Friday, July 27, 2007


- MIDDAY SPECIAL -

INDIA'S COTTON FARMERS' SUICIDES CONTINUING

The Midday News Farmers Suicides in India from crop failures and bank foreclosures, repossessions and default loan repayment requirements

FARMERS GATHER at a recent meeting in the Nagpur area to hear proposed government solutions to the country's ongoing cotton farming dilemma. Previous government assistance has fallen short of goals to alleviate the plight of farmers and surviving widows.

Farmers meeting photo from Vidarbha@gmail.com
Toll Over 8 Thousand Last 4 Years

- C O T T O N C A L L E D K I L L E R C R O P -

By M. R. Lawrence, Editor
Update 2350 GMT, 26/07/07
Reprint: The Midday News World Headlines with Opinion and Comment for the USA, Canada, Mexico, UK, Europe, Asia, China, India, Africa, Australia, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Middle East, Brazil, and Latin America ©2007

(Vidarbha, India) - Pradip Kumar Maitra was quoted in an email to Midday as saying, "Three debt-trapped farmers commit suicide every day in Vidarbha. And the cotton has now been dubbed "the killer crop" as the growers could not get the reasonable returns because of the high cost of farming. Tiwari urged the government to promote low-cost farming so farmers can earn enough returns for surviving.

Maitra added, "Two relief packages have been announced for the region by the state and union government since December 2005, but the suicides continue. The suicide rate that was declining since December, drastically went up from February this year."

Independent sources report more than 500 farmer suicides have occurred already this year, leaving many grieving and destitute widows looking after their starving children.

The Hindustan Times mid-April summaries for Nagpur elaborated on two recent deaths: Venkat Reddy was the cousin of former chairman of Jhari Panchayat Samiti, Ramanna Yelktiwar. Twenty-seven-year old, Venkat was a progressive farmer who consumed poison on a Saturday morning. He had taken a loan of Rs 35,000 from the local State Bank of India and could not repay the loan because of not getting remunerative prices of raw cotton, reports said. Another victim, Bhimrao Bone (65) ended his life by hanging himself. Extreme indebtedness and crop failure were said to be the cause of these suicides.

Kishor Tiwari, leader of the farmers advocacy group, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), pointed out the about-face on banking loan policy as established in a government issued directive aimed at providing working capital for cash strapped farmers, a change said to be now the main cause of recent suicides.

Tiwari said, "As bankers have stopped giving fresh crop loans and have dropped down the credit (financing) facility by 40% from the original NABARD order, debt starved cotton farmers are killing themselves."

When India's finance minister submitted his annual budget for year 2007-08, it was warmly welcomed as the "Agriculture Budget". However, complaints of funding misallocations have

The Midday News surviving wives, now destitute widows, and children of Farmers Suicides in India from crop failures and bank foreclosures, repossessions and default loan repayment requirements

FARMERS’ WIDOWS and children at a June meeting await announcements of possible government financial assistance. - Photo via VJAS

since surfaced claiming some farming areas are obtaining disproportionate loan amounts at the expense of other areas such as Vidarbha.


According to Tiwari, "The Yavatmal district, which has reported the maximum number of suicides, has been earmarked a loan standard representing a 30% decline from its 2006-07 target. Washim district shows a decline of 41%, Akola 36%, and Buldhana 38%, against the previous fiscal year targets. These district credit plans have been finalised on the basis of broad guidelines prepared by NABARD."

Proposed cotton farmer loan repayment waivers have also been the victim of official government policy reversal. Veteran Gandhian leader Mohan Dharia, in a letter to VJAS, supported Vidarbha cotton farmers' efforts for fresh credit and complete loan waivers. As a result of Dharia's intervention according to VJAS representatives, "... the Maharashtra government promised to fulfill these demands, but then backed out."

"Cutting down on credit allocations and curtailing promised loan waivers amounts to punishing Vidarbha for being chosen in the PM's package," Tawari says. He concludes that now cotton farmers are left at the mercy of private money lenders, which will invite more farm suicides.

Additional protests and community meetings are planned, according to VJAS.

Compiled from Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti Statements - SuicideEcho@gmail.com

Send Midday your News & Comment. You may see it here!

MyBuzz@Midday.com

48 comments:

betatester said...

Only yesterday did I see the PBS production "The Dying Fields" which documents the suicides in Vidarbha. I would highly recommend that visitors to this site also watch the documentary currently online at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wideangle/shows/vidarbha/
To put it simply, I was quite shocked by what I saw. I had heard of the farmer suicides through the online media but did not realize that the farmer tragedy was at such a large scale and still continuing !
This is a human tragedy and a human failure on several levels. I would like to point out 2 salient points that I noticed from the documentary and I would like to mention it in this blog b/c I do not know of any other place to write it online.
a. the failure to recognize and face reality
b. the failure to adapt
The reality is that the BT cotton is best grown under conditions of irrigation. The other reality is that not everyone has the means to irrigation as the documentary clearly points out.
This is a reality that the farmers have to face and adapt to.
Vandana Shiva proposes planting non-BT cotton seeds, but that is not facing reality either : how are the farmers going to compete in the global markets ?
Jagdish Bhagwati comes off as the one who is most disconnected from reality. He is what I would call a 'pardesi'. I will let the reader figure out my intentions.
Jagdish calls the farmers as risk-takers and uneducated, unsophisticate gamblers. Well, when exactly does one risk it all ? When you are living it well or when your life is down to the last strands. From Jagdish's viewpoint the farmers are responsible for their own demise .. its their fault that they chose to use Bt cotton or go to private money lenders. This kind of thinking is pervasive in the West and I can see Jagdish's mind infected with it.
Indian farmers have to realize that globalization is a trend that will continue for decades to come. Hence the necessity to adapt your livelihood from one of trade and barter to one of cash transactions. I like the idea that Vandana Shiva proposes, which is to have farmers plant their own food or at least part of it.
But quite frankly it is the role of the government to help and educate poor farmers through the process of adaption. This process could take years.
It is completely irresponsible of the govt. to put the small scale farmers in a sink or swim situation, however, in my own experience I have seen the govt fail its people time and time again.
When the farmers are asked what would help them in their current situation, there is one response which is to 'raise cotton prices'. Clearly the farmer is saying : we need the money, but has not understood the dynamics of the free trade. Illiterate is not the same as ignorant, these farmers simply need to be educated in these matters. In that respect I believe VJAS is doing a fine job.
I also believe that VJAS is doing the right thing to resolve this matter : i.e. go after the government, b/c this is clearly a problem that has to be solved by dealing with politicians. Yes, corruption and incompetence will still be there, but repeated pressure has to be applied to the local, state and national authorities.
A few humble suggestions :
1. Get more media visibility both in India and abroad.
2. Format a letter that can be sent to state or national level politicians (I will let you decide). Post this letter on your site. Allow people to fax or mail this letter to the politician from their constituency
3. Host talks not only in Maharashtra but also in different parts of India. This is not a situation isolated to Vidarbha. Every Indian farmer, large or small has to understand that it affects them all

Keep applying the pressure on the Indian govt.
and
Do not give up

I wish you the best

Regards
Sandeep in Boulder, CO, USA

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