TOWARDS A MOVEMENT FOR REGENERATION OF INDIAN AGRICULTURE


(A review of recent conventions on organic farming and other indigenous practices in agriculture and animal husbandry)


"Before this (British) conquest, agriculture in India was a traditional way of life. It was no mere economic activity. In the autonomous Indian village, agriculture was the basic life activity of the people. Its major function, if an integrated life activity can at all be analyzed in terms of functions, was to fulfill their life needs. the needs of the Government, of the market, of the industry were all secondary to that major function".

And this agricultural practice was naturally organic, self-sustaining and strengthening the village. An organic relationship existed between the forest and villages forest supplying the manure, fuel, timber for implements and construction and in return the villagers' were committed to flourishing of the forests. Cattle played a prominent role in this agriculture, not only supplying the manure (transferring the fertility from forest to agriculture), but also the prime source of draught power. Irrigation was largely maintained by village community - larger irrigation networks mostly seeking to strengthen the local ones.

The first attack or this self-sustaining agriculture was in the form of heavy burden of tax imposed on it by Britishers, altering of land relations for this purpose. The tax increased to well over 50%, not only pauperizing the cultivators, but in turn having its effect on the entire infrastructure that this farming depended on. The forest policy of the British Government came as the next major attack. In reserving the forests for industries (and railways and ship building), the farming community was denied the use of forests breaking the organic link between forests and agriculture. Further, the local irrigation was made to decline by starving it of resources. That in spite of this the productivity obtained from agriculture continued to increase even during most of the 19th century speaks of the strength and vitality of bur traditional agricultural system. For instance, in 1893, the British Government Commissioned Dr. John Augustus Voelcker, the consulting chemist to the Royal Agricultural Society of England to make enquiries into Indian agriculture and to suggest improvements based on the modern and 'scientific' methods, if necessary. Voelcker's report, though written with the' sole objective of increasing royal revenue from Indian agriculture, is quite revealing. He points out that Indian agriculture, generally, is amongst the best.* The "scientific" practice being developed in the west are unsuitable for Indian agriculture. The chemical fertilizers will just not be good for Indian soils. The thousands of varieties of wooden plough are more adapted to Indian conditions and the heavy iron-plough will be unsuitable. Voelcker suggests a revision of forest policy, letting forests to be used by villagers; he argues that the losses in revenue due to sale of timber will be more than offset by the growth of agriculture and agricultural revenue. He suggests that though it may be all right to take, oil-seeds to England for oil, the loss of refuse is an important loss to Indian soil. He similarly suggests ban of export of bones to England.

While this report of Voelcker was highly regarded* the story of agriculture 1900 onwards has been one of gradually introducing all that Voelcker had warned against. Firstly an attempt was made to standardize the thousands of varieties of Indian ploughs into less than a dozen for which mass production was possible. Import of chemical fertilizers was accepted to be one of the ways to deal with the declining fertility of Indian soil. But it was only after our independence, in mid-sixties, that a comprehensive technological change was attempted, at the time-of our independence, under the impact of the land relations imposed by Britishers as well as due to the restraints imposed on Indian agriculture for well over a century via their forest policy, attitude towards local irrigation etc., the Indian agriculture had lost much of its vitality. That with political will, an effort could be made to restore, this vitality was" another matter. That would have happened if the needs of the cultivators were placed at least on par with the needs of the modern industrialization. But that was not to be.

By this time the West had evolved a total package to convert agriculture into an appendage of modern industry. The new artificial seeds, chemical fertilizers, chemical pesticides, tractors and other machinery and the modern irrigation system formed a package which, if accepted by our farmers, would guarantee a huge market for industries. Also, the heavy inputs required in this new package called 'Green Revolution' implied concentration of resources into some regions which would produce surplus and meet the grain requirement of the urban areas. This fitted well with the policy of urban industrialization and modernization that our country had taken up.

The impact of Green Revolution, White Revolution, etc.

The Green Revolution package was introduced in selected pockets in our country. But its impact has been felt in the entire country-side. Concentration of resources in pockets implied a total neglect of other regions which further lead to the decline of all traditional technologies and resources and even of the aggregate rate of growth of our agricultural production. Perhaps the greatest impact has been on traditional seed varieties the thousands of seeds tested and evolved over thousands of years started disappearing in less than a decade. The "high-yield" seeds tested merely in some laboratory for a year or two started finding universal application leading to all sorts of diseases and pest attack. Simultaneously, the impact on soil has been devastating. The chemical fertilizers and pesticides not only killed almost all micro-organisms which played the role of revitalizing the soil, but also removed the valuable nutrients from the soil. With the decay of indigenous resources, the agriculture all lover the country, became dependent on urban industrial inputs. Not only the farmers lost control over agricultural operations, but also they could no longer produce according to their needs; they now produced primarily to pay for these inputs. ]The knowledge about this new agriculture, of course, was no more a village wealth but had to come from agricultural universities and agricultural service centers.

Once the modern agriculture started taking hold of Indian agriculture, the role of cattle changed. The cattle were not particularly a friend of this new agriculture. The draught power was to be taken over by tractors and trucks. Cattle manure was no longer important. Its only role was to provide milk - even which was primarily for industrialized urban sector. The "White Revolution" was born out of such a philosophy. The primary aim was to collect milk from rural areas for supply to cities. The indigenous cattle population more suited for traditional purposes was now considered inferior and a program was started to bring foreign (exotic) bulls for breeding, cattle which will produce maximum milk. That such cattle may riot be able to withstand our weather or may have to be given special feeds and medicines was of little concern. The program not only deprived village of all milk and milk products but has also eroded the indigenous cattle wealth.

The same spirit was behind introduction of the so called 'Second Green Revolution' in our country. Our forests have been systematically destroyed in meeting the needs of industry for the last hundred and fifty years. Today the forest cover is so depleted that it threatens a serious ecological disaster. At such a time it is being suggested that we replace indigenous species of trees by exotic varieties, which grow fast. Of course such monoculture plantation of exotic trees will enable easy mechanical harvesting, most desired by industries. This Second Green Revolution, once again with multinational aid, seeks to replace our forests with thousands of indigenous trees by a few like- Eucalyptus.

The need to counter these revolutions

In recent times there has been a growing feeling that there is something fundamentally wrong with these efforts at modernization. Nowadays several movements in the country, like the peasant movements, tribal movements, movements of hill people etc., are opposing these programs in their own way. Several cultivators have seen their ruin in the modern agriculture and have expressed interest in restarting our own traditional organic farming. But the lack of facilities and adverse Government policy make it difficult. Several individual initiatives have been taken to deal with such situation. However, there has been a feeling that such effort should be taken up in a larger and organized way. With this in mind a "Organic Farming Convention'.' was called at Sevagram, Wardha by Shri Kanakmal Gandhi, Secretary, Ashram Pratishthan' Sevagram and Shri Claude Alveres on 19th-21st March 1984. A Committee was set up with Shri Korah Mathen of Ahmedabad and Shri Kanakmal Gandhi as conveners and decision was taken to set up an Association of individuals and institutions committed to the revival and strengthening of indigenous agriculture, indigenous live-stock and local agro-forestry practices with indigenous species, and linked with the principles of ecology, it was also decided to hold separate meetings on indigenous rice'varieties, indigenous cattle wealth and indigenous tree species. The meeting on indigenous rice varieties was held on October 4 to 6, 1984 at Friends Rural Centre, Rasulia under the convenorship of Dr. Pratap Agarwal. 'The meeting on indigenous breeds of cattle took place in Kasturbagram Krishi Chetra, Kasturbagram, and Indore on October 18 to 20, 1984 under the convenership of Shri G. K. Menon. A meeting on indigenous tree species is being planned to be held in Pondicherry. In May what follows is a brief report of the three meetings held so far.

Convention on Organic Farming

The convention was a general meeting which discussed various aspects of indigenous agriculture, animal husbandry and forest' practices. It discussed the problem posed today by the modern practices, how these practices became so wide spread in our country, the state of- traditional techniques as well as new experiments being tried out by various institutions and individuals to rediscover Indian organic farming.

Claude Alvares introduced the convention by observing that organic-farming is not a foreign idea but is part and parcel of existing farming practices in this country. Unless organic-farming can be related to the indigenous agricultural system. Which still operates in major pockets in this country, it will tend to be a fad or fashion. He emphasized the fact that we have two distinct forms of knowledge that are being explored in our country today. One is the indigenous the other is knowledge that has been evolved in other environments. That exotic knowledge can only be harmful to our-interests. For example, in the area of-improving our animal stock, what cross - breeding with exotic strains is doing is actually destroying our indigenous genetic resources. Most of the traditional crop gene pools are being rapidly eliminated to create a situation-that will be of benefit only to the multi-national corporations. Adopting organic agriculture is one more strategy for countering imperialism and for keeping the World Bank and other international financial institutions at a safe distance.

