BRAI bill protest© Karan Vaid/Greenpeace

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Edmund Burke (1729-1797); Statesman, Author, Philosopher.

On 8th of August 2013 farmers from all over India united on Parliament street for a March Against Monsanto and the BRAI (Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India bill) bill. Our government, in a diabolical move is trying to push the BRAI bill and it was heart-warming to see such a strength of unity by farmers who put aside their differences to align for one common goal. The goal to preserve our Biodiversity and to fight for the very seeds which nourish and provide us with food.

The event saw a massive turnout of over 2,000 people all united for one cause. The rain did not deter the participants. As for the farmers the rain is always a blessing from the Gods above, so the event started on an auspicious note with a rain dance to please the Gods and a plea to them to put some sense into the corporates and political fraternity which is trying to go against the very laws of nature.

There was a huge political presence on ground with Members of Parliament and leaders from the Congress, DMK, BJP, MDMK, JDU, CPM, CPI, BJD and other parties all joining hands to voice their discontent over the BRAI bill. The message was clear ‘In the fight against GM crops we are all united and we will fight till we win this battle.’

BRAI bill protest© Karan Vaid/Greenpeace

Noted leader, Dr Murali Manohar Joshi was present at the event and along with Yudhvir Singh, a farmer leader from the Bharatiya Kisan Union, engaged the audience and informed everyone around about the perils of the BRAI bill and GMOs in general. It’s kind of sad that the very people, whom we depend on for our food, the farmers, are one of the most exploited lot in our country. Numerous speakers from various political parties touched on topics like how this bill will phase out the small farmers and how it will violate the farmer’s rights to seeds and freedom. In this age of neo-liberalism how our resources are being encroached upon for corporate greed and how our government is working in tandem with the corporates like Monsanto just for profits is shocking. In some quarters the BRAI Bill was rather humorously referred to as the Biodiversity Reduction Act.

The event also saw noted anti-GM activist Dr.Vandana Shiva, a woman who is fighting against Monsanto since 1987, lend her support to Greenpeace in the fight against the BRAI bill.

One of the major talking points surrounding the BRAI bill is how it will restrict the workings of the RTI Act and the lack of choice given to our farmers regarding this. Now, if you have nothing to hide and GM food is safe then there is no need for such a provision. It’s a reminder to everyone of how the so called “Monsanto Protection Act” was passed in the USA and how the same vicious cycle is trying to be repeated here. Just as an example a hundred years back there were 5,000 species of potatoes in the USA alone which has now came down to one or two. This is due to the proliferation of GM crops. Do we want the same thing to happen in our beloved country?

A protest against the BRAI bill and Monsanto© Navdha Malhotra/Greenpeace

To lend the event a folk flavour it deserves, a group of farmers sang their opposition against Monsanto through a folk song. The group of farmers from Gujarat performed an engrossing street play portraying the perils faced by them while growing Bt Cotton. It was heart wrenching to see the plight of these farmers who narrated this tale through guided songs acting as narrative and through facial expressions. The farmers showed us how the Bt cotton was initially portrayed as a pesticide free seed and how those claims were false and it ended up ravaging the nutrients from the soil and leaving the soil infertile.

Throughout the event only one slogan was heard, ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ and an appeal to corporations to not give in to their greed. The ‘March against Monsanto’ finally began at 5:45 pm where a group of citizens, led by our National flag, marched towards the PM’s office to deliver the India flag made from organic, non GM Cotton.

The procession was stopped mid-way but a delegation of activists were allowed to go to the PM’s office in an escorted vehicle. The event just showed how unity in diversity is the only way we can fight against the greed which is slowly penetrating and devouring everything around us.

BRAI bill protestThe activists met the Minister of State in the PMO, V. Narayanasamy, and gave him an organic, non GM cotton, India flag and memorandum asking the government to withdraw the BRAI bill.

To conclude, I quote R. Rogers and O. Hammerstein II

When you walk through a storm

Hold your head up high

And don't be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm

Is a golden sky

And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on through the wind

Walk on through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart

And you'll never walk alone

You'll never walk alone

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Shiwang Singh works for Greenpeace India for Strategic Response.