Monday, March 10, 2008

Stop cheating voters with loan waivers, set up National Water Grid Authority, NOW.

Table of Farm suicides

Stop cheating voters with loan waivers, set up National Water Grid Authority, NOW.

Sonia (aka Antonia Maino) indulges in political immorality (see reports annexed) by this move to fool farmers with a loan waiver offer. The move will create a new ‘waiver caste’ and divide the already fragmented, shattered samajam. I don’t know who her economic advisers are. But, the disaster of Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, just looting the exchequer, has been masterminded by a naturalized Belgian Jean Dreze. Ain’t there no economists in Bharatam? Whatever happened to the thinkers and activists of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch? Whatever happened to the Agricultural Technology experts? Why are they not mounting a peoples’ movement in all 607 districts of Bharatam to voice the farmers’ real woes?

What is the vikalpa for this madness of loan waivers and fraudulent payments doled out to politico-s for no work done?

As Sainath asked, we have to ask and answer this question: why do farmers take loans? Cultivation costs per acre have risen from Rs. 2,500 in 1991 to Rs. 13,500 in 2008. Farmers do not get a fair price. That is why farmers take loans and an a vicious circle, end up taking their lives to avoid the ignominy of being referred to as a loan-cheat. Rinamochan is the Bharatiya tradition. Not rina default and waiting for waiver largesse from state power.

During the Tenth plan period (2002-7), agriculture recorded a 2.3% rate of growth. How realistic is the target set for 4.1% in the Eleventh plan (2007-12) given the fact that there are no significant investments planned to provide for two critical inputs: soil health, water. Plan schemes and schemes like the employment guarantees are scheming political skullduggery, creating a mirage and a false hope for the farmers.

Why hasn’t the potential to increase the number of crops per year from one to four been investigated and solutions implemented? Agri commissions headed by experts produce their reports which remain as scraps of paper adorning bureaucrats’ offices with no action taken on the recommendations. Marine segment of agriculture is given the short-shrift as footnotes to agricultural project reports and plans, by not treating marine economic zones as a separate, potentially phenomenal growth zones.

I heard Dr. Sankaran, the mentor of Dr. Swaminathan in Rajaji Centre, Chennai a few years ago before he left the country in disgust to settle in USA with his children. He is the country’s outstanding agricultural scientist; he said the same thing: empower the farmer, use organic fertilizers instead of wasting public exchequer funds to import chemical fertilizers or to manufacture tuti-frutis of mud in the likes of triple whammies (triphala or whatever) of Madras Fertilisers. He also gave the sage guidance: focus on two factors --soil health and water availability.

No one in the Government or in Swadeshi Jagaran Manch seems to care about the imperative of saving agriculturists’ lives if the economy has to reach to the potential heights of Developed Nation India Vision 2020.

Panchayat Raj empowerment has remained a mere slogan with little or no powers to the Panchayat Raj institutions.

Little has been done by the UPA dispensation despite a Common Minimum Programme item to put in place a Peninsular Water Grid.

There have been suggestions for setting up, immediately, a National Water Grid Authority and no one heeds it. Such a Grid will revolutionise agriculture creating a Blue Revolution to complement the successes of the Green Revolution. It is no mean achievement of the agriculturists that the nation has survived without famine deaths beacuase agriculture production increased mainly thanks to the increase in the command area of irrigation (apart from other contributory causes such as selection of seeds, crop rotation).

The potential infrastructure which will be created through a National Water Grid will be so phenomenal, that the Eleventh Plan can be targeted to achieve even a 9% growth upto 2012 if only water is made available to every piece of arable land in the nation, in every nook and corner of every one of the villages in 607 districts. The potential estimated increase in the acreage of wet land with the interlinking of rivers alone is estimated by NWDA to be 9 crore acres of additional wet land. Water availability 24X7 will mean that every farm can have the potential for 4 crops per year, with the possibility of quadrupling agricultural production. Increasing the command area of irrigation is the key ingredient of the Grid which will involve not only river-linked canal systems, but also network of tanks, sustainable groundwater tables and desalinated sea water for drinking water supplies along the long coastline of 8118 kms. in the Indian Ocean (including Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal).

Sonia and UPA and collaborators of the most corrupt regime of swarajyam India, stop cheating people, start setting up the National Water Grid Authority, NOW on the lines of the Konkan Railway Corporation involving every Panchayati Raj Institution as stakeholders in this Authority. This Authority will need no largesse from the Central or bankrutpt State Budgets, but can draw upon public funds through issuance of Sarasvati and Brahmaputra bonds to reach Manasarovar waters to Gujarat and to reach Brahmaputra flood waters to Kanyakumari.

It is time for action, not mere political gimmicks. Set up National Water Grid Authority, NOW to start implementing the NWDA masterplan without any further moment’s delay.