Dr. Saileh Ghosh in his inaugural lecture made the point that in the U.S A. billions of acres of land have been deprived of top soil due to chemical farming. He observed that it is not true that there is not enough organic matter available, as some critics say. Organic matter may not be available in push-button form like chemical fertilizer. It requires a way of life. We are now recognizing belatedly the importance of trace elements in the soil. These have been mined to exhaustion by chemical farming. Snakes, earthworms and insects beneficial to farmers have also disappeared.

Banwarilal Chaudhary of Gram Seva Samiti, Raisalpur (M.P.), observed that barely twenty-five years ago villages always had milk and grains. The Green Revolution has brought more crops but villagers are hungry. His village in Hoshangabad District, M. P., purchases fertilizer worth Rs. 11/4 lakh. Most of the grain is sold as soon as it is cut to repay loans at inflated rates of interest. Earlier Rs. 30,000/- was sufficient for all agriculture. It used to get 10 times more than it sold before it began using chemical fertilizers. Then it began getting 40- 50 times more. Now it is down to 10 times again, but with expensive inputs. All of it goes to Itarsi and Hoshangabad towns. Since only wheat is produced there are nutrition problems.

Further the poverty of his village in Hoshangabad District has increased
considerably. Health has deteriorated at 4 in the morning all the milk from the village goes to Itarsi. Seeing all this, he has reverted to organic farming. There was a fall in [the yield in the J first year. In the third year the yields increased. Large quantities of organic manure are not important. Homeopathic doses will do. Crop rotation is a must. We have to boycott chemical-fertilizers. Non-hybrid seeds will have to be used. It is not by increasing the maximum yield of the crop in some areas but by increasing) the average yields of the crop everywhere that poverty can be eliminated.

Dr. Ashok Jhunjhunwala of the PPST argued that there seems to be a mistaken impression that only those who cannot afford chemicals are using organic fertilizer and that in the competition between chemical and organic farming the latter is losing. That this is not so can be understood if one looks at what has happened historically. He referred to the Voelcker Report on Indian agriculture in the end of 19th century and also pointed [out that even the Cambridge Economic History of India recently admitted that till about 1800, yields in Indian fields were higher than 'scientific' agriculture’s yields in England.

In the 1850's, the organic relation between forests and agriculture was disrupted as trees were set aside for railways, ship-building and. other industrial needs. This in itself necessitated the use of cowdung as a fuel. The centralization of all the revenue receipts by the British led to the decline of irrigation tanks, and their maintenance, which was a local responsibility. The export of oilseeds and bones further deprived our agriculture of fertilizers. These policies struck at the basis of our traditional farming system. High taxes precluded any investments on lands. The system of agriculture started collapsing and its knowledge base got steadily eroded. One can gauge its strength from the fact that even after more than a century of such erosion, it still survived and mainly fed our population till 15 years ago. It was at this point that modern agriculture intervened. It never had to compete with a healthy traditional agriculture but with its degraded version. It is important also to point out that modern agriculture is not just harmful for the environment but is industry oriented. Not only do its inputs come from industry, its output feeds industry in return. The tasks today are twofold. We must collect indigenous knowledge still available with our people or described in old books and reports and second, we must re-establish the link between forest resources, irrigation and water, indigenous seeds, etc.

Dharampat said that it is necessary to understand the process of the decline of Indian agriculture. The Edinburgh Chronicle recorded higher production and better wages for workers in early 19th century India. Agricultural implements from India used to be sent regularly abroad. He observed that if central control and central guidance is chosen as the only way to run the country best, then may be chemical farming is suitable for such an objective.

Dr. R- H. Richaria, former Director of Rice Research Institutes at Cuttack, Raipur, then outlined his work at the Institutes. He suggested that this conference should be re-named the Rediscovery of the Organic System in Indian Agriculture. The first point he made was that we should decide whether we want to make our agriculture factory-oriented or based on local resources. Centrally controlled scientific organization will never work. Hardly 5% of research from institutions reaches cultivators. Conditions differ from village to village. Richaria spoke of the 19,000 varieties of rice that he collected in Madhya Pradesh. He also spoke on some of the major varieties of rice and their specific qualities. These seeds are now getting lost at a very fast rate. The Indian Government not doing anything about it. In fact our Government is often aiding in exporting these seeds. The multinationals are collecting these seeds systematically and are now openly suggesting that with rich genetic resources under their control and with the collapse of modern varieties in a few years, they could ask any price for appropriate seed varieties in future. Reports were also presented on the experiments towards organic farming going on in several places including Friends Rural Centre in Rasulia, Murgappa Chettiar Research Centre in Madras, in Auroville and by Prof. Dabholkar in Poona.

