infusion of foreign funds for election expenditure!)

-          Unless I see the biggies struggle (like me) and come out and crib..else its clear they are happy n have umpteen other ways to blacken and enjoy

-          Unless the much discussed NPAs and the unpaid for loans of the biggies (to the tune of some nasty 6 lakh crores) is surgically struck

-          Unless the real loan amounts of all those biiiig rich fellas, their unpaid loans and their real assets in personal names are disclosed ( BTW how did we manage to call these highly indebted fellas as the rich fellas?)

-          Unless iam told who else will now withdraw these millions we fools collectively deposited  in to banks? Other than the biggies discussed in the last point?

-          Unless loans and lives for our farmers is made easy..

Did u know?
-          When demonetization of higher notes was carried out in in 1946 & 78, the majority Indians didn’t even feel the pinch..bcos most of them hadn’t seen these bigger notes! And both those didn’t put an end to black money and nor will this.

-          That high denomination is 86% of the money in circulation in these days!

-          Of the Rs 7,700 crore worth of ill-gotten assets got by the voluntary disclosure, the cash component was merely Rs 408 crore or 5%. Cash recovery of IT seizures has always been so low.

-          Black money enters the formal economic system through real estate and shell companies

-          credit rating agency Moody’s had stated that Indian banks required Rs. 1.25 lakh crore capital infusion?

-          And the infusion of cash by the ordinary Indians obviously saved the banks and now who is waiting to use them up? Smack-smack!

-          That the ‘real’ surgical strikes on the known black & hidden money will never happen!

-          That the queues and woes of rural India is getting longer!

-          Iam not a pakistani or terrorist but having serious doubts about this move and can assure this will not have the lofty outcomes that most of u r dreaming of..(oh! Bhakts – do not come and shove ur nationalism on me..i know enough of it:-))

 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

so many questions on GM Mustard..

a fantastic article thwarting all the "science" behind GM Mustard and also explaining the lack of bio safety and science in this GM Mustard..also clearly explaining who is really behind and who (Bayer, ofcourse) will benefit..

