June 28, 2023

Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether Sikkim’s Organic Movement has hit a wall. We also look at the Centre’s proposal for the formation of the Frontier Naga Territory in Nagaland, among other news.


Has Sikkim’s Organic Movement hit a wall?

Whether it’s the vibrant fields of Sikkim or the vineyards of France, organic farming is increasingly employed to maintain healthy ecosystems. But what happens when things don’t exactly go as planned? Organic isn’t always sustainable. Without proper state intervention, farmers could be over-utilising resources and suffering from low yields.

Sikkim’s organic movement, which began in 2003, seems to be wavering. In 2015, it became the world’s first entirely organic state. The government’s efforts in cajoling all its farmers to turn to organic farming for the betterment of the state were lauded. But lately, the farmers’ troubles have been mounting. Has the organic rush already peaked, or can its latest troubles transform the movement into a holistic one?


About 64% of the Sikkimese population relies on farming for their livelihood. Farmers work on around 11% of the state’s total land area. Given Sikkim’s location, it has varying climates, from warm to cold. Hence, diverse crops are grown at different elevations.

The Green Revolution, characterised by high-yielding seed varieties and chemical fertilisers, didn’t really take in Sikkim. Unlike other states benefiting from the Green Revolution, Sikkim, and other hilly states lacked the necessary irrigation systems and had a fragile ecosystem. Since it rains a lot in Sikkim, most farmers rely on rainwater instead of irrigation.

Sikkimese farmers had smaller landholdings compared to their counterparts in northern and western India. Small and marginal farmers constitute 79% of total land holdings and possess an average of 0.62 hectares of agricultural land in the state.

Implementing measures like high-yielding varieties (HYV) seeds and technology transfers would’ve substantially increased input costs for Sikkimese farmers. Small farmers didn’t have the risk appetite necessary for such measures.

But this became one of the factors that pivoted the policy shift to 100% organic farming in Sikkim. Small farmers were already using low amounts of fertiliser and practising traditional organic methods.

Before the declaration of Sikkim’s policy to become “totally organic” in 2002-03, the state already had one of the lowest fertiliser consumption rates in the country, using only 9.9 kg of nitrogenous and phosphatic (NPK) fertilizers per hectare of the cropped area. This was much lower than states like Punjab and Haryana, which used higher amounts of fertilisers per hectare during the same period.

It would also prove easier to convert a small state with small landholdings to organic compared to a larger state. Sikkim embraced organic farming in 2003 with Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling, previously a farmer, at the helm.

With relatively low fertiliser usage and traditional cultivation practices that avoided chemicals, it was already close to being organic. The government recognised the potential for high-value crops such as cardamom and ginger, and the Sikkim Legislative Assembly passed a resolution to transition to organic farming.

Initially, some farmers were apprehensive about organic farming. To facilitate this transition, the state gradually reduced subsidies on chemical pesticides and fertilisers and eventually banned them in 2014. Violations of this ban became punishable by law.

In 2010, Sikkim initiated the “Organic Mission,” an action plan outlining the targets and measures required for the shift. The Sikkim Organic Mission (SOM) was established as the nodal agency to expedite the state’s organic transition. The government pulled out all the stops. It trained and educated farmers, promoted the benefits of organic farming and the potential for high-value crop trade, and granted certifications.

It was successful, and soon Sikkim announced itself as the world’s first organic state. After over a decade of the Organic Mission, farmers aren’t completely satisfied with their productivity. Policymakers are taking a second look at the Sikkim model, this time not to emulate it but to learn from its mistakes.

Are the glory days of Sikkim’s organic movement a thing of the past, or will its successes prevail?

VIEW: Only way to go is up

Sikkim made a big bet. There was no lack of political will. Instead of rolling out the Organic Mission in phases, it dedicated all of its agricultural lands, spanning over 75,000 hectares of land as organic, to organic farming. It’s because the government knew the harm chemical fertilisers could cause to Sikkim’s soil and people. It wanted its people to reap the long-term benefits of organic farming. The hotspots of the agricultural revolution, where chemical fertilisers have been abundantly used for decades, now report high incidences of cancer and other illnesses.

The government chose 100 bio-villages to showcase its benefits. The launch of the Organic Mission in 2010 was a game-changer. It brought together agriculture and horticulture experts to form a scalable model for organic farming. Six agencies stepped in to guide the organic certification process. The mission turned the focus to five prized crops and spices: ginger, large cardamom, turmeric, buckwheat, and cymbidium orchids.

The State has also made several interventions in marketing organic produce. For instance, sellers from Siliguri became a threat so the government intervened by providing transportation and establishing rural marketing centres and organic outlets. It helped farmers take their produce to the market at cheaper prices. Awareness efforts seem to be paying off, with people willing to shell out more for organic foods than inorganic food.

