Over a 1,000 people, including tribal farmers and cancer patients, took part in a walkathon at Shivaji Park on Sunday, seeking a ban on the use of harmful chemicals in farming. The focus of the walkathon, which also celebrated ‘Kisan Diwas’, was to create awareness about the benefits of organic farming.

Called HOSH, the event was an initiative of the AmbaGopal Foundation started by hotelier Harish Shetty, in association with Tata Memorial Hospital. The participants walked from Shivaji Park to the Siddhivinayak temple in Prabhadevi.

Member of Parliament Rahul Shewale, who was also present at the event, pledged to make Maharashtra an organic State. “The organizers have sent me a memorandum to come up with a policy to make our State completely organic by supporting organic farmers like in Sikkim. I will see to it that a Bill is passed in the winter session of Parliament, and make sure that we use organic methods of farming and declare Maharashtra as an organic State,” Mr. Shewale said.

Healthy living
Mr. Shetty said air, water, and food are contaminated, but nothing is done about it. “So I came up with this initiative to promote organic farming. We are planning a similar rally in Bengaluru in the next few months.”

Dr. S.H. Jaffery, head of public relations, Tata Memorial Hospital, said people ask how cancer can be treated. “What is more important is how we can prevent cancer and other diseases. We should have a healthy environment to avoid such diseases, and for a healthy environment, we should eat healthily. That is why we promote organic farming. It is good to see the youth participate in large numbers today,” he said.

Support for farmers
Several tribal farmers also took part in the walkathon. “I grow pulses and vegetables organically. We do not have access to fertilizers and we know their ill-effects. It is difficult for us to earn through this method, but that’s the only way one can lead a healthy life. I am happy to see people have extended their support in large numbers. This will motivate us to continue using organic methods,” Sandeep Malgave, a tribal farmer from Thanapada village in Nashik, said.

Several youth groups also made their presence felt. “We are here to support cancer patients, who are here despite undergoing treatment,” Manisha Sharma, a student of Tolani College of Commerce, said.

Sahil Pawar, a resident of Lower Parel, said he and his family had come to support farmers. “Everyone should promote organic farming and lead a healthy life. I think organic farmers are doing a great job, but need more support from all of us,” he said.