Wednesday, August 16, 2006

PM package fails to save this farmer from noose

PM package fails to save this farmer from noose
S Balakrishnan | TNN

Mumbai: Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was addressing the nation the ramparts of Red Fort on Independence Day, an activist-farmer from Yavatmal, Manohar Kelkar (45), committed suicide, convener of the Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti Kishore Tiwari said.
In his suicide note, Kelkar wrote that after his daughter’s marriage he was facing starvation since his debt was rising and Central Bank of India’s branch at village Wadki had refused to reconstruct his crop loan following a Rs 34,000 default. Also, pressure from the private moneylender was becoming too much.
Kelkar hanged himself at Dahegaon village leaving behind his wife and four children. His funeral was covered by a South Korean TV crew. This was the second suicide by a farmer in the village. Last year, farmer Madhukar Katkar ended his life. In Yavatmal district alone, 194 farmers have killed themselves since June 2005. Kelkar’s suicide is the 738th since then.
The Samiti said this year more than 500 farmers, mostly cotton growers, had committed suicide because of the ongoing agrarian crisis. The break up is as follows: January-68, February-54, March-77, April-65, May-62, June-68, July-90 and in the first 14 days of August-38.
Tiwari said the only way to stop the spate of suicides was to implement the recommendations of Dr M S Swaminathan who had suggested restoration of the monopoly procurement scheme, fresh credit to cotton growers in the debt trap of private lenders, and hike in import duty of raw cotton mainly sold by US farmers enjoying very high export subsidy.
The state’s Rs 1070 crore special package was followed by more suicides since the relief was not targeted at farmers in distress. When Singh toured Vidarbha on June 30 and July 1, he came out with a Rs 3,750 crore package. But he was silent about restoring the advance bonus and hike in import duty of US cotton.
Officials claim not all suicides can be linked to the agrarian crisis. Anup Kumar, director general of the Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalamban Mission tasked with relief implementation, said “Relief implementation and containing suicides are entirely different things.’’ Admitting that 1,864 suicides were recorded in the last five years in the six-worst affected cotton growing districts of Vidarbha, he said, “Every suicide is not related to the agrarian crisis. There are a other social and personal problems too.’’

THE I-DAY TRAGEDY: Farmer Manohar Kelkar’s inconsolable widow Indira (30) with daughters Donu(16), Vijaya(13), sons Prakash (10) and Vinod (8) after he committed suicide by hanging himself at Dahegaon village in Yavatmal district


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