Sunday, 28 April 2013

2 Vidarbha farmers commit suicide on eve of President's visit-DNA Reports

2 Vidarbha farmers commit suicide on eve of President's visit
DNA / Yogesh Pawar / Monday, April 29, 2013 9:00 IST

Two debt-trapped cotton farmers from Yavatmal district committed suicide on the eve of President Pranab Mukherjee’s first visit to the region. The suicides of Prashant Sidhewar, 25, and Ramkrishnna Pandurang Kathale, 32, in the heart of Maharashtra’s farmer suicide region of Vidarbha, has taken the toll to 176 this year.
Prashant from Chalbardi village in Kelapur tehsil of Yavatmal consumed pesticide in his field and died on the spot. His father Rajubhau, 45, said: “Prashant was my only son.
Following crop failure on our 10-acre farm, he was forced to take loan from the local SBI branch and the District Central Cooperative Bank at Yavatmal. He was unable to deal with the stress of facing recovery agents after another crop failure this season. We knew he was depressed, but did not expect him to do something like this.”
Ramkrishnna from Sarangpur village in Ner taluka of Yavatmal was taken to Government Medical College after he consumed pesticide. He died after a three-hour battle for life. The owner of a five-acre plot was cultivating Bt cotton with his wife, two children and an aged father, but crop failure for three consecutive years took his loan of Rs40,000 taken from the District Central Cooperative Bank at Yavatmal to Rs1.2 lakh. Apart from this, he was also in debt to private seed traders, involved in money lending.
Kishore Tiwari of the farm-rights advocacy group Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti told dna: “Modern technology coupled with market forces controlling costs have been major reasons for the agrarian crisis in the region. The apathy of the administration only keeps adding fuel to the fire.”
According to him, the ecological crisis as farming practices tend to maximise output of a narrow range, has led to a monoculture of crops and worsened the farmers’ vulnerability.
“All policy support, whether from the government or others are skewed towards large farmers, large farms, cash-crops like sugarcane and high external input-based production systems,” he pointed out.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau data for 2011, a farmer kills himself every 37 minutes in India. Between 1995 to 2011, 2,70,940 farmers committed suicide in the country. Of these, nearly 20% were from Maharashtra, where 53,818 suicides were reported.
“In a cruel irony of sorts, despite being resource-rich, the 11 districts of Vidarbha, continue to remain underdeveloped because of the dominance by political leadership from other parts of the state, especially Western Maharashtra,” Tiwari said.
Till around 1970, Vidarbha farmers cultivated cotton using their own seeds. With the use of hybrid seeds, yields increased significantly, but so did the need for costly fertiliser and insecticide. Many agriculturists have also blamed royalties for Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seeds for the spurt in suicides.
In 2002, genetically modified BT cotton seeds arrived. They are non-renewable terminator seeds and must be re-purchased every year at costs dictated by the agro-tech majors. In fact, in August 2012, technical experts committee appointed by the Supreme Court recommended a 10-year moratorium on all field trials of GM food, as well as the termination of all current trials of transgenic crops.
“Also, the government has never kept its word on the minimum support price of cotton. Last year, cotton farmers had to take to the streets after Cotton Corp of India fixed the minimum support price for cotton at Rs3,300, far below the market rate of Rs4,800 per quintal,” pointed out Tiwari. “Farmers had then demanded minimum support price of cotton be raised from Rs3,300 to Rs6,000 per quintal to cover the increase in production costs.”
As various farm groups have sought an appointment with president Mukherjee on these issues, all eyes will now be on how the head of the nation reacts.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Vidarbha farm widows call Ajit Pawar's fast a farce-DNA

Vidarbha farm widows call Ajit Pawar's fast a farce

DNA / Yogesh Pawar / Monday, April 15, 2013 8:00 IST
URL of the article:

Threaten to stage counter-fast unless action is taken against him.

Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s hope of getting off the hook for his crass toilet humour on dry dams with a well-publicised one-day fast at a memorial for Sharad Pawar’s mentor and ex-CM Yashwantrao Chavan in Karad on Sunday backfired badly.
Widows in the farmer suicide country Vidarbha have called his fast a “hoax”. Blaming him for the Rs 30,000 crore plus ‘irrigation scam’ which took their husbands’ lives, Babytai Bais – who heads the Vidarbha Farm Widows Association--said, “How can he ever atone with hands soaked in the blood of over 10,000 farmers pushed into suicide as water for crops was siphoned to industry when he was the water resources minister?”
Threatening a counter fast unless Ajit Pawar is sacked and criminal prosecution begun against him for the irrigation
scam, she pointed out, “His own party leader and the Congress are still trying to protect him. If they continue to do so, they will have to pay a heavy price in the elections.”
“He should not only be sacked but sent to a mental asylum. This man created the irrigation and water crisis in the state and now he’s rubbing salt on the farmers’ wounds. His remarks only reflect his attitude and insensitivity towards farmers.”
Kishore Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti echoed this.
“If money was indeed given towards irrigation projects, debt-trapped Vidarbha farmers would’ve benefited and we may not have had such large-scale suicides. In this case money siphoning can be equated to large-scale murder and criminal action must be initiated against politicians like Pawar,” Tiwari said.
Many farmers’ advocacy groups in Vidarbha allege that the DCM and water resources minister Sunil Tatkare are responsible for a lot more than the multi-crore irrigation scam.
On July 1, 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced a special Rs3,750 crore relief package for Vidarbha during a visit to Nagpur. Of this amount, Rs2,800 crore was to be used to improve irrigation facilities.
“Wonder where all that money and the additional Rs30,000 crore for irrigation went? Irrigation facilities today are not any better than they were in 2006,” pointed out Tiwari.
“The neglected development of irrigation facilities in Vidarbha is a direct consequence of apathetic Western Maharashtra politicians who have controlled the state irrigation department since the formation of the state,” Tiwari said.

Ajit Pawar's atonement fast over 'urine remarks' a 'trick-MeriNews.Com Reports

Thousands of Vidarbha farm widows whose husbands have committed suicide due to crop failure have termed Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar's one-day 'prayaschit' (atonement) fast at Karad as a 'trick'.
Ajit Pawar Sunday started the fast protest near the ‘samadhi’ of Maharashtra leader Yeshwantrao Chavan in Karad area of Sangli district to repent his derogatory comment on the state’s drought situation, which he made last week while addressing a public rally in Pune.

“His hands are soaked with the blood of over 10,000 farmers who committed suicide due to crop failure because of the irrigation scam,” Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti said in a statement. Ajit Pawar’s associates are “involved” for the scam, he alleged.
“Real Atonement is the criminal prosecution that will give a sense of some justice to the families of those farmers who ended their lives,” Tiwai said.
But the UPA government at the Centre is protecting him and Maharashtra government who is running on clutches, has made him too arrogant to continue working at any constitutional post.
“Hundreds of Vidabha farm widows will start counter fast if Ajitdada continues like this,” Tiwari claimed.
“Ajit Pawar should not only be sacked but sent to a mental asylum in Yerwada Jail. This is the man who created the irrigation and water crisis in the state and now he is rubbing salt into the farmers’ wounds. His remarks only reflect his attitude and non-sensitivity towards farmers,” Bebitai Bais, President Vidarbha Farm widows Association (VFWA) said.
Pawar had resigned in September last year after he was accused of being involved in a multi-crore-irrigation scam, however, he was reinstated after the government released a white paper giving him a clean chit.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

WikiLeaks Cable -Import Tariff on Cotton Worried USA- TIMES OF INDIA

WikiLeaks cable -Import tariff on cotton worried US

NAGPUR: A WikiLeaks cable on country's handling of farm crisis in Vidarbha shows that probably the real concern of US government in that tragedy was India imposing duties on US imports.

In a report following the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Vidarbha in June 2006 when farm suicides were at its peak, a report by US consulate expressed relief that despite pressure from all quarters, PM did not hike duties. No matter that it came at the cost of expensive relief measures by the government, says cable put on WikiLeaks.

Winding up his Vidarbha visit on July 1 that year, PM declared a special package for 31 districts including six in the region spelling out sops like interest waiver. The government did not raise either the cotton procurement price or the import duty which could have otherwise pulled up the domestic rates.

The cable also remarked that despite having some incentives for farmers, Vidarbha has been neglected as against western Maharashtra.

