toxiOne of the core mis­sions of I Am Hip Hop is to raise the aware­ness of ser­i­ous glob­al issues through art. Last month, we had the exper­i­ence of just that, as we atten­ded the Lon­don première of “Tox­i­fic­a­tion”. The show­ing was at Ern­est & Young­’s office in Lon­don Bridge and we were eager view this film as we knew the aim was to focus on the grow­ing crisis that farm­ers from the Pun­jab region of India face.

The screen­ing was fol­lowed by a Q&A with, Rehmat Ray­att who co-pro­duced the doc­u­ment­ary over the span of two years, which included film­ing in Pun­jab and post edit­ing in the UK. Rehmat, like many oth­er Brit­ish Pun­j­abis, has a deep con­nec­tion with her her­it­age, which is often roman­ti­cised in the folk­lore that is show­cased in the media and folk­lore in the United King­dom.

Pun­jab itself takes its name from Per­sian, mean­ing five waters, for the five rivers that flow through the region. These rivers gave the land an abund­ance of green, irrig­ated fields, which enabled it to become the “bread bas­ket” of India for its strong cul­tiv­a­tion of crops over the cen­tur­ies. India pro­duces 103 mil­lion tonnes of the world’s rice and Pun­jab is the state with the third highest pro­duc­tion in the coun­try. This is a feat that has been attained by a tra­di­tion­al farm­ing cul­ture and the “The Green Revolu­tion”. It is how­ever, the lat­ter of these, which has helped cause a massive shift in the sus­tain­ab­il­ity of Pun­j­ab’s crop pro­duc­tion since the 1960s.

Tox­i­fic­a­tion, first hand explores how this “revolu­tion” not only des­troyed the organ­ic farm­ing industry but also des­troyed the lives of thou­sands of farm­ers in Pun­jab. India adop­ted mul­tina­tion­al sys­tems of syn­thet­ic tech­no­lo­gies such as pesti­cides, fer­til­isers and machinery so that it can pro­duce for the glob­al, mass mar­ket. How­ever, these meth­ods have now put increased pres­sure on the nat­ur­al resources of the land and in turn, the farm­ers, who are now in debt to the cor­por­a­tions con­trolling the industry. Over 1000 farm­ers in Pun­jab have com­mit­ted sui­cide per year in the last dec­ade and a half, due to their struggles. In this movie, some of those that are still sur­viv­ing dir­ectly tell us of the link between our glob­al food industry and the destruc­tion of com­munit­ies in a his­tor­ic­ally pros­per­ous land.

Tox­i­fic­a­tion: Gur­partap’s Story from Rehmat Ray­att on Vimeo.

The pro­ject explores the con­nec­tion between the land, what we con­sume, and our men­tal health in a hard-hit­ting man­ner, with front­line foot­age of the pro­cesses and emo­tion­al mono­logues from those most affected. Eld­erly farm­ers Amarjit Singh and Bal­bir Singh emo­tion­ally share their hard­ships of wak­ing up before dawn every single day to endure the industry demands set to them, so that they can afford to feed their fam­il­ies. Iron­ic­ally, they share that they would­n’t even feed these crops they grow to their own kids as it con­sists of so many chem­ic­als. These crops are traded by brokers who sell it nation­ally and inter­na­tion­ally, there is no going back for these farm­ers as they feel that they would­n’t be able to meet the demands by switch­ing to tra­di­tion­al, organ­ic meth­ods. The only way out for their coun­ter­parts was to com­mit sui­cide, in the hope that their fam­il­ies will receive com­pens­a­tion from the gov­ern­ment.

Many of farm­ers still sur­viv­ing are prac­tic­ally liv­ing in an upright coma as they have become addicted to strong opi­ate-based drugs to cope with their phys­ic­al and men­tal tor­ment. The film states that 73.5% of Pun­j­ab’s youth are now addicted to drugs, with many of the work­ers unable to func­tion on the fields without a hit.

Des­pite the struggles that are cap­tured, the pro­du­cers also man­age to por­tray solu­tions and hope for the future of this envir­on­ment. Gur­partap Singh Pan­nu is a reformer drug addict who is now a dir­ect­or at a loc­al rehab­il­it­a­tion centre called The Her­mit­age, which was foun­ded by Dr JPS Bha­tia. The insti­tu­tion highly vocal­ises the need for the edu­ca­tion between all parties involved about pro­gress­ive farm­ing meth­ods and offers a plea for aware­ness to be spread to help the growth.


Dar­shan Singh Rudel, a French immig­rant to the Pun­jab, shows us one of the few organ­ic farms in the area, which he foun­ded him­self. With rice being one of the biggest cash crops for the region, water is being used in excess to main­tain the stand­ards set for the thirsty yield. Rudely, how­ever, sets an example of how there is still value in organ­ic farm­ing by pro­du­cing sus­tain­ably while main­tain­ing a healthy liv­ing.

Tox­i­fic­a­tion is the film that is most needed in this time of envir­on­ment­al uncer­tainty, espe­cially with move­ments such as “Extinc­tion Rebel­lion” cam­paign­ing across the coun­try. The doc­u­ment­ary is a real eye open­er and it inspired every­one at the Lon­don screen­ing to think about how to make a pos­it­ive impact on the dire situ­ation. With the world more con­nec­ted than ever via smart tech­no­logy, we are just also as con­nec­ted through the food that we eat. This doc­u­ment­ary shows that the small choices we make can have an impact thou­sands of miles away across the globe.

The pro­du­cers are look­ing to host more screen­ings around the coun­try this year, fol­low­ing their pos­it­ive feed­back at the UK Asi­an Film Fest­iv­al. For more inform­a­tion on this must-see doc­u­ment­ary, please vis­it fol­low Tox­i­fic­a­tion on Ins­tagram ( or vis­it

Pho­to­graphy by Rehmat Ray­att

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About Sumit Singh

Sumit Singh
Sumit is a historian from Croydon, South London. He specialises in music, art, culture and mango lassi.