Saturday, February 24, 2007

Vidarbha sits on a suicide volcano -Times of India Warning

Times of India Mumbai; Date:2007 Feb 25; Section:Editors Choice; Page Number 10
Vidarbha sits on a suicide volcano
Ramu Bhagwat TNN
Nagpur: There has been a modest decline in farm suicides in the last couple of months. But even before the government can start claiming credit for implementation of the Rs 5000 special relief packages, activists and farm experts have warned that Vidarbha could be sitting on a volcano waiting to erupt. The government statistics are pretty grim. In 2006, 1,447 farmers ended their lives in six affected districts of Vidarbha alone. But government officials paint a different picture. “In the past months, farm suicides due to agrarian reasons have come down. This is mainly because of government measures. However, there are other reasons behind suicides such as social problems, general rural distress, family issues. These cannot be termed farm suicides,’’ says Sudhir Kumar Goyal, divisional commissioner, Amravati. Goyal has been given the responsibility of implementing the relief measures announced for the six districts by the state as well as central governments. In November and December 2006, around 125 suicides were reported from the six districts. The previous months had reported between 115-125 suicides. In January, the number was down to 73, and 65 in February. “No one is addressing the root cause of the farmer distress in the cotton belt,” says Kishore Tiwari, convenor, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, which is tracking cases of farm suicides. “The slump in suicide could be deceptive. The situation will come to a boil once the moratorium on loan repayment expires,” stresses Tiwari. Apart from poor prices, high rate of interest on farm credit, lack of knowledge regarding GM seeds, it’s indebtedness which is the biggest problem faced by farmers. And probably, the chief reason behind suicides. “With many farmers abandoning food crops, they have to buy food for self-consumption along with seeds and fodder. Chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which the cash crops and hybrid food varieties need, are the costlier inputs,” says Goyal. But what really worries him is the lack of confidence among the farmers. “Millions of farmers are struggling for survival in a flawed system without proper help and guidance.” He feels low-cost farming with high stress on micro-watershed development in un-irrigated areas can save the distressed farmers. He also emphasises on the need to increase farmers’ income through allied activities like dairy farming, horticulture and agri-processing. Hopefully, these measures may save a hapless farmer’s life.

Children of a farmer who committed suicide after a delay in government aid

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