Dr. S. Kalyanaraman

Budget can’t write off suicides
March 10 (Kolkata, Telegraph): Ghanshyam Mirge, 38, of Akola in Maharashtra and 35-year-old Jayarami Reddy from Andhra’s Kurnool had a lot in common — both are young farmers owning around 8 acres, steeped in debt and not eligible for P. Chidambaram’s loan waiver.
The similarity doesn’t end there: both took their lives last week.
Satyanarayan Reddy, also from Kurnool, had around 4 acres, which qualified him for a waiver. But since most of his money was owed to moneylenders who had put him in jail and now threatened to get his wife arrested as well, Reddy, too, killed himself.
As did Kashinath Belure (60) of Bidar in Karnataka. He would have got a total loan waiver but for the fact that he was indebted to moneylenders.
Nearly 60 farmers have taken their lives in India’s death bowl since Chidambaram announced the farm loan waiver 10 days ago.
Questions have been raised about the largesse because the complete loan waiver is limited to the 3 crore marginal and small farmers owning up to 2 hectares (4.9 acres). Those with over 2 hectares — around 1 crore farmers — will get a 25 per cent discount for a one-time settlement.
Economists had also pointed out that farmers had borrowed heavily from moneylenders as well, and the government had no answers to that.
The highest number of deaths has been reported from Andhra, where 35 farmers have committed suicide since February 29, when the finance minister unveiled the waiver plan in the budget. Barring a couple, all the farmers owned over 5 acres, which meant they had to cough up 75 per cent of the money.
At least 22 farmers killed themselves in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region, among the worst hit by the debt cycle, while two deaths have been reported from Karnataka. All the Vidarbha farmers had over 5 acres of land.
The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, an NGO based in the Pandhakavda region of Yawatmal, the Maharashtra district with the highest number of suicides, said the announcement has had little impact on the farmers who grow cotton and are burdened with loans from banks as well as private moneylenders.
Like Kisan Uike, 32, who consumed pesticide in Khadki village, 50km from Nagpur. Uike, the owner of around 8 acres, had an outstanding loan of Rs 43,000, which had ballooned to Rs 75,000 because of interest accumulation.
“Twenty-two farmers have killed themselves since the budget. This indicates that the farmers have no faith in the government and its announcements,” said Kishore Tiwari, convener of the samiti, which maintains a “death register” of the suicides in six districts of Vidarbha.
According to the samiti’s records, 80 farmers had killed themselves in January, 66 in February and, in March, the figure could be higher.
Not all farmers are overjoyed by the waiver. Vidarbha’s farmers say their counterparts in western Maharashtra, whose land holdings are smaller and who have higher loan amounts, were likely to benefit more.
Prabhakar Reddy of Marrikunta village in Kurnool, around 700km away, echoed them. “We don’t want any charity or freebies. Let the government organise agricultural credit during harvesting, subsidies in seeds and fertilisers. We will ensure that the loans are repaid in time,” he said.
The majority of the deaths in Andhra has been of farmers badly hit by the recent unseasonal rain. Narne Rama Rao (45) had sown groundnut crop but the rains destroyed his livelihood and swamped him with loans of Rs 12 lakh. Narne did not take his life, he died of a heart attack.
Leaders from the Congress, which hopes to reap the benefit of the scheme in the spate of elections to be held over the next 12 months, tried to soften the blow.
Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said he would ask the Centre to either increase the ceiling to 15 acres or offset loans of Rs 50,000 for all farmers irrespective of land holdings.
“The suicides and the loan waiver have no link,” said a Congress spokesperson in Andhra.
With inputs from Anil Budur Lulla

Nearly 1.5 lakh farm suicides from 1997 to 2005
P. Sainath (The Hindu, Nov. 12, 2007)
Nearly 1,50,000 Indian farmers committed suicide in nine years from 1997 to 2005, official data show. While the suicides occurred in many States, nearly two-thirds of such deaths were concentrated in five States where just a third of the country’s population lives. This means that farm suicides occurred in these (mainly cash crop) regions with appalling intensity.
The five States are Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh (including Chattisgarh) and Kerala. Of these, only Kerala showed no sustained increase in the number of yearly farm suicides over this period. That was mainly because of a decline after 2003, which was that State’s worst year. Maharashtra, for which data exists from 1995, is by far the worst-hit. Farm suicides there more than trebled from 1083 in 1995 to 3926 in 2005.
Suicides as a whole rose nationally in the 1997-2005 period. But the rate of increase in farm suicides was far higher than the rate of increase in suicides by non-farmers. In Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, the percentage increase in farm suicides were more than double the increase in non-farm suicides in this period.
While suicides by non-farmers went up by 23 per cent in the Big Four States, farm suicides went up by 52 per cent. Indeed, these States might be termed the “Suicide SEZ” or “Special Elimination Zone” for farmers this past decade. In 1997, these States accounted for 53 per cent, or just over half of all farm suicides in the country. By 2005, it was 64 per cent.
That is, in less than a decade, their share of farm suicides, already disproportionately high, leapt to nearly two-thirds.
These and other grim findings emerge from a comprehensive study of official data on farm suicides by Professor K. Nagaraj of the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS).
The data analysed by him were drawn from various issues of Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India.
This is a publication of the National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. The period covered by the study is from 1997-2005.

