‘Green revolution has left us with water scarcity and land infertility’

By Times Of India on 29 Apr 2018 | read
Not wanting to pass his youth idling led the then 25-something Avil Borkar to establish Gramin Yuva Pragatik Mandal on August 15, 1987. It has now become a multi-functional NGO active in Bhandara, Chandrapur and Gondia districts. A native of Kondhi Village in Bhandara district, Borkar didn’t avail schooling after Std 10 exams. That didn’t stop him from organizing programs and debates at the village level. It soon caught attention of the government departments and media. Also an erstwhile member of Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti then and National Youth Programme started by SN Subbarao, Borkar contributed to national service before turning to improve his own as well as nearby districts through agriculture. He shared about some of his achievements and endeavours in a chat with TOI. Excerpts from an interview...
Q. Why did you start an NGO?

A. I always thought that youth comes with some powers which should not be wasted. We wanted to make positive contributions to the society and we started by organizing public oriented programs on important national and international days. We would canvass public participation and discuss issues of vital importance. Soon, government officials started involving me in helping organize their events for health, addiction or forests.

Q. How was the journey from then on?

A. We started taking part in India’s social movements. I was chosen to lead Maharashtra’s delegates to Nehru Yuva Kendra camp in Tamil Nadu. On returning, we decided to establish a youth group in every village, and Bhandra and Gondia were one district. We succeeded in forming 450 youth groups, all of whom we trained for five days on leadership. As a part of the National Youth Programme, we were entrusted with clearing off the bodies in Jaipur after the communal conflict over Babri Masjid. People had fled their homes out of terror. We were about 5000 of us and we organized ‘sadbhavna baithak’ and other all-religion programmes to restore routine in Rajasthan. We also toured all over India for a special Bharat Yatra to spread positive messages through speeches and cultural shows.

Q. How did you turn toward agriculture?

A. From 1992, members of our group shifted focus to working for the rights of women, small farmers, backward communities and youth. We would bring in funds by volunteering at construction sites. Later, we joined forces with Vidarbha Lok Vikas Manch under Datta Patil, where I was made responsible for projects for tribals. Since a decade now, we’ve been working on land resource management. We also started 500 self help groups. Our focus programmes revolve around women empowerment, natural resource management and helping people exercise their rights. Every year, I travel to a state to study their pattern of protest against the government there. This year, I'll be going to Mizoram.

Q. You have spoken against the concepts promoted by Agricultural Science and government functions.

A. Yes. For example, BT Brinjal requires much water and fertilizer, making it an unnecessary plant. Science is being used to market vested interests. In school, students are taught that lineseed oil is used as a varnish but not taught how it is a nutritious edible oil. Hence, children never get around accepting it as food. Local resources are the base of our livelihood. Yet, rice and other local vegetables are being made a victim. Manure, medicine and water have been singled out as most important components of farming. We are suffering the impact of green revolution as it has left us with water scarcity and land infertility.

Our villages have remained backward because many migrate from urban to rural areas, taking jobs as construction workers or labourers. This has also drained the brains out of the village. The government, on the other hand, prioritizes supply of water first to enterprises, and then farms. The water from Ramtek dam has been sanctioned for Ordnance Factory, while farms in the nearby areas risk drought condition. Land division is also inevitable, and the cause of all malaise is the lack of unity between the farmers.

Q. What have been some of the major achievements of your NGO?

A. We were successful in fighting against the ban on Lakhodi dal by the state government. The dal was not banned in Chhattisgarh and Orissa. The government claimed that 300g consumption of dal daily can cause problems, but no one consumes that amount of dal. In reality, the businesses used to get less money due to abundance of dal production in the farms. Three years ago, the Supreme Court also allowed sale of black salt. The state had made compulsory for all salts to be iodized. Cases in favour of mohua flowers as an edible and sellable ingredient and against growing of soyabean are pending in the high court. Mohua has been blamed endlessly for its liquor but it has many health benefits, whereas soyabean is not native to our land and is not advisable owing to its indigestive qualities.