Debt spells death for Andhra farmers

Priyanjana Dutta, CNN-IBN

Posted Tuesday , February 13, 2007 at 22:36

Updated Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 08:23

Anantapur: Farmer suicides is a bitter truth that most drought-affected villages in the country have learnt to live with. One such place where weather brings death news for debt-ridden farmers is Anantpur district in western Andhra Pradesh—an area famous for innumerable suicides stories.

“Because of too much heat the land is getting dried up. No crops can be grown and we are in debt. We tried all ancient methods and rituals but the Gods just don’t listen,” D Venkatnarayan, a farmer in Jakkalcheruvu village tells.

Similar is the story of 50-year-old Laxmi Devi. Her husband committed suicide by consuming pesticide, few years ago. He had borrowed money to dig borewells in their fields, but there was no water.

“There is no source of income for us, I have to look after my children. I don’t know how I will manage,” she said.

Anantapur is just one of the regions in Andhra Pradesh made infamous by farmers suicides. The reasons: inability to pay off debts, high input costs, switching crops, and of course persistent droughts. Studies indicate that the frequency of these droughts has been rising with each passing decade.

“In 2003 Andhra Pradesh witnessed 4,000 deaths due to extreme heat wave conditions. My fear is that the frequency of such heat waves will increase and we need to be prepared,” says R K Pachauri Director General, TERI

For the farmers of Anantapur, hope has all dried up, much like their fields.

Six farmers end lives in 3 days…

NAGPUR: While all eyes are fixed on the Union budget and what lies in it for the cash-starved farmers of Vidarbha driven to suicide, six more ended their lives in the region within the last three days, taking the toll to 106 this year.
According to Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), the toll in 11 days of this month has reached 36. As many as 70 suicides were reported in January. Last year saw more than 1,000 farmers ending their lives in desperation, unable to face rigours of an unprecedented farm crisis.
Official statistics describe six districts in West Vidarbha as suicide-prone and report 1,452 suicides in 2006. However, the local administration claims that most of the suicides were caused by non-agrarian reasons like alcoholism, family disputes and social tensions.

SEZs: Lessons from China…

While single-minded pursuit of exports has helped China touch record growth figures, millions have been left behind, besides incurring huge environmental costs. And without even the limited dose of welfare that China offers its poor farmers, India must wary of copying China’s SEZ-approach, writes Bhaskar Goswami.

9 February 2007 – China’s record economic growth rate fuelled by the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) is often advocated as the reason for India to adopt this approach. Since the 1980s, China implemented a series of measures and policies with the sole purpose of achieving rapid economic growth. As evidence over the years has shown, this single-minded pursuit of growth has lowered the efficiency and effectiveness of economic policies, besides incurring huge resource and environmental costs. The Chinese experience offers a valuable lesson for India.

Cost of Export-driven Growth

China has to feed 22 percent of the world’s population on only 7 percent of land. In July 2005, China’s countryside had over 26.1 million people living in absolute poverty and was home to 18 percent of the world’s poor, according to Chinese Minister Li Xuju quoted in the People’s Daily. Every year, an additional 10 million people have to be fed. Despite this daunting target, between 1996-2005, “development” caused diversion of more than 21 percent of arable land to non-agricultural uses, chiefly highways, industries and SEZs. Per capita land holding now stands at a meager 0.094 hectares. In just thirteen years, between 1992 and 2005, twenty million farmers were laid off agriculture due to land acquisition.

As more arable land is taken over for urbanization and industrialisation, issues related to changes in land use have become a major source of dispute between the public and the government. Protests against land acquisition and deprivation have become a common feature of rural life in China, especially in the provinces of Guangdong (south), Sichuan, Hebei (north), and Henan province. Guangdong has been worst affected. Social instability has become an issue of concern. In 2004, the government admitted to 74,000 riots in the countryside, a seven-fold jump in ten years. Whereas a few years ago, excessive and arbitrary taxation was the peasants’ foremost complaint, resentment over the loss of farmland, corruption, worsening pollution and arbitrary evictions by property developers are the main reasons for farmers’ unrest now.

UNEP worked with Google to produce before-and-after satellite images of a hundred ‘hotspots’ and integrate them into Google Earth.

Titled UNEP: Atlas of Our Changing World, Shenzen’s before and after pics are for the period between 1979 and 2004 are available through this program. (See: the UNEP site for more.)

While rural China is up in arms against acquisition of land, SEZs like Shenzen in Guangdong showcasing the economic miracle of China, are beset with problems. After growing at a phenomenal rate of around 28 percent for the last 25 years, Shenzen is now paying a huge cost in terms of environment destruction, soaring crime rate and exploitation of its working class, mainly migrants. Foreign investors were lured to Shenzen by cheap land, compliant labour laws and lax or ineffective environmental rules. In 2006, the United Nations Environment Programme designated Shenzen as a ‘global environmental hotspot’, meaning a region that had suffered rapid environmental destruction.

There’s more. According to Howard French, the New York Times bureau chief, most of the year, the Shenzen sky is thick with choking smoke, while the crime rate is almost nine-fold higher than Shanghai. The working class earns US$ 80 every month in the sweatshops and the turnover rate is 10 percent – many turn to prostitution after being laid off. Further, real-estate sharks have stockpiled houses which have caused prices to spiral and have created a new generation of people French calls “mortgage slaves” in an article in the International Herald Tribune on 17 December 2006.

