Thursday, 28 June 2012

Do we need Aamir’s programs to shake us ?

Aamir in his episodes on ‘Satyamev Jayatay’ has accomplished remarkable feats so far in attracting attention of the people of not only India but also Pakistan towards issues that affected our daily life yet ignored in seriousness and searching effective solutions, so far. Doordarshan, the Govt.’s arm of visual and electronic communication should have thought and done much earlier this type of program. It is again of concern that Star TV and not Doordarshan have telecast the program inspiring million of people of all shades, castes and creed. The program, shaped by ‘thorough research’ into the subject, seems to have been objectively focusing on the issues but its edited versions and the final material for telecast sometimes becomes a cause of sharp and belligerent comments from across States of India such the episode on ‘Honor Killings’ (3rd June 2012). That is another issue but the last episode on the chemical pesticides and its harmful effects of diverse nature on the health of both the environment and life on our part of the Earth viz. India, has inspired people to take action on such fronts as could not have been earlier envisaged. However, there was hardly scientifically and experimentally provable anything in Aamir’s program that was not formerly and generally unknown to the experts as well as the people. In spite of this people and Governments not only have taken notice and shown sudden interest for reverting to the organic farming and associated issues but also, as follow up, organized meeting, particularly in cotton active and agro-climatic zones of Haryana.

For example a few recent news items, which appeared in The Hindustan Times, Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar entitled ‘Aamir’s show on pesticides rings bells in Haryana, dikl ij Hkh fn[ksxk ^lR;eso t;rs* dk vlj] Fkkyh dks ^tgj* eqDr djus mrjh [kki vkSj vc d`f’k fe= dhVksa dks cpkus mrjsaxh [kki iapk;rsa (Haryana editions all dated 27 June 2012), respectively, speak about the impact of the program on the people. Certain NGOs, individuals and interested group of people in both Haryana and Punjab in addition to HAFED (Haryana Agricultural Federation) have been clamoring for years for adoption of sustainable agricultural and horticultural practices sans inorganic pesticides - highly toxic to the health of the environment with irreversible impact on humans causing cancer and damage to internal organs apart from increasing diseases load on the nation.  One the one hand we seem to have increased production of food grains but on the other we harbored horde of diseases of both known and unknown origin. Direct consumption of insecticides has been a major cause of suicides among the population, particularly in families of the farmers, in the agricultural belts of the country.  Use of pesticides in agriculture has polluted our soil, entered the food chain and poisoned the underground water sources that can only be reverted to their former health by adopting organic farming. Our studies into the history of agricultural practices in India time and again warned us not to follow the model of the West propagated by the MNCs having great commercial push. Marketing strategies of these MNCs and their Indian subsidiaries worked into deep agro-climatic zones of India and lured farmers through subsidies and monetary gains. In the name of banishing hunger and alleviating poverty, through easy bank loans and acceptance of land as guarantee for long term loans, also on farm machinery, pushing for water intensive crops and ending up as producing enough surplus for feeding  their own industries in the food processing sector, our traditional agricultural practices were virtually destroyed. We neglected our own draught animals such as bullock and the camel, poisoned our cattle feed and spoiled the purity and taste of our milk. In spite of having bumper crops, malnutrition is rampant, deaths from hinterlands and environmentally degraded areas from the eastern India and deep Maharashtra became a subject of reporting in the media, which occurred mainly due to deprivation, malnourishment and hunger. Occupational hazards due to consistent and widespread use of insecticides and pesticides including evidence for congenital malformations in the newborn reported from southern India and elsewhere were investigated by the top health and medical research agencies of the country. The issues were widely reported in both the general and scientific media for decades but effective action in banning the production, distribution and usage of these poisons and workable solutions or remedial action was only limited to treatment but no prevention and evaded the attention of the public.

What are of concern is the level of response and the swiftness of action of both the people as well as Haryana Govt. towards action following the Aamir’s program on ‘Satyamev Jayatay’. In spite of the fact that activists and certain NGOs have been working hard for a few years for attracting attention of both the people and the governments and making them aware about inherent dangers of adopting genetically modified crops, fruits and crops of high commercial value such as cotton, no seriousness was previously shown by the government of Haryana and the farmers. Our GEAC's (Genetic Engineering Advisory Committee, Dept. of Biotechnology, Govt. of India) recommendations were recently rejected because it smacked of ill-prepared documentation. Dr. Pushpa M Bhargawa, formerly Director of the renowned Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Vandana Shiva, Suman Sahai, Dr. Rajinder Chaudhary, Shri Krishan Swaroop (Gorakhpur, Fatehabad, Haryana) Prof. Department of Economics, MD University, Rohtak, Shri Sunder Lal of SCRIA (Social Center for Rural Initiative & Advancement, Khori, Rewari), Ranbir Singh, President, SOPATH (Society for Peoples Advancement, Technology & Heritage, Rohtak) including Shri Jairam Ramesh, the eloquent Minister in Govt. of India and host of others have been supporting the cause of sustainable agricultural practices in the whole of India. They have been asking people to preserve the seeds and germ plasm of crops and plants traditionally cultivated and grown for millennia in the country but to no avail. Important aspect of Aamir Khan’s program seems to be his method having high degree of appeal, created through his personal charisma, which has become a matter of exploration for the sociologists and media gurus, particularly for looking at the style and generation mass interest by careful selection of topics by and the style of presentation. Probably, the people that have been engaging themselves with the farmer’s groups and other people could not generate a scenario powerful enough to force people in considering a change. There does not seem to be dispute nowadays in agreeing that through his programs Aamir has slowly emerged as change maker in society touching the issues that hit on the nerves. The NGOs and individuals should taken adequate notice of these happenings that could help in modifying their strategies for the future. We have had lots of social, political, commercial and scientific evidence before Aamir launched ‘Satyamev Jayatay’ but of interest is the timing and platform. We are neither fully aware of the mechanism that have gone behind the fruition of the programs telecast so far in the Satyamev Jayatay nor we know the ulterior motives of the program organizers but one thing is amply clear that through the mass viewing, which the TRP also supports,  Aamir is having his way. It also looks that the sustained efforts of the NGOs and individuals in the past also contributed in shaping the character of the program on pesticides, sustainable agricultural practices and organic farming. Hope that in Aamir Khan we have another crusader for making quality of life better and shaping a secure, worthy of living future for Indians.

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