Farm suicides worse after 2001 — study
P. Sainath (The Hindu, 13 Nov. 2007)
While the number of farm suicides kept increasing, the number of farmers has fallen since 2001, with countless thousands abandoning agriculture in distress.

Although National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data confirm an appalling 1.5 lakh farm suicides between 1997 and 2005, the figure is probably much higher. Worse, the farmers’ suicide rate (FSR) — number of suicides per 100,000 farmers — is also likely to be much higher than the disturbing 12.9 thrown up in the 2001 Census.
In the five years from 1997 to 2001, there were 78,737 farm suicides recorded in the country. On average, around 15,747 each year. But in just the next four years 2002-05, there were 70,507. Or a yearly average of 17,627 farm suicides. That is a rise of nearly 1,900 in the yearly averages of the two periods. Simply put, farm suicides have shot up after 2001 with the agrarian crisis biting deeper.
A comprehensive study of official data on farm suicides by K. Nagaraj of the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) pins down these and other figures. The data analysed by Professor Nagaraj are drawn from the various issues of Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India, a publication of the NCRB. But Professor Nagaraj also explains some of the reasons why the actual numbers and farmers’ suicide rate (FSR) could be far higher.
In 2001, when the farm suicides were not yet at their worst, the FSR at 12.9 was already higher than the General Suicide Rate (GSR) — suicides per 100,000 population — at 10.6. But even this higher suicide rate among farmers conceals a far worse reality. Firstly, the NCRB data seem to underestimate the number of farm suicides. This is because the criteria adopted for identifying a farm suicide at the State level are quite stringent. For instance, women and tenant farmers tend to get excluded from lists of farmers’ suicides. In those lists, only those with a title to land tend to be counted as farmers. On the other hand, the Census data are based on a very liberal definition of ‘cultivator.’
Categories of cultivators
The 2001 Census gives data on two categories of cultivators: Cultivators among ‘main workers’ and those among ‘marginal workers.’ For the first group — cultivators among main workers — farming is the main activity. The second group includes those who practice cultivation only on a sporadic basis. However, both groups get counted as farmers. The net result of this is that while deriving the farm suicide rate from the NCRB and Census data, we are saddled with figures that undercount farm suicides but overcount the number of ‘farmers.’ Hence a value of 12.9 for the FSR is likely to be way below the mark. As Professor Nagaraj points out, “If we took only the cultivators among the main workers as farmers, the FSR increases dramatically to 15.8 which is nearly one and a half times the GSR of 10.6 in 2001.”
Secondly, the FSR is anchored in 2001 because that is the year of the Census. However, it was not one of the worst years in terms of farm suicides. Farm suicides in that year actually fell when compared to the previous year, 2000. But the very next year, in 2002, farmers’ suicides leapt by about 10 per cent. And the number of such deaths peaked in 2004. So while the number of farmers’ suicides shows a rising trend after 2001, the number of farmers may well have declined.
The trend of a decline in cultivators seems to have begun even earlier. The 1991 Census says there were 111 million cultivators among main workers. This fell to 103 million in the 2001 Census. This decline would surely have sharpened after 2001 as the farm crisis deepened. Certainly farming has no new takers.
As Professor Nagaraj’s study shows, the Annual Compound Growth rate (ACGR) for all suicides in India over the nine-year period 1997-2005 is 2.18 per cent. This is not very much higher than the population growth rate. For farm suicides, it is much higher, at nearly 3 (or 2.91) per cent. An ACGR of 3 per cent in farm suicides is more alarming as it applies to a smaller total of farmers each year. This means the farm suicide rate must have shot up after 2001.
Suicides by farmers went up 27 per cent during the 1997-2005 period. But non-farm suicides went up by 18 per cent. Indeed, the general suicide rate declined after 2001 — from 10.6 in 2001 to 10.3 in 2005. Which means the increase in general suicides has not kept pace with the increase in the general population. So by all accounts, while the number of farm suicides kept increasing, the number of farmers has fallen since 2001, with countless thousands abandoning agriculture in distress. Which would mean that farm suicides are mounting even as the farm population slowly declines.
Huge differentials in numbers
Lastly, whether we take the farm suicide rate as 12.9 or 15.8, it is the figure for the country as a whole. That again hides huge differentials in the numbers and intensity of farm suicides across the country. There are States and regions in the country where the FSR is appallingly high. There are regions where it is mercifully still low.
Professor Nagaraj accordingly divided the States into four groups. Group I: States with very high general suicide rates. Group II: States with high general suicide rates and large numbers of farmers’ suicides. (This is the most important group.) Group 3: States with moderate general and farm suicide rates. And Group 4: States with low general and farm suicide rates (See Table).
What demarcates the Group II States — clearly the worst hit — is also the trend in suicides, which is most dismal there. This key group includes Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh (including Chhattisgarh) and Goa. (The last with tiny absolute numbers.) The ratio of farmers’ suicide rate to the general suicide rate was highest in this Group (see Table). The overall ratio of this group is 1.7. Which means the farm suicide rate in these States is 70 per cent higher than it is in their whole population.
Of the major States, Maharashtra has the worst figure with a ratio of farmers’ suicide rate to general suicide rate of 2.0. That is, one hundred per cent higher. This is followed by Karnataka with 1.6. Of the smaller States, Kerala (from Group I) has the awful figure of 4.7. But it also shows a decline from 2004. Puducherry shows up as the worst with 15.4. Of course, the last two have smaller absolute numbers.
The trend for Group II is most dismal. The AGCR for farm suicides in these States for the 1997-2005 period was 5.33. Or nearly double the national figure of 2.9. And if this trend holds, farm suicides in this group as a whole would double every 13 years. Among these States, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh would fare even worse.

