4,850 farmer suicides in last four years: VJAS

31 Oct 2008, 1749 hrs IST, PTI

NAGPUR: As many as 4,850 farmers have committed suicide during the four-year tenure of the Congress-NCP Democratic Front (DF) government in Maharashtra from 2004 to 2008, though the trend is on the decline, an NGO said today.
From 456 farmer suicides in 2004 to 660 in 2005 which grew to 1,886 in 2006, the number of suicides has gone down to 1,213 in 2007 and further dropped to 635 in 2008, Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti President Kishore Tiwari said in a release here.
Admitting that suicidal tendencies among farmers in the Vidarbha region was fast reducing, Tiwari said that mounting debts, crop failure and harassment from private money lenders had multiplied the problems of farmers in the region.
Meanwhile, three farmers committed suicide during Diwali. They were identified as Arvind Madhavrao Deshmukh (Lakhanwadi, Amravati), Narendra Gulabrao Panchre (Kohla, Nagpur) and Atul Shriram Kale (Kandhli, Wardha), the release said.

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UPA neglects Agriculture the most

Submitted by editor on Sat, 10/25/2008 – 18:27

Rajnath Singh
India today is on the brink of a protracted recession. Almost every economic indicator in the country is putting immense pressure on all economic activities in the country and painting a gloomy picture of our economy. Inflation is in high double digits, GDP growth rate is faltering, Industrial growth rate has touched a record low of 1.3 percent and the growth of our agriculture sector has turned bad to worse.

Declining capital formation and steep reduction in public investment in agriculture sector during the UPA rule has led to a complete stagnation of Agricultural growth in India. In other words the UPA Government has proved to be a big disaster on the economic front.

Agriculture is considered a recession proof sector as it does not face decline in demand even in a worsening situation. Being a predominantly agrarian society, India has the potential and resources to deal with any challenge posed by recessionary atmosphere in the world.

Eminent thinkers and economists around the world have started chalking out detailed action plans for agriculture and predicted that food security will be the top agenda of all the Governments in future. It clearly indicates that the world is now awakening to the growing importance of strengthening agriculture sector but the UPA Government’s slumber has deepened further.

By pursuing disoriented and confused economic policies the UPA Government has jeopardized our national food security. No wonder, India’s record on hunger today is worse than that of nearly 25 sub-Saharan African countries and all of South Asia, except Bangladesh.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)’s 2008 Global Hunger Index says that with over 200 million people insecure about their daily bread, Indian scenario is ‘alarming’ in terms of hunger and malnutrition.

According to the World Development Report, “To reduce poverty and hunger, the growth of the agricultural sector is the only solution.” But the higher cost of production without a corresponding increase in prices has made agriculture a non viable profession in India.

In the absence of remunerative prices, coupled with lack of timely, affordable and adequate credit and high interest rates have forced the helpless farmer either to quit farming or to commit suicide. More than five thousand farmers committed suicide in different parts of the country.

The Prime Minister’s ‘Vidarbha Package’ for the farmers has failed to address the key issues. The farmer’s loan waiver scheme also met the same fate as it left majority of the farmers agitated and disgruntled.

Both these schemes have proved to be a cruel joke on farmers and the Congress led UPA Government will have to pay a heavy price for it in forthcoming assembly elections and the General Elections scheduled next year.

The UPA Government has remained unconcerned over the gravity of the situation and adopted a casual approach while dealing with a sensitive subject like Agriculture.

I am happy to note that the BJP ruled states have performed better than the Congress led Governments on the agriculture front.
We have the shining example of Gujarat State before us which registered a remarkable 13 percent growth in agriculture in comparison to meager national agriculture growth of nearly 1.8 percent.

After coming to power the BJP led NDA Government will introduce a paradigm shift in agriculture where it will synthesise the old and the new, and focus on the economics of small land holdings.

The BJP will increase the quantum of public investment in agriculture and mandate banks to earmark 30% of their total loans for credit to the agriculture sector. We will take immediate steps to see that the farmers be given loans at not more than 4% interest for agriculture and allied activities.

The NDA Government at the Centre will implement the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers and assure the farmer of actual cost of production plus 50% over and above this cost as the MSP for his produce.

