Sunday, July 8, 2007

PUNJAB State Policy on Organic Farming

By Umendra Dutt

Punjab is going to have a state policy on organic farming very soon. The Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh has announced this in current session of the assembly. However, announcements made are always political but policies are always drafted without any political will and vision. This lack of vision takes policies always away from the very people on whose name and welfare the policies are declared.
Organic farming is gaining growing importance in the agriculture sector of a number of countries, irrespective of their stage of development. In several developed countries, organic agriculture has come to represent a significant portion of the food system (10% in Australia, 7.8% in Switzerland) and many others are experiencing growth rates that exceed 20% annually (e.g. USA, France, Japan, Singapore). Some of the developing countries have small domestic organic markets (e.g. Egypt) and a few have begun to seize the lucrative export opportunities presented by organic agriculture (e.g. exports of Mexican coffee, Ugandan cotton.)
India had historically practiced organic farming. Sir Albert Howard, who was sent to India as an Imperial Economic Botanist to work at the Indian Agriculture Research Institute in the year 1905 to improve Indian agriculture, soon concluded that agriculture, as practiced by the India peasants, was rooted on the sound principles of sustainability. Howard, who was elected President of Indian Science Congress in 1926, observed that agriculture research should not be misused to make the farmer exploit the soil reserves but to teach him the knowledge to transfer capital in the shape of soil fertility and the reserves of his livestock to his profit and loss account.
The Indian peasant, for Howard, epitomized 'good farming' by faithfully copying Nature in their agriculture. Livestock were not merely source of nutrition in the form of milk and meat, or of energy in the form of draught animals, their urine and dung was a crucial cog in the progress of growth. So were growing leguminous crops, ploughing back crop residues and the extensive use of green manure. Howard's research proved the improved efficacy of humus for crop yield and resistance to pests and diseases, as compared to chemical fertilizers. He developed the Indore process of composting, which is even today being practiced widely by organic farmers.
Since the era of Howard, many changes and, that too, fast changes have taken place in the growth of agriculture both in India and in the world.
The pesticide centric agriculture had taken centre stage in country's planning and perception and Punjab has become most vital component of this chemical-based agriculture system. Since then, the Punjab was projected as the model state for the success of green revolution; it has become the centre of intensive agriculture practices from 50's. During last five decades, India has increased the consumption of pesticides from 154 MT in 1953-54 to 80,000 MT in 1994-95. Therefore, Punjab is leader in the high use of pesticides. Consumption of grade pesticides in Punjab is highest in country. Punjab is consuming 7100 MT of pesticides for its 7693 hectares with the percentage of 923 grammes per ha. Punjab has highest pesticide load among the Indian states. More over the cotton belt of Malwa is consuming highest pesticide density in country. Punjab is just 2.5% area of total agriculture land in India and it consumers near 18% pesticides of the country, where as the cotton belt comprises only 15% area of Punjab and it consumes nearly 70% pesticide of the state, thus making the equation more dangerous. Malwa's cotton belt is less then 0.5 % geographical area of country but almost 10 % pesticides of country are used here.

From last five years there are number of documents brought up by various government agencies and institutions. In 2001 Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India had formed a Task Force on Organic Farming headed by Dr.Kunwarji Bhai Jadav that brought out its report in November 2001. In September 2001, the Working Group on Organic and Biodynamic Farming, constituted by Planning Commission submitted another report.
The Task Force on Organic Farming had made several recommendations, few are very important, as:
i) Economic value of chemical fertilizers and organic manures may be equated in terms of their overall effect on soil productivity, crop production and then Government may provide the support accordingly.
ii) The technology packages on organic farming as developed by farmers, NGOs and others may be evaluated and the successful technology may be expanded in larger areas.
iii) Bullock drawn implements should be encouraged.
iv) Bankable model schemes on organic farming may be prepared and circulated among the States for its adoption and popularization.
v) Each of the agricultural universities in the country may start a course at the Post-Graduation level on organic farming.
vi) Each KVK may set up a vermin-compost unit and a biological control unit for demonstration and dissemination of the techniques. These centres may also provide bioagents / antagonist and earthworms to the farmers after their training.
vii) Each KVK may lay out one demonstration on organic farming by taking major crops of that area as test crops.
viii) Farmers training about cost-benefit relationship in organic farming and about export of organic produce may be organised through some designated institutions specialized in this area. The Government may support such institutions, which may include NGOs.
ix) The organic markets for supply and purchase of inputs and outputs for organic farming may be developed.
x) Adequate numbers of certification agencies may be identified, registered/recognized. The certification agencies may be financed by the Government to carry out free certification for the farmers for intended export of organic produce.
xi) In the areas of high production, the shifting to organic farming system may result into loss of produce in the initial years. For such switch over, farmers may need to be compensated for initial 2-3 years.
xii) All the Central Government farms may set up vermin-compost units, develop, and demonstrate the system of re-cycling of crop residues. This may be demonstrated by reduced consumption of chemical fertilizers on the Government farms.
xiii) All the State Government may be advised to consider to device the system as introduced by Government of Madhya Pradesh about the experimentation and demonstrations on Government farms on 50:50 area basis on organic on organic farming and other forms of farming.
xiv) The biodynamic means of preparing nutrients may be standardized and the technology may be popularized.
xv) The crop residues should not be permitted to be burnt. Suitable legislation may be thought of, if required.
xvi) Adequate information may be made available to the farmers about the crop-wise residues arising and equivalent nutrient value per unit area through such crop residues.
xvii) The ventures of vermin-compost, compost, press mud and other forms of generation of organic nutrients for crop production may be exempted from levy of all kinds of taxes, excise and income tax etc.
xviii) The agriculture being a Sate subject, the State Governments may be effectively involved in the National programme to be prepared for promotion of organic farming.
xix) Each Sate may set up a State level cell or create a suitable unit at the Headquarter of Directorate of Agriculture to oversee the promotion of organic farming in the State.

Most of these recommendations stay there in files only. Some how in 2003, Government of India had accepted one of important recommendation of Organic Farming Task Force and National Centre for Bio-Fertilizers was converted into National Centre for Organic Farming in 2004. Moreover, National Project on Organic Farming was approved with an outlay of Rs.57.05 crores for production, promotion, and market development organic farming in the country during 10th Plan.
Apart from Central Government, five states have their state policies on organic farming this includes Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Uttaranchal, Andhra Pradesh is in the mid of drafting process. Moreover, Himachal Pradesh has initiated a state level project on organic farming. The Northeastern states had also prepared an elaborative plan for organic farming promotion.
Every policy has few indispensable components- the vision, the ultimate objective and the inbuilt capacity to fulfill peoples' aspirations. The policy should address its core issue holistically. Its guiding principal lies in the well-being of community and the nation at large. It reflects the tradition, the heritage and socio-economic and civilization thought process, perceptions and progressive unfolding of the society. For this, policy has to be evolved by the involvement of community and its inputs. These are the fundamental of participatory democracy - a key word for sustainable development in true sense.