17,060 farm suicides in one year
P. Sainath (The Hindu, 31 Jan. 2008)
Uptrends in major States unchanged
Mumbai: Farm suicides in Maharashtra rose dramatically in 2006, more than in any other part of the country. The State saw 4,453 farmers’ suicides that year, over a quarter of the all-India total of 17,060, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in its report Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India, 2006. That is the worst figure recorded ‘in any year for any State’ since the NCRB first began logging farm suicides.
The previous worst — 4,147 in 2004 — was also in Maharashtra. It has seen ‘36,428 farmers’ suicides’ since 1995, ‘in official count.’ ‘2006 is the latest year for which data are available.’
The suicides in Maharashtra mark an increase of 527 over the 2005 figure. This was four and a half times bigger than that in Andhra Pradesh, the next worst-hit State, which saw a rise of 117 farm suicides over 2005.
It was also more than twice the increase of 198 in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh taken together.
Worse, it means farmers accounted for half ‘the increase’ in all suicides in Maharashtra in 2006.
Significantly, Maharashtra’s upward spike occurred in the year when the relief packages of both the Prime Minister and Chief Minister — worth Rs. 4,825 crore in all — were being implemented in the Vidharbha region, where suicides have been most intense.
The NCRB figures show an unrelenting uptrend in what can be termed the ‘SEZ’ or (Farmers) ‘Special Elimination Zone’ States. These States, which account for nearly two-thirds of all farm suicides in the country, include Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh (including Chhattisgarh).
As a group, the ‘SEZ’ States saw an increase of 6.2 per cent in such deaths.
Among them, Maharashtra (4,453), Andhra Pradesh (2,607) and Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh (2,858) show a sharp upward spike.
Karnataka (1,720) reports a decline. So though the all-India numbers for 2006 reflect a very small decline of 61 over the 2005 figure of 17,131, the broad trends of the last decade continue. And the trend of rapidly rising farm suicides, particularly post-2001 in the ‘SEZ’ States, remains unchanged.
So the minuscule decline in the figure for the country as a whole marks no break from the dismal decade-long trend.
NCRB data record 1,66,304 farmers’ suicides in a decade since 1997.
Of these, 78,737 occurred between 1997 and 2001. The next five years — from 2002 to 2006 — proved worse, seeing 87,567 farmers take their own lives.
This means that on average, there has been one farmer’s suicide every 30 minutes since 2002.

