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Padma Shri–awardee Subhash Palekar is popularly known as ‘Krishika Rishi’ by many farming communities in India. He is an agricultural scientist who pioneered the concept of Natural Farming in the country. Palekar drew his inspiration from ancient Indian farming techniques, at the heart of which are cow dung and cow urine. Heavily inspired by the Vedas, Upanishads, and other ancient scriptures, particularly Dhnyaneshwar, Tukaram, and Kabir, Palekar refers to his system as spiritual farming. He says Natural Farming is capable of self-regeneration and is eco-friendly.
After completing his agricultural degree in 1972, Palekar returned to Belora village in Amravati, Maharashtra. He worked on his father’s farm for a decade, before realizing that toxic chemicals promoted by the green revolution were gradually poisoning the soil and negatively affecting farm productivity. He strived to find a better alternative. For this purpose, he turned to nature. He found that the natural system at work in the forests allowed vegetation to flourish while preserving the ecosystems. Large trees grew naturally without any chemical stimulation. These trees demonstrated that plants can and do thrive without the use of chemicals. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers damage microorganisms that convert raw nutrients into easily digestible form on a farm.
Subsequently, after years of trial and error, he has discovered that locally accessible seeds, cow breeds, and soil can only be utilized in the creation of this culture, making it a self-sustaining, home-grown, no- cost method. After extensive research that lasted for six years, during which he developed and nurtured plants on his own, he came up with the technique of Natural Farming. Palekar then took his findings to farmers across the country.
Palekar has been lauded by various international and national organizations and experts for his dedicated service to the nation. Palekar’s work has been recognized by the Government of India and he was awarded the highest civilian award, Padma Shri, in 2016.
He has been voluntarily educating farmers across the country on Natural Farming.
In 2007, former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, N. Chandrababu Naidu, appointed Palekar as his adviser in the agriculture sector and allocated Rs 100 crore to promote the system in the state. He also represented him at the United Nations headquarters in New York, where he presented his findings and methods. NITI Aayog too has invited Palekar for various national-level consultations.
The history of organic farming movement in Tamil Nadu starts with Nammalvar. He always said it is no use trying to teach a farmer. Instead, one should make the farmer understand the issue. He never stopped learning from them himself and had become a vast repository of farming practices and knowledge that he shared with whoever was interested. He never pushed ideas down anyone’s throat. Each farm is unique according to the farmers’ understanding and the conditions, Nammalvar would say. He would keep experimenting with what he learned from the farmers, refined this knowledge and then gave it back to them.
One of his sayings was: “Farming is not a way of producing crops to make money. It is a way of living, and a way of living that is possible even in the 21st century.” He trained hundreds of farm youths as trainers and helped many farmers to be master trainers—all this without government support.
Nammalvar gave up his trousers and shirt and always dressed in a simple way, wearing the same kind of clothes the farmers wore. Sometimes when he would arrive, dirty with travel, someone would give him a new set of clothes and get the old ones washed and ready for his next visit. He learned to speak simply, too, so that he got his message across. Simple sentences with Tamil proverbs, telling real stories that touched the heart of his listeners. He could keep scientists and agriculture experts also spellbound. He travelled extensively and spent most nights in buses. One evening Nammalvar suddenly asked: “What would you like written on your graves?” All of us said different things. When his turn came, he took a little time and then said: “This is what I want written. ‘Here sleeps peacefully a man who disturbed some people’s sleep’.” Yes, he now sleeps after rousing thousands from their sleep. He made his whole life a mission of speaking about the ills of chemical farming and the need for organic farming for nearly four decades.
Once a reporter asked, early in Nammalvar’s crusade, if he was sure farmers would switch to organic. He replied: “I don’t mind if they do not change now. My work is to tell the truth and sow the seeds. Some seeds germinate quickly if the field is good. Others will take weeks and some will take years. I am sure my seeds are good seeds and will germinate surely even after decades.” That has happened. As a result, almost all the political parties have listed support to organic farming in their election manifesto. This silent revolution was sown by him.
The credit of Shaping ‘natural farming’ movement in Himachal Pradesh goes to former Governor of Himachal Shri Acharya Devvrat, who is presently the Governor of Gujarat. It is the result of his sheer efforts that natural farming has reached all the Panchayats and villages of the state in a small span of three and a half years. Immediately after assuming charge of Governor of Himachal Pradesh, he started working with the help of social organisations to create awareness about natural farming technique among farmers of Himachal Pradesh and inspired them to adopt the same. National seminars were organised to sensitise the teachers and students of Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry Universities in the state. Acharya Devvrat built up environment in favour of natural farming in Himachal Pradesh, following which Himachal Pradesh Government constituted a ‘Task Force’ for natural farming in January, 2018. On 9 March, 2018, the State Government announced ‘Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kisan Yojana’ with Rs 25 crore budget provision in the state budget and decided to implement Subhash Palekar Natural Farming Technique. Following this, under the guidance of Acharya Devvrat, the state government set up a State Project Implementing Unit (SPIU) and prepared a roadmap for promotion of natural farming in the State which included camps by Shri Subhash Palekar. Acharya Devvrat actively participated in these camps and called upon farmers to adopt the natural farming technique. On July 21, 2019, he left Himachal Pradesh to join as Governor of Gujarat, but by then more than 7000 farmers of the state had adopted natural farming on more than 700 hectares of land. The State Project Implementing Unit of ‘Prakritik Kheti Khushal Kisan’ Yojana in Himachal Pradesh is continuously getting support and guidance from him. Around 2 lakh farmers have already adopted natural farming technique in Himachal Pradesh and lakhs of farmers are ready to adopt the same.
Acharya Devvrat is carrying forward the campaign of natural farming in Gujarat also. The Gujarat government has decided to pursue natural farming and now it has become an important program of in the state