BJP led NDA Government will also implement Farm Income Insurance Scheme to ensure guaranteed income to all farmers in the country.

India facing economic terrorism

UPA Government’s soft and weak-kneed approach to deal with terrorist activities is a fact well known. Unfortunately the issue of internal security which warrants national consensus among all political major political parties and other prominent stake holders in our society has become a casualty of UPA Government’s vote bank politics.

During the 42 months of UPA rule terrorists and anti-India forces have galvanised its cadres and gained strength to strike India anywhere, anytime and at will. They have developed a multi-pronged strategy to damage India at every possible level. Recently we have witnessed a big surge in circulation of fake Indian currency notes in the country. It is well thought strategy of anti-India forces to unleash economic terrorism in the country.

Pakistan’s intelligence agency the ISI has pumped in counterfeit currency worth billions of Rupees into India through Bangladesh and Nepal borders. According to recent estimates by a Government panel, fake currency worth 1 lakh 69 thousand crores Rupees are already in circulation.

Fake currency notes have been recently confiscated in many States. Even at the branches of the Nationalised banks and their ATM’s fake currency notes have been confiscated. Counterfeit currency is being used to fund terrorist operations. I urge the present dispensation at the Centre to take effective steps to plug the supply of fake currency notes in India.

The BJP demands the Government that it should come out with a white paper on circulation of fake currency in India.

PIL ON THE ISSUE OF FARMERS SUICIDES in Vidharba

HIGH COURT ORDERED GOVT. TO FILE DETAILED AFFIDAVIT ON THE SCHEME OF FARMERS LOAN WAIVER OF RS. 71,000 CRORES AS HOW FAR IT IS BENEFITED TO THE VIDARBHA FARMERS IN DISTRESS AND ALSO ORDER TO TABLE DR. NARENDRA JADHAV COMMITTEE REPORT REGARDING IMPLEMENTATION OF PACKAGE SCHEMES FOR FARMERS IN CRISIS :

HIGH COURT TOOK SERIOUS NOTE OF CONTINUED FARMERS SUICIDES AND PLIGHT OF POOR FARMERS IN VIDARBHA AND ASKED STATE GOVT. TO FURNISH EVERY DETAILS WITHIN FOUR WEEKS.

Nagpur, 20TH October, 2008.

Taking the serious cognizance of continued farmers suicides and failure of various packages announced for the crisis ridden Vidarbha Farmers, the Division Bench of Bombay High Court at Nagpur expressed great concern about the matter & approach of the State Govt. in tackling the issue and asked to furnish every details of the farmers loan waiver scheme involving Rs. 71,000 Crores announced by Central Government and its benefit to the poor farmers in crisis ridden farmers in six districts of Vidarbha region and further also asked to furnish copy of report submitted by Dr. Narendra Jadhav Committee on package schemes and its implementation within four weeks.

Division Bench headed by Justice Dilip Sinha and Justice A.P. Bhangale at Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court while hearing the Public Interest Litigation filed by Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, President, Shri Kishore Tiwari, today expressed its great concern on the entire crisis and recorded that there was much hue & cry about the mismanagement of the various packages, hence the respondent State has appointed a one man Committee consisting of Dr. Narendra Jadhav – The Vice Chancellor, Pune University, Pune to verify that the packages are properly executed and to suggest the remedial measures for better implementation of the packages. The petitioner – Sh. Kishore Tiwari himself appeared before the Commission and extended his co-operation by submitting various suggestions and data. The Commission has submitted his report to the respondent State on 17.07.08, but according to the petitioner – Sh. Kishore Tiwari no action is initiated pursuant to said report and for proper assistance to the Hon’ble Court in the instant matter the presence of above report on record is also necessary. Hence ordered the respondent State and Union Government to furnish the copy of the said report.

During the course of today hearing, it is pointed out by the Counsel for Petitioner Adv. Sh. Firdos Mirza that –

1) That Hon’ble Court was pleased to entertain the instant petition in the larger public interest considering the reports regarding suicides committed by the cotton growing farmers in the western Vidarbha and the agrarian crisis. Pursuant to the cognizance taken by this Hon’ble Court, from time to time the respondents have declared various packages and placed their details before this Hon’ble Court, still the pace of suicides is unaffected.