The mindless pursuit of growth following the mode of high input, high consumption and low output has seriously impacted the environment. In 2004, China consumed 4.3 times as much coal and electricity as the United States and 11.5 times as much as Japan to generate each US$1 worth of GNP, according to the The Taipei Times. Some 20 per cent of the population lives in severely polluted areas (Science in Society) and 70 percent of the rivers and lakes are in a grim shape (People’s Daily). Around 60 per cent of companies that have set up industries in the country violate emission rules. According to the World Bank, environmental problems are the cause of some 300,000 people dying each year. The Chinese government has admitted that pollution costs the country a staggering $200 billion a year – about 10 per cent of its GDP.

While export-driven policy for economic growth has helped China touch record growth figures, the income gap is widening and rapidly approaching the levels of some Latin American countries. Going by a recent report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China’s Gini coefficient – a measure of income distribution where zero means perfect equality and 1 is maximum inequality – touched 0.496 in the year 2006. In comparison, income inequality figures are 0.33 in India, 0.41 in the US and 0.54 in Brazil. Further, the rural-urban income divide is staggering – annual income of city dwellers in China is around US $1,000 which is more than three times that of their rural counterparts.

In certain areas such as asset distribution or years of schooling China’s levels of inequity are lower (i.e., more favourable) than India. However, when one looks at it at the aggregate level, the picture is different.

The levels of inequity in China have been rising through the last three decades, whether between rural and urban, within them, or on an aggregate basis.

According to Zhu Ling, between 1978 and 1995, the Gini coefficient of rural income increased from 0.21 to 0.34 and that of the urban from 0.16 to 0.28.

With the economy opening up rapidly post-1995 and also due the massive concessions that China was forced to make in order to join the WTO, the trend continues and the aggregate Gini coefficient in 2006 was around 0.5.

It is in this backdrop that India’s SEZ thrust must be seen. Following China, India is replicating a similar model where vast tracts of agricultural land are being acquired for creating SEZs and other industries. The September 2005 notification on Environment Impact Assessment is lax for industrial estates, including SEZs, and apprehensions of dirty industries coming up in these zones are quite real. Further, with drastic changes in labour laws favouring industry being considered, the plight of workers in these SEZs will be similar to those in China. Such a mode of development is environmentally unsustainable and socially undesirable.

Further, it is now widely acknowledged that Chinese exports have also been boosted by its undervalued currency, something which Ben Bernanke, chairman of the US Federal Reserve, terms as an “effective subsidy”. This is a luxury that Indian exporters do not enjoy. The argument for setting up SEZs to emulate China’s export-led growth is therefore questionable.

Is export-driven growth through SEZs desirable for India?

There is no doubt that exports play a significant role in boosting GDP. However in the case of a country with a sizeable domestic market, the choice lies with the producer to either export or supply to the domestic market. Ila Patnaik of the National Institute for Pub
lic Finance and Policy wrote in the The Indian Express in December 2006 that household consumption in India at 68 percent of the GDP is much higher that that of China at 38 percent, Europe at 58 percent and Japan at 55 percent. This is an important source of strength for the domestic manufacturing industry of India.

Given the high level of consumption of Indian households, it is quite possible that this rush is fuelled not by the desire to export out of the country but by the possibility of exporting from SEZs into the Domestic Tariff Area (DTA). The SEZ Act is also designed to facilitate this. Any unit within the SEZ can export to the DTA, after paying the prevailing duty, as long as it is a net foreign exchange earner for three years. It is therefore a win-win situation for these units.

The sops in a SEZ will reduce the cost of capital while labour reforms will ensure trouble-free operations. Further, given the considerable international pressure to reduce industrial tariffs, SEZs will be able to export to the DTA at highly competitive prices. This does not augur well for units outside the SEZs who will now face unfair competition. As cheaper imports have already played havoc with the livelihoods of artisan sector of the economy, cheaper imports into DTA from SEZs will also adversely affect the domestic industry. No wonder many of them now want to migrate into SEZs.

In a country with 65 percent of the population depending on agriculture as a means of livelihood, industry ought to be complementary to agriculture. Through SEZs however, industry is being promoted at the cost of agriculture. Valuable resources spent to create SEZs will be at the cost of building better infrastructure for the rest of the country, something that will affect both the domestic industry as well as agriculture.

Other lessons India could learn from China: Welfare

While the Chinese experience with export-driven economic growth definitely offers many sobering lessons, there are many other areas where India can learn from China. China has initiated a series of measures to arrest social tensions and rising inequality in rural areas. In April 2004, the State Council, China’s cabinet, halted the ratification of farmland for other uses and started to rectify the national land market. The Minister of Agriculture, Du Quinglin, promised “not to reduce acreage of basic farmland, change its purpose or downgrade its quality”.

China also abolished agricultural tax in 2006 and increased subsidy for food grain production by 10 percent. To boost rural income, the selling price of grain was increased by 60 percent in 2005. In 2004, out of a total 900 million farmers in China, 600 million received US$ 1.5 billion (Rs.6,630 crores approximately) as direct subsidies. 52 million of the Chinese farmers have joined in the rural old-age insurance system and 2.2 million received pensions in 2005. More than 80 million farmers had participated in the rural cooperative medical service system by the end of 2004, and 12.57 million rural needy people had drawn allowances guaranteeing the minimum living standard by the end of 2005.

