Sunday, 20 November 2011


  • India
  • Nov 21, 2011
CHAITANYA MARPAKWAR One man who has been single handedly fighting for the cause of Vidarbhas cotton farmers for nearly two decades is KISHORE TIWARI, leader of the farmers'advocacy group Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti ( VJAS). Widely acknowledged as the man who brought the plight of the Vidarbha farmers into the medias attention and transformed into an international issue, Tiwari is now regarded as the most 'authentic expert'on farmer suicides. Be it the media, experts or even politicians, if its about farmer suicides, Tiwaris opinion is most sought after and his is the final word. Considered an encyclopedia on the issue, Tiwaris outreach and network among the farmers remains unmatched. At a time when cotton farmers are up in arms after the government for setting a Minimum Support Price ( MSP) lower than market rates, Tiwari speaks his mind on the real issues concerning the farmers.
He blames the governments faulty policies for letting the farmers die a silent death and points a finger at an 'indecisive'Chief Minister. Stating that the agitations are plain political drama that won't achieve much, he urges policy makers to look for long term solutions and not just bail- out packages.
Excerpts: Q. Farmer suicides are continuing despite so many packages from the government. And now this issue of the MSP led to agitations. What is the real issue with the cotton farmers of Vidarbha? A. The real issue is the cost of production, which is far higher than what the growers are paid for their cotton. The inputs costs per quintal have gone up considerably but the procurement prices have remained the same. And this time, when the crop has failed, the farmers are left with no option. The already stressed farm community has responded in despair, leading to more suicides. The situation is very grave and it is part of the larger agrarian crisis that the state is facing.
When market prices are volatile, farmers are given protection all over the world, even in America but here in India, they are left to die. Its the government that encouraged farmers to produces cash crops like cotton instead of food crops, now they aren't giving even the basic prices for it. Farmers are not farmers anymore, they have become laborers.
Q. Has the government failed to address the issue of farmer suicides? Has the government blunder in initiating a long term policy to address the issue? A. The government has a very casual approach to the issue and is not serious about the dying farmers.
The situation has become so grave that its almost like an 'agrarian emergency'. The government is acting like a puppet in the hands of vested interests. All this is being done to protect the textile lobby and farmers are being killed mercilessly. The government has no policy to tackle the issue. The continuing suicides are nothing but a consequence of wrong policies of the government. The suicides are a symptom of the larger agrarian crisis facing the nation.
Q. The government has announced several packages but the suicides continue, what should the government do then? A. The government should get a bailout package for immediate relief and then think of a long term solution. Farmers should have social security network that will help them in the long run. A stability fund should be created to protect them against volatile prices, on the lines of a stability fund of petroleum companies have. So when the prices collapse, the farmers will have something to fall back on. Also there is a need for a credit policy regulator, so that farmers get organised loans and are not exploited.
Most importantly the crop pattern needs to change. Farmers need to switch back to food crops from cash crops. But if they are forced to grow cash crops, then they should be compensated in times of a bad crop.
There should be strong social security measure in place. Even in America and China, the government gives cash subsidy to its cotton farmers but its only in India that the government leaves them to die. The government has to have a serious approach.
Announcing packages won't help.
What are the packages achieving? Nothing at all, they are turning farmers into beggars. We have been making repeated demands for a larger social security net, but the government has not paid any heed. The government should raise funds by creating a 'farmers saving service tax'on cloth and use that money for the stability fund.
Q. The opposition parties have also jumped in the fray now and are demanding a raise in the MSP. What do you make of the politicisation of the entire issue? A. Political parties take up the issue when it is convenient for them, just before elections but leave the farmers to die later.
They are just trying to play vote- bank politics and the protests are plain political drama. The farmers will not gain anything.
The government is in debt and doesn't have money to buy cotton at the demanded prices. Even the opposition doesn't know the ground realities and they don't have any long term solution. They have failed to put the government on the mat.
Q. The Chief Minister has approached the Prime Ministers Office ( PMO) and even held a high level meeting on the issue? Do you think he has failed in tacking the issue? A. Instead of taking a quick policy decision, the government is knocking at the doors of the PMO. We demand that Prithviraj Chavan declare an interim relief to resolve the dispute and later take it up with the PMO. Just queuing up at the PMO is not going to solve the problem; the PMO doesn't have time for the farmers of Vidarbha. The way I look at it, the CM is batting for the textile lobby that makes money even as farmers die. The Chief Minister is most indecisive on the issue and that has added to the mess.
The government has failed to tackle the issue is leaving the farmers to die.

No comments:

Post a Comment