2) That in earlier petition before the Hon’ble Divisional Bench of this Hon’ble Court at Bombay the respondent State has submitted that the principal amount to be rescheduled in respect of the loan outstanding against the farmers is of Rs.203 crores and the interest to be written off is Rs.61 crores. Later on by filing affidavit dated 3.9.07 the respondent State submitted that towards interest waiver it has paid Rs.825 crores from P.M. packages and Rs.240 crores from State package and the total overdue as on 30.6.06 was Rs.1407 crores.

3) That recently the Central Government has announced the complete loan waiver amounting to Rs.71000 crores. As mentioned above already Rs.1065 crores were paid by the Government to the Banks towards interest waiver out of the total amount of Rs.1407 crores, hence now the new quantum of the amount disbursed towards loan waivers of the farmers raises questions about its authenticity in the background of the fact that the amount is coming from the pocket of the tax payer.

4) That in compliance with the High Court Order dated 11.07.06, 7.8.06 and 6.8.07 as made a Web site operational pertaining to the relief packages, measures and programs formulated by the State for the benefit of the farmers specially the suicide affected area. The petitioner went through the contents of this Web site, but could not found the details of the beneficiaries and the exact amount paid to each Bank, hence the application has been filed for necessary directions to the respondent for placing the record and details of the loan weavers before this Hon’ble Court.

5) That there was much hue & cry about the mismanagement of the various packages, hence the respondent State has appointed a one man Committee consisting of Dr. Narendra Jadhav – The Vice Chancellor, Pune University, Pune to verify that the packages are properly executed and to suggest the remedial measures for better implementation of the packages. The petitioner himself appeared before the Commission and extended his co-operation by submitting various suggestions and data. The suggestions made by Petitioner – Sh. Kishore Tiwari before the said committee were very much appreciated by the said Dr. Narendra Jadhav Commission which recommended Food Security to 4,42,000 farmers family in extreme distress and recommended State to supply 25 Kgs foodgrains at subsidies rate at par with BPL and also recommended Cashless Health Card to 92,321 families in which serious illness problem have been found by the survey conducted by State Govt. The Petitioner pointed out that even though the commission has submitted his report to the respondent State on 17.07.08, but no action is initiated pursuant to said report. So for proper assistance to this Hon’ble Court in the instant matter, the presence of above report on record is also necessary. Hence Court Order its submission within four weeks.

It may be recalled that the said Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by Petitioner Sh. Kishore Tiwari in the year 2005. Earlier by its Order dated 13th June 2006, due to negligent & casual approach of the State & its bureaucrats to comply with the earlier orders passed by the High-Court, the Division Bench of High Court had imposed cost of Rs. 1,000/- each to be recovered from the Chief Secretary & 12 Other Top I.A.S. Bureaucrats officials of the rank of Principal Secretary, Secretaries, Divisional Commissioners and Director General of Police to be paid within 2 weeks, otherwise the reply – affidavit would not be considered the order of imposition of cost of Rs.1000/- each was modified after the prayer made by the Advocate General of Maharashtra State, who had to rush Nagpur for pleading before the Court in this Writ Petition.

The Public Interest Litigation ¨Criminal Writ Petition was filed by Shri Kishore Tiwari with the wide prayers in the interest of Cotton Cultivating Farmers community at large. The prayers are as under that –

i) the Hon’ble High Court to take cognizance of the plight of poor Farmers who were compelled to commit suicide due to wrongful policies of the State,

ii) to order necessary probe / enquiry in the role of State Officers in promoting B.T. Cotton which resulted in the failure of crop,

iii) to direct investigation through C.B.I., Vigilance Commission, C.I.D. or any other independent agency in the matter of sale of bogus and duplicate B.T. Cotton seeds by the companies and involvement of the officials of the State in inducing the poor farmers for cultivating the B.T. Cotton,

iv) to order prosecution of the guilty officials for the offences punishable under Section 306, 409, 420 & 120 (B) of Indian Penal Code and their overacts causing series of suicides of farmers,