India, on the other hand, either does not have any of these safety nets or is in the process of dismantling the few that exist. There is much to learn as well as unlearn from the Chinese experience. Until that is done, millions of poor across the country will be made to pay an even higher price than the Chinese did for following this flawed approach.

Bhaskar Goswami
9 Feb 2007

The writer is with the New Delhi based Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security.

Farmers suicides cross 100 mark…

The number of suicides by debt-ridden farmers in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region has crossed the three-digit mark in the first 40 days of 2007 with 15 deaths reported during the last three days, including six Saturday.

The number of suicides by debt-ridden farmers in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region has crossed the three-digit mark in the first 40 days of 2007 with 15 deaths reported during the last three days, including six Saturday.

While most of the 106 suicides have taken place in the six dry-land farming districts of Yavatmal, Amravati, Akola, Buldana, Washim and Wardha in western Vidarbha , one farmer in the rain-fed paddy growing Gondia district in eastern Vidarbha too ended his life Saturday.

The unabated incidence of suicides are significant in the backdrop of the recent revelation by state Finance Minister Jayant Patil that the central government has disbursed only a fraction – Rs.24.8 billion – of the promised Rs.294.1 billion in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s relief package of July 2006.

The promised Rs.294.1 billion is a part of the total package of Rs.375 billion meant exclusively for completing the pending irrigation projects in western Vidarbha, which will cover an additional 0.15 million hectares of the total 3.5 million hectares of cultivable area. Currently, the area under irrigation is 0.45 million hectares.

Almost 98 percent of more than 1,200 suicides in the last 20 months have occurred in the dry-land farming area in the region 93 percent of which will remain unirrigated even after completion of all the ongoing projects with the support of the prime minister’s relief fund.

According to Amravati divisional commissioner S.K. Goyal, monetary provision for micro-watershed development that provides an answer to the agrarian crisis is far too inadquate.

‘The farm distress is bound to continue as long as the general approach to agricultural management remains flawed’, he says.

‘Low priority to in-situ water conservation and mindless application of the green revolution formula of cost intensive farming in unirrigated areas are the hallmarks of the disastrous approach to agriculture’, Goyal, who has worked as Maharashtra’s agriculture commissioner, added.

Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti president Kishor Tiwari, who has been spearheading the farmers’ movement in the region, says loan waiver and subsidy for food crop farming should be given priority.

