Campus protests

IIMC alumni protest: Should ‘media-baiting’ Bastar cop Kalluri be invited to a journalism seminar?

‘If we can listen to the Hurriyat, why can we not listen to Kalluri?’ counters government-run media school’s director general.

An invitation to the controversial former inspector general of Bastar, Chattisgarh, SRP Kalluri to speak at a journalism seminar at Delhi’s Indian Institute of Mass Communication on Saturday has drawn protests from some students and alumni.

“Should such a media-baiter [Indian Police Service] officer, who is also alleged to have hounded many journalists out of his region, be allowed to speak on the premises of a media institute of international repute?” about 50 alumni said in a letter on Thursday night to the government-run media school’s director general, KG Suresh.

They added: “Though we do not dispute any citizen’s right to speak on any issue of public importance…we firmly believe IIMC should deny this right to the likes of…Kalluri who loves to hate the media and media persons...”

The police officer, who has been dogged by accusations of having been involved in severe human rights violations, has been invited to speak on marginalised communities at a seminar titled “Vartaman Paripreksh me Rashtriya Patrakarita” or nationalist journalism in today’s context.

It isn’t just Kalluri’s presence that has outraged the protestors: they have criticsed the premise of the seminar itself, which will begin, the invitation promises, with a 7 am yajna – a ritual worship or offering made before a fire.

Over the last few years, Kalluri has been accused of stoking protests against journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and researchers in Bastar. Several, including journalist Malini Subramaniam and human rights lawyer, Shalini Gera had to leave the region following harassment on Kalluri’s watch.

He was transferred from his post in February. In March, he was served a disciplinary notice for attending an event in Bastar without official permission.

Local group in Jagdalpur protesting against journalists and activists, calling them Naxalites (Photo: Malini Subramaniam)
Local group in Jagdalpur protesting against journalists and activists, calling them Naxalites (Photo: Malini Subramaniam)

It wasn’t just Kalluri’s presence that had drawn the ire of the protestors: they objected to the theme of the seminar as well. “What defines ‘rashtriya’ journalism?” they asked in their letter. “Has any media school in the world introduced this discourse in its curriculum? What is the origin of the term?....It goes against the scientific and information-driven journalism.”

In addition to the yajna and Kalluri’s piece, the seminar is also scheduled to to feature the editor of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s mouthpiece, Panchjanya.

The seminar is being organised by a group called Media Scan.

One of the invites to the programme. It mentions the yajna. (Photo: Rohin Kumar)
One of the invites to the programme. It mentions the yajna. (Photo: Rohin Kumar)

Indian Institute of Mass Communication’s director general KG Suresh described Media Scan as an “organisation of media persons” not affiliated to the Sangh. Suresh said he was unlikely to honour the alumni’s request to scuttle the seminar and, especially, Kalluri’s visit. “If we can listen to the Hurriyat, why can we not listen to Kalluri?” he asked, referring to Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, the Kashmiri separatist party.

A student of the institute, Rohin Kumar had written to him and faculty-members, in protest against the yajna. “The Indian state and its institutions have to maintain [a] “principled distance” from religiosity, is what I was taught,” he wrote. He also argued that the seminar was peddling “jingoism”.

Suresh countered that the media institute had little control over either the guest-list or the programme, including the yajna. “Media Scan sought space and I gave it to them,” he told Scroll.in. “They have decided on whom to invite and it is their guests who will attend. Earlier, the jury of the Laadli Media Awards had wanted space for their meeting and I gave them.”

The alumni refused to buy this argument. “Your bid to wash your hands of the selection of speakers and theme notwithstanding, we believe that IIMC must have convinced itself of the righteousness of [the] seminar’s message before allowing it to be held at IIMC and what impression [it is] going to leave in the national and international community,” they wrote.

Defending himself against charges of allowing the institution to be used to spread RSS propaganda, Suresh pointed out that the campus is virtually empty now. “The academic session is over,” he said. “Except for the few in the hostel – who will vacate by May 31 – there is not even a single student here. Who am I saffronising then? The buildings?” He further said that the event being on a Saturday, no faculty or staff-member will be on campus either. “It will be their [Media Scan’s] own people and invitees,” he said. “If I had to saffronise, I would do it during the academic session.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

How sustainable farming practices can secure India's food for the future

India is home to 15% of the world’s undernourished population.

Food security is a pressing problem in India and in the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), it is estimated that over 190 million people go hungry every day in the country.