COUNTERVIEW: In a sticky spot

Sikkim’s organic farmers have a bucket of complaints with the incumbent government. The State’s transportation intervention? The current government has discontinued the practice; many buses now lie dormant. The quality of seeds is inadequate and unmarked, pushing farmers to source their own. Farmers can’t practice hybrid systems – a mix of organic and conventional – because chemical usage is penalised. They also deal with frequent pest attacks and increased use of manure.

The phasing out of chemicals wasn’t accompanied by an increase in organic manure’s availability. According to a survey, while government-owned farms are well-equipped with bio-fertilisers and bio-pesticides, many private farmers received no support from the government. During the Organic Mission, funds were insufficient to train farmers, with only 5% of the total expenditure being spent. There was barely any effort to educate farmers about the certification process in their own languages.

Political will has tapered out over the years. Surprisingly, the government lacks official data on pest attacks despite it being a primary concern. Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) could employ self-help groups to produce certified bio-fertilisers and bio-pesticides. SHGs could intervene at the marketing stage too. Adopting holistic management practices and providing proper training can help improve organic farmers’ productivity, but that requires incremental effort from the State.

Reference Links:

  • Agricultural diversification in Sikkim: A move towards organic high-value agriculture – IJST
  • Integrating Farmer Producer Organisations in Sikkim Organic Mission: Opportunities, Challenges and Policy Measures – SAJSSE
  • Sikkim is 100% organic! Take a second look – Down to Earth
  • In Sikkim, the move to organic is faltering. Here’s why – East Mojo
  • How former CM Pawan Kumar Chamling made Sikkim India’s first state to practise fully organic farming – Scroll
  • Use of chemical fertilisers to drive up cancer cases by 50% in 15 yrs: Amit Shah – Indian Express

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) Sikkim’s organic movement has hit a wall.

b) Sikkim’s organic movement hasn’t hit a wall.


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Boosting Ayurveda system (Himachal Pradesh) – The Himachal government announced it will set up 250 Ayush wellness centres and 500 herbal gardens across the state. The state is well suited to grow many medicinal plants and herbs. The state wants to increase the accessibility of healthcare since modern facilities are expensive. Farmers will be encouraged to grow medicinal plants under the National AYUSH Mission.

Why it matters: The herbal gardens will grow herbal medicines and serve as tourist attractions. Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu wants to boost the popularity of Ayurveda medicine, and this initiative will help people benefit from ancient Indian medical science. It’ll also help the state’s rural economy.

Living Museums (Kerala) – Muziris heritage sites in the state will soon become living museums thanks to a new project to restore and renovate them. The project has been implemented in Ernakulam, Thrissur, and Alappuzha. Among the sites included are the Holy Cross Church, Paliyam Oottupura, and Pattanam tourist interpretation centre. The project aims to improve the monuments and the lives of the local communities. More sites will be added in the next phase.

Why it matters: Kerala is investing in experimental tourism and the Muziris sites are included in this. Several of these sites are in densely populated areas. These sites were designed to include the local communities. Some structures will be renovated so that they can be used to promote ancient art forms, like the Ottupura near Paliyam Palace at Chendamangalam.

Parents protest inadequate financial support (Odisha) – Hundreds of parents protested in front of the Heads of Departments building (Nataala) citing a lack of financial support under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. The parents had wards enrolled in Odia and English medium private schools. They said the government promised ₹25,000 as per child expenditure but they’re buying books and uniforms on their own.

Why it matters: Many of the parents that protested have low incomes, and they said the schools nor the government have shared details on whether the funds were allocated. Thousands of students enrolled in private schools are under the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota. The money guaranteed is under the Right to Education policy for free textbooks, uniforms, and mid-day meals.

Better infrastructure for MSMEs (Gujarat) – Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) have made several representations to the state government. Among them is demanding better infrastructure. Since they’re competing globally, some basic infrastructure facilities like sewage treatment and common effluent plants are needed. They’ve also asked for better availability to finance since they don’t get payments on time.

Why it matters: The state has over 11 lakh MSMEs, the fourth largest in the country behind Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh. Most of the manufacturing clusters in the state are made up of MSMEs. One example is textile manufacturing units in Ahmedabad and Surat. MSMEs contribute only about 28% to India’s GDP compared to 65% in developed countries.

Meeting on new territory offer (Nagaland) – The Centre proposed the formation of an autonomous council called the Frontier Naga Territory. It’ll comprise six eastern districts of the state, home to seven major tribes. The state home department has convened a meeting on June 30 to discuss the proposal. The meeting will be attended by several government officials, including all MPs from the state.

Why it matters: The six districts are home to the Konyak, Chang, Yimkhiung, Sangtam, Phom, Khiamniungan, and Tikhir tribes. They’ve been demanding a separate state since 2010 under the Easter Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO). They even threatened to boycott the last February’s assembly elections before Amit Shah intervened. Talks with the government led to the agreement for the Frontier Naga Territory.


₹20,000 crore – Vodafone Idea is in talks with private equity firms to raise ₹20,000 crore. The cash-strapped telecom company owes money to the Department of Telecom in FY2026.