Sunday November 18, 2018
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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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Small Farmers in Asia Miss Out On Climate Change Resilient Seeds

East-West Seed has built a successful business focusing purely on smallholders

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pollution, seeds
Women farmers use sticks to make holes in the soil for seeds, on a farm near Pangalengan, West Java, Indonesia. VOA

Millions of smallholder farmers in South and Southeast Asia are missing out on new, resilient seeds that could improve their yields in the face of climate change, according to an index published Monday.

The 24 top seed companies fail to reach four-fifths of the region’s 170 million smallholder farmers for reasons such as poor infrastructure, high prices and lack of training, the Access to Seeds Index found.

Access to seeds bred to better withstand changing weather conditions such as higher temperatures is vital as farmers battle loss of productivity due to climate change, said Ido Verhagen, head of the Access to Seeds Foundation, which published the index.

Egypt, pollution, seeds
A farmer burns rice straw at his field in Qalyub, causing a “black cloud” of smoke that spreads across the Nile valley, near the agricultural road which leads to the capital city of Cairo, Egypt. VOA

“We see increasing demands for new varieties, because [farmers] are affected by climate change,” Verhagen told Reuters.

“If we want to feed a growing population, if we want to tackle climate change, if we want to go towards a more sustainable food system, we have to start with seeds,” he said.

Smallholder farmers managing between one to 10 hectares of land provide up to 80 percent of the food supply in Asia, said the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

 pollution, seeds
FILE – Farmer sifts wheat crop at a farm on the outskirts of western Indian city of Ahmedabad. VOA

But traditional methods of preserving seeds from harvests are not always sufficient to cope with a changing climate.

About 340 million people were hungry in 2017 in South and Southeast Asia, a number that has barely changed since 2015, according to latest figures from the United Nations.

“The question is how to get markets to provide the varieties [of seeds] that farmers want, at prices that they’re able to pay,” said Shawn McGuire, agricultural officer at the FAO.

Some smaller companies are leading the way in helping smallholders access more resilient seeds, Verhagen said, such as Thailand-based East-West Seed which topped the index ahead of global giants Bayer and Syngenta, which ranked second and third.

 pollution, seeds
Indian Farmers causing smog in Pakistan. wikimedia commons

East-West Seed has built a successful business focusing purely on smallholders, he said, while Indian companies Acsen HyVeg and Namdhari, ranked sixth and seventh respectively, have also reached small-scale farmers with seeds.

Also Read: Climate Change’s Fight Harder Than Thought: Study

The index, funded by the Dutch government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ranks companies based on seven areas including strategies to help small farmers and supporting conservation. (VOA)