Subhash Palekar – The Farmer Won the Padmashri for His Zero Budget Natural Farming Model

“Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man” — George Washington

Mahatma Gandhi said ‘Farmer is the backbone of India’ and Lalbahadur Shastri declared “Jai Jawan Jai Kisaan” as the mantra for the upliftment of the nation. Today, many Indian Governments declare that they are the first and foremost to allocate crores of rupees to the agricultural sector. Despite such Govt. initiatives, farmer suicide has become rampant in Nation, and the morale of farming community is deeply hurt. In past 30 years, more than 59,000 farmers have committed suicide in India, and nearly 23000 farmers from the state of Maharashtra alone have been victims. But here is a farmer, Mr. Subhash Palekar, who coincidentally hails from the same state of Maharashtra and is renowned among the agrarian community as “Krishi Ka Rishi” aka “Saint of Agriculture” and is the first ever active farmer of the nation to receive Padmashree award for his contribution to Zero-Budget-Natural Farming.

Early Days & Education          

Subhash Palekar was born on 2nd February 1949 in a village called Belora in the district of Amravati in the state of Maharashtra. Born in a farming family, naturally, he got attracted to farming and cultivation methods followed by his ancestors and went on to pursue B.Sc in agriculture from Nagpur University. In his college days, he actively interacted with Tribals of Satpuda region and understood their problems. He even closely studied the life of Karl Marx and Mahatma Gandhi and was a proficient writer on various social aspects. On completion of his education, he returned to his village in the year 1972 to support his father in agriculture.

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Begins the Journey as proponent of Modern Agricultural methods

It was the year 1972, Palekar having learned modern agricultural practices at university insisted his father adopt modern farming techniques with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Initially, he could taste success and for more than a decade was able to reap greater yield in his fields. But by 1985, the yield started to decline and the fertility of the land was also deteriorating. This pushed Palekar to do intensive research on farming methods and he delves into this study for nearly three years. It was during this period he studied the natural vegetation of forests and how the plants and trees of forests naturally adapt to the natural destructions and withstand adversities without any human intervention. Further investigation led him to a new type of practice called Zero-Budget-Natural- Farming.

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Zero-Budget- Natural farming in Nutshell

It advocates zero-chemical fertilizers and pesticides usage and complete reliance on organic manure like cow dung and enriching the lifespan of micro-organisms. According to Palekar the microorganisms in the soil convert the nutrients into easily digestible form for plants to absorb quickly. He implemented these techniques in his field six years, from 1989 to 1995. On getting convinced that the methods used were successful, he consolidated these techniques into ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’ technique and started promoting it.

Important observations done by Palekar on natural farming are:

  1. Only 1.5%-2.0% of nutrients for plants come from soil, remaining 98% is absorbed by air and water.
  2. Dung from local, Indian cows is effective on the soil than that of hybrid cows like Jersey and Holstein.
  3. Dung from bullocks or buffaloes is also effective.
  4. Dung and urine of the black colored Kapila cow are believed to be the most effective.
  5. Enriching soil with micro-organisms is key to enhance the yield.
  6. Use of chemical fertilizers destroys micro-organisms.
  7. 10 kilograms of local cow dung per month is required for one acre of land.
  8. On an average one cow provides 11 kilograms of dung a day, so dung from one cow can suffice to fertilize 30 acres of land thus bringing down chemical fertilizers budget to zero.

Promoting Zero-Budget-Natural Farming through Literature

Subhash Palekar is a community man who believes in giving back to the society what he has learned and adopted. So he started a campaign to spread the advantages of Zero-Budget-Natural farming techniques among his fellow men across the state of Maharashtra by lectures, articles, and campaigns.

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From 1996-98, he is part of Editorial team of a renowned Marathi Agricultural Magazine called Bali Raja brought out from Pune. Later to speed up the movement he started writing Books on own and published 20 books in the Marathi language. To reach out to more people, he even wrote books in English and Hindi. Today all his books have also got translated into various Indian languages like Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu. His movement has got the attention of media, and across the country, his methods are popularized to curtail rampant suicide of farmers happening due to debts.

Recognition Across the Country

Today, more than 40 lakh farmers across India are practicing the Natural-Farming methods advocated by Palekar, and He has been invited by various state Governments to educate their rural masses about this technique in their states. Palekar spends 25 days in a month giving lectures, seminars, workshops and field visits to boost the morale of Indian Farmers. Govt. of India has acknowledged his contribution to the rural community by bestowing him with Padma Shree award in the year 2016. He is the only active farmer of this nation to receive Padma award which otherwise is given to celebrities fro fields of arts, education, politics, and sports.

Abdul Kalam fan Club is proud of this “Krisha Ka Rishi” who are spreading the spirituality of cultivation. ‘Revolution’ in true sense shouldn’t destruct the environment whereas green revolution advocated based on pesticides, and chemical fertilizers have proven to be harmful and cannot be termed as revolution whereas the Zero-Budget-Natural farming is a revolution in the true sense.

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