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'Make sustainable farming, biodiversity election issue'

Kheti Virasat Mission has come up with 21-page green manifesto

'Make sustainable farming, biodiversity election issue'

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 2

With climate, ecology and agricultural sustainability not being poll plank of any party till the 2022 election, NGO Kheti Virasat Mission has come up with its own people’s agenda and a 21-page green manifesto to pressurise political parties into acknowledging environment protection and sustainable agriculture as grave and necessary issues.

Similarly, environmentalist Balbir Singh Seechewal has also been pushing for the inclusion of environmental issues as a poll plank.

“Green manifesto for the upcoming Punjab elections 2022 — Agenda for natural farming, safe food and health (prosperity, happiness and sustainability),” reads the header of the 21-page green manifesto prepared by the Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM) ahead of the 2022 election.

Politics needs to bring the state out of the cycle of monoculture and chemical farming which is adversely impacting farmers. It should be a poll issue and must be included in party manifestos. —Umendra Dutt, Executive Director, Kheti Virasat Mission

The KVMs manifesto asserts: “Political parties contesting the election must resolve that if that party comes to power, their government will adopt an agenda for chemical free and sustainable agriculture and adopt economic development model which assures environment protection and assures healthy Punjab which is free of chemical food farmers debt and suicides, displacements and environment-borne diseases in general.”

The Kheti Virasat Mission believes the state’s farm suicides are directly linked with incessant use of pesticide. KVM is pushing for farmers with “Sovereign Kitchens” (kitchens with at least a 100 ingredients which are home grown).

A recent KVM poster states, “As Punjab walks into elections, people of the state are demanding from each contesting party and candidate, what their promises and proposals are about - natural farming promotion and transition; water, biodiversity and environment conservation; holistic and environmental health security; income guarantee for farmers.”

KVM’s claims are backed by tons of data and years of sustaining a network of organic farmers who are pioneers in the state’s organic farming scenario.

Executive Director, Kheti Virasat Mission, Umendra Dutt, said, “Politics needs to bring the state out of the cycle of monoculture and chemical farming which is adversely impacting farmers. It should be a poll issue and must be included in party manifestos. We will assert our agenda through social media to persuade and pressurise politicians. Every political party and every candidate must have answers on it. Farm suicides and cancer are directly linked. Suicide cases are reported most in south Punjab pockets — Patiala, Sangrur, Barnala, Malerkotla, Mansa Faridkot, Bathinda districts — which have the highest use of pesticides. It’s exactly this area which is called the cancer belt of Punjab. Suicides are lesser in Kandi areas. The reason is pesticides have economic implications. They give way to environmental health disasters and socio economic stress.”

To ensure that the environment is a prominent issue on the agenda of political parties in the state, a delegation under environmentalist Balbir Singh Seechewal had also met officiating jathedar of Akal Takht Giani Harpreet Singh recently. Environmentalist Seechewal has appealed to national parties and the state’s regional parties to include environment as a key issue in their 2022 in their election manifestos. He said as along as environment did not emerge as a people’s issue, political parties would do nothing to address rising pollution in the environment.

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