As Vidarbha farmers struggled to survive during farm crisis, US government in that tragedy was worried about India imposing duties on US imports.
"To his credit, the PM did not mention any plans to increase import tariff on cotton although it would have silenced the opposition and provided tangible political benefits. Reversing such an important liberalization measure such as systematic lowering of India's import tariff would have sent all the wrong signals towards government's commitment to reforms, and divert the attention from complex political, economic and social reason," reads the cable.
The cable notes further that political compulsion of maintaining a hold on rural vote bank may lead UPA to come up with more lavish relief schemes. This came true as two years down the line, government came up with a 70,000 crore debt waiver scheme. Eventually its scope was further increased.

"The state has a track record of inefficient and distorting support schemes for farmers such as power and water subsidies. However, much of the state's attention goes to the wealthier sugar and wine industries, that have the cash flows to support state's politics," the cable says.

Local cotton prices can increase if import duty on cotton is hiked. Experts differ on how much imports matter in cotton prices as currently the country is a net exporter of the commodity. Farm activist Kishore Tiwari from Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) said India being a net cotton exporter, import tariff may hardly have any impact on domestic prices. But veteran leader Vijay Jawandhia said situation keeps changing and there have been times when millers have preferred imported over domestic cotton. 
In 2012-13 India imported 3% of its total consumption of 374 lakh bales, according to data from Cotton Corporation of India (CCI). However, an analyst said the number may go up this year, though not enough to impact the domestic market.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Sharad Pawar apologises for nephew’s remarks-Gulfnews

 Sharad Pawar apologises for Nephew’s Remarks

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister mocked drought-hit farmer on hunger strike
  • By Pamela Raghunath, Correspondent
  • Published: 14:46 April 8, 2013

**Kishore Tiwari, a farmers’ representative from the drought-hit and suicide-prone Vidarbha region demanded his “dismissal.” Speaking to Gulf News via telephone from Nagpur, he said: “Ajit Pawar should not only be sacked but sent to a mental asylum. This is the man who created the irrigation and water crisis in the state and now he’s rubbing salt on the farmers’ wounds. His remarks only reflect his attitude and non-sensitivity towards farmers.”**
Mumbai: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Monday apologised for the insensitive remarks made by his nephew and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar regarding drought-hit farmers. However, the apology is unlikely to detract from the huge controversy the remarks have stirred up across the state.
“I duly apologise on behalf of the Deputy CM of Maharashtra for the unwanted comment that he has made,” the senior Pawar said on Twitter even as Ajit Pawar tendered profuse apologies in a statement and in the Legislative Council on Monday.
At a public meeting in Indapur near Pune on Saturday, he ridiculed Bhaiiya Deshmukh, a farmer from drought-hit Solapur who has been on hunger strike at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan demanding more water for villages near Ujani Dam — the water for which is reported to be diverted to Sharad Pawar’s Dynamix Dairy.
“Who is that Bhaisaheb Deshmukh? What is the point of his protest? Will it yield water? If there is no water in the dam, how can we release it? Should we urinate into it? If there is no water to drink, even urination is not possible,” he had said.
Another coarse comment was on the electricity cuts in many parts of the state — he said he had been observing more children were being born in the state since the lights went off at night. “There is no other work left then.”
Known for his brashness, the nephew’s shocking remarks have got the opposition parties baying for his resignation and calling them “shameful and objectionable” and an insult to drought-hit people. In a statement on Sunday, Ajit Pawar said his remarks had hurt the sentiments of the people of the state.
“My statements in Indapur were not related to the severe drought in the state, but since it has caused pain to the people, I humbly apologise for the same.”
But Kishore Tiwari, a farmers’ representative from the drought-hit and suicide-prone Vidarbha region demanded his “dismissal.” Speaking to Gulf News via telephone from Nagpur, he said: “Ajit Pawar should not only be sacked but sent to a mental asylum. This is the man who created the irrigation and water crisis in the state and now he’s rubbing salt on the farmers’ wounds. His remarks only reflect his attitude and non-sensitivity towards farmers.”
The Aam Aadmi Party said: “His [Ajit Pawar] statements show his true face — a corrupt politician who has no empathy for the citizens and to have such a man in a leadership role is a disaster for the state. What is even more shocking is that his statements were met with resonating laughter from the NCP spectators.”