Tripura’s ruling Left Front led by the CPI-M has turned into a model state for the North Eastern region, for it over all development of infrastructure and Human Resources. The state at present perhaps has the best road connectivity in the region, highest literacy rate and the list will go on. However, when it comes to shifting from traditional farming to Organic farming, the state never adopted to study the technology from some foreign countries, like most of the states do; rather, Agriculture Minister Aghore Debbarma informed that the government would take lessons from Sikkim on this.
Debbarma informed that in an attempt to expand the organic farming of vegetables in Tripura the government would take help and knowledge from Sikkim. For this project the agriculture department has earmarked 2,000 hectares of land for organic farming of vegetables for 2017 in Tripura and based on the success and demand gradually the area would be extended.
The seriousness of Tripura Agriculture Department as they even set the road map that once the production starts, one counter would be set up in each district and sub-divisions across the state for marketing of the organic vegetables. Debbarma said that currently the department in association with the farmers’ club is encouraging organic farming in a big way.
It may be mentioned that last year, Prime Minister, Narendra Damodardas Modi has personally lauded the people of Sikkim, the farmers, agriculturists, bureaucrats and politicians for their efforts to become an organic state, India’s first organic state where farmers started out by using animal manure instead of chemical fertilisers and pesticides back in 2003, even as all have played their part in this great Sikkimese narrative. It is also because of years of toil and leadership that this has been made possible. But the greater significance of organic agriculture is the path changing public policy initiative in agriculture which can be compared to the Green Revolution of the Nehruvian era. The next phase of food security will be built on Sikkim’s success and Sikkim’s mantra of clean food, clean water and clean air. Don’t pay more for cleaning the environment, nature’s way is the best.
Following Sikkim’s step, some other states such as Kerala, Rajasthan and Arunachal Pradesh have also diverted all their efforts towards reaching the goal of becoming fully organic.
The Organic Farming Mission of Sikkim will be a role model for other states in the North East claimed Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Minister, Jitendra Singh. He went on to say that though a very small state, Sikkim is very progressive and development-oriented.
In the case of Meghalaya, the state government made an attempt to convert Ri Bhoi into a district for Organic Farming, however, the farming community is finding it difficult to transition due to low yielding results compared to the present practices. Also, due to lack of technology and assistance to the farmers, most of them have refused to take the risk. One can term this as a lack of motivation or policy coupled with total absence of markets for agricultural produces in the state which will soon culminate in a food disaster.
The desire for a healthy diet has hit mankind like an epiphany; organic food is one of the most highly sought products by the elite society, turning the food and beverage industries besides supplementary and health care products into the largest industry globally. Meanwhile the sleepy hill station of Meghalaya is yet to wake up and is happily importing every essential commodity from other states.
The farming community is one of the most neglected sections of the society by the state government. They have been practically left to fend for themselves and the presence of ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) in the state is yet to be utilized to the fullest both by the state government and the farmers. It is time to allow the lifeline of the nation to have its natural growth by carefully nurturing the farmers and not use them just as political scapegoats or launching pads for politicians.
The Right to Food is enshrined in Article 47 of the Constitution of India - Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health. However, the movement in Meghalaya, where the food production is practically nil besides the absence of quality control due to lack of manpower and Food Inspectors has exposed the entire population to a food related disaster.
The mushrooming of fast food and junk food outlets at every nook and corner is unchecked by any authority including the local power. Such vendors not only defy the Fire and Explosive Act by openly using LPG stoves, unchecked quality of edible oils and other ingredients which endangers the life of the consumers. Also, many unfamiliar fruits and herbs are openly sold. The recent death of 14 labourers in East Jaintia Hills, who consumed wild fruits is a wakeup call to the state to be more vigilant of the food that people eat. Careless eating habits are threatening the earth and the lives of our people.
In the absence of cultivation in the state, the district administration also fails to check on the quality of all essential commodities being imported. The quality of food items ranging from biscuits to fruits, milk to tonics is unknown to the consumer in the absence of a laboratory to check all this in the state. The state government is handicapped when it comes to controlling and monitoring food products in the state.
Even traditional farming is in disarray, the state government is contemplating to simply force the farmers to take up Organic farming which is one of the main reason that the initiative has failed to kick-start. Also, with any breakdown of Law and Order, the farming community is the worst sufferer as their little perishable produces are left to feed the cattle, while some remote villages is yet to see the motorable roads resulting in the agricultural products thereof failing to even reach the local market, let alone being exported.
It is time for the citizens of Meghalaya to improve cultivation and be self-reliant. There are vast tracts of land lying idle which are left unused either for farming or animal husbandry. Besides this, the indigenous tribal is not interested in setting up manufacturing and production industries which would help in lowering the cost of production and increasing the sustainable livelihood of small and marginal farmers. Addressing these lacunae is the first step in establishing food security.
However, the Food Security Act is totally silent on production, procurement, and farmers’ livelihood and food rights. This, in my view, is its biggest failure. The aging population of the rural sector in Meghalaya has further widened the gap of Food Security. The youth are only targeting Government jobs and have force migrated to urban cities adding up to the percentage of unhealthy consumption of unchecked food habits.
The urgency to have control over the quality of food as per the provisions of the Constitution, if not for improving the food production in the state, is the first step to establish food security in Meghalaya, the absence of which is like a silent killer.
Wide scale sensitization programmes on food security and quality is the need of the hour in Meghalaya which is not being taken up by both the state government and the general public. No one is concerned about the food related disaster waiting to happen in Meghalaya.