The announcement made by the Chief Minister is quite important may be converted in to timely initiative. As organic farming, is gradually picking-up in Punjab with more and more farmers joining the sustainable stream? Several civil society groups have started the organic farming across the state by involving farmers either as individual or as a group.

The Punjab Agro Export Corporation has taken a lead in this by initiating an export-oriented project. Punjab Agro appointed the consultants for this project and as per claims; they are working with more then 1200 farmers covering near 8000 acres of land. Some central government institutions like CAPART, KVIC and NABARD had also come up with schemes for supporting the projects of vermi-composting, organic farming and marketing. Apart from this, large numbers of farmers are converting their farms to organic by their own or in collaboration with some private company, charitable or religious institution and even Goshalas. On the other side, showrooms or corners for the sale of organic produce are also coming up in major towns. The general awareness is also spreading by the virtue of debate on health and ecological crisis in Punjab courtesy the pro-active role of Media. The media had also played very important role in promoting organic farming movement.
The PAU has also come up with a project in Department of Agronomy, though it is still in infant stage. However, we must understand PAU’s perspective and approach towards organic farming. PAU scientists openly show their apprehensions regard potentials of organic farming. They even put limitations of organic farming in their official presentation on organic farming. Secondly, they are even equating BT cotton produce with organic one. Even senior officials from Agriculture department had shown their doubts for productivity and yield. So, wither it is PAU or Agriculture department both are working half-heartedly, it may be because there is clear misunderstanding related to yield potentials of organic. Moreover, agriculture scientists from are not so open to learn from experiences of farmers from other Indian states, if it is United States then they may follow it. There is a false self-pride feeling in Punjab that we have to feed rest of the country, we have to grow more and more, and it is only possible by chemicalised agriculture.
Punjab must take note of example of Cuba becoming self-sufficient in food and vegetables by organic farming and that too with in three to four years of time. Cuba has opted for organic in 1990-91 and by mid-1995; the food shortage had been overcome. It is general opinion that a nation cannot feed its people without synthetic agro-chemicals, yet today Cuba is self-reliant in food security without using these deadly agro-chemicals. This is a result of change in mindset and agricultural vision and Punjab needs the same.
This is the appropriate time to raise the public debate on state policy for organic farming in Punjab. As the Chief Minister himself assured to formulate a state policy therefore, one can hope that Punjab state policy on organic farming will soon become a reality. Nevertheless, an important question must be answered that what should be the priorities in Punjab. What is meaning and relevance of organic farming for Punjab?

Organic Farming in Punjab is like reintroducing some thing a man has lost due to some accident or in pursuer of circumstances. Though it is being said that organic farming is comparatively new field for the farmers of Punjab, although they practiced it since time immemorial, It was during the green revolution years of sixties and seventies of twentieth century that the abandoned it. The revival of sustainable and organic farming practices in Punjab can be called as a rescue mission and an effort to retrieve the lost heritage. Therefore, it is the appropriate time to discuss the problems of organic farming in a very vast spectrum. To support those brave farmers of Punjab who have dared to adopt organic path of agriculture in the very capital of green revolution some one should take an initiative to bring expertise debate right in to fields of Punjab. There is not any piece of land in Punjab where crops can be grown without inorganic synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Virtually the total land of Punjab has turned barren because it has lost its natural nutrient pool. The situation is alarming and the signs are ominous.

We seem to be quite close to a stage, which can rightly be called "agriculture chaos” The time to act is now. In the present circumstances, organic farming is perhaps the only alternative, which can help us to come out of this agricultural and ecological crisis in Punjab. There is a need to shift from 'Quantity' to 'Quality' and that is possible only if the issue is understood holistically.
Impact on ecology and health: A slight change in the eco system can cause very devastating and long-term effect on the health of all living organisms including humans. Use of very high doses of lethal agro chemicals in agriculture during these days is responsible for the spurt of many diseases, which were very rare in the past.
Economics of debt and suicides: The cost of inputs in agriculture is increasing day-by-day; land holdings are simultaneously decreasing making agriculture unviable for majority of farmers. Baring some big farmers, almost all are caught in the debt trap and are unable to repay their loans. The land is mortgaged with the moneylenders, who some times use hard tactics for recovery. Farmers live in the fear of loosing their lands. It is not surprising that Panchayat of Harkishanpura in district Bathinda and Mal Singh Wala in Mansa district had passed a resolution announcing that the village was up for sale. In Punjab, honour is a sacred word, the people here are a proud lot, and they attach great importance to their dignity. Due to their inability to pay back the huge debts, the hundreds of farmers have committed suicide in Punjab. Green revolution has not only gone sour, it has now turned red. The huge number of suicides is a testimony to the entire equation going wrong.

In addition, there is a need to earnestly orchestrate an organic farming revolution in which following issues need to be given stress and close attention: -
1) Generating awareness among the farmers to change their mindset.
2) Guiding and helping the farmers in the proper implementation of organic
Farming techniques.
3) Making proper arrangement for marketing the organic fertilizer and organic
4) Helping the policy maker and administration to come forward with sound
policies to help the farmers.
5) Increase agro-bio diversity through mix cropping, conserving water
resources and increasing genetic diversity.

