‘Give us the right price, Mr CM’
Friday, December 15-2006
The Chalbardi village in Yavatmal saw one more farmer being cremated a fortnight ago. When 25-year-old Ravindra Pawar consumed poison, his cotton lay stacked at the nearby yard. No one had procured it for days.
Around the same time, Rameshwar Kuchankar, 30, died in the local hospital, after consuming pesticide three days earlier, at the town’s procurement centre awaiting graders to start buying his crop.
Rameshwar, a farmer from Somnala village, left a suicide note, which said: “Mr CM give us the right price; Mr R R Patil, if you don’t give us a price of Rs 3,000 per quintal, suicides will increase. We cannot cope with the crashing prices and procurement delays.” In the same note, he wrote a line to his wife, Pratibha: “I am sorry, please get remarried.” The suicide toll is over 1200 since June 2005, and well over 500 since the Prime Minister’s relief package was announced on July 1, 2006.
Fueling the crisis this time is laxity in procurement, says Waman Chatap, MLA from Rajura, Chandrapur.
The Maharashtra State Cooperative Cotton Growers’ Marketing Federation, the state government’s agency, has procured barely four lakh quintals of cotton so far, while private traders have bought ten times as much at much lower prices. The state’s door-to-door survey of 17.64-lakh farm households in six worst-affected districts of Vidarbha says more than 75 per cent of the households are in distress. Debt, crop failures, daughters’ marriages and health expenses are the causes of distress. What about the two special packages announced by the chief minister and the Prime Minister? Given the scale of the distress, “the packages are peanuts,” says a government officer.