Farm Suicides in India, The Result of Profit Driven "Free Market" Reforms

By P. Sainath

Global Research, April 7, 2007

The Hindu

And Meanwhile in Vidharbha

There have been some 250 farm suicides in just the first three months of this year. Things could be a lot worse after June. And, as always, the farm suicides are a symptom of the crisis, not its cause.
Farm Suicides in Maharashtra rose by over 354 per cent between 1995 and 2003. That's if the data of the National Crime Records Bureau are anything to go by. Strictly speaking they are not, being gross under-estimates. They draw from local machinery, which from region to region leaves out thousands from the lists of farm suicides. Yet, they still present a clear trend — a painful one. Even these twisted numbers show that farm suicides went up from 1,083 in 1995 to 3,836 eight years later.
For one thing, these figures are for all of Maharashtra. Which means if we were looking at just Vidharbha or Marathwada, the rise would be more horrendous. For another, these regions saw their greatest spurt in farm suicides after 2003 — where the last available NCRB data stops. The government of Maharashtra admits to 1,447 farm suicides in 2006 alone. And that's in only six districts of Vidharbha. So just these six districts saw far more suicides in 2006 than the whole State did in 1995. That's if we give credence to official readings of the data.
Events on the ground confirm the trend, if not the accuracy of the data. Nine women turned widows on International Women's Day in Vidharbha. That's how many farmers took their lives on March 8. The highest on a single day in the region's recent history. Till two weeks later, when it happened again. There have been some 250 farm suicides in just the first three months of this year. Things could be a lot worse after June. And, as always, the farm suicides are a symptom of the crisis, not its cause. They are its outcome, not its engine.
Just months from now, Vidharbha could see its first 100 per cent Bt cotton season. Bt cotton accounted for over 60 per cent of acreage last season. As acreage under it rises, so do the risks taken by the farmer. The Maharashtra government admits Bt cotton has fared very poorly in rain-fed regions. And it's clear that the seed companies might market much less of hybrid varieties in the coming season, if they do that at all. Why sell hybrid when there's more money to be made in Bt cotton? So even as many, including the National Commission on Farmers, call for making Vidharbha "an organic farming zone," the reverse process is in full swing. Even apart from its report, the NCF chairperson, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, pressed the government of Maharashtra on the notion of an organic zone. But the State's own seed corporation is a major distributor for Bt cotton.
This gets more worrying when you look at the record of the last few years. The government began the last season's harvest with boasts of a "record" 350 lakh quintal "bumper crop." The claim was made by the State's Minister of Marketing, Harshvardhan Patil. And this grand success was swiftly credited to Bt cotton in some media reports. As the run of events punctured these claims, the figure was scaled down more than once. This is further confirmed by how little of cotton the official agencies have procured. For all of them together, the figure has not crossed 70 lakh quintals. And private traders are believed to have picked up around 110 lakh quintals.
In short, less than 180 lakh quintals. And this in a time of distress when the numbers should have been much higher, when farmers would have been desperate to sell. It means production could not have topped 220 lakh quintals, and could well have been less. Consider that in the `non-Bt cotton year' of 2003, procurement alone was over 210 lakh quintals. Production was far higher, at close to 250 lakh quintals.
This equation shows how high the risks are in the coming season. Vidharbha did better in a `non-Bt cotton year' than during one in which more than 60 per cent of the acreage was under Bt cotton. The State government's own report informs us that in preceding seasons too, "In rain-fed conditions, Bt cotton has not paid good returns." And 97 per cent of cotton grown in Maharashtra is unirrigated. Here's the nub: a poor monsoon could make the earlier crisis seasons look like the good old times.
There's more irony to the vanished `bumper crop.' It has in fact been so hard to find that cotton prices are better than we've seen in a long time. In some places, they are as high as Rs.2,400 a quintal. At Rs.1,500 a quintal, soybean too is getting a better deal than before. Well, go easy on the cheers. It means that most farmers will go back to these crops again. The present prices, though still not good enough for cotton, will prove tempting. True, some people have turned to other crops. And it would be a good thing, further, if even cotton growers reserved an acre of their lands for jowar. That would give their families some security. But this is not happening on any large scale.
When they return to cotton months from now, it will be to a Bt cotton-saturated season. Input prices will be higher. And yes, they will still use lots of pesticides. And the credit crunch will be far worse. Farmers are already figuring out the high cost of low interest loans. To begin with, very few had access to these six per cent interest loans. Those not repaying their sums by March 31 are out of the loop. Since not more than 20 per cent of them can do that, it means that farmers will be facing the old, higher rates again, very soon.
Since there has been no loan waiver, most will be unable to access the credit they need from the banks. So it's back to the new loan sharks: the input dealers, the sellers of seed, the fake finance companies. The more this happens, the more the dealers will determine the inputs the farmers use. And, as an official report put it, for Bt cotton, "the yields have been unstable." ( The Hindu , November 25, 2006). "When farmers invest heavily in purchasing seeds and other inputs, the net return has often been negative."
What's more, there is nothing to suggest that the present cotton prices will rule next season. Not a step has been taken towards a price stabilisation fund. That would have made a big difference. But it's another NCF recce that bites the dust.
With things that serious, you'd expect a sense of urgency in the government. True, a handful of officers have on their own made efforts to study and measure the crisis. As a government — not a thing has changed. The Prime Minister's package is a shambles. The Chief Minister's efforts consist of contacting more Babas and Ammas for the spiritual salvation of the Vidharbha farmer. Salvation comes at a price. Which could translate into a number of these godmen being gifted prime pieces of real estate worth crores of rupees in due course. Their agents are already out scouting for the best locations, which they will then ask the government for. The business end of spirituality has always been deeply rooted in terra firma.
If anything in this mess occupies the government's mind at all, it is the mounting numbers of suicides. These do not constitute the crisis in itself. But they are a great tragedy and bad publicity. And a huge embarrassment to the extent this government can experience that emotion at all. So the state get ever more creative.
The number of suicides in six Vidharbha districts gets worse. So how do we bring them down? By upping the `rejection rate' of such suicides. Surely we are the only country in the world that has a category called `eligible suicides.' (As distinct, say, from eligible bachelors or the like.) This term refers to those cases the state deems are `real' farmers suicides. This means the affected families will get some compensation. It does not matter that the rest — the ineligible — are just as dead. Or that their families suffer no less.
One government report records that the "number of cases reported" in the six districts in 2002 was 105. In 2006, that number was 1,447. That's an increase in farm suicides of over 1,300 per cent in cases reported in five years. But while 69 per cent of the cases in 2002 were found `eligible' for compensation, just 40 per cent of last year's cases were found `eligible.' So more and more farmers are killing themselves. But fewer of these deaths will be counted as `farmers suicides.' In 2006, this rejection rate rose sharply almost every month of the year. For instance, 60 suicides were found `not eligible' in January last year. In October the same year, the rejected cases were 120. Ever growing numbers are rejected in this desperate bid to dilute the bad news.
Simply put, what's rising fastest in Maharashtra is self-delusion. We could see big trouble from May-June onwards. Which could be terrible by Diwali time if the monsoon emulates the State and Central governments in its functioning.

