Police register cases against those sowing HTBT seeds
Tension between the State machinery and farmers sowing HTBT seeds in defiance of the Centre’s ban on GM crops is escalating. Shetkari Sanghatana, the apex body of farmers in Maharashtra, is planning a jail bharo protest as the police have started filing cases against farmers who have sown HTBT (herbicide tolerant Bt) cotton.
“We were expecting action from the State. We are intentionally breaking the law and all farmers must be arrested if the police wants to take action. We are ready to get arrested. We are gearing up for jail bharo agitation against the government, and at the same time farmers will continue to cultivate HTBT cotton seeds,” Sanghatana President Anil Ghanwat told BusinessLine. He said that the Sanghatana is determined to intensify its ‘civil disobedience’ movement in support of GM crops.
In Akola district, where the Sanghtana started its drive to sow HTBT cotton seeds early this month, police have registered cases against 12 farmers, including Sanghatana officials. The police have filed cases under IPC sections that deal with cheating and dishonesty along with sections of the Environment Protection Act and the Seeds Act. Earlier, Pravin Kharche, a 40-year-old farmer in Buldhana district, was arrested and the local court in Sindhkhed Raja remanded him to six days of police custody. Carrying, storing, selling, or sowing of banned GM crops incurs a ₹1 lakh fine and five years’ imprisonment.
Richa Sharma, Joint Secretary with the Ministry of Environment, had asked the State Chief Secretary for a detailed report on sowing of banned seeds and action taken by the government. Accordingly, the district agriculture officials have started registering complaints against farmers.
Shetkari Sanghatana leaders said that this is the first time that the government and the police have taken action against farmers for possessing and sowing HTBT seeds. The Sanghatana leaders have appealed to farmers not to succumb to the government’s pressure and continue to fight for their rights.
“Till date farmers were covertly sowing HTBT cotton and Bt brinjal. Now, farmers have decided to do it openly.
This is our right and we are going to fight for it. This technology is beneficial for farmers and today we are going to sow HTBT in Latur and Nagpur,” Ghanwat added.
The Central Committee on Field Inspection and Scientific Evaluation had found that farmers in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra cultivate unapproved HTBT cotton.
The government team found that on average, 15 per cent of the area in these States is under HTBT cotton.
While farmers continue their pro-GM drive, experts say the farmers have broken the law and also made the country breach international biosafety conventions.