To accomplish this very difficult, but urgently required task, two things are very important - the will to work and a congenial environment for growth of organic movement in Punjab.
The Organic Farming vision should be mission-oriented and farmer-centered, unlike the popular view of organic farming that has a commercial orientation and is corporate-centered.
Making agriculture sustainable economically & ecologically- The modern agriculture systems now proved to be exhaustive, exploitative and abusive towards nature, man and civilization. Therefore, we have to adopt a perspective and agriculture system, which can bring back the very pride of our farmer, his self-respect, his self-confidence, and his faith in the agriculture heritage of his own ancestors. This agriculture perspective will based on SWADESHI KRISHI DARSHAN comprising of on-farm composting by farmer, preparation of bio-fertilizers, bio-pesticides and other inputs by farmer her/him-self and by local/area/regional resources to make minimal dependence of farmer on market forces. For this, we have to establish a network of organic farmers, which can facilitate as a hub for exchanging and sharing of experience, creating a farmer managed pool of knowledge system and resources.
Marketing Arrangements and Organic Consumer Network- This aspect is related to the survival of the farmers as the yield of organically produced crops are initially low during transition or evolution period and subsequent price is not sufficient and remunerative to sustain organic farming. For this awareness, integrated with the intricate network of consumers for regular supply chain for quality health food free from poison is also very important. Thus, organic consumer can play a vital role to encourage more and more farmers to adopt organic farming. The social groups, educational institutions and off course private commercial ventures, can help to organize these organic consumers networks.
Handling, Packaging, and warehousing The products for marketing needs attractive packaging, efficient handling and storage during the off-season. The transition period after harvesting and before marketing is indeed a crucial phase as a number of insects and other living organisms and climatic variation influence the stored harvest. For this, farmers and persons dealing with organic produce need proper training.
Certification Procedure, Cost, and Logistic � As Punjab is facing acute environmental-health challenges so; the preference should be given to local consumers of Punjab. Nevertheless, if we think about export, few issue need to be addressed. For exporting the organic food to other states as well as to foreign countries, or for placing these products in the super markets of metro cities, certification is required. Its procedure, cost involved in obtaining the certificate and keeping WTO in view, the farmers needs specialized training and support. The present system of so-called certified organic products is very corporate oriented and mindlessly copied from abroad (where the "food miles" are longer), pushing the Indian farmers out of the organic market. In this context, one thing is clear: that for local or domestic market we should evolve certification processes and standards that are indigenous and community-based. This can create scope for civil society groups to promote organic food.
Organically Certified Seeds � For a good yield, certified seeds form the backbone of the organic farming. This aspect needs special emphasis and attention from the scientists and agriculturists of our universities. The market oriented organic farming system causes serious implications on the traditional seed keeping practices. Especially, the TRIPS regime of WTO is posing threat to farmer's right over bio-diversity and indigenous seed verities. We should encourage our farmers to become seed-keepers, as they are already doing this through traditional system.
Role of Bio-inputs Companies � As India is a large country and the consumption of inputs for agriculture is very high, there is a need for serious business acumen for producing specialized bio-inputs, which may include organic manure, pesticides/insecticides and growth related agents in the villages of Punjab. Externalization of input servicing in biological systems is difficult and energy intensive. Hence, the local resources are to be utilized appropriately through efficient entrepreneurships. The standardization of bio inputs also needs serious and thorough attention. This is very important to safeguard the interest of organic farmers so that the standardization process and its implementation should be made mandatory. BIS and other agencies may evolve procedures in this regard. The NGOs and organic farming groups should be given the role of monitoring in this regard. Government support for scientific mass-production of compost, bio-fertilizers, bio-control agents, antagonists, and other benevolent organisms shall be given a major thrust in the policy statement paper.
Involvement of Women: The women are playing very significant role in restoring nature and making organic farming a success in several places throughout the country. As organic farming can be termed as family enterprise, the involvement of women can provide organic farming the requisite motherly care. Women-power has immense scope and strength for scientific mass-production of compost, bio-fertilizers, bio-control agents, antagonists and other benevolent organisms through a structured entrepreneurship along with post-harvest handling of crops including value-added product production. This shall also provide the enhanced opportunity for women to take part in this endeavor of transforming the agro-cultural scenario. Civilization and its spontaneous evolution cannot be imagined without the active participation of a major part of the population, which is a woman.
Incentive and subsidies: The subsidies and other incentives shall play a crucial role for the promotion of organic farming and it becomes more relevant in the present WTO regime. In fact, the subsidies paid by the American and European governments are indeed very high and form the backbone of their farmers. Government schemes for promotion of organic farming should consider this aspect. Appropriate schemes and policies for the development of organic farming in the state are needed. These must be farmer oriented and may require rising of special funds. Rising incidents of suicides by the Punjabi farmers is another pointer of their woes. The cost of inputs is increasing day by day, the pests attacking the crops are becoming resistant to even the most lethal chemicals insecticide, pesticides and other synthetic pyreathroids agents, thus creating huge losses to already struggling Punjabi farmer.
GE Crops and Organic Farming: Into this situation, Genetic Engineering is being imported as the solution (BT Cotton for example) whereas it has the potential to further worsen the situation given all its potential environmental and health hazards. No one should be misled by the propaganda of GE seed companies taking Bt.crops as pesticide-free organic crops, where as Bt.crops have also a pesticides, preotein (delta endotoxin) that has disputed effect on human health. So, at no point Genetically Engineered or Bt. Crops can be considered as organic at all.
Kheti Virasat Mission is of the firm belief that organic farming is the appropriate answer in this context; it is need of hour to motivate the farmers of Punjab to gradually switch over to the organic farming practices.
Punjab government should invite suggestions and inputs from all the stack holders and partners for sustainable development of state before formulating any policy. Public Hearings and dialogue must be initiated to make policy people's oriented and realistic.

Punjab in Environmental Health catastrophe, But who cares?

By Umendra Dutt

Meet Dharampreet, he is only six years old, a student of second class in village Wan of district Ferozepur. He is as innocent child like other children of his age, but one thing is special he has – lot of grey hairs. This is pre-mature aging in very childhood it self. But, he is not alone in this agony; about dozen children of his age to twelve are suffering from pre-mature aging problem.

Then have a look of village Jhok Sarkari in Faridkot district. Here even children as young as of ten years are suffering from joint pain, arthritis and graying of hairs. It is the same story in number of other villages of Faridkot district, whether it is Jhariwala, Koharwala, Puckka, Bhimawali and Khara or some other, the situation is almost same. Every village has large number of cancer deaths from some 10 to as high as 35 in last six to ten years. Then premature aging even in childhood, joint pain, issue less couples and several other reproductive health problems. It would be same story in whole of Malwa region.

Earlier it was assumed that cancer is spread in the villages of Bathinda district, with in two years Muktsar district and particularly Giddarbaha area seems to be more prone to Cancer then Faridkot and Mansa districts also figures in the cancer list. Later on it is turn of Sangrur, Moga, Ferozepur and more lately even Patiala and Amritsar districts were also included in this list of sorrow. Moreover, the childhood of Punjab is much threatened by deadly cancer. In Khara village a 12 year old boy dies of cancer. An unmarried girl as young as of 25 years detected breast cancer in Adesh Cancer Hospital, Muktsar. Unfortunately, the Childhood cancer shows rising trends in Punjab. These incidents are indicators that people of Punjab are going to suffer lot more in future.

If we have a look on environmental health scenario after cancer now the arthritis and skeletal fluorosis are fast becoming major health problems of the Malwa region. Just go to any village you will find peoples infested by several diseases related with environmental degradation. It is a very clear writing on the wall that, the Punjab is in the middle of a multidimensional ecological-disaster, which is further pushing the people of Punjab in an unprecedented and far unimaginable environmental health crisis. This scenario needs urgent attention. But who cares for it?
The very committee formed to make an action plan for cancer mitigation has yet to meet even after 16 months of its formation. If people who are at helm of affairs could not find time to have a meeting in 16 month time then they have no right to be there. It is irony that no politician has remembers this committee. If state like Punjab could not evolve a strategy an action plan for environmental health crisis mitigation, and then who should be made responsible for this?