SEZ: Wait and see…

Saturday, February 10, 2007
Palash Biswas
(Contact: Palash Biswas, C/O Mrs arati roy, Gostokanan, sodepur, Kolkata- 700110, India. Phone: 91-25659551)
With unrest in Nandigram and Singur continuing unabated, getting the CPI-M’s partners back on Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s side may not be easy. But despite fierce resistance in singur and Nandigram West Bengal Capitalist Chief minister may find some consolation from elsewhere as not only Bengal the entire country follows him to adopt chinese model of development and open Market. India is set to become a trillion-dollar economy as early as next year, if the latest figures released by the Central Statistical Organisation are any indication.The economy, which has been on a high growth path of 8-9% for the last three years, is expanding faster this year at 9.2%, it said.Only a few days ago, the CSO had revised the GDP growth figure for the last financial year to a scorching 9% from 8.4%. On Wednesday, it put economic growth this year at 9.2%.“Reforms are driving growth,” Finance Minister P Chidambaram said. “Reforms have brought in investment, fostered competition, and enhanced productivity and efficiency.”Most optimistic projections so far had been of a growth rate of close to 9% in 2006-07. The economy had expanded 9.2% in the second quarter of the current year and 9.1% in the first half.The latest CSO figures suggest that India will be an $850 billion economy this year, well set to join the big league of trillion-dollar economies as early as next year. There are nine countries in that club now (see table).At 9.2%, India’s GDP growth in 2006-07 is a full percentage point less than that of China, which registered 10.4% growth in 2006. But India’s growth is clearly the world’s second fastest this year. In fact, this is the highest growth for the Indian economy since 1987-88, when GDP grew 10.6 per cent on the back of the previous year’s low caused by drought.
TRYING HARD: To overcome resistance from its partners, CPI-M is creating a unique land map.Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has offered a peace pipe to the four left parties. After the whole controversy surrounding acquisition of land for SEZs, he now says he will move ahead with the issue only with the go-ahead of the Left Parties.He now says The CPI-M has failed to reach an agreement with its partners on the proposed amendment to the Bengal Land Reforms Act. The current Act restricts the area of land that can be acquired for SEZs and industrial parks. The CPI-M tried to thrash out differences with its partners on amendment to the Bengal Land Reforms Act in a closed-door meeting. Under the Act, you couldn’t hold more than 24 acres of land in Bengal. Though factories and townships are exempted, industrial parks and special economic zones aren’t. And unless this restrictive provision is removed, proposed industrial parks and SEZs wouldn’t ever materialise. Though partners of the CPI-M didn’t agree to the government’s proposal, the party isn’t giving up.
“This isn’t the last meeting of the Left Front,” said West Bengal CPI-M State Secretary and Left Front Chairman Biman Bose.
Mamta holds rally in Bora near Singur not violeting 144. But her supporters thrashed mediapersons.After refusing Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s invitation for talks on the land acquisition row in Singur, Trinamool Congress leader Mamta Banerjee went to Bora near Singur on saturday. Mamata seems to have decided not to defy the state ban on large gatherings in Singur. Her rally was outside the prohibitory zone on the outskirts of Singur.After the violence in Nandigram, where Trinamool workers clashed with the police and a policeman was killed, the Trinamool leader probably had no other choice for the moment.Prohibitory orders are in place in Singur till February 14 – a day before Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee holds a meeting.
Meanwhile the Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the West Bengal government to file an affidavit with details of the compensation given for the land acquired at Singur for the Tata Motors small car plant as also the total number of beneficiaries. A division bench of acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice K K Prasad asked the state government to file the affidavit within seven days. The bench’s direction came on a petition filed by legal aid committee general secretary Joydeep Mukherjee.
On the other hand, a very dangerous sign has emerged from the blue as Police on Saturday recovered 1,500 kg of explosives from a forest in the Naxalite-hit Gaya district of Bihar.The explosives, concealed in two plastic tanks buried under the ground, were seized by the police from Kushatand forest in the Mohanpur police station area of the district, Superintendent of Police Amit Jain told .The SP said the Naxalites used the explosives for manufacturing can bombs and landmines. Asked if the material seized also included high-grade explosives like RDX or TNT, he said it could be established only after a forensic test.It was not immediately known if the police stumbled on the massive storehouse of explosives accidentally or were tipped off about its presence in the jungles.A police source on condition of anonymity said, high-profile CPI (Maoist) commander Ajay Kanu, who was arrested from a place under Tankuppa police station of the district on February two, could have informed the police about the presence of the huge cache of explosives during interrogation.Kanu, who carried a cash reward of Rs 5 lakh on him and is currently lodged in Beur jail at Patna, had escaped from Jehanabad sub-jail on November 13, 2005, during the jailbreak in which nearly 400 inmates, many of them Maoist guerrillas, had fled. It may be remineded that naxals are playing key role in Resistance in singur as well as nandigram.
Mamta seems to have softened her stance as well as Buddhadev Bhattacharya is also showing unfamiliar patiance and waiting discussions on SEZ to pruduce some positive results on party and front forums. In the sixties it is the industrialist who was insecure in West Bengal, and now it is the farmer who is insecure. None of these are ever good for the state, but at the end of it someone has gained from it, and that is POLITICS – DIRTY POLITICS. We people of India , give our rights to our politician, in turn to support and speak for our welfare, but singur , gives us a picture that for mere political advantage, we become a scape goat, for their political benefit, let people form thier group of that region, to decide what they need.
A day after CPI, Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) stalled Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government’s move to relax land ceiling for SEZs, CPI-M General Secretary Prakash Karat on Friday said the contentious issue would be discussed at the party’s ensuing Polit Bureau meeting next week. “The SEZ issue will be discussed in the politburo meeting scheduled to be held in Delhi on February 17 and 18,” Karat, who was present at the CPI-M state secretariat meeting here, told reporters. He also said the four left parties — CPI-M, CPI, Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) had already submitted a note to the central government on the SEZ and the UPA government has kept its SEZ policy in abeyance.
Meanhile, veteran CPI-M leader Jyoti Basu, speaking on the land ceiling amendment bill to relax the norms for acquisition of large areas of land for multi product SEZs, said bilateral talks would be held with LF constituents and it has to be ascertained through discussion whether the bill could be amended. “There are differences among the LF constituents (about relaxation of the land ceiling). It was decided that bilateral talks will be held with them (Front Partners). After the talks we will decide whether amendments can be made in the bill,” Basu said.
In the meantime, at the Writers’ Building on Friday, the chief minister declared that some farmers/lando
wners who had sold their lands were yet to collect their cheques. “If they have something to say, they must get in touch with the director of industries or with the district magistrate,” the chief minister said.In view of widespread protests against land acquisition in Bengal, Bhattacharya said, “I will have a talk with the opposition before selling the next lot of lands in other parts of the state.”
Like other states, work on the special economic zone planned by the Salem group has been stalled in West Bengal for the time being. The Centre has taken a step to this effect. Further decisions will be taken at the ministry meeting in New Delhi later this year.
The Chief minister has adopted a ‘wait and watch’ policy in his bid to solve the Singur impasse with opposition Trinamool Congress rejecting his offer of talks on land acquisition on Thursday.”Who knows but the world may end tonight,” Bhattacharya borrowed from poet Robert Browning before leaving the Writers’ Building on Thursday.The chief minister’s letter sent to Trinamool leader Partha Chattopadhyay on Thursday read that the government wants a “rational and peaceful solution” to the land controversy for the steady progress of the state.”If you have no problems, I am eager to discuss the state’s overall situation with you at a bilateral meeting at Writers’ Building on February 13 at 4.30 pm,” the chief minister said in a one-page letter.
A visibly irritated Chattopadhyay said in his reply, “We can have a dialogue only if the land acquired in Singur is returned, and plans to acquire farmland in Nandigram and Bhangar are shelved.” The reply, he said, was drafted after consulting Trinamool chief Mamta Banerjee.Earlier, the chief minister seemed peeved at having received no reply to his letter to Mamta Banerjee sent on December 28. “A section of the Trinamool leadership has been telling the media that the government was not interested in talks. I don’t know whether this is a fact,” he said.Those close to Banerjee, on the other hand, hinted that she is “unhappy that the letter is not addressed to her.” Way to Capitalism
But buddhadev stays well on his way to capitalism as IT services biggie Genpact has approached the West Bengal government and a clutch of property developers to set up an IT SEZ in Kolkata. The company has set aside over Rs 100 crore to set up the facility (including the cost for land). Genpact only needs 5 to 7 acres near Kolkata. But it is weighing two models. It will either acquire space within an existing SEZ or opt for the more expensive option of developing a new SEZ with a strategic partner spread over the stipulated 25-acre zone. This was confirmed by Genpact vice-president and Kolkata site leader Indranil Choudhury. The company will soon take a decision on the model to develop the proposed SEZ. “We are evaluating both options and a final decision is expected soon. While the state government has shown us land at both Jagdishpur and near Vedic Village, we are more interested to create an SEZ facility in Rajarhat,” said Choudhury. Genpact has been insisting on Rajarhat as it proposes to start the SEZ facility at a much earlier date than the state government’s deadline for the two proposed IT hubs in Jagdishpur and Vedic Village, which is some 15 km from the Salt Lake Electronics Complex (Saltlec). “We have set a target to start operations from the Kolkata SEZ by mid-2008 . A key factor on the model which we will adopt will depend on the land price,” said Choudhury. He, however, refused to spell out the price which the state government had offered the company for the proposed SEZ facility. Incidentally, Genpact has recently received in-principle clearances to set up three SEZs in Bhopal, Bhubaneswar and Jaipur. It is also in the process of constructing a development centre on a 12-acre plot within the IT SEZ being developed by DLF in Gurgaon. Genpact in Kolkata operates out of a leased facility spread over 80,000 sq. ft at the DLF IT Park in Rajarhat and employs 420 people. “By this year, we will ramp up the headcount to 1,000 people and expand the new facility besides our existing facility. With the proposed SEZ facility on ground, Genpact will employ 5,000 people in Kolkata by 2010,” said Choudhury. “While the Kolkata unit was used to service processes for GE, three new global clients have also committed operations from here. These are in three key verticals – finance and accounting, software development and analytic,” Choudhury added. Genpact also has another three-acre plot in Saltlec where it will start construction of a training-cum-development facility. “Construction will start sometime in April and this facility will mainly focus on training employees. This is planned to be our second-largest dedicated training facility after Hyderabad,” said Choudhury.
Kashmir farmers get over 250,000 acres land A good news at last breaks from shrinagar.This announcement was greeted with the thumping of desks by the treasury benches before the opposition entered the House and protested the passage of the bill.The Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly Friday passed a law conferring property rights to farmers on over 250,000 acres of government land which was under their occupation.The law, titled ‘Roshni -‘, was passed with a voice vote amid unprecedented din as the opposition National Conference wanted its amendments to the bill to be taken into consideration for debate before voting on the law. But the National Conference members were barred from doing so as they were not present in the House when their names were called to move the amendments.They staged a noisy walk out and leader of opposition Abdul Rahim Rather termed the speaker’s action of convening the House without their presence as ‘breach of trust’.However, the ruling party said the rules of the House did not permit members to take part in debates once they were declared ‘absent’.
Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, while moving the bill, had stated that the farmers would be given land free of cost. They would, however, have to deposit Rs.100 for getting the details of their land entered into official records to claim the property rights in future.

Two Bengali Nobel laureates to visit city Kolkata, Feb. 9 (PTI): Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus of Bangladesh will be felicitated by two city-based organisations here and attend a dinner hosted by state Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, when he visits the city on Sunday for the first time since winning the coveted honour. Another Nobel laureate Amartya Sen will also be in the city to address a seminar on ‘child welfare’, jointly sponsored by his ‘Pratichi Trust’ and the UNICEF.
West Bengal’s finance minister Asim Dasgupta said today that during Yunus’ three-day stay, there will be an exchange of views on the experiences of Bangladesh Gramin Banks and that of the Self-Help groups of West Bengal.
Due to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s busy schedule during the visit of Italian Premier Romano Prodi during February 11 and 13, it would not be possible for the state government to offer a formal felicitation to Yunus, he said.
‘Sad’ Buddha cold shoulders book fair
Kolkata, Feb 9 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya Friday skipped the inauguration of the Kolkata book fair, a much-awaited annual cultural event of the city. The chief minister had invited the ire of green activists to get the Kolkata book fair held in Maidan, the city’s green lungs. But a court gave a ruling against the venue. The Feb 9-21 32nd Kolkata Book Fair was inaugurated at the Salt Lake Stadium.Bhattacharya did not attend the inauguration at the Salt Lake. He said: ‘I would perhaps visit it, only once.’
‘I had saved the book fair from the fire (referring to the book fair inferno in 1997 and its reorganisation) once, but this time I could not. So I am feeling bad,’ Bhattacharya said.
The book fair hit a roadblock with the Calcutta High Court banning holding it at the Maidan.
The fair was hastily organised at the Salt Lake Stadium, but not before the organisers, Publishers and Booksellers’ Guild, were criticised by some publishers, b
ooksellers, litterateurs and booklovers.
The literary people accused the guild of blunting the protest of the litterateurs and booklovers against the court order by hastily announcing a parallel venue.
The fair was inaugurated by Australian litterateur Thomas Keneally along with poet Sankha Ghosh and state Sports Minister Subhas Chakraborty, who made available the soccer stadium for the fair.CPI-M cornered over Land Reform Act
Singur: Mamta supporters attack cameraman IDespite Mamta Banerjee’s promise to hold a peaceful rally near Singur on Saturday, her supporters went berserk within 150 mt of the dais as they pelted stones and assaulted the staff of a Bengali news channel. Apparaently unhappy with the ‘biased coverage’ of the Singur issue by the channel, a group of people assaulted a cameraman and damaged a car. The former was seriously injured and shifted to a nearby hospital.The incident took place in the presence of veteran Trinamool Congress leaders, including Saugato Roy.
However, when Banerjee, on her way to the rally, was contacted over phone, she said, “People who assaulted the journalists were outsiders and had no connection with my party. They were creating violence intentionally to tarnish my image.”
Earlier, in a gathering at south Kolkata’s Nazrul Manch on Friday, Banerjee said that her party has sought government permission to hold a meeting at Bara Telenipara. She chose Telenipara as it does not come under the purview of the area where Section 144 has been imposed.
West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had earlier decided to hold a meeting in Singur on February 15.With the opposition crying foul over the chief minister’s bid to have a meeting a day after Section 144 would be lifted from the area, he decided to cancel his plan. Banerjee, however, opines that Bhattacharya cancelled the meeting fearing “scanty turnout.” However, to protect the Tata-acquired land, the area along the Durgapur Expressway from Bardhaman has literally been sealed off. Huge numbers of Rapid Action Force and Combat Force personnel have been deployed in and around Singur police chowki.According to insiders, “Under the pretext of Section 144, a large number of police personnel have been deployed in Singur and its adjoining area. Many water tankers have been brought to meet any eventuality.”
Nandigram: Slain cop’s body found IThe body of the slain District Intelligence Bureau officer Sadhu Chatterjee was fished out from the Haldi riverbed on Saturday four days after he was lynched by a mob.The body, which had multiple injuries, was identified and sent for post mortem. There were severe head injuries with the stomach ruptured, the police said.The District Intelligence Bureau sub-inspector was attacked and killed on February 7 at Ishwardehajalpai in East Midnapore district when he accompanied police to an area where roads were being dug up by people to prevent forces from entering their villages.
Meanwhile, the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee claimed that the men in villages had fled their homes in fear of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and police.
Now a ‘Singur’ in Madhya Pradesh?Feb 10, 2007 – 8:18:06 AM ‘The compensation package is not satisfactory as it does not take care of the permanent loss to the next generation of farmers whose land is being acquired,’ said senior BJP leader and former union minister Vikram Verma, who is also from Dhar. A place in Madhya Pradesh may see a repeat of Singur, the area in West Bengal that is on the boil over land acquisition for a Tata Motors car project.The state government is acquiring nearly 4,000 acres of land near the Dhar district’s Pithampur industrial area for a world-class auto-testing track.
But the farmers in 10 villages who have been made to part with their land for the project are unhappy with the compensation package, giving the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party – affiliate Bharatiya Kisan Sangh – a chance to protest the government’s decision to acquire farmland.
The track, approved by the central government, would be an international standard centre to provide testing facilities to Indian and foreign companies for all kinds of automobile machinery – one of the most significant initiatives in the automotive sector.
To be set up by the National Automotive Testing and Research and Development Infrastructure Project at a cost of Rs.10 billion, the track would be equipped with the facility of testing vehicles in various climatic conditions at different stages after which ‘standardisation’ certificates would be issued for vehicles produced in India and abroad.’What makes the project more significant for Madhya Pradesh is because developed states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh were competing for this scheme,’ Industries Minister Babulal Gaur said.
But opposition leader Jamuna Devi, who is also an MLA from Dhar, has threatened that if local farmers are subjected to injustice, a Singur-type protest will be launched. The BKS too is up in arms against the land acquisition.Alleging that fertile land is being wrested from the peasants in tribal-dominated areas like Khandwa, Kalyansikhedi, Madhopur and Sagaur, Jamuna Devi has warned that farmers would take on the government if it continues with land acquisition.
She has also written a letter to BJP president Rajnath Singh, asking him to exhibit his might against farmland acquisition in Dhar.’Thousands of acres of fertile land, belonging to farmers, is being acquired by the BJP government for being provided to the industry even as thousands of peasants are consequently facing starvation,’ Jamuna Devi told Rajanth Singh urging him to direct the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government to halt the acquisition of land.
‘We expect the same kind of opposition to the Pithampur project from the BJP as it displayed against the Tata Motors project in Singur in West Bengal,’ she wrote.
Rajnath Singh had supported Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee’s protests against similar land acquisition at Singur for a Tata Motors small car project.
State BJP spokesman Umashankar Gupta, however, dismisses comparisons between Singur and Pithampur.
‘The Dhar project belongs to the Congress-led central government where Devi’s own party is in power. She should first ask her party leaders to scrap the project if her concern is genuine,’ Gupta said.
But BKS has warned of an intensified campaign if the government does not mend its ways. ‘The stir may turn violent if the track site is not shifted to a barren plot or adequate compensation is not offered to the farmers,’ said Pop Singh Nagar, BKS state executive member.
BJP leaders in Dhar too seem to be opposed to the farmland acquisition.
‘The compensation package is not satisfactory as it does not take care of the permanent loss to the next generation of farmers whose land is being acquired,’ said senior BJP leader and former union minister Vikram Verma, who is also from Dhar.
He has written to Chief Minister Chouhan and Industry Minister Gaur but to no avail.

Two bodies found in Singur Singur (WB), Feb 09: The discovery of the bodies of an engineer and his driver four days after they went missing from Singur, where Tata Motors is building a small car plant, sparked fresh tension in the area today. The bodies were found on February six and identified today by the kin of the two men — Jyoti Prakash Biswas, an engineer working with a chemical company in the area, and his driver Kanchan Das. Police suspect both men were murdered and their bodies dumped by the roadside near the site of the Tata Project. The car in which they were travelling is yet to be traced, police said. It is yet to be verified if the engineer, a resident of Durgapur, was in any way attached to the Tata Motors’ Project, the sources said. This was the second case of unnatural death in Singur since late last year.
On December 18, the half burnt body of 18-year-old Tapasi Mallik was found in a paddy field at Bajemelia Village in Singur. She was a member of the save farmland committee that is opposing the acquisition of farm land for the Tata Project.
Ennore SEZ set to take
off following Rs 26 cr fundingTIMES NEWS NETWORK[ SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2007 04:28:09 PM]
CHENNAI: The multi-product special economic zone (SEZ) project, coming up on 1,000 hectare at Ennore, in Tamil Nadu is expected to take off following the Rs 26-crore allocation received under the Centre’s Assistance to States for Infrastructure Development for Exports (ASIDE) scheme. The much awaited Ennore SEZ, near the first corporatised port, is finally taking shape with the bottlenecks for developing the road and rail access having been cleared. The state-level export promotion committee, chaired by Chief Secretary L K Tripathi, has sanctioned Rs 26 crore under the ASIDE funding scheme for both road and rail access, a top official of Tamil Nadu industrial development corporation (TIDCO) told ET.
In August 2004, the government gave its in-principle clearance. The government has sanctioned Rs 16 crore for the road leading to the SEZ and Rs 10 crore for a three kilometre rail link, he elaborated. Tidco has filed an application for getting the formal nod from the Board of Approval (Ministry of Commerce). Subject to the approval, the allotment of space is scheduled to commence from April 2007. “The marketing initiative of the site will also begin soon,” the official said. The Ennore SEZ is also planning to develop and connect the National Highway five (NH5) route. While TIDCO would have an equity of 50%, the balance would be held by SIPCOT and Ennore Port equally.
A special purpose vehicle, the Ennore SEZ Company (ESCO), formed for the purpose, is implementing the project. Once commissioned, it is expected to boost the export basket by an estimated Rs 9,000 crore. By then, the employment generation is slated to cover 50,000 people. It is proposed to implement the project in 18 months.
The topographic contour, boundary, soil investigation studies were completed during the 2005-06 period. A comprehensive master plan has also been chalked out for the project. The estimated project cost for developing the infrastructure is about Rs 636 crore, according to sources.The industrial suburb to the north of Chennai Ennore has the potential to emerge as a huge industrial hub when the project takes shape, the sources added. It will attract investments for diverse industries such has general engineering, pharma, garment, light engineering, plastic goods, leather goods, electronics, auto components, logistics and container terminal. “There are already enquiries received from various industries,” the sources said, adding the SEZ, which was 30 km away from the city limits, was just a 45-minute drive from the airport. It has well-connected rail-road infrastructure and the nearest railway station is Athipettu. “This is good news,” said Rajiv Kumar, director and chief executive, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, “though it draws attention to urgent supply-side reforms if this growth rate is to be sustained. There are signs of overheating and that needs to be managed.”
The 9.2% growth estimated by the CSO, Kumar said, is beyond the RBI’s latest projections. “The central bank is likely to see this from the demand side and we could, therefore, be in for another round of interest rates hikes,” he said.
Significantly, the 9.2% GDP growth this year comes about despite the slowdown in farm-sector growth to just 2.7% from last year’s robust 6%.
Though 65 crore Indians still depend on agriculture for their livelihood, it is evident that the broader economy is now firmly driven by the dynamism of its industrial and services sector. Adam smith and His TheoryThe Adam Smith idea of creating a Capitalist Society was actually extremely brilliant and without doubt at one time, contributed to the general progress of Humanity. In the Capitalist system, the person who can sell better and cheaper products is rewarded by a gradual increase in sales and profits. Hence, this person will be able to increase the potential of the business. The firm will grow bigger and bigger while the customers will be happy to get more, better, cheaper products. Thanks to this capitalist competition, prosperity will become universal. Anyway that was the theory of it in the days of Adam Smith (1723-1790) who explained that profit for the individual leads to the prosperity for all… and it is what happened in past centuries. It would even have continued for ever, EXCEPT under conditions of US-style “freedom”: anarchic criminal freedom. Freedom is a word of many meanings as I have shown previously. Under US Capitalist freedom, producers are allowed to increase, first their wealth, then their political POWER without restrictions or limits. Can’t be better! Unfortunately, a certain point is reached where the above mentioned negative effects of Capitalism make their appearance. Jacques Hardy opines Analysing Adam smith theoryAN INTERESTING ASPECT OF FREEDOM Capitalism is an economic and social system based on the private property of the means of production and exchange. It is characterised by the search for profit and the concurrence between enterprises: FREEDOM ! In order to compete, enterprises are forced to pay their workers less and less and gradually replace them with electronic machines. Thus at an initial stage, there are more and more unemployed workers but – no worry – these easily find work in the army which sends them to their death in some faraway killing field (e.g. Iraq). In addition, patriotic disinformers are busy accusing foreign countries of stealing the jobs of U.S. workers. Coincidence, these disinformers invariably accuse those very countries which the United States plan to attack soon. And this is in fact what made the awsome power of the great United States of America. I have myself (with family in the USA) to admit it: the USA is the greatest predatory system that ever was! Hats off in honor of Uncle Sam! Also in this first initial stage of the U.S. empire and thanks to competition, the products are sold at a cheaper and cheaper price, thus eliminating the competition which is therefore forced into bankruptcy. Then, when the competition is eliminated and ONE supergiant enterprise controls the marketing of a particular product, the prices start to rise and rise (e.g. the oil business but there is far worse to come in the not too distant future). Now don’t you go and think that I hate capitalism: I LOVE CAPITALISM, well cooked and served with gravy and French fries. Thanks to FREEDOM… the freedom for the wealthy few to oppress the masses of poor, a freedom which is also called for whatever reason Bush Freedom, it is easy to see where this famous Capitalist system leads. Simply observe what is going on around you:- More and more enterprises are owned by fewer and fewer individuals.- These become wealthier and wealthier as well as continuing to become fewer and fewer in number.- Thanks to such enormous wealth, these wealthy few can easily gain more and more power. They end up owning everything including us all!.- Thanks to the great freedom of market forces, the financial power of the wealthy few become such that they end up OWNING EVEN THE GOVERNMENT OF THEIR OWN COUNTRY.- But very, very soon, this is no longer enough, they want to own other countries as well… and here CAPITALISM automatically changes into IMPERIALISM. Thus, Capitalism and its freedom of market forces, leads to Imperialism, which in turn leads to Plutocratic Power. Then comes the next step: the New World Order, which eventually brings the need for DEPOPULATION because the plutocrats want a REALLY NEW world, absolutely unfit for slaves since these, in the world of the future will no longer be needed. So we are now at this depopulation point where the wealthy few are beginning to be aware that they need not so many slaves who would eventually want to revolt and overthrow the International Plutocracy… hence there is an absolute need for depopulation! No one can argue with that! If we compare Human Society as it now exists for instance in the United States, France and Russia as well as in some other countries as well, we discover many disquieting similar
ities… as if they were all run by the same bunch of guys! We also discover that although many middle class people are totally unaware of what is goi

Two farmers commit suicide in Vidharba,000…
Press Trust of India

Akola, February 10, 2007

Two debt-ridden farmers have allegedly committed suicide in west Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, police said on Saturday.

The deceased were identified as Mahadeo Shrirang Bhagat (50) of village Chinchkheda in adjoining Washim district and Kachruba Punjaji Vadya (50) of village Sakharkherda in Buldana district, they said.

Both suicides by hanging were reported on Friday.

The cotton growing region in East Maharashtra has seen no respite from spate of suicides by farmers even after the launch of several relief measures, including a Rs 3,500-crore package announced by the Prime Minister in July last year.

Farmers have no hope from this budget too…

Q&A: Kishor Tiwari

Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi February 09, 2007

Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti discusses the government’s apathy towards farmer suicides in an interview with Sreelatha Menon

You were in Delhi to meet the finance minister?

I did not get an appointment. I am told no one is serious in the government. There is also nothing in this Union Budget to stop farmers from dying. It is just rural infrastructure and not agriculture that the Budget is looking at.

What brought you into this work?

I am a professional. I did engineering in 1981 followed by an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and then MTech. We are now working in a remote part of Vidarbha in Pandher Kowda in Yavatmal. Journalists have come there from all parts of the world. Time magazine had a cover story.

Has that helped reduce the number of suicides there?

No. The suicides happen every sixth hour. My phone number is flashed in the local cable channel and every death is reported to me. Even the government goes by my figures.

Has government relief reached the villagers?

The prime minister’s package was a hoax. Some money was to be given to widows. Collectors were given Rs 50 lakh each. But there is a 75 per cent rejection rate of applications of widows.

What was the package?

They were to get Rs 30,000 each in cash and Rs 70,000 each as a fixed deposit amount. But I tell the government that I will save the 3,000 widows provided it saves the 30,000 farmers.

What do you blame for the continuing deaths?

Monsanto and other Bt cotton companies have played a major role in killing farmers. According to the survey of the Maharashtra government in June 2006, 7 lakh of 17 lakh farmers want organic farming. It means cost of inputs has been unbearable. Again, yield of cotton crop has come down from 500 quintal an acre in 1995 to 2 quintal an acre. The price of inputs has gone up from Rs 1,600 per acre to Rs 8,000 per acre since 2002.

Why do you blame Bt?

Sharad Pawar forced the Maharashtra government to tie up with Monsanto to market cotton. ICAR was involved in promoting it. In Andhra Pradesh, the government banned Monsanto but after five days, the Maharashtra government tied up with Monsanto. The crop has been affected by disease every year. While Andhra fought to get compensation from Mahyco, our agriculture minister is an agent of the company and is paying compensation out of tax payers’ money.The irony is that both are Congress governments.

Has the government changed its stance on cotton?

Yes. Now government is saying the Bt crop has failed.

What has been the number of deaths?

The media says only 3 million died, only 400 villages affected. I am saying that cotton farming has been unprofitable. And the Indian government is promoting Bt cotton.

Do you see a solution in the given circumstances?

Karnataka has shown the solution. It lies in zero budget farming. I am taking farmers to Karnataka to teach them how farmers there got out of debts and distress. There, suicides have decreased.