The discussion on cattle breeds started with a talk by Banwarilal Chaudhry. He observed that in India, cattle rising were a family occupation. Indian cattle are dual purpose breeds, raised for milk and for draught. Foreign or exotic cattle are mainly for milk and beef. We have 15-16 indigenous varieties which are important. Some indigenous cross breeding took place earlier to increase milk or for better working cattle. Recently the worst of both Indian and exotic breeds have been cross-bred resulting in a totally useless breed like the Taylor breed. Operation Flood is out crossing our - herds using exotic breeding. Exotic cattle cannot- tolerate our environment and are susceptible to disease. In India the best .breeds that give milk are found in areas of less rainfall as in Rajasthan. The imported breeds like Jerseys and Holsteins, which also require exotic feeds, are destroying the traditional system. If they cannot be given concentrate feeds their milk yield is no more than 2-3 liters. In. one village studied, only 2-3 males out of 50 were) capable of working the plough BanwarNal felt that there is a conspiracy to finish off our breeds. The whole program is for the cities, not for the villages. The key village centre scheme in M.P. which emphasized local breeds was terminated. Lots of concessions and subsidies were given for exotic breeds, none for the local ones.

Korah Mathen of La|bhai Group Rural Development Fund observed that comparative figures of" the yields of exotic and indigenous animals are generally cooked up. Generally the better of the exotic animal’s one compared with the worst or the average of the indigenous species. The strategy of White' Revolution and how dearly it has cost our country was also discussed.

The discussion next focused on forest practices. Dr. Vandana Shiva of Research Foundation (for S & T and Natural Resource Policy, Dehradun, spoke of the third area of interest to organic farming' namely forest resources. She observed that traditional practices have transferred fertility from forests to soil through .animals and through green mulch". With the decline "'of forest areas a massive afforestation program was started with Canadian International Development Agency and World Bank help but of a kind which is now damaging to our agriculture."

The forest departments, she said, are the biggest landlords for the past 100 years. A forest, seen as a timber mine demands a different regimen than a forest seen as a (living system the reason why the chief forest officer was called Con-servitor of. Forests were because his job was to conserve forest revenue. In the Western Ghats the first onslaught on the forests was for constructing cantonments, for ship building and railway lines. A massive destruction of forests took place. The so-called 'Scientific Management' of forests began in the 1870's. Attention was focused on production," not on soil conditions. By the middle of this century fresh demands like the production of' paper led to clear felling of natural forest and the raising of large monoculture plantations with, for example, Eucalyptus. The Eucalyptus tree returns only 40-50 kgs of leaf litter to the soil. It provides zero cattle fodder.
The meeting discussed many other aspects including the methods of composting, whether the slurry from biogas plant was fit to be used in fields and how best it could be used as fertilizer, etc. The following were some of the decisions taken at the convention.


  1. The preparation of a directory of organic farming techniques being tried out today in the country.

  2. Traditional sayings, proverbs, etc., should be collected and experimented with for testing their validity.

  3. There was a need expressed from most of the participants for a coordinating body or an Association, to further the objectives of organic farming and the preservation and strengthening of indigenous living resources including plants, animals and trees.

The Seminar on rice and Indigenous rice Varieties*

The note prepared for the meeting states.

India has been store-house of a rich diversity of plant genetic material. In rice alone, there are as many as 43,000 varieties, identified and documented form within India.

Of the 1,20,000 rice cultivars, so far identified, all over the world, over one-third come from India. Each of these special varieties has .its- own specific character, size, form, level of. disease resistance or proneness to infection/pest attack, stress response to weather, etc., which helped it to survive, by a series of adaptation to a specific environment, Such an evolutionary process of natural selection and adaption, now stands gravely threatened under the impact of Western-style development programs. In India today, there are only about 30 commonly grown varieties of rice a situation, fraught with extreme danger for the food security of our country, as a whole.

It is precisely this wide genetic base, which gives the specific variety, the ability to cope with adverse" and diverse environmental conditions, that spawned the green revolutions, we have seen, so far. However, in the single minded pursuit of maximizing yields, a number of other desirable characteristics, like disease resistance, ability to withstand drought-prone environments, etc., were sacrificed. These aspects we're sought to be remedied, by the introduction of a battery of chemical agents, for improving yield response patterns, for countering pest attack, to ward off specific diseases, etc. In addition, large quantities of water were needed to off-set loss in ability to survive drought-like situations. The introduction of these hybrids, on a large scale, meant the greater introduction of farm mechanization equipment as large quantities of crops, had to be harvested, almost simultaneously. While agriculture-based chemical industry and a host of others, took this great opportunity for generating huge profits, the poor farmer kept getting more and 'more into hot water. Control over his operations, moved away from him, and he remains hopelessly dependent on others, for his very survival.