Not only the ruling party forgotten the crisis but the opposition is also busy with other issues. It seems no political party wants to talk about environmental health and ecological crisis. The aimless debate on rackets, corruption and other politically surcharged issues has taken its toll, the ecology, environmental health and issues of sustainability were pushed out of entire political spectrum of the state. Because politicians feel that the environment does not have capacity to influence the electoral, nor does it has created any strong civil society movement. That is why the poor environment does not figure in agenda of any political party. There is total political apathy for the environment.

Another example of this political and governmental apathy is more worrisome. Now every body knows that cancer has already become bane for Punjab. But, the situation has its worst aspect in non availability of adequate cancer treatment facilities in Malwa region. The state number One has not even able to provide its people a proper cancer treatment facility by constructing a cancer hospital in Bathinda area. Alas, Punjab government is much busy in clearing Special Economic Zones, The Mega Malls and all other things which have a commercial market by forgetting its people who suffer from cancer. These poor cancer patients are forced to go to Bikanar in Rajasthan for their treatment. According to ICMR’s national cancer registry programme out of total 424 cancer patients from Bathinda district 328 were treated at Acharya Tulsi Regional Cancer Centre, Bikaner. Why a state like Punjab, much known for its prosperity not able to build a cancer hospital in Bathinda. These are figures from one district of Malwa, has gone through figures from other district too; the situation would be much more pathetic.

Environmental epidemiologists says that pesticides are folic acid antagonist resulting birth of brainless children, but it seems pesticides also made some elderly people brainless or at least made them unable to think over the crisis generated by the pesticides. This is the power of pesticideswalas and their resources.

Moreover any process to take up environmental health crisis has to start from debate on pesticides and other agro-chemicals and their adverse health impacts. Interestingly, the debate on pesticides and their contribution in bring environmental health crisis is already underplayed by not only pesticide companies and agriculture establishment but also by health department. They had already dubbed the PPCB -PGIMER report on high cancer incidence in Talwandi Sabo area. More over even after the near two years of publication report, no action has been taken on recommendations made in the report. This shows that there is someone who is afraid of any action taken in this regard. But people must know who is he? And by whom he is supported? How he is so powerful that one can scuttle the so called high powered committee.
But in spite of the well known fact that pesticides had already pushed and constantly pushing the Punjab into environmental health devastation, any attempt to buildup debate on the pesticides is fiercely opposed and subdued by the protagonists of pesticides and its economy. There are certain quarters which always say that Punjab can not do without pesticides. Unfortunately, the government and policy makers always listen to these elements only. When ever there is a voice to phase out pesticides and agro-chemicals from Punjab, it was always opposed by a strong lobby of pesticide manufacturers along with their brothers in arms from agriculture establishments.
There are more than enough academic studies that show that for agricultural productivity and food security, pesticides are not indispensable and what’s more, these studies that have shown that the alternative methods of pest control give great benefits to farmers. Please remember, it is the farmers who will provide that food security to the country, not the agro-chemical industry. If they are happy and interested in their agriculture and if they do not despair after falling into the trap of the input industry including the agro-chemicals industry in ever-spiraling-upwards cost of cultivation, their productivity is likely to be highest. Furthermore, such productivity is ensured only if farmers and agricultural workers are healthy and not when they are dying of pesticides-related impacts, including many acute poisoning deaths that happen to this day.
“Punjab is in the grip of a terrible environmental crisis emanating from the intensive farming practices in vogue for the past four decades” says Devinder Sharma, eminent agriculture policy analyst. He further elaborates the issue “Studies by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural research (CGIAR) have established that Punjab is faced with second generation environmental crisis. The cultivable land is sick, the environment has been heavily contaminated by the use and abuse of chemical pesticides and the underground water table is plummeting at a disastrous pace”. Excessive use of chemical fertilisers has rendered the soils infertile. Organic matter in Punjab' soil is almost close to zero percent. Much of the fertiliser leaches into the groundwater making it not only unfit for drinking but also for irrigation. Excessive withdrawal of nutrients from the soil has also brought in deficiencies of micro-nutrients over the past few decades. And yet, despite the severe environmental impact from the green revolution practices, agricultural scientists did not advocate a mid-term correction by bringing in sustainable farming practices.
Chemical pesticides were pushed in indiscriminately. Forty years after the advent of green revolution, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Manila, Philippines now clearly accepts its mistakes in promoting pesticides and has gone on record saying that 'pesticides were a waste of time and effort' in Asia for rice. Punjab Agricultural University however continues to push in pesticides knowing well that these were not required in the first place. In case of cotton, agricultural scientists have compounded the problem by turning the insect profile hostile. There were only six or seven pests that worried the cotton farmers in the 1960s. Today the number of cotton pests has multiplied to over 60.
Studies done by ICRISAT and IRRI clearly demonstrate the sustainability, viability and successful economics of Non-Pesticide Management practices. Farmers in Bangladesh, Philippines and Vietnam have successfully opted for pesticide free rice cultivation. The Cuba has also shown the way. Former Director General of IRRI, Dr. Robert Cantrell had this to say: "It shows that the mistakes of Green Revolution where too much emphasis was sometimes put on the use of chemicals for pest control have clearly been recognized and corrected".
But irony of Punjab is that the agriculture establishments are not open to this truth of pesticides and even they are not tolerant to any question and debate related to pesticides and environmental health crisis. They are still in green-revolution mindset and insulated from alternative paradigm for sustainable agriculture, environment and development. The agriculture establishments feel honour of their role played in green revolution, it could be their proud. They already got pat for that, they earned whole lot of admiration for the work they had done, but now it is time to have an honest introspection and constructive criticism should be encouraged.

This entire situation poses a very serious question that if government fails to take-up her duty, if health department does not bring any environmental health action plan and yet the environmental health crisis is fast deepening further, then how civil society should respond to this laxity constantly shown by the government and health department.
Secondly, if political parties are not responding to the environmental health crisis then how can we expect that they will do some thing on this issue? How a civilized and enlightened society in a democratic set-up should react to this situation? What should be the role of civil society in these circumstances? We have to find answers to these questions.
Here lays the basic issue of developmental paradigm the Punjab is following from last four decades. It is right time to initiate a public debate on entire developmental strategies, systems and the road-map adopted in Punjab. Which ultimately bring more of destruction, deaths, suicides, debts and a sort of socio-economic and cultural anarchy in Punjab? But who has the time for these issues and whose priority is this? We talk about various crises in Punjab, whether it is related to health, water, farmers’ suicides, rural indebtedness, ecological destruction, natural resources and contamination and pollution the genesis of these lays in the developmental model enforced upon Punjab.

