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.

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