The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: In Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh, free speech is under threat

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Trampling free speech

In his last speech in Parliament in March before he resigned his Lok Sabha seat and took over as Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Yogi Adityanath promised that “many things would be shut down” in the state after he assumed charge. Given the developments in the last few days, it is clear that the warning was not just to political opponents but also to the very idea of freedom of speech and expression.

On Sunday evening, the Uttar Pradesh police detained at least 41 Dalit activists on board the Sabarmati Express at Jhansi to prevent them from reaching Lucknow and presenting a 125-kg soap to Adityanath. This was a protest planned to condemn the insult meted out to Dalits in Manipur Deenapatti village in May, when they were given soaps and shampoos by the administration to clean themselves before the chief minister’s visit.

On Monday, the UP police took an even more drastic step in its attempt to muzzle the civil society. Eight Dalit activists were arrested from the UP Press Club in Lucknow, where they wanted to highlight the atrocities against Dalits in the state and condemn the Sunday arrests. Thirty one other activists of the Bundelkhand Dalit Adhikar Manch and the Dynamic Action Group were also detained to stall the press conference.

The narrative used to implement the arrest is a chilling reminder of how easily an authoritarian state could trample on fundamental rights. According to news reports, the police filed cases under Section 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The provision is primarily used to prevent people from committing cognisable offences. The police claimed the activists were “planning” to march towards the chief minister’s office, for which they did not have permission.

But it is to be noted that the police did not even wait for the activists to emerge out of the press conference to detain them. Eight of them were picked up from the press club even before they could speak to the media. That holding a press conference inside the UP press club could even be deemed a wrongful act by the police is a clear indication of the mood of the government, which is sending a strong signal that it will brook no dissent.

While this was done to people protesting, those trying to uphold the law have been shown that they will be acted against if they went after groups seen favourable to the ruling party. Last week, a woman IPS officer, Deputy Superintendents of Police Shreshtha Thakur was transferred after a video of her refusing to give in to the demands of local BJP leaders over the imposition of fine on a BJP worker went viral on social media.

The arrest and transfer have profound implications for media freedom in Uttar Pradesh. By invading a space such as the press club, the media’s right to report without censorship is being trampled on. If the government is allowed to use provisions of preventive detention to stop people from meeting the press, it automatically becomes a case of indirect censorship where the media is being told what was legal to report and what cannot be allowed. By transferring a police officer for doing her job, the government is sending a clear message to others whose job is to uphold the law of the land.

The Big Scroll

  • Khabar Lahariya spoke to Dalits in Banda about the incident in a village in Kushinagar, where Dalits were asked to clean themselves up before Chief Minister Adityanath’s visit in May. 


  1. In the Indian Express, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen warns against the decimation of the secular fabric of the nation. 
  2. In The Hindu, former union minister Kapil Sibal stresses on the importance of criticising the government despite the danger of being called an “anti-national”. 
  3. In the Mint, Ranjith Singh Kalha writes on why India should firmly resist Chinese arm-twisting in the recent border dispute near Sikkim. 


Don’t miss

MK Bhadrakumar points out that India must re-evaluate its ties with Israel keeping the current political developments in West Asia.

“Why does Israel matter? Primarily, India seized the window of opportunity – as China too did at one point before the window slammed shut – to use Israel to siphon US military technology, which the Americans were not in a position to transfer directly. The relationship flourished both because the Israelis were street-smart and because the Americans simply looked away. Today, it has grown into a sturdy tree and is bearing fruit.” 

We welcome your comments at
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.