In democracy people get the government-good, bad or worst what so ever it is, is the government they deserves. So if government does not take care of environmental health crisis or any political party does not voices the apathy of this crisis the society should introspect that who is responsible for this situation. Any regime may go or come the situation will remain same unless the environmental health builds as an issue which could mobilize the votes. The civil society has to have its environmental charter so that political parties should respond to that. The civil society has to buildup the pressure so that environment should figure in agenda of political parties’ first, then consistent follow-up, social vigil and time to time evaluation of performance must keep alive the issue.
The civil society has to play much larger role in this context. So those who want to bring Punjab out this devastating situation must accept their duties first.
Every individual or group who feel concerned about the situation should evolve her/his or a collective action plan. The awakened and creative section of society has to buildup a participatory cross section debate in Punjab over the entire ecological crisis and environmental health crisis in particular. It is high time to re-emphasis the demand of "ECOLOGICAL and HEALTH EMERGENCY" be declared immediately for the entire cotton belt in the state. The plans and funds allocated for the region should be diverted for remediation, rehabilitation and relief work of the affected on an urgent basis. The state government should re-priorities, re-structure and re-categorize its plans and projects with emphasis on crisis management.
In democracy we have duties and rights. Let us talk about our environmental duties now. We are mere trustees of the natural resources we got from our forefathers bestowed by Mother Nature. We have to pass on these resources to our future generations in healthy state. The real welfare of Punjab only lays in sustainable prosperity not just the bubble of happiness. So it is high time to respond the crisis and draw a civil society charter of environmental duties and rights. Civil society has to nail government so that the episode of non-meeting of high powered committee on environmental health crisis should not repeat at all. There should be no Dharampreets any more – the childhood cursed by the development done by his own elders and forefathers.
Any action to save Punjab from ecological catastrophe and environmental health crisis is a great service to fellow countrymen. It would be a service to our Motherland, Humanity and God and more over it is as sacred as any worship. We all pray for the wellbeing of all, but have to live the very life which pleads this.

(Author is Executive Director of Kheti Virasat Mission. Jaitu, Faridkot district based environmental NGO in Punjab. Phone: 9872682161, E-mail:

Sorrow of Jajjal
The tale of a village in distress

By Umendra Dutt

Manish is the future of his poor parents, but at the age of two he cannot move, not even toddle. He is too small to understand why he is like this. Manish suffers from cancer since his birth. His father Tarsem is a daily wager. Manish lives with an abnormally enlarged head, showing that he has other serious ailments as well. His father has taken a loan of Rs 25,000. Tarsem and his wife are both labourers; and they work in the nearby town of Rama Mandi. This dalit couple has been spending hard earned money to save their only child. The poor child cannot play with his toys, and his parents are not able to bear the pain. Tarsem knows that his child would not live long, yet he wants to give him better treatment. But he has no means to afford the same. They are a landless family, and no one would give him loan beyond a limit. Malwa is a cursed land. There are many more Tarsems’ and Manishs’ in Malwa.

Cancer is a frightening condition, especially if you are born a poor farmer or labourer, in a village that is caught in a vicious circle of toxicity. It neither spares the old nor the new born, man, woman nor child. Kartar Kaur is a 90 year old mother, who has seen all the changes in their land in the last century. Today, she lives with little hope. She has lost her three sons, one by one to cancer. Choota Singh was only 45 years when he died in 2002. Then Balbir Singh died in 2003 at the age of 60. Jalore Singh died in 2005 at the age of 45. The family had a debt of Rs Nine lakhs, borrowed for treatment, and after losing the siblings, the family still has Rs six lakhs to pay off. Meanwhile, the family had to sell all their moveable things and even their tractor. In spite of this being a disaster, they have not got anything as aid or relief from the Government. Today Kartar Kaur is a living symbol of a bygone prosperity, devoured by time and a wrong farming policy. She lives with her grand sons and three widowed daughters-in-law. Kartar Kaurs’ and orphaned children are not uncommon in agrarian Punjab. Environmental toxicity is devastating farmer families in the villages of Punjab, and ironically, these are yet to be recognised as disasters. Who is going to take responsibility for this? Who is going to bring relief to these villages? For five years now, we have been asking these questions.

In 2002, Jajjal village situated in cotton growing belt of Malwa shot to in fame, and became a headache for the administration in the State. The media brought out the story of a retired government teacher - Jarnail Singh whose study of his village revealed the abnormally high incidences of cancer deaths in Jajjal and some adjoining villages. The village had witnessed about 20 cancer deaths and several new cancer cases were being reported. Jajjal is a small village with 500 odd households and a population of about 3500. Following this expose, several experts and study teams from across the country has visited the village in the last five years. Surveys were done; stories appeared in news papers or got aired in news channels. But the suffering villagers got nothing. Distrustfully, the villagers when asked about this, say – “we got nothing, except visiting cards of media persons, government officials and doctors!” “We have become infamous for cancer, it is becoming almost a stigma for most of us”, says a villager Jaswinder Singh.

Jajjal village is collapsing. The soaring debts, polluted waters, dwindling social structures, grave diseases like cancer, male and female reproductive problems, neurological ailments etc have shattered the families in this village. Now, huge expenditure on the treatments is driving the final nail into their lives. Suicides have become common. Most of the villagers do not want to talk about cancer. Even cancer patients keep a silence about their disease. The code word is “Bikaner”. “Going to Bikaner” is self explanatory to the villagers. Their only respite for medical support is the cancer treatment facilities at Bikaner. But most people, who doubt they have cancer, fear to go for a medical check up. The huge cost of treatment and the worried faces of their family members deter many from even going for an early diagnosis of the disease.

The Punjab government has made several declarations about providing medical help for the cancer patients, but practically very little has been done so far. Many assurances were aired, but till date only three families have got financial relief of Rs 22,500 /- each. This is when the village has at least 55 cancer deaths on record. The conditions of many families are so pathetic and cancer in the family has devastated them, financially and psychologically. A young man laments “We had lost our relatives as well as our prosperity”. According to a rapid survey done by a team from the Kheti Virasat Mission, 48 cancer cases were reported. 36 persons died due to cancer where as 10 others are still battling for their life. Pesticide sale and use has been growing in this region, and the villagers attribute much of their suffering to the exposure to pesticides and contamination of their environment and bodies. Cancer is the most visible way in which this contamination expresses itself. Both the CSE and the Greenpeace studies have shown that environmental loads of pesticides were the highest in this village.

The financial conditions in these cancer-ridden families in Jajjal are also a matter of serious concern. Each family carries a debt of anything between one to three lakh rupees. For many families the situation is worse. And it is spread all over the village – making no difference between rich and poor, land owner and land less labourer. Death menacingly rules the village in Jajjal, knocking one door after another, leaving behind orphans, ruining families, breaking the social system and wringing out the blood from this rural economy.