v) to direct the State to compensate the families of the farmers who have compelled to commit suicide by the negligence of the State by providing Rs. 5,00,000/- each without any disparity or choose & pick policy,

vi) to direct the State to take immediate measures for granting financial assistance to the Cotton Growing Farmers & to take
further steps to protect the farmers from the coercive recovery at the hands of banks & private money lenders,

vii) to direct the State to place Action Taken Report on the recommendations of various Committees,

viii) to direct the State to take appropriate action against the B.T. Cotton Seeds companies for compensating the poor farmers died untimely &

ix) other reliefs which High Court may find suitable in the facts and circumstances.

The petition will be taken up for further hearing after 4 weeks at the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court. Advocate Firdos Mirza & Advocate Vinod Tiwari appeared for the petitioner and State was represented by Additional Govt. Pleader and APP Smt. Bharati Dangre, whereas Central Government was represented by Adv. Sh. Shyam Ahirkar.

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MP at bottom of hunger pyramid

BS Reporter / New Delhi October 15, 2008, 0:31 IST

http://www.business-standard.com/india/storypage.php?autono=337412

Madhya Pradesh, which reported deaths of malnourished children last month, has the most severe level of hunger in the country and ranks between African countries Ethiopia and Chad, according to a global hunger index released today by the International Food Policy Research Institute in conjunction with Welthungerhilfe (formerly known as German Agro-Action) and the University of California, Riverside.

MP is followed by Jharkhand and Bihar, according to the first-ever India State Hunger Index, which was released along with the global index. Punjab and Kerala scored the best.

The Indian state hunger index analyses hunger levels in 17 major states and scores range from “serious” to “extremely alarming”. It measures hunger on three leading indicators and combines them into one index. The three indicators are prevalence of child malnutrition, rates of child mortality and the proportion of people who are calorie deficient.

The index for India found that not a single state in India fell in the “low hunger” or “moderate hunger” categories. Twelve states fall in the “alarming” category, and one state — Madhya Pradesh — falls in the “extremely alarming” category. Four states — Punjab, Kerala, Haryana and Assam — fall in the ‘serious‘ category.

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FAO says no to moratorium on biofuels

http://www.financialexpress. com/news/fao-says-no-to- moratorium-on-biofuels/373966/
ASHOK B SHARMA
Posted: Oct 16, 2008 at 0113 hrs IST
Updated: Oct 16, 2008 at 0113 hrs IST

New Delhi, Oct 15 : The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which has acknowledged that bio-fuel programme as one of the factors responsible for the present global food crisis, has soft-pedaled on the issue by not calling for a moratorium. It has rather suggested to make an in-depth assessment of its risks and possible benefits.

An FAO report ‘The State of Food and Agriculture-2008’ said, “A variety of factors have combined to raise food prices to the highest levels since the 1970s (in real terms) with serious implications for food security among poor populations around the world. One of the most frequently mentioned contributing factors is the recent rapid growth in the use of agricultural commodities – including some food crops – for the production of bio-fuels.”

“The emergence of bio-fuels as a new and significant source of demand for some agricultural commodities – including maize, sugar, oilseeds and palm oil – contributes to higher prices of agricultural commodities in general, and for resources used to produce them,” it said.

According to the FAO representative in India and Bhutan, Gavin Wall, who released the report in Delhi on Wednesday, the potential benefits of bio-fuels and farmers’ income need to be considered.

Though the report said that the impact of bio-fuel on food prices and its potential to contribute to energy security, climate-change mitigation and agricultural development continue to remain as the topic for the debate. It, however, acknowledged that the future of bio-fuels and the role they would play for agriculture and food security remain uncertain. Though the bio-fuels will offset only a modest share of fossil energy use over the next decade, they would have much bigger impact on agriculture and food security.

The report also found the impact of bio-fuels on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions varying widely, depending upon where and how various feedstock crops are produced. In many cases increased emissions from land-use changes may offset or even exceed GHG savings obtained through replacing fossil fuel use. Other concerns are the impact on water use, soil and biodiversity.

FAO pinned its hope on the second generation bio-fuels which may offer additional benefits and called investment on is research and phasing out of production subsidies and trade barriers in OECD countries.

