Sunday, March 25, 2007

Budget sidelined distressed Vidarbha farmers again -sweta reports in HT today

Budget sidelined distressed Vidarbha farmers again
Sweta Ramanujan-Dixit

" Unlike the Union Finance Minister, at least the state finance minister mentioned the word 'suicide'. But there is nothing for farmers in the budget beyond that. Kishore Tiwari, Vidarbha Jana Andolan Samiti
"THIS TIME, the FM mentioned the 'S' word but it ended there," rued Kishore Tiwari, who leads the Vidarbha Jana Andolan Samiti. His words reflect anger directed at the state government for ignoring the issue of farmer suicides in the budget.

"Unlike Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, at least the state finance minister mentioned the word 'suicide'," he added. "But there is nothing for farmers in the budget beyond that." In the first three months of this year alone, 233 farmers have committed suicide. Three suicides were reported when Finance Minister Jayant Patil presented the budget in the State Legislative Assembly on Thursday.

"What the state has mentioned are centrally-aided schemes. Our government has not done anything. Are they serious about Vidarbha?" he asked.

" The budget either talks about money disbursed in the previous two years or proposed funds for assistance to farmers. But when it comes to provisions for tackling the agrarian crisis in Vidarbha immediately, the budget is silent.

"Patil has not made any provision this year to run the relief package for farmers," Tiwari pointed out.

The only revised provisions are the additional Rs 2 crore allocated for or ganic farming projects in 2007-08 and Rs 5 crore under the community marriage scheme.

"The budget is very populist," said L.M. Bhole, professor of Economics, Indian Institute of Technology- Mumbai. "Agriculture needs radical transformation. A little credit here and a little assistance there does not help." According to Shahaji Narwade, a horticulturist with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences' Tuljapur campus, the lack of relief for areas facing loadshedding will compound farmers' disappointment. "Loadshedding affects rural areas the most. Farmers can't even draw water to their fields," he said.

Narwade, who was also on the TISS team that probed the farmers' suicides in Vidarbha, added that there should have been some compensation for sugarcane farmers because the lifecycle of the crop is over but all of it has not been crushed yet.

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