Punjab farmers trash Centre's strategy to tackle soil degradation

Famers’ public hearing favours ecological fertilizers

Press release - October 27, 2010
Baghwangarh, Sangat, Punjab, 26 October 2010: In a first of its kind jansunwayi [public hearing] in Punjab farmers today trashed the Centre’s strategy to tackle soil degradation through the new Nutrient Based Subsidy System (NBS) . Hundreds of farmers from the malwa belt attending the Jansunwayi demanded a support system for ecological fertilizers to tackle this crisis in the state.

Jansunwai in PunjabThe Jansunvai organized by the residents of Baghwangarh (Bukhianwali) village is part of the Greenpeace's nationwide “Living Soils” campaign and is run by Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM) and Greenpeace in Punjab. The Jansunvai witnessed active participation of farmers, elected representatives of the people, agriculture and soil experts, medical and legal fraternity, civil society groups and media.

Verdict of farmers of Punjab acquires significance in the context of Centre’s acceptance of intensive chemical fertilizer usage as cause for the soil degradation crisis and initiating a reform in its fertilizer subsidy policy by introducing Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) policy from 1 April 2010.

Living Soils survey reveals that farmers are not even aware of schemes like Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), National Project on Organic Production (NPOP) etc. Raising questions about such schemes in agricultural states like Punjab.

"Healthy soil is key to sustainable farming for generations. Soil has to be rejuvenated if we are to safeguard our lives and livelihoods from near collapse. It is high time Government come to the rescue of farmers", Singhara Singh, District President of Bhartiya Kisan Union [Ekta Urgrah] said inaugurating the Jansunvai said.

Punjab has been in the grip of a crisis suffering consequences of excessive chemical fertilizer usage. The response of additional fertilizer application to food grain production has shown a distinct declining trend.

Long term studies show that the average crop response to fertilizer use has reduced drastically from 25 kg/kg in 1960’s to 8 kg/kg only during late 1990’s. [Ref 1] However the Living Soils survey reveals that the chemical fertilizer consumption is still rising at exponential rates. There has been a 750% hike in urea consumption over the last 40 years in the district. Farmers are well aware of adverse impacts of chemical fertilizers, but have no choice. 89.3% of the surveyed farmers believed that organic matter is critical for maintaining soil health. 100% of the surveyed farmers prefered ecological fertilization if support is provided for the same.

This social audit in Bhatinda was the last in the series of social audits organized as part of the Living Soils Campaign. Earlier similar social audits where organized in selected districts of Assam, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka.

“The social audit in Bathinda proves that Centre’s schemes are not capable of solving the soil degradation crisis”said Umendra Dutt, Kheti Virasat Mission who moderated the Public hearing. He further added that “It's the responsibility of those in power to start appropriate policies which will agive life to dying soil. It’s also the duty of all to support ecological fertilizers”.

Sunil Parbhakar, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India said that “This Nutrient Based Subsidy is clearly old wine in a new bottle and the benefits of this scheme will continue to be reaped by the chemical fertilizer companies.”. He further added, “It's time for the Government to stopped taking refuge behind few schemes which are scattered and counterproductive and come up with a real, workable mainstream eco-friendly solutions which would address the soil health crisis.”

Notes to the editor:
1. Subsidising Food Crisis, Greenpeace report, can be accessed at
http://www.greenpeace.org/india/en/publications/subsidising-food-crisis/
2. “Living Soils”, a nationwide campaign launched by Greenpeace India aims to critically review the soil health management support systems of Central Government through a participatory approach using social audit as a tool. The Living Soils campaign was launched on 3 August 2010 in Guwahati. More information at:
http://www.greenpeace.org/india/en/publications/Living-Soils-Concept-Note
3. Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS): In 2009, during the budget speech, Union Finance Minister expressed concerns over the declining response of agricultural productivity to increased fertiliser usage and initiated a reform. Union Finance Minister’s budget speech can be accessed at http://indiabudget.nic.in/ub2009-10/bs/speecha.htm (Refer para. 34 in this page for his statement on fertiliser subsidies). NBS system was introduced from 1 April 2010 as part of the reform. This new policy continues to support only chemical fertilisers and hence fails in its own cause. A Greenpeace policy brief on NBS is enclosed. It can also be accessed at http://www.greenpeace.org/india/Global/india/report/fertilizer_subsidy_policybrief_webversion-1.pdf

4. Ecological fertilisation includes a wide array of eco-friendly practices that nourishes soil and facilitates the natural cycles within the soil ecosystem. fertilisation using Farm Yard manure, Green leaf manure, biofertilisers, compost etc forms part of this model. In addition to this there are several practices developed by farmers through years of observation and on farm experimentation.

For more information, please contact:
Sunil Prabhakar, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India Mob: +91 9008971000, email:
Gopikrishna S.R, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner, Greenpeace India Mob: +91 9900897341, email:
Umendra Dutt, Executive Director, Kheti Virasat Mission, Mob: +91 9872682161,email: