Green Murder

Jalees Hazir Governor Punjab Salman Taseer has offered his personal farmhouse to Japanese investors interested in bringing modern agricultural technology to Punjab, for experiments. The sort of agricultural technology that these Japanese companies want to push down our throats complete with chemical fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified seeds is now known to be poisonous for the earth and unsustainable. Obviously, there's something wrong somewhere. The Governor's generous gesture of hospitality towards the Japanese companies is not as innocuous as it seems on the surface. In fact, since the much-touted Green Revolution, the sellers of modern agriculture and their local promoters have brought ruin to this land and those who till it. The obsession of the modern wizards of agriculture with higher yields by hook or by crook, is pathological. Their poisonous recipes do produce results in the short term, using ingredients of specially developed seeds and chemical fertilizers. Dangerous pesticides are also conveniently made available to deal with the many new varieties of pests that come with the package. Bumper crops in initial years help them win over converts to their evil creed among the farmers who are too simple to see the real long-term ramifications of their deal with the devil. All over the world, these ramifications are becoming more and more apparent with the passage of time, enslaving and impoverishing the farmers. Over the years, as farmers have become more and more dependent on inputs produced by these corporations, the fertility of their land has consistently declined. The promise of high yields has become more and more elusive even as they have come to spend more and more on these inputs. As if this was not bad enough, they have seen their crops attacked by deadly pests that they had never heard of. The same agricultural wizards then offer expensive and foul-smelling remedies for these pests. Farmers who once depended on the kindness of mother nature and hard work for the success of their crops have come to depend on these short-sighted scientists and heartless corporations. To push their wares, the wizards had to convince us of the inadequacy of our indigenous agricultural practices, and this they did by making per acre yield the measure of everything. It did not matter to them that these high yields are achieved by seriously compromising on the quality of the yields and that they damage the land. In the true tradition of subjugation and plunder, it suited these agricultural colonialists to make local farmers dependent on them for survival. It did not matter to them that their plunder would make this fertile land barren. Unfortunately for us, these colonialists have always found keen partners among those entrusted with the task of governance in Pakistan, officials who very conveniently ignore the larger picture while deciding about the most important sector of our economy. As a result, instead of building on the solid foundation of a robust agricultural tradition, they have done immense damage to this veritable heritage and brought things to this sorry state. Besides, agricultural policy is not only about per acre yields and should have room for the well-being of farmers who produce the yields with their sweat and blood. As has been the practice in the past, the current Punjab Governor did not take into account some basic facts while jumping on the bandwagon of modern agricultural technologies. The fact that the land he's been privileged to govern is extremely fertile. That the farmers in this part of the world are heirs to a strong tradition of agricultural knowledge and practices strengthened over centuries. That the traditional farming practices are self-sufficient, producing all the inputs that are required. That the modern agricultural practices are being seriously challenged for the environmental disasters they bring about. That, invariably, such modern interventions work more for corporations and cartels than the farmers. That by promoting the interests of the Japanese investors he is failing in his duty to promote the interests of Punjabi farmers. The government should be focusing on working towards bringing more land under cultivation by giving it to able but landless farmers and ensuring an efficient distribution of water. It should be thinking of ways to protect the farmers and local agriculturalists from the shenanigans of cartels that act like modern-day pirates, creating shortages and making profits from the misery of millions. It should be devising policies to rehabilitate local agriculture, strengthening practices that might not produce the per acre yields that the wizards prescribe but do not kill the land; practices that are not dependent on dubious technologies of dubious investors; practices that ensure the well-being of millions of farmers rather than profit for a handful of corporations. In an age where natural and organic foods are finding their way to the top of superstore shelves in the most developed countries, and in a land that has the potential to not only provide top quality food for its citizens but also to become the market leader in organic agriculture, the Governor's misplaced priorities are inexcusable. The destruction of agriculture in the country in the name of progress is an illustration of the callous and colonial mindset of those entrusted with the task of governing this land and its people. They refuse to see the richness of this land and the strengths of its hard-working people, and have no interest in managing the bountiful resources for collective good. They share the perspective of their colonial masters with whom they collaborate to rape their motherland and starve their fellow citizens for petty personal gains. Belittling the good things about their country, they are too keen to be enamored by the mirage of progress offered by their masters. All they see is the glitter of gold shining from distant imperialist capitals. It is time businessman-turned-Governor Taseer removed his shades that make him blind to the tragedy of people dying in queues for cheap atta in a province once known as the granary of an entire subcontinent, while those who sell these modern technologies reap richer harvests of dollars. It might help him concentrate more on his responsibility of governance rather than on his penchant for business.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt