Mumbai: Rainbow Warrior III, a ship of the international environmental group Greenpeace that is docked in Mumbai, drew celebrities at an event last Saturday in the commercial capital’s high security zone. The event had a Bihar connect.
A substantial amount of items used for the “organic lunch” at the event, cooked under the supervision of advertising honcho Prahlad Kakkar and his team, came from Kedia village in Jamui district of Bihar that has done away with use of chemical fertilisers. The village, around 170km southeast of Patna, has reverted to eco-farming, drastically reducing the input cost of farmers.
Kedia quit using chemical fertilisers in 2014, and the benefits have started showing. It has improved soil health and agro-biodiversity, reduced input cost and farmers are in a better position to negotiate their prices. The farmers grew pulses and beans to improve soil health. The village has started growing vegetables for the market instead of just for family use.
The farmers claim that beetles, butterflies, sparrows and humming birds that had disappeared have returned. There is a solar-powered cold storage funded by Greenpeace which has made farming profitable.
“The rice, pulse, ghee and vegetables were brought all the way from Jamui district to here for the occasion,” said Jitendra Kumar of Greenpeace.
Kakkar was the chief chef for the occasion. “Is cooking a hobby ?” one person asked. “No it’s a full profession. That’s why get invited over by so many ladies,” quipped Kakkar. More seriously, he has diversified to opening a cookery school.
Celebrities at the lunch included documentary maker Anand Patwardhan, Bollywood actresses Raveena Tandon and Suhasini Mulay, and human rights activist Vrinda Grover. Kakkar was going on about the need to eat organic food for healthy living. The name of Kedia village was prominently displayed on placards.
“There are several celebrities who would never go to Bihar because professionally they not need to. But agriculture products of Bihar can be marketed if the state goes for organic farming in a big way,” said an agriculture expert.
The connect between an environmental ship docked in Mumbai, celebrities and a little-known village tucked away in a Maoist-infested area of Bihar shows a solution for the agriculture sector.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar had spoken about one item from Bihar in every thali in India. So far it has not happened. “We have taken in a lot of measures on organic farming in the third agriculture road map prepared by us,” said deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi. “In fact there is a move to have an organic farming zone in Bihar.”
At the event, Dr Ravi Chellam, executive director of Greenpeace India, explained the rationale behind the ship. “When this ship docks in any country the local Greenpeace unit propagates the agenda it is working on. In India we are working on organic farming, solar energy, and air pollution,” he said.
The original Rainbow Warrior was used by Greenpeace activists to enter nuclear blast zones to prevent nuclear tests from being carried out. In 1985, French agents bombed and sunk the ship in the belief that opposition to nuclear tests would end. However, Rainbow Warrior II came into existence which retired in 2011 and is now serving as a hospital at a port in Bangladesh. Rainbow Warrior III was commissioned after 2011.
“We drink the sea water after treatment and even after being in the sea for three months we do not throw any object in the sea and wait to reach a dock to dispose of trash,” said Micol from Italy, the deck in-charge of the ship.
The ship has being carrying tests on micro-plastic in the Mediterranean and found it more dangerous than initially thought as it finds its way into fish and ultimately the human chain. In India, Rainbow Warrior III has docked in Goa, is now in Mumbai and will travel to Cochin before leaving.