Cancer has snatched many a smile from the Punjabi faces. One daily wager whose 22 year old wife is suffering from cancer is not willing to tell her the truth, out of fear that she might loose heart. If a family member suffers from the deadly disease others tries to hide this from him.

And for all those who had the courage to undergo the painful and expensive treatment for cancer, their lives are in ruins. Seventy year old Mukhtiyar Singh, who got his cancer affected kidney operated, was forced to sell his tractor and a piece of his land to meet the expenditure for the treatment. And he still owes a debt of Rs two lakhs. Mukhtiyar Singh says “We manage by curtailing our needs, we cook vegetable once a day and take the meals thrice a day with that”. This is the condition of the much acclaimed State number one - Punjab.

Cancer is only one aspect of Jajjal's eclipsed fate.

Jagdev Singh is 14 years old now. He was a healthy boy till the age of 9, but gradually he became handicapped and now he is on wheel chair. He can not speak nor does he do any thing on his own. (We have heard of similar cases in the pesticide contaminated villages of Kasaragod, Kerala). His father Bholla Singh has done his best, but Jagdev continues to live on a wheel chair. Today Jajjal is also facing very severe problem of reproductive health. Premature aging is very common in the village. One can find large number of youth having grey hair. Pain in the joints and spinal problems are making the youth of the village older than their age. The preliminary findings of the rapid survey are quite disturbing. Almost all the households have one or other health problem. According to responses received in the survey, cancer has become too common, but other diseases are also causing suffering to the villagers. Common among them are heart ailments, paralysis, skin problems, asthma and arthritis. These health problems, many related to environmental contamination have become common enough for the villagers to accept them as their fate.

However, in this unfortunate world of poisons and cancers, there are a few apathetic players - the politicians and bureaucrats. Though the Punjab government initiated a study by PGIMER, no action was taken on its findings. No senior level official ever visited the village after the report was brought out. There wasn’t even an effort to start a simple early detection cancer camp in the region. The Punjab Pollution Control Board, after spending more then Rs 15 lakh seems to have buried the report and the health department seems to have totally forgotten to take any remedial measures. Jajjal is still awaiting a full-fledged environmental epidemiological study and house to house surveillance, much necessary even to understand the depth of this crisis. It is as if, a dying village is left to its fate – a choice that our bureaucracy prefers to take over the agony of facing the truth. Amidst all this government apathy and darkness, there are a few rays of hope. Jarnail Singh runs a Vatavaran Chetna Kendra (established by Kheti Virasat Mission) in the village. He has started this with the hope of making Jajjal pesticide free. He successfully does pesticide free natural farming and also motivates other farmers to join this community initiative.

But there is a bigger crime that is being perpetuated by none other than Agriculture Department of the State and the Punjab Agriculture University. Both these agencies have their regional centres at Bathinda, which is only 32 kilometers away. While they have no interest in this catastrophe, and does not seem to be anywhere near owning up responsibility for propagating poison-laden methods of farming in the guise of adopting modern technology, it seems to be busy vending the next generation of toxins – Bt. cotton. The irony is that officials of the department and PAU are prescribing Bt cotton as a remedy to this environmental health crisis !! And many politicians have also joined these “poison-marketing” agencies. The painful reality for us and the farmers of the villages of Punjab is that we are some how responsible for this disaster – because it is we who have given our votes to bring these politicians to power, and we who have paid our hard earned money to maintain these agencies and their officials ( and scientists) in their seats. It’s like the dog bitting the owner who fed it!

Added to all this is the dark side of our agrarian situation – a mounting national disaster – of agriculture debts and farmers' suicides. Jajjal has witnessed about 20 farmer's suicides in last ten years and there are several others who have moved out of agriculture after selling their land. Now they work as land less labourers. Jajjal is not a village that may collapse all of a sudden one day to a catastrophe; it’s a village whimpering itself to death.

But Jajjal needs a new start for life. This article is written to bring to the attention of the new government in Punjab, their most important and immediate task. This village and hundreds of other villages like Jajjal needs a mothers care to nurture it back to life and sustainability. A strategy and action plan for sustainable agriculture, free of chemical inputs and ensuring better and safer production is needed. Villages free of toxicity and cancer, debt and suicide must be the goal for the next five years. We should vow that our villages will no more give birth to Manishs’ and Kartar Kaurs’ would not have to spend their hard earned lives in such misery - Neither in Jajjal nor in Malwa nor in the whole of Punjab. But one question remains - Would the government have the will to do this? Would they have the time?

(Author is Executive Director of Kheti Virasat Mission. Jaitu, Faridkot district based environmental NGO in Punjab. Phone: 9872682161, E-mail:

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Water Crisis and Water
Chaos in Punjab
By Umendra Dutt

Last month Punjab has been declared as the over all best state in the country by India Today news magazine for the third conjunctive year. It is good to have a prize for Punjab and state government has immediately taken this as an opportunity to have publicity campaign for its achievement. But there is another side of the picture also which shows doom, distress and destruction is fast engulfing this land of five waters. It is a Water-Chaos in the Punjab.

We can see farmers committing suicides due to failure of pumps, neighbors in farms killing each other over the quarrel for irrigation water, Women are bound to fetch water on their head from as far as 3 kms, and a vast majority of people have no option other then to drink sub-human water. We can see long queues around certain hand pumps adjacent to canals for potable water; we can find farmers fetching water on trolleys, bullock carts, jeeps, and village made jeep-the jogards, motor bikes and bicycles in several villages.

The situation is more pity in southern districts of state in Malwa region, but situation is fast becoming all most same in entire Punjab. There are news of public demonstrations, road-blocks, dharnas and civil unrest on the issue of water. Students boycotting the classes and even an engineering collage near Malout have forced to declare vacations for three days as there is no water supply to the institute in April 2006. Students at ITI Moga went on strike to protest against non-availability of drinking water.
The water crisis is so vast that it had engulfed every nook and corner of the state. You can find farmers demonstrating in Talwandi Sabo, Pathankot, Fazilka, Malout, Muktsar, Hoshiarpur and Garhshankar. Then there are demonstrations by urban people at Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, and list is end less.

