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By Indra Shekhar Singh

Commemorating the death of Bt cotton farmer of Bhatinda Kuldip Singh, Navdanya hosted a solidarity meet at the local primary school on the 24th of January. The two-hour event started 12 pm had about 100 farmers from his village present. Apart from the farmers their was a about 30 children. Most of the farmers, were still sad, as the memory of young Kuldip Singh had not faded. In the 400 year old history of their village it was the first time that some youth had committed suicide because of a commodity.

This Solidarity Meeting was organised to pay homage to the memory of Singh and hundreds of other farmers who had been forced to commit suicide after the recent Bt cotton failure. The debt web of Bt Cotton has most farmers of the area stuck as only two days before the meet government of Punjab instituted committee, led by Dr Gian Singh stated at the Farmers’ total debt in the state has gone up to Rs 69,355 crore. With rising debt and no alternative the farmers are forced to plant Bt Cotton hoping that the next season will be different. But Navdanya wanted to create a way out for this area. The intention of our meeting was to provide these farmers with an alternative to chemical farming and make organic desi seeds available to them for sowing next season.

Navdanya organised the event with the help of local volunteers. Following Gandhi ji’s vision, Navdanya works to build Village swaraj. This can only be achieved once our seeds and our food is free through the achievement of Anna Swaraj (Food Sovereignty). We train farmers to be independent of seed and agro-chemical companies. The solidarity meet was also an attempt to make Bhatinda organic and suicide free.

The event started with songs dedicated to organic farming by local singers. They sang about the merits of toxic free farming in the local dialects of Punjabi. Next, addressing the gathering was Dr Mira Shiva from the Doctors for Food and Bio-safety. She spoke about the links between chemical agriculture, pesticides and cancer. Talking from her experience in Punjab, as a young doctor, she related incidents and challenges that medical professions faced dealing with pesticides consumption patients and cancers. She also talked about her work in Bhopal after the gas massacre, and questioned the need for pesticides plants in the middle of a city. The leaked chemical were used to make pesticides and people of the area are still battling the side effects.

Manveer Singh, our pest prevention expert, then elaborated on the different types of pest that attack the cotton plant. He demonstrated to the farmers that no all insects are pest and some beneficial insects work with the farmer to prevent pest invasions.

Then there was a speech by Umendra Dutt, director of the Kheti Virasaat Mission, who praised Navdanya for making Sikkim organic. To conclude the event Indra Shekhar Singh from Navdanya spoke about the Bt cotton crisis. Today Bt Cotton and other GMOs are being grown on our soil and then blended illegally into our edible oils and vanaspati. This blending makes all of industrial oils toxic and unhealthy. We should come together and demand Anna Swaraj to free India and Bhatinda of this seed ccolonisaim. It is time we take back our health and environment from corporate control.

After the speeches, Dr Shiva distributed organic cotton seed to the farmers, who pledged to grow this cotton as a Fibre of freedom, that will end debt and seed imperialism in their village. About 60 farmers pledged to go organic and took the seeds.

Navdanya also showcased its first social media hashtag #Farmerslivesmatter at the event, and gave reports from Bt Cotton growing areas from all over India. This is one of the first hash tags to voice out concerns of Bt Cotton farmers from all over the country.
But the grand finale to the event was the release of Navdanya’s film, Bt Cotton – Seeds of Suicide. This film was shot during immediately after the Bt cotton failure and the pest infestation in Punjab. The film showcased organic and chemical farmers from the area and reported on the crisis.

Press Coverage

NGO shows the way to debt-ridden farmers

by Sanjeev Singh Bariana – The Tribune, 24 January 2015

Taking a lead from the village of farmer Kuldeep Singh, who committed suicide on September 25, 2015, following his failed cotton crop, NGO Navdanya, which played a pivotal role in Sikkim being awarded for organic farming, launched “Anna Swaraj” today, promoting organic farming and denouncing Bt crops.

Activists urge farmers to shift to organic crops

By Neel Kamal – The Times of Inda, 25 January 2016

“Activist Indra Shekhar Singh spoke about BT cotton crisis. ‘The genetically modified (GM) crops are being grown on our soil and then blended illegally into our edible oils. This blending makes all industrial oils toxic and unhealthy’. NGO Kheti Virasat Mission executive director Umendra Dutt said, “Navdanya has helped convert Sikkim into an organic state and people of Punjab should also join with them and help change from a chemical model of agriculture and go organic.” Navdanya distributed desi organic cotton seeds to villagers.”

Related Campaign


Navdanya Campaign in support of farmers victims of BT Cotton failure in Punjab