Friday, August 18, 2006

HT REPORT TODAY AS FARMERS SUICIDES TOUCHES-743 MARK-Red tape strangling state farmers

Red tape strangling state farmers

CHIEF MINISTER Vilasrao Deshmukh has admitted that despite two packages ― one from the Prime Minister and another from the state ― farmers' suicides show no signs of abating.

The reasons: tardy implementation of these packages by bureaucrats. Fresh flow of credit is not reaching the farmers at all.

Take the case of Maroti Sonba Nehre, a cotton grower of Jhamkola in Yavatmal, who hanged himself on July 16, just 15 days after the prime minister announced his package.

The debt-ridden Maroti had applied for a loan of Rs 25,000 in the local cooperative society. But the bank sanctioned only Rs 9,000. When his crops were washed away by the rain, Maroti hanged himself.

"My father was worried about the first sowing being washed away. He was also worried about my marriage. Moneylenders were after him for defaulting on the loan," said Prachi, Maroti's 20-year-old daughter.

"Now, we are leading a hand-tomouth existence," she sobbed.

Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Jandolan Samiti said the problem could not be solved by covering only 10 per cent of farmers under institutional finance. A majority are at the mercy of private moneylenders.

"First, cover all farmers using bank credit so that the majority do not need to go to private moneylenders. The problem won't be solved by slashing interest rates," said Tiwari.

"How can you distribute a meagre credit flow of Rs 1,275 crore among 20 lakh farmers in the region?" he asked, alleging that local banks and cooperative societies had distributed only Rs 951 crore so far. This has shown that the majority was not getting credit from banks.

The spate of suicides points to the complete collapse of cheap government credit to farmers. "The sowing season has ended and it is too late for the chief minister to instruct officials to expedite the packages," he said.

The PM's relief package is largely meant for projects that will take 3-5 years to complete. The farmers need immediate relief, Tiwari insisted.

V ijay Jawandhia, former president of Shetkari Sanghatana says, the package does not speak of raising import duties on cotton to pro tect the local market even though the glut of cotton imports has led to a crash in cotton prices.

According to him, the crisis did not develop overnight. It is the result of policies of the past few years. In the state, the IMF and World Bank used neo-liberal ideas to justify shifting lakhs of cotton growers from the traditional methods of farming into a mechanised, market-based agricul AGRARIAN AGONY 740 farmers have committed suicide this kharif season 2,795 farmers in the region have taken their lives since 2001 Many consumed pesticide, while others jumped into wells or immolated themselves 133 farmers have taken the drastic step, after the prime minister visited the region and announced an economic package of Rs 3,750 cr on June 1 to bail out distressed farmers ture industry. Most farmers found they had to pay far more for their seeds, fertilisers and pesticides.

Mohan Jadhav, sarpanch of Shivni village in Yavatmal, said, "The government had cracked down on moneylenders, but failed to make alternative credit arrangements. Now moneylenders don't want to provide fresh loans to anyone." No banks, no moneylenders. Where does the farmer go?

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