Tagore’s ‘Failure’ according to Dr Debal Deb

Santanu Mitra commented on my post “Tagore and ‘The Robbery of the Soil’” and we exchanged emails. In this video he discusses with Dr Debal Deb Tagore’s efforts in rural reconstruction and Deb’s analysis of why they were not producing the desired result.


I then searched on the internet for Debal Deb and found this site:


from which I’ve taken an extract:

‘So lets celebrate the work of Debal Deb one of the important people on the planet who campaigns for ecology. He has an Ecology PhD and on a tiny farm in West Bengal, he has preserved over 500 types of rice.


‘Debal is confident he has collected every folk variety of rice that still grows anywhere in West Bengal, and several varieties from other locations around India as well. Every year, Debal and his team of farmer/researchers (none of whom have a degree in science or have even been to college) plant out all 542 varieties in 2 meter by 2 meter plots on 1.5 acres of paddy land. As the plants develop, they painstakingly record 35 different phenotypic or morphological characteristics for each variety.

‘They’re also doing research on a number of techniques that may produce higher yields of rice grains, or result in breeds that can better withstand drought or flooding. Their experiments are showing folk varieties to out-perform Big Agriculture’s so-called high yielding varieties along a number of dimensions. And they are conducting ecological studies of rice ecosystem food webs, observing all the insects, snakes, birds, lizards and other creatures that coexist with the rice.

‘Their data and conclusions from the various experiments is widely published in the peer-reviewed and popular literature. It is also incorporated into the information commons Debal has set up to protect the rice varieties from biopiracy by corporations like Monsanto. (Monsanto has a habit of taking folk knowledge, patenting it, and selling it back to the people who developed it through the generations for a sizeable profit.)

‘The accomplishments of the farmer/researchers at Basudha would be impressive coming from a university. But coming from this small plot of land, in the middle-of-nowhere West Bengal (the farm isn’t even connected to the electricity grid, let alone do they have a laboratory), and being produced by a motley group of local peasant farmer-boys led by one wild-eyed, nearly pennyless anti-globalization activist, their work is downright phenomenal. For science of this caliber and relevance to come out of such humble circumstances is nothing short of a miracle.

Basudha is a thriving example of democratic science – science by and for the people. A big reason Debal has no funding (outside of a few private donations from friends here and there) is that getting science like this funded is damn near impossible. You see, Big Science is bosom-buddies with Big Agriculture; and this kind of grassroots, democratic science-for-the-people is not what Monsanto is interested in funding.’

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