Zaheerabad: ‘Paatha Pantala Panduga,’ the 18th Millet Biodiversity Festival organized annually by Deccan Development Society (DDS) in Zaheerabad was flagged-off on Sankranti on a grand scale, with women activists of DDS mounting their produce of millets on decorated bullock carts and parading them at Lacchunaik Thanda in Sangareddy.
The month-long annual festival is a celebration of patha pantalu (traditional crops) which were millets in the days of old. The Jatara (festival) held in a new village each day, where women pray to millets and parade them on bullock carts going around village after village, encouraging the farmers to take up millet cultivation for a food secure future by shedding away cash crop cultivation.
The topics for discussion and action for this year’s biodiversity festival are soil, seeds, culture and food security. Experts from government-run research centres and district officials are invited every year to participate in the festival.
TJAC chairman Prof Kodandaram, who was the chief guest for the inaugural ceremony on Saturday, suggested the DDS members to consider conducting the festival in Hyderabad for a couple of days so that people living in the city would understand the kind of changes taking place in rural Telangana with regard to growing millets.
He said he was overjoyed from the kind of empowerment women in Zaheerabad had achieved with the support of DDS and hoped the state government would take steps to encourage farmers to cultivate millets.
In his inaugural speech, PV Sateesh, founding member of DDS, said women sanghams of DDS were like the backbone of the biodiversity festival and appreciated the efforts of the older women in transferring their knowledge to their daughters and daughters-in-law regarding cultivation of millets.
Observing that participation of bullock carts had decreased in this year’s festival, he said that a decrease in bovine animals as a result of an increase in using tractors in villages was a reason behind less cattle participating in the festival.
Pointing-out that the Karnataka government had introduced millets in their Public Distribution System (PDS), he felt that time was ripe for the state government to take the shift from cash crops to millets and introduce the same in Telangana PDS.
Nageshwar Rao, in-charge Director, Indian Institute of Millet Research, who also participated in the event, explained how his institute was ready to train how to process millets and manufacture various ready-to-eat food products using them.
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