The 2011 census data shows us that the number of people for whom farming is their major occupation (working in that occupation for atleast half of the year) has come down from 110 million in 1991 after the initiation of liberalization policies of government to 95.8 million in 2011 (less than 8% of our population). That is on average more than 2000 farmers losing ‘Main Cultivator’ status on a daily rate. While the number of farmers in India is sharply decreasing, the number of agricultural labourers has nearly doubled from 74.6 million in 1991 to 144.3 million in 2011. Surely, this cannot be the model for India to become a developed nation.
Significantly in the last 20 years, the ‘recorded figure’ shows that close to 3 lakh farmers have committed suicides. The actual number could be much higher. The recorded figure includes the zero farm suicide figure submitted by Chhattisgarh government in 2011 after the previously self-declared farmer suicides of a number greater than 7,500 between 2006-2010.
But weren’t we told that over 50% of India’s population are farmers?
That is inaccurate. Yes, over 600 million Indians are dependent on agriculture – including agricultural labourers, fisheries, etc. Like everybody in the film industry is not an actor, similarly everyone in the agriculture sector is not a farmer.
The NSSO 2014 report indicates that the average farmer family earns Rs 6,426 of which Rs 3,078 comes from farming. Even when the end price the consumer might be paying for crops might be higher, the farmer does not earn a large proportion of the price which typically goes to the middle-men. The co-operative movement offers a potential long-term solution, which organizations such as Amul and Timbaktu Collective amongst numerous others have demonstrated. In the shorter-term there is a huge need to ensure fairer incomes are paid to our farmers by other means.
As Devinder Sharma, India’s leading food and trade policy analyst says – “If the 7th Pay Commission, which has been accepted by the government raises the minimum wage of a chaprasi from Rs 7,000 to Rs 18,000 why should the farmers earn such low amounts? A National Farmers Income Commission should be formed, under which farmers would be entitled to get a minimum monthly income on the basis of area under cultivation and production”.
Whilst in opposition, the NDA promised time and again to increase the minimum support price provided to the farmers by 50% on coming to power. So far, this hasn’t happened and the Centre has conveyed to Supreme Court its inability to do the same. This is also driven by the commitments, India has made at The World Trade Organization where under pressure by the developed countries it has promised not to increase the MSP.
The Logical Indian Community looks forward and hopes for a situation, where the Indian farming community will earn proportionate incomes in line with other sectors as well. Otherwise the day won’t be far where India will again have to revisit the dark days of the past in having to depend on other countries for its agriculture produce.
Even at 76, Pradip Burman, the zestful chairman of Mobius Foundation radiates a contagious enthusiasm when he is talking about sustainability. The environmental crusader, better known to many as the great-grandson of Dabur founder Dr S.K.Burman, has devoted substantial attention towards promoting the concept of sustainability in all aspects of life. He refuses to conform to the convenience and comfort in today’s world which ultimately adds on to the adverse effects of climate change.
Talking to The Logical Indian, Burman emphasised why sustainability as a concept is indispensable for us. “We ought to be aware of what lies ahead of us. Soon we will finish the oil, iron, tin, and coal, and our next generations will be left with nothing. Recycling, banning plastics, stop felling trees for paper… This should become a part of everyone’s lifestyle,” he urges.
Traditional wisdom and modern research
A mechanical engineer from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, Burman had always nurtured a keen interest in helping the society, as evident from his graduation project of designing a sonic aid for the visually challenged, which detected obstacles in the way using ultrasonic wave signals.
As an executive for the nature-centric company Dabur, Burman has always opted for natural alternatives to solve his everyday problems like taking Ayurvedic medicine to cure his Arthritis. He later launched the veterinary wing for Dabur – Ayurvet – which provides nature-friendly solutions for animal health care.
A patron of the ancient scientific wisdom of India, Burman always hailed the confluence of “traditional knowledge and modern research”, which he advocated as the Ayurvet motto.
As part of the CSR initiative of Dabur, Pradip Burman founded SUNDESH (Sustainable Development Society) which has been tirelessly working for last 25 years in remote villages for uplifting the rural communities in an environmentally sustainable way.
An advocate of sustainability
Burman believes that sustainability is the indispensable mantra for the world at present. Due to uncontrolled utilisation of the planet’s resources by human beings, the world today stands at a juncture of destabilisation. Today the human race has reached the pinnacle of progress but the advancement is happening in a very unsustainable manner.
Through energy-efficient use of everyday essentials like transport, communication, altered habits of diet, clothing and daily living, some crusaders of sustainability try to reduce their carbon footprint. Pradip Burman’s Mobius Foundation is one of the forerunners toward sustainability goals.
Mobius Foundation aims to change the sustainability dynamics
In 2015, Burman paved the way for the start of Mobius Foundation, focused on sustainability. Named after 18th-century German mathematician August Ferdinand Mobius, the famous Mobius strip has an important philosophical significance. The extraordinary shape symbolises balance and union.
Similar is the essence of Mobius Foundation which wishes to enhance the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” principle to a widespread basis in India, helping generations to come.
Founder Pradip Burman wishes to achieve notable development in education, population stabilisation and renewable energy projects.
A dream school in the making
At Coorg, Pradip Burman’s Mobius Foundation is constructing the World Environment School, Coorg (WESc) where the curriculum will surpass the boundaries of books and classrooms, with a special focus on hands-on learning in close collaboration with the environment. Amidst the pristine natural beauty of Coorg, the school will nurture young minds to grow up into future green leaders. As of now, the school will be open to teenagers, welcoming students from standards 6 to 12.
Needless to say, World Environment School will be the first-of-its-kind not only in India but also in entire South Asia. The school is expected to start from March 2020.
The school promises to nurture the responsible behaviour of citizens of our future.
The Sustainability Conference of 2019
In 2019, the Mobius Foundation has planned an international conference, on the lines of the celebrated earth summits over the past decade. The 2019 International Conference on Sustainability Education (ICSE 2019) aims to bring together environmental activists, practitioners of sustainable development as well as climate change experts to help develop a sustainability-focused curriculum.
It is surmised that the conference will give a platform to innovative concepts of Sustainability Education including an essential change in the existing education system ensuring a wholesome personal development for a student.
The Sustainability crusader
The Mobius founder strongly believes that it is high time to sprout sustainability awareness among a society drowning in consumerism and unknowingly doing irreparable harm to the planet, every second. The best way to achieve this goal is through education which is available to all. At present, the education system is predominantly career-oriented, making the learners a victim of materialism, and thus, their dreams are also outlined in those colours.
Living beyond the limits
When asked about his wish to attain the age of hundred, he strongly asserts that more than becoming a centurion, he wishes his life and work continue to better the society even in his absence. “I have lived my life. I wish that whatever I start before I go, will continue – for the betterment of my country,” says Mr Pradip Burman.
He is also a trustee of the Climate Reality Project – India (affiliated to Mr. Al Gore of the Climate Reality Project Foundation, USA). Climate Reality Project, India, has been actively engaged igniting the spark and spreading the message of climate change amongst educators, policy makers and civil society. The India branch looks after more than 500 trained Climate Leaders, and more than 900 volunteers spread all over the country.
In his journey, Pradip Burman has been a beacon of hope for millions, motivating many to join the movement for sustainability. We wish he continues his tireless efforts for promoting sustainability awareness and inspire generations to come.