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Author: Chandrasekhar Nemani

There are over 300 million people in India who do not have enough food to meet their basic nutritional requirements. With further intrusion of the market economy and increasing corporatisation of Indian agriculture, it is suspected that millions more will go hungry in the first decades of the new millenium. Harvesting hunger is a journey into this impending world of hunger and famine, an exploration of the deepening crisis of food security in the country.

The film revolves around four case studies: Punjab for a study of the yellowing of the Green Revolution, Kalahandi for an investigation into the structural reasons of famine and impoverishment; Warangal for an examination of the debilitating effects of money lending - resulting in suicide deaths - prompted by multinational pesticides enterprises; and Bellary for an understanding of the role of giant seed and food processing companies in destroying the very base of Indian agriculture.

The case studies are presented in isolation but are woven together in a complex blend. Together, they cover a vast canvas and provide a panoramic view of the grave crisis looming over India's horizon in terms of food security. Each case study is narrated by local farmers, who tell the story of themselves and their village. The four

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case studies are interspersed with snatches of life in an idyllic pastoral setting where traditional agricultural practices are in vogue, as a counterpoint. A farmer activist, Vijay Jardhari, who is part of a movement to revive traditional agricultural practices (Beej Bachao Andolan), in the Himalayas narrates this. He provides a peep into sustainable agricultural systems, which could be an answer to the present crisis in Indian agriculture.

Funded by ActionAid India, the film took one-and-a-half years to complete. It has been selected for competition at Toronto Film and Video Festival for Environment and Wildlife (September 2000) and Okomedia Environment Film Festival (Freiburg, Germany, October 2000) and EarthVision, Tokyo (March 2001).

The film was awarded a special Jury's award at Okomedia 2000 and EarthVision 2001.

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Author(s): Rustam Vania
Date: Feb 28, 2001
HARVESTING HUNGER•A video film by Krishnendu Bose•Duration: 53 minutes

THE film title Harvesting Hunger chills one to the bones and the film itself is a despondent tale of the agricultural scenario in the country. "It is apprehended that millions may go hungry in this decade. Harvesting Hunger is a journey into this world of hunger, famine and food insecurity," says the film maker. With the opening up of the economy and winds of liberalisation sweeping across, Indian farmers stand at crossroads today. The film tries to explore this issue of 'progressive intrusion of the market economy and increasing corporatisation of Indian agriculture'.

The issue is introduced through four case studies narrated by individual farmers from Punjab, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The first, a portrait of a farmer and his family in Hoshiarpur in Punjab, describes the 'yellowing of the Green Revolution' how intensive chemical farming has been a double whammy for farmers.

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With declining fertility caused by overuse of fertilisers and pesticides have come increasing costs of inputs. As one farmer says: 'My forty years of toiling in the fields has come to grief.' A sad lament to come from a once proud and prosperous farmer of Punjab who produced most of the foodgrain for a newly independent India. In contrast to this is the case of the farmers of the infamous Kalahandi district in Orissa. With the withering away of traditional natural resource management, Kalahandi faces famine and impoverishment.

Another particularly tragic case is that of a widow of a cotton farmer from Andhra Pradesh in Warangal district. It examines the debilitating effects of money lending leading to suicidal deaths. Unable to bear the shame and burden of crippling debt, cotton farmers, in a cruel twist of fate, kill themselves by swallowing the very pesticides that they bought to protect their crops. The film has an interesting sequence where a profiteering retailer for a pesticide company says with ill-concealed glee: "It is so good that you will return for more!"

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The camera then shifts focus to an ongoing battle between a group of emotive and militant Karnataka farmers who are dead against the entry of a US agro giant Cargill.

Fearful of the takeover by the US giant, these farmers of Bellary are ready to 'fight to the finish'.

The highlight is the anchoring of the film by Vijay Jardhari, a remarkable farmer-activist from Garhwal who founded the Beej Bachao Andolan. He provides a glimpse into sustainable agricultural systems which could perhaps solve the present crisis in Indian agriculture. "We hope the film serves the purpose of cross pollination of ideas," says director Krishnendu Bose. The film has won the Special Jury Award, Okomedia Film Festival, Freiburg, Germany, 2000.