Palagummi Sainath is an award winning Indian journalist based in Mumbai. His articles have focussed on the social impacts in rural areas of India's IMF sponsored economic reforms. Sainath's writings illustrate how these reforms have led to poverty, social destitution and famine.

Alarming Rates of Farm Suicides in India
A latest report by Prof. K Nagaraj of the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) and published in The Hindu revealed that within 1997 to 2005, the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh (including Chhattisgarh) accounted for 43.9 per cent of all suicides and 64 per cent of all farm suicides in the country.
In another article for the Counterpunch dated 17/18 Nov by the same writer, P. Sainath commented that 150,000 Indian farmers were estimated to have committed suicide within that period. That works out to an average of one Indian farmer passing away every 32 minutes.
Professor Nagara who culled the data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) said the estimated figure “is a bottom line estimate” as it excludes people such as tenant and women farmers.
The cause, according to Professor Nagaraj is the domination of highly diversified, commercialised agriculture; water stress; compounded by dissipating state investment in agriculture. As these costs increase, lack of regulation pertaining to the sector worsened the problem.
US and EU subsidies to their growers also cause prices to drop while large corporations engaged in price rigging.
“From the mid-’90s onwards,” points out Professor Nagaraj, “prices and farm incomes crashed. As costs rose - even as bank credit dried up - so did indebtedness. Even as subsidies for corporate farmers in the West rose, we cut our few, very minimal life supports and subsidies to our own farmers. The collapse of investment in agriculture also meant it was and is most difficult to get out of this trap.”
In an article for Znet, “The Suicide Economy Of Corporate Globalisation”, Vandana Shiva attributed the causes to what Professor Nagaraj mentioned - rising production costs and decreasing selling prices.
The writer accused the World Bank of its structural adjustment programs that forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations such as Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta.
Farmers are compelled to purchase these patented seeds which cannot be saved and which required fertilizers and pesticides. Seeds which used to be free and which can be saved became a cost which farmers had to buy annually, thereby, causing widespread poverty and debt.
Planting only corporate seeds also mean that one type of crop is grown which indirectly spells the disappearance of traditional and diverse crops such as legumes, millets, and oilseeds. Planting only one type of crop also increases the risks of crop failure.
The free trade WTO rules in agriculture also allows dumping which cause prices to drop while EU and US subsidises its own agricultural sector.
In short, neoliberalism does kill, in this case, the Indian farmers who are driven to debt… …

Farm suicides on the rise
Relief packages are not enough (The Tribune, 4 Feb. 2008)
The countrywide figure of 17,060 farm suicides in 2006, released by the National Crime Records Bureau, is shockingly high and is bound to ring alarm bells. Maharashtra tops the list with 4,453 suicides in one year followed by Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The first reaction to the news has come from Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who has claimed that every suicide cannot be linked to indebtedness and that the number of suicides in his state has gone down as has been reported in the local media.
There may be some cases, no doubt, unjustly clubbed with farm suicides to claim compensation. However, it is also true that the ruling political parties tend to downplay tragedies in the fields to avoid any adverse electoral fallout. For instance, in Punjab there have been off and on reports of indebted farmers being driven to suicide. When the state was left out of the Central package for distressed farmers, NGOs and representatives of peasants alleged that the state government had not presented a correct picture of the ground reality to the Centre. All this points to the absence of an independent, reliable national agency capable of scientifically holding farm surveys.
Nonetheless, there is no denying the fact that farming is no longer a remunerative occupation and indebted farmers have been forced to end their lives. To be fair, the UPA government has certainly taken steps to strengthen irrigation and improve access to farm credit, but still much remains to be done. Farm labour, unfortunately, does not figure adequately in the government programmes. A recent survey by the Punjab State Farmers Commission shows that 70 per cent of the farm labourers in the state are also under debt. The solution to farm problems does not lie in announcing piecemeal packages for particular states but in making concerted efforts, both at the Central and state levels, to accelerate agricultural growth and promote supplementary avenues of income.

