Shetkari Sanghatana has intensified its ‘civil disobedience’ movement in Maharashtra against the Centre’s ban on GM crops. After sowing HTBT cotton seeds in Akola district last week, the Sanghatana is encouraging farmers in other districts to sow banned seeds.

Farmers defiant

Farmers in Jalna, Parbhani and Wardha district are defying the ban to cultivate HTBT cotton and have challenged the government to take action against them. “I shall break the law that hampers my progress and restrict my freedom,” said Pramod Talmale, a farmer from Pulgaon in Wardha district. The State machinery has not acted against the farmer as the government has opted to wait and watch. Sanghatana President Anil Ghanwat said the movement, which was launched last week, would be kept alive. He added that HTBT cotton would also be sown in Jalna, Parbhani and Wardha distircts in next three days. According to Ghanwat, many farmers were ready to sow HTBT cotton openly, but the government has kept vigil on the State borders, which has affected inflow of HTBT seeds. More and more farmers will sow HTBT this season once the monsoon showers arrive, Ghanwat added.

At Adgaon Budruk village in Akola, agriculture department officials tried to stop farmers from sowing HTBT, saying it was an illegal activity. However, farmers went ahead and sowed the banned seeds in Nilesh Nemade’s field. Agriculture department officials told the media that they were not in a position to confirm if Nemade had sown HTBT cotton.

Govt cautious

The State government is cautious and has not taken any action against the farmers who have openly defied the ban on HTBT cotton. The State Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in the next three months and it does not want to attract the farmers’ wrath.

The Centre has asked the State for an action taken report over the HTBT cotton sowing at Akoli Jahangir village last week. The Agriculture department officials are conducting raids in some places to confiscate HTBT seeds.

“Shetkari Sanghatana will stand with farmers if the State decides to take action. No one can stop farmers from sowing what they want to in their own field,” said farmer and Sanghatana leader Lalit Bahale.