The Success of This GM Tech Depends on Numerous Unanswered Questions



Mustard. Credit: johnloo/Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Mustard. Credit: johnloo/Flickr, CC BY 2.0
“People are scared that if they consume GM foods they might grow horns or might grow a wagging tail.”
This is how Shekhar Gupta represented the perceptions and fears associated with genetically modified (GM) foods when he was in a ‘Walk the Talk” conversation with Prof. Deepak Pental, the former vice-chancellor of Delhi University who, along with a few others, have bred DMH-11, a GM mustard hybrid. Shekhar Gupta’s statement needn’t be taken literally or as a verbatim representation of people’s fears. But as a metaphor for generic, misplaced, ill-informed fear, it’s a bad one.
Bodily harms and threats posed by GM foods, even in lay imagination, are not as idiotically dramatic or infantile. The fears are for harms that cannot be seen, risks that cannot be assessed by lay publics. The task of any representation of this fear should be to draw attention to the contested terrain of genetic modification, and to ask the difficult questions so that what is obfuscated from scrutiny is revealed and made available for civic engagement.
Questions of safety
Unlike other crops – maize, bajra, rice, sunflower and cotton for instance – there are no commercial hybrids for mustard. The reason is simple: mustard is a self-pollinating plant (each mustard flower is a “perfect flower” that contains both male stamen and female pistils and therefore does not require another flower/plant to pollinate). In other words, if a hybrid mustard crop has to be created, it would need to be genetically engineered to enable hybridisation. The aim, as claimed, is to exploit heterosis, or hybrid vigour, by crossing the Indian mustard with an East European strain known for its higher yields, and thereby achieve greater productivity.
This hybridisation is achieved by means of the two genes barnase and barstarderived from a soil bacterium called Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. Put very simply, the barnase gene confers male sterility to a plant in which it is inserted and enables crossing of the male sterile line with the fertility restorer (barstar gene) line – to produce fertile hybrid plants and seeds.
Most biosafety studies – including those by Pental’s team – attest to negligible toxicity and allergenicity of the three proteins in a human, mammal and arthropod body. These conclusions are contested but these contestations only affirm the need for Pental’s team to share the raw data that has been used to draw these conclusions, a requirement mandated both by a Central Information Commission (CIC) directive and a Supreme Court ruling.
But attention needs to be drawn to a third gene of the triad – the bar gene – and the biosafety implications that are generated by the attendant work that the herbicide glufosinate does for it.
The bar gene synthesises an enzyme called PAT, which confers tolerance to glufosinate in a plant. Glufosinate is a broad-spectrum herbicide, similar to Monsanto’s ‘Round-up’ (glyphosate), which indiscriminately eliminates weeds and, indeed, any plant that does not incorporate the bar gene and is hence not ‘herbicide tolerant’. Essentially, this is done to mark out the GM crops from the non-GM progeny. The ones that are non-sterile hybrids are eliminated with a glufosinate-herbicide spray. This is done in order to ensure that pollen-free, sterile GM crops are grown over successive generations. Interestingly, glufosinate is a patented technology of Bayer CropScience, and marketed worldwide as ‘Liberty Link’ and ‘Basta’.
A report titled ‘Assessment of Food and Environmental Safety of GE Mustard, submitted by the centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), University of Delhi, affirms the safety of the three genes/proteins for human health and animal safety. However, there are virtually no references with respect to biosafety studies for Glufosinate, the herbicide that enables the marker gene – bar – to mark the GM crop from the non-GM ones.
It does state very cursorily (on page 65) that “this gene is used as a selectable marker in the experiments and does not imply that the basta [glufosinate] spray is required during the cultivation of the said hybrid.” This is confusing: In the absence of the Basta sprays, how will successive generations of pollen-free crops be ensured? And if Basta sprays will be mandated, why have biosafety/risk assessments not been done?
A pesticide risk assessment of glufosinate ammonium conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) cited the following risks of glufosinate in 2012: “Overall, based on the available data, a high long-term risk to mammals cannot be excluded for the representative use in orchards.” In a study conducted on rats in 2005, it notes that “there are severe developmental toxicity induced by glufosinate ammonium seen as pre- and post implantation losses, vaginal bleedings, abortions and dead foetuses not induced  by maternal toxicity.” EFSA issues a proposed classification of glufosinate ammonium as a category 2 substance: “Toxic: may cause harm to the unborn child.” It also reported increased kidney weight in rats in long term assessment of toxicity of glufosinate.
The risk assessment to the herbicide is separate from the risk assessment of allergenicity and toxicity of the inserted gene-protein. Were EFSA evaluations on food safety of glufosinate taken into account by CGMCP, Delhi University? This is an important question because we need to know what haematological and biochemical changes observed in animal testing can be extrapolated or dismissed for human beings.
Questions of ownership
In 2003, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, under the environment ministry, deferred the commercial approval of GM mustard variety that used the same bar-barstar-barnase technology. Back then it was Proagro Seeds India, Ltd., a subsidiary of the agro-chemical giant Bayer CropScience, that sought to market the same genetically engineered, triple gene combination in a mustard plant with the same promise of 20-30% increased yield. A key worry even then was that Proagro’s main purpose of developing the GM hybrid was to promote the conjunctive use of glufosinate over which Bayer had a patented monopoly. Bayer still holds the patent for proprietary brands of glufosinate: Basta. There ought to be issues of market dependence that need to be factored in for a monopoly product that piggy-backs on a publicly owned technology.
Public ownership of GM mustard technology (by Delhi University and Dhara Vegetable Oil and Foods Company) is one of the main attractions of this technology. So apart from being 20-30% more productive, they will also be cheaper in comparison to the monopoly prices and royalties commanded by trans-national companies like Monsanto for patented monopoly and seeds like Bt cotton.
However, there are two issues that beg questions. If the conjunctive use of glufosinate is necessary for the success of the technology and for the promised higher yields to be delivered by successive generations of mustard hybrids, is there a concern for market dependence and food safety that should be factored in?
There are a further set of questions for which no clear answers emerge. The bar-barstar-barnase gene is a patented technology. Who owns these technology patents? A preliminary search revealed the two out of the triad of patents – the bar gene and the barstar – are held by Bayer CropScience. Delhi University (with Deepak Pental et al as inventors) that holds the patents for the ‘methods‘ for obtaining male sterile lines and fertility restorer systems would have needed to acquire these genes from their proprietorial holders. What technology agreements and/or material transfer agreements (MTAs) have been entered into by DU?
Questions of rights
It is also understood that the ‘army of sterile mustard crops [will be] grown by crossing sterile barnase crops with normal mustard crops (that have no barstar gene to reverse sterility)’. After a Basta spray – which will eliminate the fertile non-GM plants – what we will have is a standing crop of sterile mustard plants. What implications do these have for farmers who may not be able to harvest and reuse seeds for successive replantation?
The Protection of Plant Variety Protection and Farmers Rights Act (2001) grants farmers the right to save and reuse seeds. The networks of property and technology may actually end up making these rights meaningless, apart from pushing a cultivator into the nexus of market and technology over which she has little control. And if the argument is that farmers need not sign-up for GM crop cultivation, then what happens to the target of achieving higher yields and greater oilseed productivity to reduce import burdens?
In times of acute rural distress, it is important that the debate around technology combines talks about issues of food safety and environmental diversity with sociological, political-economy ramifications.
There is a problem with an approach that considers risks for human health and safety, or the environment as sufficient for the grant of regulatory sanctions. The problem with this approach is too much faith is reposed in science as a foundation on which to establish regulatory decisions. The principal actors framing the problem are the expert scientists granted the status of an objective voice in the dialogue between innovators and regulators. The broader public – consumers, which includes farmers – is provided with a limited information and limited opportunity to participate in regulatory decision-making. She is expected to be content with the assessments of low-risk probability. Entirely outside this assessment are unknown, unintended effects that are tactically accepted or considered manageable. It is always important to be aware of the democratic deficit that exists in the regulation of technology.
Rajshree Chandra teaches political science at the University of Delhi and is a senior visiting fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi. She is the author of The Cunning of Rights: Law, Life, Biocultures (OUP: 2016)