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Agrarian Crisis and Farmers' Suicides


Source: Agrarian Crisis and Farmers’ Suicides in India

Srijit Misra, IGIDR

The larger agrarian crisis has two dimensions. On the one hand, there is a livelihood crisis that threatens the very basis of survival for the vast majority of small and marginal farmers as also for agricultural labourers. On the other hand, there is an agricultural developmental crisis that lies in the neglect of agriculture arising out of poor design of programmes and allocation of resources and having resulted in declining productivity and profitability. This twin dimensions could also be equated with the developmental discourse where the former is about displacement of people and the latter is about displacement of ideology. The outcome is that planning is not people-centric.
In monsoon India, abundance or paucity of water has always been considered as a major source of agricultural uncertainty. Today, this yield risk could also be because of spurious inputs or inappropriate use of technology. Increasing costs, price volatility, non-availability of credit from formal sources and other risks further compound it. Social responsibility of education, healthcare and marriage instead of being normal activities add to the burden. All these would even put the semi-medium farmer under a state of transient poverty.
An extreme response to this distress is the increasing incidence of farmerss suicides. Between 1995 and 2006, more than 190,000 farmers have committed suicides, 83 per cent of these being males. The suicide mortality rate (SMR, suicide death for 100,000 persons) for male farmers increased from 10.5 to 19.5 whereas that of male non-farmers has more or less remained around 13. The major states with SMR for male farmers greater than the all India average of 18 during 2001-06 are Kerala (233), Maharashtra (53), Chattishgarh (47), Karnataka (39), Andhra Pradesh (35), Tamil Nadu (31) and West Bengal (21). It is to be reiterated that suicide is a symptom of the larger crisis, and its absence does not in any way indicate the absence of a crisis.
It is only in Kharif 2008 that one observes a substantial increase in the minimum support prices of the 16 major crops. In fact, the absolute increase would be almost equal to increments in the entire decade. Though welcome, this vindicates the established fact that returns to agriculture had turned out to be abysmally low. Per-capita per day returns to farmer households from cultivation in 2002-03 was eight rupees. Another recent public policy intervention has been the Rs.70,000 crore debt waiver package. This is just a book keeping exercise and at best will reduce the burden from formal sources. Indebtedness, like suicides, is another symptom.
Risk mitigation has to go beyond suicides and debt. What is more important is to spruce of public investments that will increase returns to cultivation. Skill enhancement and linking of opportunities to local resources are required to spruce up non-farm income. Success of the credit and input markets require effective regulation. There is a case of encouraging technological and financial products that would reduce costs while increasing returns. Institutions that can organize farmers are required.
My earlier blog on a related theme is Indian Agriculture in Doldrums.
Selected Readings:
Bhaduri, Amit (2008), Predatory Growth, Economic and Political Weekly, 43 (16), 10-14.
Government of India (2007), Report of the Expert Group on Agricultural Indebtedness, Chairman: R Radhakrishna.
Mishra, Srijit (2007), Agrarian Scenario in Post-reform India: A Story of Distress, Despair and Death, Orissa Economic Journal, 39, (1 & 2), 53-84. IGIDR Working paper version is WP-2007-001.
Mishra, Srijit (2008) Risks, Farmers’ Suicides and Agrarian Crisis in India: Is There a Way Out? Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, 63 (1), 38-54. IGIDR Working paper version is WP-2007-014.
Reddy, D. Narasimha and Srijit Mishra (eds.) (2008) Agrarian Crisis in India, Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
This is the abstract of a presentation at a one day international seminar, “Environmental degradation and food crisis – Lessons for India” being organized by Greenpeace India on 24 October 2008 atIndia International Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, India.

Food First Policies needed to tackle hunger in India

Shiva: Food-First Policies Needed to Tackle Hunger in India

Indian activist Vandana Shiva holding a pin that reads 'No thanks to GMO food'

Shiva blames the increase in hunger on the use of genetically engineered seeds

Dramatic price increases have left nearly a billion people hungry worldwide. As World Poverty Day draws attention to the issue, DW’s Dennis Stute speaks with activist Vandana Shiva about India’s huge hunger levels.

Dr. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecologist, activist and author. In India she has established Navdanya, a movement for biodiversity conservation and farmers’ rights. She also directs the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy.

The UN has declared Oct. 17 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

DW-WORLD.DE: How has the food crisis affected India?
Vandana Shiva: Very severely. Prices of staples have literally doubled in the last year and that has meant that the poor who were already only eating half of what they should be eating are now eating a quarter of what they should be. Unfortunately, it is the poor who must make a living by working physically and what we’re basically doing is robbing them of their ability to earn a living.

In addition, when children don’t get enough food to eat or when a mother is malnourished and she gives birth to a low birth-weight child, we are creating generations of people deprived of full mental health and full physical health.

According to a new report, there are “alarming” levels of hunger in 12 Indian states and “serious” levels in the remaining five. What, in your view, is the reason for the widespread malnutrition?

There are two very big reasons why India has emerged as the capital of hunger. The first is the “Green Revolution” model of agriculture, which was actually a hunger-creating model proposed as a hunger solution. But when you destroy food sources in pulses, in vegetables, in grains, in oil seeds and create monocultures of rice and wheat, you destroy the millets — the nutritious grains that have 40 times higher level of nutrition — and call them inferior grains and push them to extinction. On the ground, you have less food per unit acre and you have less nutrition access per capita.

Man picking an ear of corn from a stalk GMO crops require more water and provide less nutritional value, says Shiva

The second is related to the new thrust of the 1991 policies of trade liberalization which instead of focusing on food for people focused on exports of luxury cash crops to rich countries, destroying India’s food security base. This was trade-driven and really put food on the back burner then, treated as something you don’t need policy for.

The food situation is particularly bad in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Why is this state doing even worse than the others?
The two reasons Madhya Pradesh is more severely affected than others is that it’s a large forest state and it’s largely a tribal state. The food security of the tribals came from abundant forest products including edible products from the forest’s produce. Mining and industrialization is so rampant that tribals are losing their food resources.

It’s also the state where the drought impact because of climate change has been felt very severely. Bundelkhan has had a drought and rainfall failure for four years — there has been no cultivation at all. And that’s partly because the agricultural model is based on new seeds like hybrid seeds which need chemicals. But that’s the stupidest thing you could do because climate change requires adaption to drought which means planting crops that are resilient to drought — the millets that use only 250 millimeters of rain.

But unfortunately the government, driven by international agencies like the World Bank, has walked on the wrong road for a period of market volatility and climate uncertainty. The combination is a recipe for hunger and famine. We need to shift our focus from global markets and global trades to local food security and away from export crops to growing food and nutrition for our people.

In the past ten years, more than 140,000 farmers in India have committed suicide according to official figures. Why is their situation so desperate?

The first suicide came in 1997. When the impact of the new policies of liberalizing the seed sector started to get felt and corporations like Monsanto, who wanted to sell genetically modified seed, entered the market.

They started to sell non renewable hybrid seeds which meant the farmers had to spent huge amounts of money buying seed every year. These seeds also needed irrigation and were vulnerable to pests to the farmers had to spend more money putting in irrigation systems and buying pesticides. That meant a higher debt burden on farmers. Falling prices of the products and rising costs of production squeezed the farmers even further into debt. And that is what has led to the spate of suicides.

How can you tackle the problem of hunger?

A bowl of rice is being handed from an adult hand to a child's Getting food into the hands of the poor is difficult due to heavy subsidies

I think the most urgent steps to be taken to tackle the problem are to actually develop the farming systems to produce more food per unit acre. Every assumption of industrial agriculture is wrong because it does not produce more food but uses more chemicals and more water per unit acre. It produces more commodities for international trade per unit acre but it does not produce more food or more nutrition per unit acre. Models of farming that can increase food-production fivefold, ten fold, depending on your climatic conditions have evolved through the organic movement. Those models of biodiverse, ecological systems can solve the problem of hunger.

