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That Sikkim is divided over the ban on most of the inorganically grown vegetables is common knowledge. The four main groups are- (a) hostile- opposing the ban, (b) happy- supporting the ban, (c) neither hostile nor happy - observing the ban and (d) blissfully unaware-ignoring the ban. The hostile group says that the ban has created a crisis like situation and a civil war is about to erupt. The happy group says that everything is fine and we must bear with some initial inconveniences hoping that it will finally do good to our farmers and the state. The third group is neutral, or at least not vocal and it is to be hoped that they are observing the process and outcome carefully. The fourth group mostly consists of children who have no time and maturity to think about it. They are probably the happiest group at this time.

The division between hostile and happy is, for the most part, a reflection of a political divide. It is, therefore, in essence, a battle between the ruling and opposition parties. This is not to deny that, there are non-political people on either side of the divide. However, most of the comments about the ban on inorganically grown vegetables are coming from supporters of the government and the comments against the ban are coming from opposition parties.

It is not, by any means, unhealthy to have a counter-perspective to every perspective. Easy acceptance of every government policy will definitely weaken the ideological backbone of society. One of the major roles of oppositional political forces and media is to question the government. However, the questioning must be driven by a deep sense of responsibility and one of the goals of the questioner must be to challenge the responders to a sensible debate based on solidly robust rationale. One should never ask a question only to create confusion in the masses and stir up public frustration. A civilized society must engage in debate in a most sensible way possible. Trying to create chaos in the name of questioning is dishonesty. In other words, the genuineness of the question determines the quality of the debate and the fruitfulness of the outcome. But the trouble arises when the questioner either doesn’t do his homework well or is hopelessly driven by his or her biased agenda. The dialectical conflict at present between the pro-organic farming group and the forces criticizing it has been devoid of adequate intellectual investigation and thorough reasoning. It is, for the most part, a mere venting of frustration and spreading of annoyance. Such questioning strikes me with underwhelming force.

The Sikkim Organic Mission has been arguably the most fiercely questioned government policy. Questions were asked, doubts were cast, counter-arguments were put forward and failure was prophesied. Nothing seems to convince the questioners and nothing seems to discourage the government. Even the Central Government (i.e., the BJP, which is an opposition party in Sikkim) approving Sikkim’s Organic Mission and some renowned global organizations giving awards to the Sikkim Chief Minister do not seem to have made any difference to those who oppose the mission. One and a half decades later, the battle continues. The opposition has not ceased to call it ‘fake’ and the government has not ceased to move on.

Now the battle is about whether or not the State government should have banned inorganically grown vegetables. If the branding of organic Sikkim has to benefit people at the grassroots, Sikkim needs to move forward in a big way in the use of organic products. The use of organically grown vegetables (henceforth OGV) is obviously the starting point. Given the abundance of inorganically grown vegetables from Siliguri marketed through the dominant business establishments of vendors, our OGV stands no chance without government intervention. It needs a serious push into the market if there is going to be any success whatsoever.

Jiwan Rai

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