Saturday, June 16, 2007

Vidarbha farmers' widows meet President, urge for blanket ban on BT cottonseeds sale

Posted June 18th, 2007

By Pervez Bari,
Bhopal, June 16: At long last a delegation of the hapless farmers' widows of Vidarbha region who have committed suicides got an audience with the President of India Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on Friday to draw his attention to their hapless and helpless condition.
Dr Kalam in rapt attention heard the woes of the widows who reportedly broke down while narrating their tale of woes and plight। The scheduled allotted time of five minutes for the meeting got stretched to 25 minutes.

The widows' delegation led by Mrs। Kamlabai Gosavi Pawar and his son Prakash Pawar of suicide-prone village Kolzari along with Nagpur-based Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, (VJAS), president Kishor Tiwari, who is spearheading the cause of the widows, met the President Dr. Abdul Kalam at Yavatmal airport when he visited the place to attend a private function. The delegation having 10 other widows submitted a memorandum to the President requesting him to save the dying Vidarbha farmers from annihilation.

According to VJAS leader Tiwari Dr। Abdul Kalam was disturbed and assured to raise the issue with the officers concerned at the Centre and the State."

The memorandum demanded, among other things, a blanket ban on Bt। cottonseeds in the dry land farming areas. It also urged a ban on misleading advertisements of Bt. cottonseeds.

The memorandum urged the President to call for the information from the Prime Minister of India as per the provisions of Art. 78(B) of the Constitution of India and give suitable directions to provide food and health care to the families of the farmers in distress in the Cotton Cultivating Belt of west Vidarbha Region of Maharashtra where more than 4000 unfortunate farmers have committed suicides in the last 4 years.
The memorandum also urged to implement the provisions of the Seeds Control Order, 1983 in true letter and spirit, to instruct to issue delegation of power to its inspecting officer for control of quality & input seeds as required under Section 12 of the Seed Control Order of Essential Commodities Act, 1955 which is the prime tool for the control of quality & input of seeds and also arrange to stop free sale and trials of Bt। Cotton seeds in dry land areas of India, so that the unfortunate incident of farmers' suicides could be stopped to some extent.

The memorandum said it has also been observed that the farmers are not being given proper advice and training by the Government of Maharashtra in Department of Agriculture since last several years। The costly and improper Bt. cotton seeds which are not suitable for dry land farming are being freely propagated and sold at a very high cost of Rs. 2000/- to Rs. 3600/- per Kg, cost of which is virtually killing the farmers due to high input cost and low yield.

There must be a blanket ban on Bt cotton seeds in the dry land farming areas. This has to be done immediately in order to save the farmers from undue exploitation and cheating. There must be ban on sale and misleading advertisements of Bt. cotton seeds in the dry land areas of Maharashtra where such seeds are not useful for cultivation of cotton due to the high cost of input as compared to the yield. The so-called upgrade technology is killing the farmers.
So, immediate steps may please be initiated by the Union of India in this regard to stop free trials and sales of GM and BT seeds to protect the farmer community at large, the memorandum emphasized.
The VJAS has been following the issue since last almost 9 years on the basis of the ground study & analysis of each and every case of unfortunate suicides of the farmers in different villages of western Vidarbha Region of Maharashtra State, the memorandum said। .

"We all are aware that though the issue is complex and is the overall effect of various factors governing it, still we have few points to be highlighted for your immediate action in the interest of dying farmers, apart from the various long term measures suggested by various agencies including the High Power Committee appointed by Your Government under the Chairmanship of Hon'ble Dr। M.S. Swaminathan, former Chairman of National Commission of Farmers & the Father of Green Revolution in the country".

These points on the very basis of the above referred document, which is the Survey Report dated June 15, 2006 conducted by the Government of Maharashtra's Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swawlamban Mission at Amravati in connection with the Farmers' plight. It is evident from the Survey Document that the farmers ' in extreme distress' as mentioned in the column 9 of the Survey Chart are 4,34,291 and the farmers families suffering from serious illness are 92,456.
The detailed survey was conducted by the said Government Controlled Mission at Amravati under the guidance of Divisional Commissioner at Amravati, in the 8351 Villages of 6 Districts of Vidarbha comprising of Yavatmal, Amravati, Akola, Buldhana, Washim & Wardha in which 17,64,438 families were surveyed by the Mission।

"In majority of cases of farmers suicides, we came to know that there is no food or medicine available to them and this plight has continued to result the extreme step of suicide by the said farmer and / or its family members"।

Now, the memorandum said, it is imperative on the part of the Union of India and State of Maharashtra that these known factors / points are to be attended to immediately so that these two classes of farmers families i।e . the Farmers in Extreme Distress and Farmers Suffering from Serious Illness need to be attended immediately to provide relief to such farmers who are on the verge of committing suicides.

The memorandum suggested remedies that the Union of India through State of Maharashtra should provide foodgrains at the subsidized rate to the BPL families amongst the farm / landless labours।

In order to stop the indirect hunger and starvation of these 4,34,291 identified 'Families in Extreme Distress', most of them are small farmers of which the economic condition is not above the landless labourers (Col No। 9 of the Survey Chart), State of Maharashtra must provide 25 Kg of foodgrains per month at the subsidized price @ Rs. 3 – 5 per kg under the PDS and / or any other special scheme to be announced at least for a period of 18 months from now onwards.

This will immediately result in providing direct help of foodgrains to the 4,34,291 Identified Families in Extreme Distress। The indirect starvation of such families would then be stopped so that the ultimate effect which is leading to the unfortunate suicides of the farmers' families can also be stopped.

The copies of the memorandum were also submitted to Governor of Maharashtra, Prime Minister of India Office, Union Minister for Agriculture & Food – Civil Supplies etc. ( )

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