[Reader-list] Letter to J. Swaminathan.
amitabhkumar84 at gmail.com
Thu Aug 24 00:23:43 IST 2006
From: Bhaskar Save, 'Kalpavruksha' Farm,
Village Dehri, via Umergam,
Dist. Valsad, Gujarat - 396 170
(Phone: 0260 - 2562126 & 2563866)
To: Shri M.S. Swaminathan,
The Chairperson, National Commission on Farmers,
Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India
July 29, 2006
Subject: Mounting Suicides and National Policy for Farmers
Dear Shri Swaminathan,
I am an 84-year old natural/organic farmer with more than six
of personal experience in growing a wide range of food crops. I
over the years, practised several systems of farming, including the
chemical method in the fifties - until I soon saw its pitfalls.
I say with conviction that it is only by organic farming in
with Nature, that India can sustainably provide her people abundant,
wholesome food. And meet every basic need of all - to live in
dignity and peace.
[Annexed hereto are: (1) a concise comparison of chemical farming
organic farming; (2) an introduction to my farm, Kalpavruksha; (3)
recorded opinions of visitors; and (4) a short biographical note on
You, M.S. Swaminathan, are considered the 'father' of India's
so-called 'Green Revolution' that flung open the floodgates of
chemicals - ravaging the lands and lives of many millions of Indian
farmers over the past 50 years. More than any other individual in
history, it is you I hold responsible for the tragic condition of
soils and our debt-burdened farmers, driven to suicide in increasing
numbers every year.
As destiny would have it, you are presently the chairperson of the
'National Commission on Farmers', mandated to draft a new
policy. I urge you to take this opportunity to make amends - for the
of the children, and those yet to come.
I understand your Commission is inviting the views of farmers for
drafting the new policy. As this is an open consultation, I am
copy of my letter to: the Prime Minister, the Union Minister for
Agriculture, the Chairperson of the National Advisory Council, and
media - for wider communication. I hope this provokes some soul-
and open debate at all levels on the extremely vital issues
So that we do not repeat the same kind of blunders that led us to our
present, deep festering mess., Rabindranath Tagore, referred not so
long ago to our "sujhalam, sufalam" land. Ours indeed was a remarkably
fertile and prosperous country - with rich soils, abundant water and
sunshine, thick forests, a wealth of bio-diversity, ... And cultured,
peace-loving people with a vast store of farming knowledge and wisdom.
Farming runs in our blood. But I am sad that our (now greyed)
generation of Indian farmers, allowed itself to be duped into
adopting the short-sighted and ecologically devastating way of farming, imported
into this country. - By those like you, with virtually zero farming experience!
For generations beyond count, this land sustained one of the highest
densities of population on earth. Without any chemical 'fertilizers',
pesticides, exotic dwarf strains of grain, or the new, fancy
'bio-tech' inputs that you now seem to champion. The many waves of
invaders into this country, over the centuries, took away much. But
the fertility of our land remained unaffected.
The Upanishads say:
Purnamidam Purnat Purnamudachyate
Purnasya Purnamadaya Purnamewa Vashishyate
"This creation is whole and complete.
>From the whole emerge creations, each whole and complete.
Take the whole from the whole, but the whole yet remains,
In our forests, the trees like ber (jujube), jambul (jambolan),mango,
umbar (wild fig), mahua (Madhuca indica), imli(tamarind), ... yield so
abundantly in their season that the branches sag under the weight of
the fruit. The annual yield per tree is commonly over a tonne - year
after year. But the earth around remains whole and undiminished. There
is no gaping hole in the ground!
>From where do the trees - including those on rocky mountains - get
their water, their NPK, etc? Though stationary, Nature provides their
needs right where they stand. But 'scientists' and technocrats like
you - with a blinkered, meddling itch - seem blind to this. On what
do you prescribe what a tree or plant requires, and how much, and
It is said: where there is lack of knowledge, ignorance masquerades as
'science'! Such is the 'science' you have espoused, leading our
farmers astray - down the pits of misery. While it is no shame to be
ignorant, the awareness of such ignorance is the necessary first
step to knowledge. But the refusal to see it is self-deluding arrogance.
This country has more than 150 agricultural universities, many with
huge land-holdings of thousands of acres. They have no dearth of
infrastructure, equipment, staff, money, ... And yet, not one of these
heavily subsidized universities makes any profit, or grows any
significant amount of food, if only to feed its own staff and students. But
every year, each churns out several hundred 'educated' unemployables,
trained only in misguiding farmers and spreading ecological degradation.
In all the six years a student spends for an M. Sc. in agriculture,
the only goal is short-term - and narrowly perceived -'productivity'.