Farmers should look at alternative sources of income : Pawar
9 Mar, 2008, 0310 hrs IST, PTI

AHMEDNAGAR: Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said the loan waiver for farmers announced in the budget this year can not be a recurring phenomenon, the farmers should also consider alternative sources of income.

If this amount was spent on water conservation all farmers in the country would have been benefited, Pawar said at model village Hivare Bazar.

Though the decision to waive loan to check farmers suicide has been taken, in consultation with the Prime Minister and Finance Minister, it has benefitted a certain section of farmers.

Advising the farmers, Pawar said suicide is not the solution to their problem but they should face the situation.

This waiver is immoral
9 Mar 2008, 0000 hrs IST , Gurcharan Das (Times of India)

Nagoba Khamnakar feels like a fool. Like many farmers in his village of Mahakurla in Chandrapur, Maharashtra, he borrowed money from his bank last year. He repaid it diligently, in instalments and on time. Many of his neighbours, however, did not. When the finance minister announced last week in his Budget an amnesty against repayment of small farm loans, he said sadly, “What is the use of being honest?”

Cancelling debts of small farmers worth a massive Rs 60,000 crore, equal to 3% of all loans in the entire banking system, was a staggering, seductive but hugely destructive act. When Devi Lal announced a similar loan waiver worth Rs 9,000 crore in 1990, he killed most cooperative and rural banks.

Farmers stopped repaying loans, banks stopped lending to them and it took 10 years for the nation to recover from that mistake. When we hurl abuse at Devi Lal, we always add, “What did you expect from an illiterate peasant!” But what do we say to a government headed by eminent economists and reformers?

One’s heart goes out to those in distress in the rural areas. There is great suffering, indeed, in our villages. But there are other, better ways to relieve it without turning the nation dishonest.

For example, a sustainable crop insurance programme or a restructuring of the loans would have done much more good. There will be distress again; farmers will borrow again; and get into trouble again. A crop insurance scheme will then come to their aid, unlike this one-time political bribe. Sharad Pawar, the agriculture minister, admitted as much when he confessed the day after the Budget — “I cannot say if (suicides) will stop after this loan waiver.”

Human society is based on trust. When an ordinary person takes a loan, he feels duty bound to repay it. He will even sell his family’s jewellery to fulfill his promise. This is because we learned as children from our mothers to keep promises. Tulsidas’ ideal, praan jaye par vachan na jaye was held up to us as a moral ideal. We admire Karna in the Mahabharata for not switching sides because he had given his word to Duryodhana. This loan waiver wounds that moral universe. It tells the farmer not to bother to repay his next loan, because, who knows, another party will be in power and it, too, will cancel his debts.

What message does this send to the honest village woman who struggles every week to repay her micro-loan? It is like excusing the crooked businessman who bounces his cheque. Or bailing out victims of sub-prime loans in America who are clamouring for a similar act of false compassion.

The irony is that the UPA government might actually lose more votes than it gains from this loan waiver. According to NSSO figures, almost 60% of farm loans are from moneylenders. They will not benefit.

The R Radhakrishna Committee says that farmers from the suicide prone areas of Vidharbha and Chattisgarh will benefit less than the richer farmers in the irrigated areas who grow sugar cane and grapes. Since those who will not benefit (or benefit less) are greater than those who will, resentment will build, and the UPA might end up losing more than it gains. Sharad Pawar has understood this.

Hence, he told the farmers of India last week, “Don’t pay a single paise to moneylenders.” No one likes the village sahukar, but to break a promise to someone you don’t like is just as wrong as to someone you do.