Water scarcity had impacted daily lives and routine of Punjab peoples. They have to spend time and money to bring water from safe sources. Residents of Talwandi Bhai and Mudki towns in Ferozepur are compelled to drink un-potable water and if they wished to drink near potable water they had to travel as far 8 KMs to fetch the same. In Talwandi Sabo block also villagers in some of adjoining villages has to bring water from as far as 10 KMs. In Malsingh Wala village one could see peoples toeing water not only to drink, but also for bath and for their animals. It is 100% water importing village. Malsingh Wala has already declared itself as ‘village for sale’. Even earlier village Harkishanpura which was first village to put itself on sale has also severe water problem. There is no water for irrigation neither for drinking. The water crisis made village insolvent and compelled villagers to put village on sale. The situation is almost same in whole of Malwa region. The severe water crisis is also becoming a social stigma upon some villages. It is tough to find bride for village youths as no body wants to marry his/her daughter to these villages.
Water crisis is so pitiable that village Buladewala with population of 6000 is getting water from 2 hand pumps only. Situation is so grim that in urban and sub-urban areas people are forced to install expensive submersible pumps to fetch water. More is the depth more it costs on drilling and then it needs further higher capacity motor to fetch water and more power bill; it is unending process now in most parts of the Punjab.
Even villagers’ drinking water from sub-human system has no other option left “It is better to drink unfit water then die of thirst- says Barjinder Singh a farmer from village Malsingh wala.
The water crisis is fast deepening in Malwa that public anguish is raising all around. About three dozen villages of Talwandi Sabo had already declared to boycott the coming assembly elections in the state to mark the protest against non-availability of water.
Potable water is latterly become a saleable good even in villages. Villagers at Tarkhanwala, Shekhu, Check Hira Singh and Bagha in district Sangrur are forced to purchase water at Rs 150/- per trolley from neighboring Haryana village Tigri. Even in Malsingh Wala and other adjoining villages villagers have to pay for diesel to the trolley owner to get water regular. It is irony that water is selling in that very land which has abundance water resources once and it is more tragic that this commercialization of water is done not by any company it is being commercialized by villagers themselves. This is erosion of value-system related to water.

It is new trend that now farmers in Punjab are committing suicide as their tube wells are going dry. As water level is going down drastically day by day the farmers are forced to spend money to get water from new depth. In some of areas this is very common phenomenon. This also adds more debt burden on Punjabi farmers. Here are few examples:
Khushpal Singh (42) a small farmer of village Gajewas in Patiala district, committed suicide in June 2005 as he failed to get the bore re-installed after drastic fall in water levels. Already he had piled up debts and when he could not raise money to get the bore-well workable again he consumed pesticide. Another young farmer of same village Baljinder Singh (23) found dead on his farm. He faced similar situation and when he could not sow paddy as his tube-well became absolutely redundant. His mother describes the situation” we didn’t have the money to reinstall it and couldn’t sow paddy, our only means of existence. He lost all hope.”
Re-digging a bore and making it operational cost about Rs 1 lakh, which is not possible for a marginal or small farmer to afford. Same is story of Mal Singh Wala village where Makhan Singh (35) committed suicide due to debt burden accumulated over the years as he has taken loan for re-digging. There is more tragic and sad story of Sukhchain Singh and Jinder Singh both brothers in their thirties and sons of Labh Singh a small farmer of Lehel Kalan village near Lehragaga in Sangrur district. Both had committed suicide one after one as their tube-well has been failed. They are unable to pay back loan taken for re-digging and the tube-well again went dry, forcing them to end their lives.
Taking water out of deep aquifers is really becoming costly affair some body has paying its price by his life and it is no other then the poor labours. This is another deadly aspect of re-digging. Every year here are about hundred incidents in which labour, masons and mechanics working to dig deep tube-well die due to collapse of well. The poor labours lost their lives as water level has dipped to the new depths. These incidents are rising every year.

A large number of farmers suicides taken place in Malwa region were some how related to water crisis, either re-digging and re-installing and high operational cost or bad quality of water leads to decline in crop productivity.
Sorrow saga did not end here after water related suicides now we have to face murders. One farmer Sarabjeet Singh was killed by his neighbor after an altercation and sudden provocation over drawing irrigation water in village Butala in Amritsar district. One could find hundreds of news regarding altercation, tension and man handling across the Punjab over the water for irrigation, particularly during the paddy season. These instances are the indictor of social crisis knocking the door of Punjab.
Now there is growing demand for more canal water in Central and North Punjab districts in Majha and Doaba regions for irrigation. Even few farmers have started debating on riparian rights among the various districts of Punjab. This is really a bad news for Punjab. With ever increasing demand of irrigation water and with drastic receding ground water levels the problem is fast becoming very serious crisis.

This crisis further compounds as dark zones are rapidly increasing in Punjab. The Green revolution agriculture system based on greed, exploitation and misappropriation of nature has enhanced the human lust for squeezing the Mother Nature and her resources. It has broken the mother-son relation of farmer and earth resulting ruthless use – misuse of earth resources. In 1970-71 there were only 1.92 lakh Tube wells in Punjab, in 80-81 there were 6 lakh tube wells, and in 90-91 number went up to 8 lakh, 2000-01 again number rises upto 10 lakh and now there are about 14 lakh tube wells. This has resulted in making districts after districts dark zone – the highly over exploited area. Entire fertile region of central Punjab is dark zone now plunging the state into unimaginable ecological catastrophe. After any area declared as dark zone no new tube well is allowed, but one can find hundred of drilling machines working in dark zones.
In 1984 there were 53 blocks as dark zones, in 1995 they were 84 and in 2005 the figure went up to 108 out of total 138 development blocks in Punjab. Ground water level falling much faster then assumed. In 1973 only 3% area of Punjab has water table below 10 meters, it goes up to 14.9% in 1989, 20% in 1992, and 28% in 1997, 53% in 2000, 76% in 2002 and in 2004 the situation goes beyond expectations when 90% area of Punjab is drawing water from the depth of more then 10 meters. More over 30% area of Punjab has depth of 20 meters or even more.
On the contrary the Punjab has lost its most of natural systems of ground water recharging in last two decades. The natural wetlands of Punjab were almost disappears and so is the condition of village ponds. Ponds are encroached, filled and used as farm or building was constructed on its land. Thus disturbing the eco-system and jeopardizing the natural recharging of aquifers. This mind less destruction of ponds was done under very government patronage. Knowingly or un-knowingly who so ever they are, are environmental criminals who pushed the future generations of Punjab into sorrow saga of distress, death, destruction and displacement.
The great Bhupindra Sagar Lake in Sangrur district, which was once known as favorite hunting spot of Maharaja Bhupindra Singh of Patiala, is totally vanished. The mighty Bhupindra Sagar was once spread over the area of 1280 Hectares. The list of disappeared wetlands is an indication of devastation, which is knocking the door of Punjab. Few of destructed wetlands are Chhangli Chhamb – 1000 Ha, Chhangli Tabo-140 Ha, Chhamb Gurditwala -100 Ha in Ferozpur district. Then Sangeri 41 Ha in Mansa, Sharmkot -12 Ha in Gurdaspur, Gaunspur Chhamb -100 Ha, Jandwal Chhamb both in Hoshiarpur-100 Ha, Rahon Chhamb 300 Ha in Nawanshahar. The one of major wetlands in Punjab “Tarkiana” wetland near Dasuha, is no more on ground, it remains only on papers. Other wetlands as Jasterwal, Khanuwan, Lobana (near Nabha), Mand Bharthala, Rababsar and Bareta are the worst victims of man-made disaster and ignorance. This is the common fate of all natural wetlands of Punjab. But, man-made wetlands are also facing almost similar threats.