Historically, the Green Revolution represented a choice to breed seed varieties that produce high yields under optimum conditions. It was a choice not to start by developing seeds better able to withstand drought or pests. It was a choice not to concentrate first on improving traditional methods of increasing yields, such as mixed cropping. It was a choice not to develop technology that was productive, abor-intensive, and independent of foreign input supply. It was a choice not to concentrate on reinforcing the balanced, traditional diets of grains plus legumes.

The dangers in this type of development are many. Not only have many of these high-response varieties, displaced and eliminated traditional varieties, thus causing loss of valuable genetic material, but these new strains, being vulnerable to many pests and diseases, have often brought about large scale crop failures. Pesticides used to kill off the major pests have left the crop exposed to attack of minor pests, which have become major in their own way. In addition, pests have also acquired considerable immunity to the less potent chemicals, and have, even gone on to break down these chemicals into harmless compounds, through acquired drug resistance. Similar has been the problem with weeds, etc-while' these toxic chemicals destroy a number of beneficial organisms, bacteria, etc., which provided life support to agriculture in the past. A lot of these toxic chemicals being used find its way into water sources and the human body, wrecking havoc to plant, animal, aquatic and human life. With ever/ disappearing plant, nearly ten to thirty dependent species of insects and higher animals and other plants also slowly die out. Large quantities of water used, without adequate drainage, etc., expose large tracts 'of highly fertile land to salinity build-up. In the name of development projects, large areas of the wild, genetically rich [and diverse forest areas are being regularly cleared to make way for man, causing irreparable damage and loss to the nation's genetic pool. Further, food grown under the chemical farming system is less nutritious and lacks many of the other beneficial properties that traditional varieties possessed. With the*growing elimination of traditional varieties, even those who advocate and propagate 'chemical farming' are under a severe threat, as they will no longer have access to these varieties, to incorporate desirable characteristics in their new varieties. In other words, it is a situation where everyone stands to lose but, the most severely threatened are the poor farmers, whose very existence and survival is at stake.

With this in mind the convention commenced with Dr. R. H. Richaria giving a few lectures on the origin and history of the rice plant, the numerous varieties 'of rice, their importance and the technology to improve seeds and increase yields. .There was a practical demonstration by Dr. Richaria of various aspects of the rice plant in Rasulia rice fields. [Mr. Krishna Kumar, Mr. Balaram and Mr. Pratap Agarwal gave a firsthand account of the experiments underway on the Rasulia farms .based on no-till agriculture and organic manure. Bernard and Jaap from Auro-ville explained how their studies aiso reveal the superiority of the indigenous rice varieties. Besides, Priya Deshingkar provided a review of the ongoing research, extension strategies and approaches involving HYV's carried out via the programs of IRI and ICAR.*

The participants emphasized the need for setting up a new rice research institute with the specific aim of developing the indigenous varieties and welcomed the initiative taken by M. P. Government, in inviting Dr. Richaria to explore the possibilities. The participants also decided that a booklet should be prepared for distribution among farmers regarding the rice question and the importance of indigenous rice varieties. Activities will also be initiated to preserve whatever cultivars of indigenous rice varieties that are available in various parts of the country.

The Seminar on Indian Indigenous Breeds of Cattle*

The note prepared by Korah Mathen for the Seminar States:

"India has been known, through the ages, for her cattle wealth, both in terms of quantity and as well as in terms of quality. Quantitatively, 'approximately 20 percent of the total world-wide cattle population is in India. Qualitatively, it comprises a rich diversity of breeds, specially adopted to Indian conditions, and valued highly, for their special characteristics. Traditionally, cattle in India have been bred with multiple objectives - as milk producers, as draught animals for agriculture and transportation purposes, for their extremely high disease resistance, and for their ability to survive in draught-prone environments. In order that cattle survive the realities of the Indian environments, balance between these multiple objectives was always sought after, rather than just maximizing any single objective, Therefore Indian cattle are not necessarily the best producers of milk. However, there were and' still exist specialized breeds in this country whose milk yields are comparable to the best internationally. In addition, cattle in India, have continuously contributed, in a major way, towards raising and maintaining the fertility of soil, throughout India's long history of involvement in agriculture.

