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Congress to continue fight on land bill issue

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New Delhi: The Congress on Sunday promised to continue its fight on the land bill issue in the state assemblies, as party leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NDA government, saying the “Make in India” campaign was actually “Take in India” as it has “no place for farmers and labourers”.

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At the “Kisan Samman Rally” rally to mark the party’s “victory” on the land bill, Congress president Sonia Gandhi also mounted a strong attack on Modi, saying he was forced to “bow” on the land bill issue before the power of the “plough and hand”.

The Congress leaders highlighted issues concerning farmers, labourers and the common man at the well-attended rally at the Ramlila Maidan in central Delhi.

The Congress sought to put up a show of strength at the rally which highlighted Rahul Gandhi’s role in forcing the government to backtrack on the land bill.

But apparent factionalism in the Haryana Congress was evident as Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar faced waving of hands and some booing by partymen wearing pink turbans, who were seen as supporters of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

The rally came five months after the Congress held a rally on the land ordinance in April which also marked Rahul Gandhi’s arrival from a long sabbatical.

The Congress is seeking electoral revival after a string of reverses in assembly polls following its debacle in the Lok Sabha elections.

Speakers at the rally highlighted Rahul Gandhi’s role in taking the lead on the land bill issue.

In her hard-hitting speech, Sonia Gandhi charged the BJP-led government with failing on all fronts including price rise.

Sonia Gandhi said Modi has time only for his industrialist friends, and not for farmers and labourers.

“The Modi government, as is its habit, is indulging in just talking and making speeches. It is encouraging activities which take away attention of the people from the real issues. It wants to create such tension which will be a danger for the country’s future and national unity. It is the biggest challenge before us which we have to face unitedly,” Gandhi said.

The Congress chief said Modi overlooked the seriousness of the agitation against the “black” land ordinance, but “had to bow his head” when the “force of hand and plough combined together”.

The hand is the election symbol of the Congress and the plough is associated with the farming community.

The Modi government allowed its ordinance to lapse following stiff opposition from the Congress to changes in the 2013 Act on land acquisition which was passed during the United Progressive Alliance government.

The new land bill of the National Democratic Alliance government is being examined by a joint committee of parliament but the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has already made significant changes in its stance on the legislation by relenting on crucial clauses such as consent and social impact assessment.

Sonia Gandhi said the struggle against the land bill has not ended but “the battlefield has shifted to the states”.

“The prime minister has failed at the Centre (to change the land law) and now wants to bring the same (changes) through the states. If we are not alert, the struggle will go in vain and you will lose your land,” Sonia Gandhi said.

Rahul Gandhi said Modi only listens to “people in suit-boot” and Modi’s ‘Make in India’ does not have “place for labourers, farmers but for only those whom he meets and talks”.

“We don’t want such India. This is not ‘Make in India’. This is Modi’s ‘take in India’,” he said.

“On the one hand, they want to snatch your land, on the other your rights. In the end, you will get nothing. His two-three chosen friends will get it in the end.”

He also said the battle on land bill has shifted to state assemblies and Congress will fight it. He said fight over land bill was about not just about land but also heart, prestige and future of farmers.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accused the NDA government of trying to weaken the welfare programmes of the previous UPA government.

He said the Congress was able to stop the “conspiracy” of the Modi government on the land bill under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

He further added that the issue will need “more struggle”.

(IANS)

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Research: Having Diverse Natural Areas Near Agriculture Helps Farmers Financially During Calamities

"New global and local policy should specifically target conserving and enhancing biodiversity"

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University of British Columbia ecologist Diane Srivastava, with a damselfly, an insect often used as an indicator species for estimating biodiversity and assessing ecosystem health. (T. Zulkoskey). VOA

Farmers reap surprising benefits from having areas that are biodiverse  with many plant and animal species nearby, according to new research. A study finds that having diverse natural areas near agriculture helps farmers financially during droughts, and the more diverse the areas are, the better. Policies that preserve biodiversity near farms may ease economic pressure in places with severe droughts, the authors say.

“If you plant the same sort of crops next to a natural area that is very high in biodiversity versus one that’s very low in biodiversity, [the positive effect] spills over into the agricultural products,” said Frederik Noack, a professor of food and resource economics at the University of British Columbia who led the study.

Some of that spillover can be tied to the increased diversity of insects in places that host many different species of plants, experts say. Pollinators that help plants reproduce, like bees and moths, and spiders that prey on agricultural pests like aphids and beetles are especially important.

Noack hoped to learn if having biodiverse areas close to farms could help crops be more resistant to drought  and if that impact would be big enough to be seen in farmers’ incomes.

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Farmers reap surprising benefits from having areas that are biodiverse with many plant and animal species nearby, according to new research. Wikimedia Commons

Big data from small farms

The researchers used data from 7,556 households in 304 villages in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where farmers derive their incomes from traditional agriculture as well as forest products like lumber and firewood.

Noack and his research team looked for a connection between the level of natural biodiversity  in this case, the number of plant species in the area  and how strongly drought affected the incomes of local farmers.

The researchers had expected that greater local biodiversity would benefit farmers, and it did. Farmers in areas with half the biodiversity lost twice as much income when droughts hit during the growing season.

Noack said that initially they thought the effect was just correlated with crop diversity. “Maybe you plant more different crops in areas with higher natural biodiversity because maybe there are just more crops available in those areas and that’s actually what’s driving the effect.”

But that’s not what they found. Even when they accounted for the effect of greater crop diversity, the farmers’ incomes seemed to be stabilized just by being close to diverse natural areas that can host many types of pollinators.

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“If you plant the same sort of crops next to a natural area that is very high in biodiversity versus one that’s very low in biodiversity, [the positive effect] spills over into the agricultural products,” said Frederik Noack. Pixabay
Having access to forests was also an income stabilizer. Because forests are the result of many years of growth rather than just a single season, income from forest products is less susceptible to drought and can offset agricultural losses, the researchers found.

ALSO READ: Government to Launch Solar Scheme for Farmers to Ensure Rs. 1 Lakh Income

Encouraging conservation

Bruno Basso, an ecosystems scientist at Michigan State University who was not involved in the research, commented in an email that the researchers had been able to show that “biodiversity and forest conservation play a critical role in adapting and mitigating the negative effects of increased climate variability.” Noack hopes that this study can become part of the larger debate about conservation of natural areas.

“Should we just have protected area far away in areas that we don’t use or shall we try to integrate that into normal land use?” said Noack. “This study actually says maybe we should at least have some level of biodiversity conservation in the agricultural landscape because of this positive spillover.” Basso agreed. “New global and local policy should specifically target conserving and enhancing biodiversity,” he said. (VOA)