Wednesday, March 31, 2010

This is a brief account of my visit to Italy from 18 to 27th of February,2010.

Arrival in Rome.
I arrived in Fiumicino airport around 5 o clock in the afternoon on 18th February,2010. My dear friends Marco and Manuela received me in the airport with a warm hug. We went to Rome and stayed for a while in the Ya Basta Roma office. My dear friend Miria welcomed me in the office. Later in the evening I started with my anti GM campaigner friend Prof. Altieri in his car to Lecce. We drove to Bari and stayed in a hotel for few hours. After having breakfast in the hotel, we again started to Lecce.
We reached STATI UNITI DEL MONDO, (SUM) association’s farm in Maglie in the morning. Daniela,Gioia, Lucia and Luca of SUM association invited me. SUM association had a close relationship with Pro.Nanjundasamy the great Indian farmers leader. They have this organic farm in Maglie and produce vegetables, olive oil etc and sell their produce to consumers directly in the name of ‘Amruth’. National television Rai Tre reporters were waiting for my arrival. After warm reception, the correspondent interviewed me on GMOs, Farmers condition. They asked me specific questions related to farmer’s suicide and GMOs and also on the recent moratorium on BT Brinjal in India. I told them the strong connection of GMOs to suicide and shared the struggle against GMOs in India.
The interview can be seen in the following link.
Conference for GMO free Puglia.People of Puglia region in the southern part of Italy demand that the region to be GMO free. STATI UNITI DEL MONDO, SUM association organised a meeting in Lecce town in the historical Castle. The meeting was organised in association with local municipalities. More than 63 municipalities have declared GM Free and demanded the region to be GM Free. More than 200 people gathered in the castle to listen to various experts who have made presentations on the Genetic Engineering and its ill effects on environment, health and economics. The Lecce administration arranged the castle for this meeting. People told me that G8 meeting was held in this castle. The resource persons explained the gathering that it is impossible to save the bio diversity with the presence of GMOs in the environment. And also the resource persons explained the possible health dangers of GMOs. I have shared the experience of the struggle of the farmers and people of India against GMOs. I told them that people’s movements succeeded in stopping BT Brinjal fr
om introducing for commercial cultivation by a unified fight of farmers, consumers and civil society.
Return journey from Lecce to Rome.
I returned to Rome with my friend Mr.Altieri in his Fiat car. He was driving his car in 120 to 130 km speed. It was beautiful to see the Olive fields and agriculture lands in the southern Italy. There are stone bunds as boundaries and ancient small houses in the both sides of High way.
Terra Terra Market in Forte Prenestino social centre in Rome.
Small farmers and producers have a market in the Forte Prenestino every Sunday. The markets are supporting a campaign called “GENUINO/CLANDESTINO”, which means genuine/clandestine. There is an Italian national network with thousands of consumers visiting these direct markets of the producers and happily buying wine, olive oil, bread, vegetable, fruits, cheese, meat, organic soap, shampoo, pickles, honey etc. Terra Terra ( Land Land) , an association of farmers is facilitating this market in Rome. Each stall is paying 5Euroes to Terra Terra to meet the facilitation cost. This campaign is a revolutionary initiative by Terra Terra and the autonomous movement in Italy, which denounces the labelling regime of the government and promotes the sales to consumers directly by the producers by winning the trust of the consumers. In Italy farmers are around 7% of the total population and the produce of the farmers are controlled and marketed by the big chain of companies in super markets. But, in India, such practice is slowly taking place in the cities and in the rest of the places various layers of small and big traders are controlling the market.
Large number of youngsters and socially conscious people are supporting these efforts. They are buying organic products at comparatively cheaper price. The labelling regime in Italy is mandatory and the same regime helps the corporate to control the market. But, in this market they do not have any label as prescribed are mandated by the government and it is a kind of illegal market in this way. Therefore the products are clandestine (= not legal) as far as for labelling and official certification is concerned, but genuine (= good and healty); and this is the reason of the name. This is people’s market and this concept is spreading fast all over Italy.
Ya Basta, Roma has organised a meeting in this farmers market. As coordinator of South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers movement (SICCFM) I have extended solidarity to Terra Terra and small scale producers for their effort to establish direct linkage with consumers and civil society to market their produce and live in co existence.
Meeting at Casa Loca social centre in Milan.
I arrived in Milan central railway station around 10pm on 22nd Feb,2010. Mauro, Mao and Valentina from Ya Basta Milan received me there. We went to Enzo and Patricia's house. We had a nice dinner there. I went to Casa Loca social centre in the noon and had a nice food from the self governing Kitchen of the social centre. There were university students having food and accessing internet in the social centre. The social centre was nicely painted both outside and inside. The paintings differentiate the social centre from other buildings. This building was squatted by the autonomous movement eight years back. This social centre has a hall, rooms for students, cafe, hall to conduct meetings and a hall to conduct concerts, dances and other cultural activities. This is a place for students and workers to have their food and relax.
A meeting was organised in Casa Loca on 23rd night. The hall was full of people. I spoke on Agriculture, trade and climate as like in Rome and other places. Patricia who is an English professor in the University translated my speech. Empoli
I started from Milan to Empoli by train. I got down in Florence railway station and got another train to Empoli. Daniele of Intifada social centre received me and drove me to a restaurant in his Suzuki swift car. I asked him about the Suzuki Swift car which is considered a small luxury car in India. He said it is not very good car, but cheap car. He praised German cars. We had Kabab in a Pakisthani restaurant. I asked the Pakisthani owner when did he come to Italy. He said four years back. Empoli is a small town. Here large number of Immigrants are living. There are a lot of Chinese shops and restaurants in this town.
Daniele stopped me in front of a shop and, showing me in the foot path wrote by paint showing an arrow mark towards that shop, told me “ He is a dangerous racist Bastard”. That shop keeper is a racist and not employing any immigrants in his job. Daniele told me that the Anti racist movement of the City thrown filth in to his shop and wrote like this in front of his shop.