Into such an environment, we have introduced Western technology in cattle care and management through cross breeding with exotic foreign breeds. The rationale being given is that we must maximize milk production as a single major priority. Further, the argument that only such cross breeding with exotic foreign breeds can raise the milk production in this country is being, propagated as the sole and sacred truth. The utility of the cross-breeds are considerably lower than that of the indigenous cattle, except may be for milk production. All such cross breeding with foreign exotic breeds reduces the disease resistance, lowers its utility value as a' draught animal and decreases considerably its ability to survive in drought - prone environments. In addition, the proper care and management of these cross breeds involve sophisticated feeding patterns, greater use of water and supportive health care facilities. Lowering of the disease resistance and increased requirement of health care facilities is advantageous for the organized pharmaceutical industry. Lowering the utility of the animal in terms of draught power, gives those involved with farm mechanization equipment, the necessary boost to increase the sale of their products. The use of greater quantity of water is beneficial to those involved with identification, tapping and equipment-supply for the use of such large quantities of water, In other words, the total' picture that emerges is that the adoption of such technologies benefit the organized industry rather than the poor villager/farmer.

Even if one were to consider milk production as the major objective, there are many Indian cattle varieties, which could have and can adequately fit the bill. The added advantage in cross breeding with such local high-mi Ik-yielding varieties of cattle would be that it would not result in lowering the standard of disease resistance, its utility as draught animals, or its ability to survive drought-prone environments. Such high milk yielding varieties of cattle are found throughout India, but are slowly disappearing under the onslaught of the cross breeding program centered on exotic foreign breeds. In cows, for instance, the Red Sindhi yields around 5,440kgs of milk per lactation period the Sahiwal, around 4,900kgs. of milk per lactation period the Tharparkar around 4,375kgs. per lactation period several others like Gir, Kankrej, Ongole, Gaolao, etc. which give over 3,000 kgs. of milk per lactation. In buffaloes, varieties like Murrah, the Jaffaradi, Surti, Mehsani, Nagpuri, etc, are known to produce over 3,000 kgs of milk per lactation (with fat percentage 7-8%). In addition to the milk production, the males are extremely good draught animals. Having evolved over generations within the Indian environment, these breeds incorporate a high degree of disease resistance, as well as considerable ability to survive a hostile drought-prone environment. In comparison, cross-breeds with exotic foreign breeds average, between 3,000 to 4,000kgs. of milk per lactation period. There is therefore, ample evidence that we need not necessarily cross-breed with foreign exotic breeds, even if we do want to improve the milk production capacity of the average Indian I cattle.

However, everything today points out to an increasing trend of cross breeding with foreign exotic breeds. In doing so, especially, through, the process of artificial insemination of frozen semen, we are progressively reducing the genetic diversity, of Indian cattle, thereby increasing tremendously the risks, relating to their survival. "Today increasingly, such survival is becoming more and more dependent on organized industry? Which sees this as a tremendous opportunity" for profit making. The security of our cattle wealth is getting concentrated in the hands of a few. In this process, local breeds are allowed to languish and "die out. 'This trend is extremely dangerous for us and our country and positively suicida for the poor villager / farmer".

The Seminar recommended in strong term. That further crossbreeding is not in the interest of the country's long term dairy development, its breeds of cattle or the farmers as a whole. Such cross-breeding or out crossing should be either discouraged, jor banned and phased out.

Dr. M.Y. Mangrulkar retired principal of Veterinary College, Jabalpure stressed that the cross-breeds were not doing well even on the milk front and noted that farmers were being forced to" use fans to cool their exotic animals. In some states like Kerala, worthless exotic bulls were being sent to the butcher en masse. Dr. D. P. Persai who has worked for the past 25 years with the Killari-Tharparkar breed in Satara informed the Seminar that it [took five years for him. to get bank loans to finance his genetically improved indigenous animals. Several participants pointed out that while it is easy to get "loans and subsidies to purchase, exotic cattle, banks, and financial institutions do not easily give loans for indigenous varieties. Mr. Korah Mathe'n pointed out that for operation Flood it, out of a target of 10 million improved animals, not even 4,00,000 improved calves (exotic) have been born through artificial insemination method. Cross-breeding was not only expensive it also led to cornering of common resources to maintain such expensive animals, thus decreasing the amount! of fodder left for local breeds. This was bound to lead to decrease in milk production nationwide, since most of the milk collected was still produced by poor villages and tribals. It was further noted that conclusive results of cross-breeding can be obtained only after three generations. Already it has been observed.' that there is a reduction of 15% in milk yield in the second generation. The whole picture about the future of such' cross breeds is dark and we would phase out all our investments in such a program. The participants in the Seminar sent, a Memorandum to the Evolution Committee of Operation Flood II from which the following is extracted.

