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Cotton farmers weave Modi's poll hopes

December 08, 2007
Modi, BT and mobile phones arrived together. We have been having a good time since 2002, says Nandubhai Patel, a cotton farmer of Nandol village in Gandhinagar district of Gujarat.

Nandubhai Patel is among the numerous farmers in the state who have benefitted from genetically-engineered cotton farming.

Explaining the reason behind his economic success under the Narendra Modi rule, Nandubhai says that Modi's arrival in Gujarat as chief minister in the winter of 2001 was followed by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee's nod in March 2002, allowing Indian farmers to use genetically modified technology in sowing cotton.

Before Monsanto, the company that manufactures GM seeds, Nandubhai used duplicate BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) seeds for many varieties of agricultural products. It revolutionized cotton farming. He, however, ironically says that the so-called illegal seeds were found to be as good as Monsanto's original seed that are marketed through Mahyco company.

Today, over 1.75 million hectare land is utilized for cotton cultivation in Gujarat and the agro-economy is witnessing a never-seen-before kind of boom. The cotton farmer adds that mobile phones too arrived at his village the same time as Modi came to power and his life had since changed forever.

Chinese-made ginning units worth around Rs 2 crore are another fad that have followed cotton cultivation. BT cotton technology gave farmers higher yield and better quality of cotton at lesser expense. Farmers saved money because BT cotton did not need as much pesticide as the Shanker brand of cotton seed. BT cotton was also resistant to bollworms.

However, lately a few Gujarat-based farmers spotted 'sukara' disease in roots of BT cotton plants but for the state government and Modi's good fortune, the disease is not widespread yet. "BT cotton is alright. The untimely monsoon has affected the crop," Nandubhai says, adding, "Modi is a lucky man. Rains have not failed in our area since the last four years." GM technology has raised eyebrows the world over and in US certain groups are opposing it too. But, environment is not Modi government's priority.

Reportage & Photographs : Sheela Bhatt

Also read: Why Modi will score a landslide win again
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