INDIA. Akola: As the now-famous farmer protests in India rages on, it never comes as a surprise or a new development for one Prakash Pohare, a man who has been through the same protests and has served prison sentences and jail terms in police custody for organizing and leading the same.
67–year–old Prakash Pohare has witnessed farmer suicides in his lifetime that he says have been caused by bad agricultural laws coupled with the high prices of farm inputs and low prices of outputs.
Pohare, a journalist by inheritance, grew up in a family of farmers as his father and grandfather were both farmers.
“My father had started a newspaper along with his friend, but along the way, his friend developed a heart attack and died. Because of the unforeseen circumstance, I had to take over the newspaper and manage it, even though without any formal training in the field. I learnt it through its practice and reading books”, he says.
Born and raised in Akola, Pohare is now the editor-in-chief of popular Marathi language daily newspaper Deshonnati with its headquarters located in his hometown of Akola.
He holds a Bachelor of Commerce and four Diplomas in technical fields namely Refrigeration, Industrial Wiring & Switch Gear, TV, and Diesel Engines. Pohare also holds a Diploma in Organic farming awarded by PD Krishi Vidyapith Akola.
Since last year, farmers have been protesting across India, decrying what they term as laws that would put them at the mercies of big businesses.
The government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has introduced new farming laws that it says would benefit the farmers as it will give them the flexibility of choosing what to produce and who to sell to.
In respect of Farmers suicides in Vidarbha, Mr Pohare started a movement through his newspaper and started giving daily scroll of farmer’s suicides.
In 2007 he made a presentation of farmers’ griefs to the Prime Minister, Hon. Manmohan Singhji along with Hon. Mohan Dhariaji; resulting in the announcement of an agricultural loan waiver of Rs. 72 thousand Crores by Hon. PM Manmohan Singhji, who also increased MSP by 40 to 70% for the first time in 2008.
Later on in 2017 Mr. Pohare founded the Kisan Brigade at National Level. “I started this with the purpose of uniting farmers”, he says.
To control blast of farmer suicides in Vidarbha, Chief Minister announced, in Feb 2018, a 4-year mission of Rs 100 Crore, for the 6 districts in western Vidarbha with headquarters in Akola under the chairmanship of Mr. Pohare.
Mr. Pohare is practicing farming on 50-acre dry land in Ural and a 60-acre irrigated farm in Kanheri near Akola on which Vednandini agro-tourism is developed with comfortable accommodation and training facility. Around 30,000 to 40,000 students and tourists visit every year.
He also worked with farmer leader Sharad Joshi for 14 years in “Shetkari Sanghatna”. During that time, Pohare actively participated in many farmer movements, that led to him getting arrested many times in various social and peasant movements.
He spent around 200 days in various jails or police custody, faced a number of cases, and was acquitted at the end of the court battle that went on for 15-20 years.
Given the high prices of farm inputs in the country, Pohare says that he advocated for the use of organic fertilizers among the farmers he had united, something that he says comes with many advantages as opposed to commercial fertilizers.
“We came into conclusion that the government was not willing to increase the prices of the farm outputs and we were left with no alternative than to reduce the input costs. We resorted to the use of biodegradable organic fertilizers and reduced the use of chemical fertilizers in our farms”, he says.
The results, Pohare says, have been good farming practices that have not only cut down on costs but also ensured environmental protection and conservation.
For the past ten years, I have personally not used any chemical fertilizer nor any insecticides, and I have observed one thing that farmers who are using chemical fertilizers attract pests”, Pohare says.