No one can have any objection to the production of more milk in the country. The supreme importance of our cattle wealth (Pashu-Dhan) has been universally recognized by all Indians, irrespective of religion. ''Everyone, realizes that long long ago this country was flowing with milk. Even in 'Moghul days we had cows yielding 40 seers of milk or more per day, besides yielding for cultivation, in the predominantly agricultural country,, highly efficient male progeny which also was an economic source of energy for traction, fuel and organic manure. During the British Raj, our cattle wealth was neglected and it was hoped that the clock would be set right after we became independent, and that our very valuable indigenous breeds of cattle will be rehabilitated and restored to their earlier productive glory. But this did not happen. With increased export of cattle feeds, with the sale and smuggling of the best specimens of our world-renowned breeds to foreign countries, with the ever-increasing exports of live-stock or their derivatives (particularly beef at present, besides skin, bones, horns-hooves etc.) and with the continuing wilful neglect of our cattle wealth, is it surprising that we at all levels of leadership and intelligence are forced to admit that our cattle are no more our wealth but- only a dead weight and a liability, fit only to be slaughtered on a mass scale and utilized to earn foreign exchange by export to beef-eating countries.

The establishment of European Economic Community, in OUT considered opinion, is the root cause of Operation Flood. Some years ago so much of Skim Milk Powder and Butter Oil got accumulated in the E. E. C. stocks that it was described in the newspapers as "Mountains" of S. M. P. and "Lakes" of butter of with no purchaser in the world at the prices demanded by the producing countries. The stocks, however, kept on accumulating. It dawned on F. F. C. that they might as well make a free gift to the developing countries and earn their gratitude (subservience). Which country would have become foremost to their minds but India, which at that time was the bride of choice to woo! From here starts the story of Operations Flood in India.

India came prominently into the picture to become a country to absorb the superfluous milk powder, butter oil and dairy machinery. Liquid Nitrogen plants and containers pastortsation plants, cold tankers, etc for establishing a dairy industry, and at the same time, becoming a bountiful source of beef to feed the starving beef-e3ters. To push the Operation Flood down our throat, no help was denied. and no scruples spared. Our scientists were assured that in order to make our cows better milk yielders we should take to exotic crossing and expedite the process by adopting artificial insemination which presupposed castration of the indigenous male cattle. We accepted all and sundry exotic breeds that were donated or given cheap by other countries on the foolish presumption that every foreign breed is better than our best and that the progeny will be able to withstand our climate. Blinded by our "milk-fever", no one bothered to thing about the male exotic cross as the future bullock for the plough or draft; probably they felt assured that the hybrid male would make as good a bullock as the indigenous male. No one bothered to think whether these cattle will withstand the Indian soil and climate to maintain the performance at the pail, or that we would not be importing serious disease hazards. We have seen for example that some of the exotic breeds {Brown Swiss in Kerala) were definitely heavy beefy type, with ulterior "long-range motive". Some herds (Red Dane in Karnataka) had to be destroyed due to Tuberculosis, and the imported semen of some of the breeds in Tamil Nadu carried an infective virus. We have also seen instances where the performance of the imported breeds, kept under very expensive lordly care was not at all markedly superior or encouraging, and the same had deteriorated sufficiently in a few years to come on par with our much maligned "non-descript" desi cow. Also, the problems of new diseases crop up generation after generation.

Now we come to our chief objection to the Operation Flood. We most strongly feel that the birth, and the manner of working, of Operation Flood is so much tilted in favor of the city's needs and arraigned so much against the basic well-being of the bulk of the rural population that it must very seriously undermine the very peaceful existence of the nation in a not too distant future .