For this, the farmer is urged to do and buy a hundred things. But
not a thought is spared to what a farmer must never do so that the land
remains unharmed for future generations and other creatures. It is
time our people and government wake up to the realisation that this
industry-driven way of farming - promoted by our institutions - is
inherently criminal and suicidal!
Gandhi declared: Where there is soshan, or exploitation, there can be
no poshan, or nurture! Vinoba Bhave added, "Science wedded to
compassion can bring about a paradise on earth. But divorced from
non-violence, it can only cause a massive conflagration that swallows
us in its
Trying to increase Nature's 'productivity,' is the fundamental
blunder that highlights the ignorance of 'agricultural scientists'
Nature, unspoiled by man, is already most generous in her yield.
grain of rice can reproduce a thousand-fold within months, where
the need to increase its productivity?
Numerous kinds of fruit trees too yield several hundred thousand
of nourishment each in their lifetime! That is, provided the farmer
not pour poison and mess around the tree in his greed for quick
A child has a right to its mother's milk. But if we draw on Mother
Earth's blood and flesh as well, how can we expect her continuing
The mindset of servitude to 'commerce and industry,' ignoring all
else, is the root of the problem. But industry merely
materials' sourced from Nature into commodities. It cannot create
Only Nature is truly creative and self-regenerating - through
the fresh daily inflow of the sun's energy.
The Six Self-renewing Paribals of Nature
There is on earth a constant inter-play of the six paribals (key
factors) of Nature, interacting with sunlight. Three are: air, water
soil. Working in tandem with these, are the three orders of life: '
vanaspati srushti' (the world of plants), 'jeev srushti' (the realm
insects and micro-organisms), and 'prani srushti' (the animal
These six paribals maintain a dynamic balance. Together, they
the grand symphony of Nature, weaving the new!
Man has no right to disrupt any of the paribals of Nature. But
technology, wedded to commerce - rather than wisdom or compassion -
proved disastrous at all levels... We have despoiled and polluted
soil, water and air. We have wiped out most of our forests and
its creatures; ... And relentlessly, modern farmers spray deadly
on their fields. These massacre Nature's jeev srushti - the
unpretentious but tireless little workers that maintain the
ventilated quality of
the soil, and recycle all life-ebbed biomass into nourishment for
plants. The noxious chemicals also inevitably poison the water, and
prani srushti, which includes humans.
The Root of Unsustainablity
Sustainability is a modern concern, scarcely talked of at the time
you championed the 'green revolution'. Can you deny that for more
forty centuries, our ancestors farmed the organic way - without any
marked decline in soil fertility, as in the past four or five
decades? Is it
not a stark fact that the chemical-intensive and irrigation-
way of growing monoculture cash-crops, has been primarily
for spreading ecological devastation far and wide in this country? -
Within the lifetime of a single generation!
Engineered Erosion of Crop Diversity, Scarcity of Organic Matter,
This country boasted an immense diversity of crops, adapted over
millennia to local conditions and needs. Our numerous tall,
varieties of grain provided more biomass, shaded the soil from the
protected against its erosion under heavy monsoon rains. But in the
guise of increasing crop production, exotic dwarf varieties were
introduced and promoted through your efforts. This led to more
of weeds, which were now able to compete successfully with the new
stunted crops for sunlight. The farmer had to spend more labour and
weeding, or spraying herbicides.
The straw growth with the dwarf grain crops fell drastically to
one-third of that with most native species! In Punjab and Haryana,
was burned, as it was said to harbour 'pathogens'. (It was too toxic
feed farm cattle that were progressively displaced by tractors.)
Consequently, much less organic matter was locally available to
fertility of the soil, leading to an artificial need for externally
procured inputs. Inevitably, the farmers resorted to use more
and relentlessly, soil degradation and erosion set in.
The exotic varieties, grown with chemical 'fertiliser', were more
susceptible to 'pests and diseases', leading to yet more poison
(insecticides, etc.) being poured. But the attacked insect species
resistance and reproduced prolifically. Their predators - spiders,
etc. - that fed on these insects and 'biologically controlled' their
population, were exterminated. So were many beneficial species like
earthworms and bees.
Agribusiness and technocrats recommended stronger doses, and
more toxic (and more expensive) chemicals. But the problems
and 'diseases' only worsened. The spiral of ecological, financial
human costs mounted!
The 'Development' of Water Scarcity and Dead, Salty Soils
With the use of synthetic fertilizer and increased cash-cropping,
irrigation needs rose enormously. In 1952, the Bhakra dam was built
Punjab, a water-rich state fed by 5 Himalayan rivers. Several
more big and medium dams followed all over the country, culminating
massive Sardar Sarovar. And now, our government is toying with a
grandiose, Rs 560,000 crore proposal to divert and 'inter-link' the
our rivers. This is sheer 'Tughlaqian' megalomania, without a
for future generations!
