NB: Update here.
We interrupt this blog for a public service announcement. The Indian Express is reporting a proposal by the government of Jharkand State in northeast India to bulldoze the field genebanks of the Horticulture and Agro Forestry Research Programme. More than 20 years of work and thousands of fruit varieties are set to be destroyed in order to create bungalows for Members of Parliament.
What to do? This makes the UK’s attempts to dump its apple and pear collection look positively suave. We’ve alerted people who might have some influence. But seriously, what else can be done? Is anyone in Jharkand taking this up? How about the rest of India? We’re rank amateurs at activism. Advise us.
We wouldn’t normally repost an entire item, but this is important enough that we’re making an exception. So here goes.
RANCHI, OCTOBER 4: Stunned scientists have begun counting their impending losses: 5253 plants of different varieties of mango and litchi, 6,500 trees more than 30 years old, eight greenhouse nurseries, each with 4000-5000 plants of guava and jackfruit and a gene bank developed over 20 years to have a germplasm base of 239 varieties of mango and litchi.
The Ranchi-based Horticulture and Agro Forestry Research Programme (HARP) â€” under the aegis of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) â€” is set to lose all these if the Jharkhand government goes ahead with its plan to acquire land from the institute to build bungalows for over 115 MPs and MLAs.
This also flies in the face of a letter from Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar earlier this year asking Chief Minister Madhu Koda to shelve the plan and instead issue mutation certificate of this land whose title was transferred to the ICAR by the Ranchi Deputy Commissioner in 1976. In 1979, HARP was set up with 100 percent funding by the Union government.
As reported in The Indian Express today, the plan, cleared by the Koda government, envisages taking over more than 288 acres of HARPâ€™s land and slicing away 88 acres (from ICARâ€™s Farm 2) for the Vidhayal Evam Sansad Grih Nirman Swawlambi Sahkari Samiti Ltd, a housing society registered by the legislators.
â€˜This will destroy our field laboratory for ever,â€ says HARP scientist R S Pan. His colleague, senior scientist Vikas Das says: â€œOur germplasm bank assiduously nourished and grown over the past two decades is the foundation for carrying out our research on the gene order of these varieties. Once we lose Farm 2, we are doomed.â€
Not just that. â€œThe gene bank of these valuable fruit-bearing tress will be destroyed for ever. It will seriously affect horticulture prospects of the farmers in this belt,â€ says HARPâ€™s Principal Scientist Shivendra Kumar.
Even Pawar had underlined the benefits: â€œThis research centre (HARP) has been working on different projects for the past 27 years…It has developed 29 new varieties of fruits and vegetable crops and Jharkhand farmers are benefiting from its techniques developed here. So my request is to settle this land where this institution is situated.â€
But Koda clearly ignored this. While he declined to comment, Speaker of the Jharkhand Assembly Alamgir Alam â€” one of the beneficiaries if the plan goes through â€” says that the government is committed to taking the land. â€œThe state Land Revenue Department has to transfer the title of this land to the housing society. We have asked officials to do the needful,â€ said Alam.