Exotic crossing was foisted with utter disregard to the work achieved by Animal Husbandry Directors in pursuance of the States' Cattle Breeding Policy. This ruined whatever systematic and sensible "Samverdhan" had been accomplished. Thus if an area was earmarked for pure Tharparkar, Maivi or Sahiwal upgrading or selective breeding for some years, the Dairy Department felt no hesitation in ruining the good work already done by superimposing exotic crossing in what they considered there "milk-shed area" for intensive hybridization work. This was made possible by special preferential treatment meted out to milk production under Operation Flood for the important and influential city dwellers, but completely oblivious to the disadvantage thereof to the village kissan…

While inducements were offered for rearing the female hybrid calf, the male calf received neither Subsidy nor encouragement because the operation Flood would find no use for it. It was taken for granted that the (farmer would raise it j and it should make as good a bullock as any native male calf. This of course was not at all the case. The uselessness of the male hybrid progeny has been proved beyond all doubt over and over again and yet the Operation Flood's dogmatic claim to the contrary continues. Actually a research worker fat the N.D.R.I, had seriously come to the conclusion that the Indian farmar should recast his cultivation schedule to suit the hybrid male foisted on him by Operation Flood, and use him during the cooler parts of the day (morning and late afternoon) What could illustrate better the proverb "the fail wagging the dog"?

Our contention is that if we in independent India had not accepted Western money, methods and man-power but honestly 'relied upon our own resources, we would have made much headway consistently with our glorious civilized past. We acted definitely unwisely in trying to develop industrially with foreign finance, or loans for support, discarding the greatest asset that we had, via, our cattle wealth. Even after it dawned on us that we had this vast wealth which has sustained this country though the worst days of trial and tribulation, we did not adopt the proper posture regarding the reatest source of our strength. We must admit honestly that we are running more and more into international debt, and trying to pay it off by sacrificing our greatest resource, dead as well as alive.

The Seminar participants concluded that the preservation and growth of indigenous breeds be put on an emergency basis, and that the system of key .village schemes, put aside by the NDDB, should be reinstated in all areas. It 'also suggested the setting up of pure breed herds in every Veterinary college in the country, and of indigenous bull farms. It expressed strong resentment against 'the rise of jbeef export business, with its strong lobby, based on the slaughter of precious cattle wealth in the form of young calves, bulls and mothers. Unless stringent measures were adopted here, the country would suffer an. Irreversible v drain in its cattle wealth. Finally, the Seminar recommended that we should totally alter the present day industrial policies which militate against better nutrition for cattle. Wheat and Paddy straw are rapidly becoming feed stock for industries and even bran is not spared. It, therefore, urged all thinking people to seriously ponder on these unhealthy trends and to aid the Association in its efforts to not only maintain and conserve indigenous material, but to have them propagated. Otherwise, with its indiscriminate chaotic cross-breeding program, there is little chance if any', but a dark future for the country, in regard to its animal wealth.

The Follow up

The three meetings on organic farming do mark a new beginning. The forthcoming meeting on indigenous tree species and another general convention on organic farming should further strengthen the effort. An Association to strengthen and propagate indigenous techniques should get formed very soon.

We should however note that these meetings were not organized or attended by our traditional farmers. This is not surprising as it is highly unlikely that any of our farmers relying mainly on indigenous techniques could come to such meetings today. And yet it is our traditional farmers who have the knowledge and competence to improve our indigenous techniques. It is for those of us who have been-interested in indigenous techniques to go and learn from our farmers. In the beginning our farmers may only serve as sources of information, but sooner or later they will have to take over and lead this movement for regeneration of Indian agriculture.

While working for such a movement, we should seriously set about collecting information about indigenous farming, both from historical records as well as from practicing farmers. We should conduct studies about the state of indigenous resources, what are the pressures that are operating on these resources to what extent modern practices have 'penetrated our villages' etc. We should also raise these issues in various agricultural universities and institutes and pressurize those working in these institutions to do some relevant work in the interest of our agriculture. We should also lobby with the Government to alter its blind and suicidal bias in favor of modern chemical farming.

The indigenous resources and practices are suffering because there is a systematic economic-political attack on these for about two hundred years. Ultimate y it is only a politico-economic counter-attack, which can reverse this situation.



Author: Madras Group

Note:

  • J.K. Bajaj : "Green Revolution : A Historical Perspective", PPST Bulletin, Vol. 2, no 2, November 1982.

  • For a detailed discussion of the state of Indian agriculture in late 19th century- see PPST Bulletin Vol. 2 No 2, 1982.

  • For instance, the Royal Commission of Agriculture in India in 1926 pays glowing tribute to the report as the "most comprehensive survey of agricultural conditions in India", and "in his analysis of problems they present and in recommendations for their solutions, still render it a book of tire utmost value".

  • This meeting was held at the "Friends Rural Centre", Hoshangabad, during October 4-6,1934.

  • An article ."Rice Research Strategies for the 80s" by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan and published in Mazingira (Indian edn.) Vol.7, No. 3, 1983, provide the scientific establishment viewpoint on HYVs.

  • This meeting was held at Kasturbagram, Indore, during October 18-20, 1984.

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