The second thing that needs to be done is to bring back food-first policies. In India after independence we have not had hunger on the scale we are now witnessing. We had a famine in 1942 which killed two million people. We had enough food in the country but the British were extracting every bit of rice from Bengal and exporting it for profit — exporting it to finance the war. We drove that famine away through public policy that put food first through a universal public distribution system that meant everyone has a right to affordable food. That was dismantled by the World Bank and it has to be resurrected.

The poor must have food at affordable price instead of subsidizing global corporations. What the government has to do is to buy, preferably organics, from the Indian farmers and then subsidize the prices for the poor. We would save our financial budgets, we would save our taxes and we would have more food at lower prices. India this year is spending one trillion rupees in subsidies for global corporations to buy chemical fertilizers. That’s the wrong way to go. We can lower costs of production, increase output per acre, increase equity and distribution. That is food sovereignty. That is food security. That is food first.

We can end the Food Crisis

Press Release

Via Campesina on world food day

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We can end the food crisis!

(Maputo, October 15, 2008) We can only end the food crisis through the principles of food sovereignty and agroecology. This is the focus of the Vía Campesina in Maputo, as its 5th Congress gets underway with a Youth Assembly for rural youth from all over the world.

There are many young people who want to start out in agriculture using agroecological farming methods, based on autonomous principles of sustainable production and local marketing of produce. Current policies, however, make this difficult, and favour industrial production methods.

Today, the 16th of October, 2008, the FAO World Food Day, the Via Campesina offers a message of hope in the face of the world food crisis.

The crisis is a direct result of the industrial and export-based agricultural model, at the expense of millions of rural workers and the population as a whole, in every region of the world. But the crisis can be overcome if we abandon this model, which drives out rural workers, destroys biodiversity and the environment, and results in hunger and poverty in the world. The food crisis is the most dramatic link in the chain of crises generated by the neo-liberal economic system – the climate crisis, the energy crisis, the financial crisis, the biodiversity crisis, etc.. It is time for a change of direction, starting with agriculture itself.

The alternative is food sovereignty, which allows peoples to develop their own agricultural and food policies, which favour local and sustainable rural production, and equitable distribution of healthy food to support their own people.

The Vía Campesina reiterates this message in the midst of discussions taking place during its 5th Conference in Maputo (Mozambique), attended by over 600 representatives of small farmer and rural worker organizationss from all over the world.

60% of all food consumed in Mozambique is imported, and the scourge of hunger and malnutrition is everyhere in this country. Mozambique, like every country in the world, needs food sovereignty and support for its sustainable peasant production sector – using environmentally-friendly means – to feed its own population and put an end to hunger.

Today on World Food Day, the Via Campeina Youth Assembly stresses the urgent need of new generations of farmers to have to access to farm land and means of production. It has become clear that many young people want to farm, using the principles of agroecology, yet are still unable to do so. The Via Campesina urges governments to improve access to land, credit and support for these young people, because the future of agriculture and food production depends on them. In other words, the food crisis cannot be solved if young people are not given a wide-ranging role in agriculture based on food sovereignty and agroecological models.

For more information: Isabelle Delforge (e-mail: idelforge@viacampesina.org, +258 829628439) www.viacampesina.org

Hunger in Indian States "alarming"

BBC online: Oct. 14, 2008..

Hunger in India states ‘alarming’

India has some of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world

Twelve Indian states have “alarming” levels of hunger while the
situation is “extremely alarming” in the state of Madhya Pradesh, says
a new report.

Madhya Pradesh’s nutrition problems, it says, are comparable to the
African countries of Ethiopia and Chad.

India has more people suffering hunger – a figure above 200 million –
than any other country in the world, it says.

The report, released as part of the 2008 Global Hunger Index, ranks
India at 66 out 88 countries.

‘Scored worse’

The hunger index has been released by the International Food Policy
Research Institute (IFPRI) along with Welthungerhlife and the
University of California.

It measures hunger on three indicators which include child
malnutrition, rates of child mortality and the number of people who
are calorie deficient.

Table of full results

The problem of hunger is measured in five categories – low, moderate,
serious, alarming or extremely alarming.

The survey says that not one of the 17 states in India that were
studied were in the low or moderate hunger category.

“Despite years of robust economic growth, India scored worse than
nearly 25 sub-Saharan African countries and all of South Asia, except
Bangladesh,” the report says.