India, next to South America, receives the highest rainfall in the
world. The annual average is almost 4 feet. Where thick vegetation
the ground, and the soil is alive and porous, at least half of this
rain is soaked and stored in the soil and sub-soil strata. A good
then percolates deeper to recharge aquifers, or 'groundwater
The living soil and its underlying aquifers thus serve as
ready-made reservoirs gifted free by Nature. Particularly efficient
soaking rain are the lands under forests and trees. And so, half a
century ago, most parts of India had enough fresh water all round
long after the rains had stopped and gone. But clear the forests,
the capacity of the earth to soak the rain, drops drastically.
and wells run dry. It has happened in too many places already.
While the recharge of groundwater has greatly reduced, its
has been mounting. India is presently mining over 20 times more
groundwater each day than it did in 1950. Much of this is mindless
a minority. But most of India's people - living on hand-drawn or
hand-pumped water in villages, and practising only rain-fed farming -
continue to use the same amount of ground water per person, as they
More than 80% of India's water consumption is for irrigation, with
the largest share hogged by chemically cultivated cash crops.
Maharashtra, for example, has the maximum number of big and medium
dams in this
country. But sugarcane alone, grown on barely 3-4% of its cultivable
land, guzzles about 70% of its irrigation waters!
One acre of chemically grown sugarcane requires as much water as
would suffice 25 acres of jowar, bajra or maize. The sugar factories
consume huge quantities. >From cultivation to processing, each kilo
refined sugar needs 2 to 3 tonnes of water. This could be used to
by the traditional, organic way, about 150 to 200 kg of nutritious
or bajra (native millets).
While rice is suitable for rain-fed farming, its extensive
cropping with irrigation in winter and summer as well, is similarly
hogging our water resources, and depleting aquifers. As with
is also irreversibly ruining the land through salinisation.
Soil salinisation is the greatest scourge of irrigation-intensive
agriculture, as a progressively thicker crust of salts is formed on
land. Many million hectares of cropland have been ruined by it. The
serious problems are caused where water-guzzling crops like
or basmati rice are grown round the year, abandoning the traditional
mixed-cropping and rotation systems of the past, which required
Since at least 60% of the water used for irrigation nowadays in
India, is excessive, indeed harmful, the first step that needs to be
is to control this. Thus, not only will the grave damage caused by
much irrigation stop, but a good deal of the water that is saved can
also become available locally for priority areas where acute
Conservative Irrigation and Groundwater Recharge at Kalpavruksha
Efficient, organic farming requires very little irrigation - much
less than what is commonly used in modern agriculture. The yields of
crops are best when the soil is just damp. Rice is the only
that grows even where water accumulates, and is thus preferred as a
monsoon crop in low-lying areas naturally prone to inundation.
irrigation in the case of all other crops expels the air contained
soil's inter-particulate spaces - vitally needed for root
and prolonged flooding causes root rot.
The irrigation on my farm is a small fraction of that provided in
most modern farms today. Moreover, the porous soil under the thick
vegetation of the orchard is like a sponge that soaks and percolates
aquifer, or ground-water table, an enormous quantity of rain each
monsoon. The amount of water thus stored in the ground at
far more than the total amount withdrawn from the well for
the months when there is no rain.
Thus, my farm is a net supplier of water to the eco-system of the
region, rather than a net consumer! Clearly, the way to ensure the
security and food security of this nation, is by organically growing
mixed, locally suitable crops, plants and trees, following the laws
Need for 30% Tree Cover
We should restore at least 30% ground cover of mixed, indigeneous
trees and forests within the next decade or two. This is the core
ecological water harvesting - the key to restoring the natural
abundance of groundwater. Outstanding benefits can be achieved
within a decade
at comparatively little cost. We sadly fail to realise that the
potential for natural water storage in the ground is many times
the combined capacity of all the major and medium irrigation
India - complete, incomplete, or still on paper! Such decentralized
underground storage is more efficient, as it is protected from the
evaporation of surface storage. The planting of trees will also make
available a variety of useful produce to enhance the well-being of a
number of people.
Even barren wastelands can be restored to health in less than a
decade. By inter-planting short life-span, medium life-span, and
life-span crops and trees, it is possible to have planned continuity
yield to sustain a farmer through the transition period till the
long-life fruit trees mature and yield. The higher availability of
and complete ground cover round the year will also hasten the
regeneration of soil fertility.
Production, Poverty & Population
After the British left, Indian agriculture was recovering
There was no scarcity of diverse nourishment in the countryside,
75% of India lived. The actual reason for pushing the 'Green
was the much narrower goal of increasing marketable surplus of a few
relatively less perishable cereals to fuel the urban-industrial
favoured by the government.
