Keralites should reintroduce millets to their dining tables, just as they did about two centuries ago, according to the ‘Millet Man of India’.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Keralites should go back to having millets on their dining tables, as they did about two centuries ago, insists the Millet Man of India Dr Khader Valli. In a chat with TNIE on the sidelines of a Millet campaign organised by Millet Mission Kerala at Gandhi Bhavan on Sunday, Valli says having even one millet meal per day, can go a long way in addressing lifestyle diseases and diabetes in Kerala.
Kerala is a state known for lifestyle diseases and diabetes. Do you have any proposals specific to the state?
Incorporating five millets per meal is the only way. This can bring back as well as regenerate natural resources. It should be promited at every rung of the administration, starting from noon meals at schools. A millet meal per day, guarantees the return of one third of your health. One meal per day will not cure you, but it can go a long way in addressing lifestyle diseases. That would mark the beginning of a healthy transition. Subsidies now being given to wheat and paddy cultivation should be given for millet cultivation. If Punjab has to gain back its water, it should grow millets. The water table is bound to be replenished.
Has the state government ever approached you in this regard?
So far, no such move has been made. If anyone from the government approaches, I would be happy to offer my expertise. It would be a pleasure. We need to disconnect ourselves from the corporates. It is encouraging that the Prime Minister himself advocates eating of millets.
The state government has taken to organic cultivation as a policy. Natural farming is also being promoted.
I support organic farming. But I don’t support natural farming. Cow-based agriculture cannot flourish in large areas. Many like Subhash Palekar have got it wrong. Agriculture is not animal-based. It’s jungle-based. Millets are the base of agriculture, as it can grow anywhere. That’s real organic farming. If you grow millets, you attract birds. I have seen more than thousand varieties of birds visiting my farm. That’s how one replenishes barren land. I have cultivated millets in a mining area, which turned fertile after three seasons. The microbes in bird droppings help a lot.
Is there any specific area where more stress need to be laid?
Stress should be laid in converting barren lands through millet cultivation. In three seasons, one can reclaim the whole land. Spraying soaked grains before the monsoon, marks the beginning of the cycle. I would recommend sowing of all 10 millets – both major and minor.
One common concern raised by farmers is that millets cannot be mass cultivated?
Why do you want mass cultivation? Food has to be grown locally. It’s a wrong notion that only mass cultivation ought to be promoted. It has to be local. No one should be forced to buy the seeds. Millet cultivation involves zero cost. Every year, the country writes off close to 2.39 lakh crores for fertilisers. That’s not being taken into account.
You have been advocating de-corporatisation of food. Could you elaborate?
We can bring the planet alive through de-urbanisation of human race, decentralisation of politics and de-corporatisation of food. Going back to the kitchen is essential. In the present time, even if you cook your own meals, the seeds and grains are not yours. These are now patented.
Once the scientists tinker with the yields and patent the same, it’s corporatisation. Even milk is GM now. Whatever they provide, we are forced to eat. We eat in such an unscientific manner – mostly rice, wheat, sugar and milk. I was able to discover so many varieties of grains. We are still clueless about how many we have lost. In fact I want to discover more grains.
How do you propose to bring millets back to the dining table?
Millets are making a gradual return, because we have been working relentlessly for the same. We need to fight the prevailing senseless attitude among the masses. When we go to villages and ask them to take millets, they talk about wanting pizza. Arguing with scientists is easy. Convincing the common man however, telling them to take porridge is hundred times more difficult. It’s time we do away with the pizza-burger culture.
What kind of policy intervention would be required to make this a reality?
Unfortunately policy-makers are hand-in-glove with corporates. The only way forward is to create awareness among people. I have trained more than 10,000 farmers in 10 years.
Has the Green Revolution played any role in millets disappearing from our dining tables?
The Green Revolution termed millets the poor man’s food, primitive food etc. The Green Revolution has got everything to do with millets disappearing from our food habits. Food corporates eliminated millets from our lives by taking away our seeds. Even mirchi and brinjal seeds are taken away in the name of producing hybrid varieties.
You stated certain kinds of cancers can be cured by using millets. Is there any scientific base for such a claim?
It has been proven. Not only have articles been written, but there are also thousands of people who have been cured. We have cured Type I diabetes by simply changing their food habits.