Intifada social centre is small and beautiful one in Italy. This is my second visit to this social centre. I visited last time in April,2009 with Mauro, representative of Mapuche indigenous people of Argentina and also with Vilma of Ya Basta, Padova. This social centre is interior decorated by volunteers. It is furnished with an office, kitchen, a bar, a meeting hall and a beautiful dinning.
Here also I spoke on Indian agriculture, GMOs and free trade and its disastrous effects, free trade which destructs the livelihoods of Indian farmers. A seven minutes film on South Indian Farmers Action against free trade by blocking the Mangalore forte was screened. Bologna
I travelled by train from Empoli to Bologna. Ms.Neva of Ya Basta bologna received me in the railway station. Neva is working for the rights of immigrants. She told me that to be immigrants without documents is an offence punishable under imprisonments in Italy. She told me that there are special detention camps for the immigrants. Once people from outside and inside the camp together demolished the camp, fighting for the rights of immigrants.
CRITICAL BOOK & WINE, direct market of the independent publisher and winegrower.
There was a meeting and festival of book and wine. This was a four days programme part of Local wine producers, part of the above explained national campaign genuine/clandestine, (the same of the Rome meeting) and small publishers exhibited their books for direct sale. Wines without any commercial brands were directly sold by the wine producers without any brands. This meeting of critical and Book and Wine exhibition held in the TPO social centre.
Here also I spoke on the same subjects. The meeting was attended by more than 150 people.
The social centres:
In all the cities of the meetings with the autonomous movement of Italy and Associazione Ya basta!, the movement has occupied some buildings which are self managed by the movement to develop activities by the people and for the people (Roma – Forte Prenestino, Milano – Casaloca, Empoli - Intifada, Bologna – TPO, Padova – Pedro, and there are many more in many other cities). Social centres are the place where students, workers and Youths meet, have food and discussion. The decision about the struggle and the organization are taken in regular horizontal and open assemblies of the movement, conducted in these Social Centres. In every social centre they have also a kitchen, bar and dinning. They conduct concerts, festivals in social centres. All these events are not always Progressive or revolutionary. Sometimes these concerts and music festivals are an open opportunity to youths to visit social centres and participate in such events. Rivolta is a social centre in Mestre Venice. On 27th February night, they organised a whole night music festival with very high pitch sound. Around 2000 International Youths participated in this festival.

Sherwood Radio in Padova.
In Padova, together with the social centre, they have Radio Sherwood. A meeting was organised in the squatted building of Radio Sherwood on 26th February evening on Water issue. In Italy, there is an attempt under the way to privatise the water resources. I have shared the works of farmer’s movement in India and the struggle against GMOs and destructive free trade. I also shared my experience in Geneva during WTO ministerial in December, 2009, my experience in the climate caravan and in Copenhagen during Cop-15, climate summit. I have shared with them the struggles of civil society in Geneva and Copenhagen. I also shared the strong linkage of trade and climate. The false solutions proposed by the multinational companies and the real solutions demanded by the civil society were also shared in this meeting. I explained about the MNCs which are systematically attempting to control our seeds by penetrating in to the public sector research Institutions like Tamilnadu Agricultural University with help of US Aid funding. I also explained them about the edible oil import from Malaysia and Indonesia which accounts for 65% of the total domestic consumption. Such imports have killed the domestic oilseed production by destroying market. I appreciated Ya basta’s coffee procurement in Mexico directly from farmers by paying reasonable price and selling directly to consumers in Italy as a fair trade. Such trade is a model and not the MNC’s greedy and destructive trade.
Around 75 participants were present including university students and researches. Ms. Vilma a key activist of Ya basta Padova welcomed and facilitated the meeting.

• Dinner after all the meetings in Italy.
We were served delicious dinner with variety of menu including typical local dishes of the respective regions or locality. Dinners were served with fine wine of the region locality.
• My speeches were translated to Italiano language from English.
• In Roma Ms. Mariana interviewed me for il manifesto paper, which is a left and progressive paper in Italy. She wrote an article about alternative agriculture market which was published on 27th of February 2010.
• On the way to Lecce from Roma, I saw the grass and plants dried in the both sides of the High way. Prof. Altieri told me that they spray Round up to kill the weeds.