Apart from this the several major reservoirs such as Sitasar (Sunam), Ajj Sarovar (Kharar), Mullanpur GaribDass, Gharian, Pandusar (Dasuha), RajeTal, Bopa Rai Kalan, Kahangarh, Chamunda Devi, Thand Kasel, Attariwala, Batala, Gurdaspur, Bhagna, Fethgarh Churrien, Chmiari, Preet Nagar, Ramsar, Lakshmansar (Amritsar) are in condition of distress. Several among these have marvelous architectural design with splendor beauty, but now only ruin remains. Most of these ponds are situated in Amritsar district. One can see the tradition of constructing ponds in Punjab through the windows of Ghats of these majestic monuments. The former princely city of Sangrur once had four major reservoirs on all four corners of town, but the man made foolish decisions killed all four tanks, and this is too declared as the so called modern development. The princely town of Nabha was also lost its famous HattiKhanna Talab along with several other ponds in town and in adjacent villages. The ruins of traditional ponds system of Punjab can be found in the districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur and Ropar. The remains of puckka ghats with beautiful construction are the evidence of the rich native tradition of Ponds, their architect and design in Punjab. But this great glory of conserving water is the thing of forgotten past. Today nobody is aware about it and no body wants to care about it. It is sad and unfortunate its own people put this great pond system on death in Punjab.

With this the situation worsened more. In 1980 there are 3712 villages identified as drinking water problem villages, this figure went up to 6287 in 1990, and then in year 2000 the number goes as high as 8518 and as of now 11849 villages or habitations out of total 12423 in Punjab are facing drinking water problems.

Another aspect of crisis is fast deteriorating quality of ground water along with canal water. According to a survey done by Punjab Remote Sensing Centre at Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana and National Bureau of Soil Survey and use planning, Punjab has very high concentration of sodium carbonate and salinity in tube well water. Survey says that 57% of ground water is unfit for irrigation. More over some districts of Malwa region are in deep crisis as they had very less percentage of their ground water up to the mark. Muktsar has only 38% quality water, Faridkot – 33%, Mansa 35%, Sangrur-34%, Bathinda -19.77% and Moga has poor 14.98% of ground water fit for irrigation. The Punjab level picture is gloomier as 7.7% ground water in entire state is totally unfit, 5.3% has high salt contents and 42.1% contains sodium bicarbonate. Several farmers in Bathinda, Mansa, Muktsar, Faridkot and Moga districts lost their crop productivity and yield. The geo-physical analysis of ground water of Punjab shows that it contains high levels of Fluorine, Nitrates, Sulphate, Sodium, Selenium, cadmium, chromium and even nickel.

The poor water quality also results in higher consumption of fertilizers and other nutrients to sustain the falling yields. Farmers are spending on gypsum and zinc every year to counter the effects of salinity. Salts in water the also block percolation process that facilitate recharging of ground water. This highly sub-standard ground water is also contributing high incidences of cancer in Malwa. There are several water bourn diseases spreading in entire Punjab, but Malwa is worst victim. Graying of hairs, arthritis, and fluorosis both skeletal and dental has already taken over the dieses list.
The situation is alarming as on the one hand ground water is fast going down day by day and on the other hand its quality is not only deteriorating but already deteriorated.

The doom does not ends here, there are more stark facts yet has to come. Take canal water now. In earlier days canal water is considered ideal for irrigation is no more so, courtesy industrial pollution and un-treated effluents released in rivers and rivulets. This has further deepens the water crisis and woes of common people. The canal water in most of areas is contaminated and polluted. The situation had becomes worst during summer-season. This year Malwa region had faced unprecedented water crisis when black water flows through canals containing contaminators, pollutants, toxicants and whole lot of chemicals. Districts of Faridkot, Muktsar, Bathinda and Abohar-Fazilka were literally on water wars, as Municipal Committees were forced to stop supplying tap water to the people. Even Muktsar civic body had made public announcement to not to drink municipal water. The water is stinking and a dangerous substance flowing in taps distributing diseases. This canal water is even unfit for irrigation also.

The ground water is contaminated more near the rivers and drains. The untreated industrial waste released into drains ,which is further seeping into the lands and thus polluting the ground water. Several towns are witnessing this problem. The lives of people living along side of drains in Punjab are fast becoming vulnerable to even DNA damage. Dr J S Thakur of PGIMER who is working on this issue admits that water contaminated by untreated industrial waste might be leading to the DNA change and making people predisposed to cancer and congenital diseases. His views were supported by Dr. Gursatej Gandhi scientist at Genetics Department, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar who had worked in Mahal village situated on the bank of a drain which carries industrial affluent. She says the ground water contamination due to industrial waste disposal in drains is causing very severe health challenge. The toxic waste after seeping into ground water brings several irreversible health damages. She cites examples of not only DNA damage, but also chromosome damage, premature ageing and other adverse effects due to drinking of this contaminated ground water.

This situation again put extra financial burden on citizens. The sale of water filters and purifiers has shot up in last two years in Punjab. The ordinary people in fear of cancer and other deadly dieses are purchasing expensive water purifiers, even by taking loan. Providing safe water has become money minting business in the very land of five rivers. This has bound to be deep cultural impacts besides socio-economic stress in society.

These are few glimpses of water crisis in Punjab. To bring Punjab out of this devastation, the civil society has to act today only, tomorrow may be too late. Save Water is not mere a slogan it should become convection, commitment and mission of every proud Punjabi. More over the role of Punjab government, politicians, beurocrates and decision makers is yet not in accordance with the gravity of the crisis. Punjab has to evolve a strategy, action plan, water policy and most important its water vision to save its existence. But all these should based on eternal values preached by our glorious water heritage and wisdom.

The land of Guru Nanak, who has given a rousing call for wellbeing of all creators and shown the first struggle on water rights of common people, is fast loosing its water heritage. There would be no more Bhai Khaniya, if there is no water left in Punjab. It was Bhai Khaniya who was called the true Sikh by Guru Gobind Singh and who had served water without any thought of friend and enemy, who gave water to each and every one without any discrimination. But waterless Punjab can not follow Bhai Khaniya anymore.

Without Aab we can not imagine Punj aab. How could we do Sarbbat da Bhala – wellbeing of alls if there is no water? State number One should wake up to save its very character.