The best performing state was Punjab, which has a ‘serious’ hunger
problem and does less well than developing countries such as Gabon,
Vietnam and Honduras.

About 60% children in Madhya Pradesh state are malnourished

“When Indian states are compared to countries in the Global Hunger
Index, [the central Indian state of] Madhya Pradesh ranks between
Ethiopia and Chad,” it says.

India is long known to have some of the highest rates of child
malnutrition and mortality in under-fives in the world.

According to the Indian government statistics two years ago, around
60% of more than 10 million children in the state were malnourished.

Nutrition experts say the abysmal record is due to an inadequate
access to food, poor feeding practices and poor childcare practices in
India.

And now the rise in the global food prices has reduced the food-buying
capacity of many poor families, making their situation worse.

In the past year food prices have increased significantly, but
people’s incomes haven’t kept pace, forcing many families further into
hunger, experts say.

The report says “improving child nutrition is of utmost urgency in
most Indian states”.

“All states also need to improve strategies to facilitate inclusive
economic growth, ensure food sufficiency and reduce child mortality,”
it adds.

Farmers” suicides prompts Cabinet into announcing over 16,000 crore rehabilitation package

October 8th, 2008 – 10:36 pm ICT by ANI –

New Delhi, Oct.8 (ANI): The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a rehabilitation package for 31 identified districts in the State of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra involving total amount of Rs.16978.69 crores, consisting of Rs.10579.43 crores as subsidy/grants and Rs.6399.26 crores as loan.
Finance Minister P.Chidambaram told reporters after the cabinet meeting that the rehabilitation package aims at establishing a sustainable and viable farming and livelihood support system through debt relief to farmers, complete institutional credit coverage, crop-centric approach to agriculture, assured irrigation facilities, effective watershed management, better extension and farming support services and subsidiary income opportunities through horticulture, livestock, dairying, fisheries and other subsidiary activities.
For alleviating the hardship faced by the debt stressed families of farmers, ex-gratia assistance from Prime Ministers National relief Fund @ Rs.50.00 lakh per district has also been provided. The package covers the following :
a) Complete credit cover through institutional credit sources;
b) Debt relief to farmers by restructuring overdue loans and interest waiver;
c) Provision of assured irrigation facilities; d) Watershed management;
e) Seed replacement programme:
f) Diversification of activities into horticulture, livestock, dairying and fisheries etc. for generation of additional employment and income opportunities; and
g) Extension support services.
Feedback received from State Governments and other implementing agencies indicates that implementation of the rehabilitation package has resulted in substantial improvement in the ground level conditions and mitigation of farmers distress. However, they have suggested some amendments to the existing interventions for giving a sharper edge and increase the pace of implementation of the interventions brought about through the rehabilitation package.

The suggestions were examined and the Union Cabinet today gave its approval to the following modifications in the rehabilitation package:
(i) Extension of the period for implementation of the non-credit component of the package by two more years i.e. up to 30th September 2011.
(ii) In-principle approval for provision of need based additional financial support to the concerned Ministries/Departments of the Government of India for implementation of the programmes/ interventions included in the package.
(iii) Increase in per farmer area limit under Seed Replacement Programme from 1 ha. To 2 ha.
(iv) Adoption of Cafeteria Approach for participatory Watershed Development Programmes, where State Governments with prior permission of the Ministry of Agriculture have the flexibility to adopt either the models circulated by NABARD or Sujala Model of Watershed Development Programme being implemented in Karnataka under Word Bank assistance or the models in accordance with the common guidelines for Watershed Development Projects approved by NRAA subject to the condition that financial assistance will be as per the approved norms of Watershed Development Fund (WDF).
(v) Inclusion of Women Farmers Empowerment Programme under extension services.
(vi) Construction of an Empowered Committee headed by Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries and consisting of representatives from Department of Agriculture & Cooperation, Planning Commission and Ministry of Finance as members for taking decision regarding medication or inclusion of new components under subsidiary income activities subject to the total financial implication remaining within the existing approved outlay for the concerned State.
The improvements in the package would give it a sharper edge and further improve the effectiveness. (ANI)