My name is Amaan and I belong to an organisation called YUVA in Kolkata, which works to spread awareness and engage with youth on social issues. More than a month ago Greenpeace India and YUVA started working together in Kolkata to urge our Chief Minister, Mamta Banerjee to oppose the draconian Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill. The BRAI bill is a legislation that will ease the approval of genetically modified (GM) crops. The central government is eager to pass this bill in Parliament.
Why is it important for me to stop the BRAI bill? The answer is simple; it is a threat to the safety of our food, health and environment. I have been a part of many public activities to ensure that our message is heard by the West Bengal government. With every activity, I was inspired to go on, till the day our very own Didi (that's what we all call her affectionately), formally opposes the BRAI bill.
Here is my story of how a group of us young people came very close to just that!
A month ago, on Valentines Day, a group of youngsters from YUVA and Greenpeace India went to Didi's residence with a painted canvas, which expressed the opposition of hundreds of people to the BRAI bill. We had a glimpse of Didi, but all she told us then was that she was with us in our cause.
In the meantime we heard some really good news. The West Bengal government had banned GM seed cultivation in the state. This was great news, but we could not ignore the threat of the BRAI bill, which can easily overturn this decision taken by the state.
So on 12th March, the day when Parliament convened for the budget session, the same group went to Didi's residence again. This time with a bouquet made of vegetables, to thank her for the decision to ban GM seeds in Bengal. At the same time, we wanted to remind her that the West Bengal government needs to oppose the BRAI bill. Our message was simple, "Didi mein hai shakti, BRAI bill se kara dengi mukt (Didi has the power to free us from the BRAI bill)."
In the beginning it didn't look like we were going to meet her, but our luck turned. A volunteer and I were able to take the bouquet of vegetables and meet her for two minutes.
For most people two minutes is a very short time, but for me it was a life time. Didi came out from her residence to meet us. We thanked her and asked her about the BRAI bill. In return, we got a reassurance that we have been waiting to hear for quite some time now. She reassured us that GM crops will never come into West Bengal and she will not let the BRAI bill override her decision. Before leaving, she also appreciated the vegetable bouquet we presented to her and encouraged us to keep up the good work.
This was not the only highlight for me. I had the opportunity to shake hands with Didi, which I still can't get over. I feel very confident and motivated as our CM did not let us down, when it came to keeping our food safe. As a young citizen of this country, it is also a reassurance that if we stand up for our rights we will get heard.
I do hope that the West Bengal state government formaly registers its opposition to BRAI proposal. States like Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka has already done this. I also hope that our parliamentarians see the serious flaws in the bill and stand by the side of the citizens of this country to stop this bill from becoming an act.