The new, parasitical way of farming you vigorously promoted,
benefited only the industrialists, traders and the powers-that-be.
costs rose massively and margins dipped. Combined with the eroding
natural fertility of their land, they were left with little in their
if not mounting debts and dead soils. Many gave up farming. Many
want to do so, squeezed by the ever-rising costs. This is nothing
than tragic, since Nature has generously gifted us with all that is
needed for organic farming - which also produces wholesome, rather
Restoring the natural health of Indian agriculture is the path to
solve the inter-related problems of poverty, unemployment and rising
population. The maximum number of people can become self-reliant
farming only if the necessary inputs are a bare minimum. Thus,
should require a minimum of financial capital and purchased inputs,
minimum farming equipment (plough, tools, etc.), minimum necessary
and minimum external technology. Then, agricultural production will
increase, without costs increasing. Poverty will decline, and the
population will be spontaneously checked.
Self-reliant farming - with minimal or zero external inputs - was
way we actually farmed, very successfully, in the past. Barring
of war and excessive colonial oppression, our farmers were largely
self-sufficient, and even produced surpluses, though generally
quantities of many more items. These, particularly perishables, were
tougher to supply urban markets. And so the nation's farmers were
grow chemically cultivated monocultures of a few cash-crops like
rice, or sugar, rather than their traditional polycultures that
no purchased inputs. [See Annexure 5 on an old, six-crop integral
system (of cotton, 2 millets and 3 edible pulse legumes) which
provided farmers in low-rainfall regions with more diversity and
continuity of yield round the year - without any irrigation or
I hope you have the integrity to support widespread change to
organic farming, tree-planting and forest regeneration (with local
resources and rights) - that India greatly needs. I would be glad to
any query or doubt posed to me, preferably in writing. I also
you to visit my farm with reasonable prior notice. Since many years,
have extended an open invitation to any one interested in
natural/organic farming to visit Kalpavruksha, on any Saturday
afternoon between 2.00
and 4.00 pm., which continues till date.
I may finally add that this letter has been transcribed in English
Bharat Mansata, based on discussions with me in Gujarati. (The
annexures hereto are excerpted from his forthcoming book, 'The
Natural Farming,' Earthcare Books, which draws largely on my
Whether or not you agree with my views, I look forward to your
Bhaskar H. Save
Copy to: (i) The Prime Minister of India, (ii) The Union Minister
Agriculture, (iii) The Chairperson, National Advisory Council, (iv)
1. Comparison of Chemical Farming and Organic Farming
2. An Introduction to Kalpavruksha (my farm)
3. Recorded Opinions of Visitors
4. A Biographical Note
5) Note on a Traditional Six-Crop, Integral System - in a low
rainfall zone, providing diverse yield round the year without any
irrigation or external input.
6. Content Overview and More Excerpts from 'The Vision of
Annexure 1: Comparison of Chemical Farming & Organic Farming:
-- by Bhaskar Save, transcribed from Gujarati to English by Bharat
1. Chemical farming fragments the web of life; organic farming
2. Chemical farming depends on fossil oil; organic farming on
3. Chemical farmers see their land as a dead medium; organic
know theirs is teeming with life.
4. Chemical farming pollutes the air, water and soil; organic
purifies and renews them.
5. Chemical farming uses large quantities of water and depletes
aquifers; organic farming requires much less irrigation, and
6. Chemical farming is mono-cultural and destroys diversity;
farming is poly-cultural and nurtures diversity.
7. Chemical farming produces poisoned food; organic farming
8. Chemical farming has a short history and threatens a dim
organic farming has a long history and promises a bright future.
9. Chemical farming is an alien, imported technology; organic
has evolved indigenously.
10. Chemical farming is propagated through schooled,
misinformation; organic farming learns from Nature and farmers'
11. Chemical farming benefits traders and industrialists;
farming benefits the farmer, the environment and society as a whole.
12. Chemical farming robs the self-reliance and self-respect of
and villages; organic farming restores and strengthens it.
13. Chemical farming leads to bankruptcy and misery; organic
liberates from debt and woe.
14. Chemical farming is violent and entropic; organic farming is
non-violent and synergistic.
15. Chemical farming is a hollow 'green revolution'; organic
the true green revolution.
16. Chemical farming is crudely materialistic, with no
mooring; organic farming is rooted in spirituality and abiding
17. Chemical farming is suicidal, moving from life to death;
farming is the road to regeneration.
18. Chemical farming is the vehicle of commerce and oppression;
farming is the path of culture and co-evolution.
More information about the reader-list