Evidence for India’s food challenge can be found in the fact that the yield per hectare of rice, one of India’s principal crops, is 2177 kgs per hectare, lagging behind countries such as China and Brazil that have yield rates of 4263 kgs/hectare and 3265 kgs/hectare respectively. The cereal yield per hectare in the country is also 2,981 kgs per hectare, lagging far behind countries such as China, Japan and the US.

The slow growth of agricultural production in India can be attributed to an inefficient rural transport system, lack of awareness about the treatment of crops, limited access to modern farming technology and the shrinking agricultural land due to urbanization. Add to that, an irregular monsoon and the fact that 63% of agricultural land is dependent on rainfall further increase the difficulties we face.

Despite these odds, there is huge potential for India to increase its agricultural productivity to meet the food requirements of its growing population.

The good news is that experience in India and other countries shows that the adoption of sustainable farming practices can increase both productivity and reduce ecological harm.

Sustainable agriculture techniques enable higher resource efficiency – they help produce greater agricultural output while using lesser land, water and energy, ensuring profitability for the farmer. These essentially include methods that, among other things, protect and enhance the crops and the soil, improve water absorption and use efficient seed treatments. While Indian farmers have traditionally followed these principles, new technology now makes them more effective.

For example, for soil enhancement, certified biodegradable mulch films are now available. A mulch film is a layer of protective material applied to soil to conserve moisture and fertility. Most mulch films used in agriculture today are made of polyethylene (PE), which has the unwanted overhead of disposal. It is a labour intensive and time-consuming process to remove the PE mulch film after usage. If not done, it affects soil quality and hence, crop yield. An independently certified biodegradable mulch film, on the other hand, is directly absorbed by the microorganisms in the soil. It conserves the soil properties, eliminates soil contamination, and saves the labor cost that comes with PE mulch films.

The other perpetual challenge for India’s farms is the availability of water. Many food crops like rice and sugarcane have a high-water requirement. In a country like India, where majority of the agricultural land is rain-fed, low rainfall years can wreak havoc for crops and cause a slew of other problems - a surge in crop prices and a reduction in access to essential food items. Again, Indian farmers have long experience in water conservation that can now be enhanced through technology.

Seeds can now be treated with enhancements that help them improve their root systems. This leads to more efficient water absorption.

In addition to soil and water management, the third big factor, better seed treatment, can also significantly improve crop health and boost productivity. These solutions include application of fungicides and insecticides that protect the seed from unwanted fungi and parasites that can damage crops or hinder growth, and increase productivity.

While sustainable agriculture through soil, water and seed management can increase crop yields, an efficient warehousing and distribution system is also necessary to ensure that the output reaches the consumers. According to a study by CIPHET, Indian government’s harvest-research body, up to 67 million tons of food get wasted every year — a quantity equivalent to that consumed by the entire state of Bihar in a year. Perishables, such as fruits and vegetables, end up rotting in store houses or during transportation due to pests, erratic weather and the lack of modern storage facilities. In fact, simply bringing down food wastage and increasing the efficiency in distribution alone can significantly help improve food security. Innovations such as special tarpaulins, that keep perishables cool during transit, and more efficient insulation solutions can reduce rotting and reduce energy usage in cold storage.

Thus, all three aspects — production, storage, and distribution — need to be optimized if India is to feed its ever-growing population.

One company working to drive increased sustainability down the entire agriculture value chain is BASF. For example, the company offers cutting edge seed treatments that protect crops from disease and provide plant health benefits such as enhanced vitality and better tolerance for stress and cold. In addition, BASF has developed a biodegradable mulch film from its ecovio® bioplastic that is certified compostable – meaning farmers can reap the benefits of better soil without risk of contamination or increased labor costs. These and more of the company’s innovations are helping farmers in India achieve higher and more sustainable yields.

Of course, products are only one part of the solution. The company also recognizes the importance of training farmers in sustainable farming practices and in the safe use of its products. To this end, BASF engaged in a widespread farmer outreach program called Samruddhi from 2007 to 2014. Their ‘Suraksha Hamesha’ (safety always) program reached over 23,000 farmers and 4,000 spray men across India in 2016 alone. In addition to training, the company also offers a ‘Sanrakshan® Kit’ to farmers that includes personal protection tools and equipment. All these efforts serve to spread awareness about the sustainable and responsible use of crop protection products – ensuring that farmers stay safe while producing good quality food.

Interested in learning more about BASF’s work in sustainable agriculture? See here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.