Imagine the staggering paradox — to turn a nation dishonest in order to win an election, and then go on and lose it! This is one irony that the UPA government might prefer to forget.,prtpage-1.cms

Chitrangada Choudhury, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, March 11, 2008
First Published: 01:03 IST(11/3/2008)
Last Updated: 01:11 IST(11/3/2008)
Loan waiver will do little for Vidarbha farmers
The biggest farm loan write-off in India’s history will do little for the men who need the most help: the farmers in the suicide-prone belt of Vidarbha in Maharashtra. It will benefit farmers in Maharashtra’s six richest districts, among them Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s home district of Pune.
The Union Budget had offered a complete loan write-off for farmers with up to 2 hectares of land, and discounted loans for farmers with larger farms.
Of the Rs 12,375 crore loan write off for Maharashtra's farmers, Rs 10,500 crore will comprise this complete erasure of loans for small farmers(see box). Of this, only Rs 536 crore (or 5 per cent) will be for Vidarbha, where over 2,100 farmers have killed themselves since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the region in July 2006.
Only 4 lakh of the estimated 17 lakh cotton-growing households in this region will get complete waivers. Another 2.5 lakh farmers holding over 2 hectares of land will have their loans reduced to the tune of Rs 488 crore.
These details have emerged from an analysis (to which the Hindustan Times has obtained access) by the state’s agriculture and co-operative departments.
In six districts in Maharashtra’s prosperous swathe of sugarcane and grape farms stretching from Jalgaon in the north to Kolhapur in the south, farmers are seeing a write-off of close to four times that, or Rs 2,437 crore. Another 4.4 lakh farmers with farms larger than 2 hectares will see their loans reduced to the tune of Rs 1,973 crore.
The state government is now asking the Centre for a sharper targeting of the waiver, saying that size of land holdings should not be the sole determinant.
“We want them to write off farm loans of up to Rs 50,000, irrespective of the size of a farmer’s land. These issues will emerge in the Parliament’s discussion of the budget,” said Minister of Agriculture Balasaheb Thorat.
He said Vidarbha’s poor irrigation meant that farmers with holdings of over 2 hectares were also in heavy debt, but will not have loans waived. These farmers have bigger plots of land, but no access to irrigation.
They have to depend merely on the monsoon. The state has found that 98 per cent of farmers who kill themselves had no provisions of irrigation.
An analysis by economist Srijit Mishra, who was on a panel set up by the Prime Minister to study rural indebtedness, shows that while only 50 per cent of farmers in Yavatmal (one of the Vidarbha districts that has reported the most number of suicides) have holdings below 2 hectares, 76 per cent of farmers in Pune district fall in this category, making them eligible for the waiver.
Mishra said: “The waiver accepts a crisis. But there is nothing above it to stymie the crisis, to address its roots.”
Agrarian economist Ajay Dandekar, who studied the suicides for the Bombay High Court in 2004, agreed: “In Vidarbha, the crisis has been in the making for several years, putting farmers out of the formal credit system three or four years back. Moneylending is rampant. The write off might turn out to be a great Indian rope trick unless authorities look at the specifics of Vidarbha, where farmers need measures that will leave money in their hands, like fair pricing.”

Sonia: Waiver to benefit women

By Venkat Parsa (Asian Age, 8 March 2008)

New Delhi, March 8: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday asserted that the recent loan waiver for farmers, unveiled in the Union Budget, would have the larger benefit of helping women. Women are the first to be hit during any calamity. Even in farmer suicides, women are the worst hit, she said.

"A farmer’s suicide not only ends his life but casts a shadow on his family and children. It is for this reason that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took the step to waive loans to the tune of Rs 60,000 crores and I thank him for this bold measure," she said. The loan waiver will benefit a staggering four crore farmers in the country who are reeling under debts.

Speaking after giving away the Stree Shakti Puraskar to mark International Women’s Day, Mrs Gandhi spoke of her dream of a society free of female foeticide, dowry deaths and where every girl is educated and said that this dream can be realised only through a collective effort. Underlining the urgent need to end female foeticide, she said there was no distinction between a boy and a girl. "The journey to women’s empowerment should not be halted," she said. Earlier, Mrs Gandhi hoisted the Ananya flag, which was specially designed with rainbow colours to celebrate the multi-faceted talents of women.

Listing out the several initiatives of the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre for making laws stringent to help women, raising IT exemption, launching special schemes, strengthening self-help groups (SHGs) and micro-finance, Mrs Gandhi said that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme also would greatly benefit women as the scheme is all set to be universalised from April 1.

Praising the role of anganwadi workers at the grassroots level, the UPA chairperson complimented the government for raising their honorarium by 50 per cent. Recalling the dream of the late former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to empower women, Mrs Gandhi said as a result of his pioneering effort, 10 lakh women have been elected in panchayati raj institutions.

Union women and child development minister Renuka Chowdhury said that in PPP mode, destitute women were imparted training in housekeeping and hospitality sectors, besides in the beauty and wellness sector, so that they have better employment opportunities. Stating that the Union Budget marked a leap of 24 per cent in the allocations for the WCD ministry, Ms Chowdhury said that it is for the first time that there is a "gender-sensitive" government.;jsessionid=98D15F7A8EF84C7704D8F127AF224560?ni=9.3.2008%2F754.AsianAge%2Fsonia-waiver-to-benefit-women.aspx


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