Organic drive in Uttaranchal ignores farmers' concerns

It's not routine for organic to get a bad press. But when quixotic officials turn it into an article of faith without doing the homework, the repercussions can be seriously debilitating.

Take the case of the hill village of Papnaikothar in Ranikhet district. It was well known for the excellence of its bounteous harvests, which, unfortunately, turned out to be its downfall. In 2002, when the Uttaranchal government launched a programme to push organic farming, Papnaikothar was on the list of villages that would be in the advance guard of the new, certified organic revolution, never mind it had always been organic. That's when the village started to go downhill. Sixty-two-year-old Kailash Papnai, who heads the village organic committee, says, "The villagers were euphoric when the subsidised organic farming concept came into being. We were promised up to 75 per cent subsidy and great returns after three years, but now we neither have the subsidy nor the productivity.'

The village changed its cropping pattern: growing paddy instead of coarse cereals and traditional vegetables. They had little choice. The programme stipulated that subsidies