86,922 farmer suicides in 2001-05: UN

Statesman News Service
NEW DELHI, March 29: In a report vindicating the government’s move to waive farmers’ debt as announced in the Union Budget, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-Escap) has pointed to the 86,922 farmer suicides in the country between 2001 and 2005.
Indicating the link between farm debt and agriculture crisis, the Escap report said this was evident from the large number of farmer suicides in some regions. “During 2001-05, 86,922 farmers committed suicides ~ 54 per cent from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra,” said the survey released here today. “Driving the distress were declining profitability, growing production and marketing risks, an institutional vacuum and lack of alternative livelihood opportunities.”
Lauding the government’s move to address the farm debt issue in the Union Budget, UN Under-Secretary General and ESCAP executive secretary, Ms Noeleen Heyzer, said “Agriculture needs another revolution for a further decline in the poverty levels, especially rural poverty.” Pointing out that Indian agriculture faced a crisis from debt, especially since the mid-1990s, the survey said “Of the estimated 89.3 million farmer households in 1993, 43.42 million (48.6 per cent) were indebted.” Quoting Indian government reports, it said, the average outstanding debt was Rs 12,585 per farmer household and Rs 25,902 per indebted farmer household.
Interest rates for home and car loans were lower than those for farm loans, the survey said, noting that even banks and micro-finance institutions charged 18-24 per cent on farm loans. Institutional debt could reduce the debt burden of farmers, it suggested.
The Escap report also said farmers indeb-tedness was low in less developed states and high in agriculturally developed states. More than half the indebted farmers took loans for capital or current business expenditure, accounting for 58.4 per cent of outstanding loans, it added.
Stating that the sources of the debt made a big difference, the report said at one end of the spectrum was Maharashtra, where institutional credit ac-co-unted for most of the indebtedness. On the other hand, in Andhra Pradesh, local moneylenders dominated the scene. Across India, more than two-fifths of debt was owed to non-institutional agencies, the report noted. Of this, 37.5 per cent carried an interest rate above 30 per cent

Survey report: http://www.unescap.org/survey2008/

Indian Country Background http://www.unescap.org/survey2008/notes/india.asp

Farmers: The endangered Species- Economic Imprisonment Results in suicides

Pradeep Gawande
 
  Kheti kare so Mare, India Today( March7, 2001).The swelling ‘Register of Deaths,The Hindu (December 29, 2005)Farmers to sell kidneys to raise capital, The Times of India (Feb 2006) Media carries the tragic tales of two different entities namely India and Bharat. These different entities are otherwise heterogeneously yoked together in the name of patriotism and unity in diversity.   However, in terms of social and economic justice, national income distribution they are poles apart.
                Farmer’s leader Sharad Joshi who used to plough a coloumn in ToI titled ‘Bharat Speaks’ finds thousands of farmers speaking through their tale- telling   suicides. .Addressing a mahila rally at Amravati Joshi admitted that his state of mind being as confused as that of Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra and prayed  goddess Durga   for strength and vision. 
 
Son of soil, agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar ended his tour of district in Feb promising nothing serious except the age – old lip service.   Pitching agriculture into cricket and playing cricket into agriculture is something nothing less of Nero who was playing fiddle when Rome was burning.
Prior to Pawar’s tour his party poster-boy R. R. Patil appealed farmers here addressing rallies not to pay back loans borrowed from private moneylenders and instead trash them nicely.   Shiv – Sena – BJP combine took a out a rally – of – course a ‘ Mahamorcha ‘ ventilating vitriol against ruling government and exploiting the issue for political mileage and demanding nothing special.  
 
All said and done, the exercise does not go beyond the superficial dressing.   No serious treatment of the chronic disease is prescribed nor any operation for relief and cure.
                It was Royal Commissions’ observation that Indian farmers are born in poverty live in poverty and die in poverty.   This bitter truth was further confirmed by historic support of thousands of farmers to Shetkari Sanghatana and other farmers’ movements all over the nation.   However, as the spate of globalization began and winds of liberalization began to blow, Shetkari Sanghatana version changed.  The exaggeration of the brief for globalization went to extent of creating illusions such as that a remote village farmer Soanbai could sell her Jowar in global market and see the dollars dancing her homeward.   This is just a sample.  In short, globalization was stated to be the panacea for all ills of farmers.
                Three consequent years of drought and results are unending tale of farmer’s suicides. There appears no concern for the natural calamity as a collective responsibility even a state responsibility. Once upon a time it was khalistan movement that made daily news without fail.   Now its farmers that make news almost daily without fail by killing themselves. 
 
We have a government at center that has been graced by farmers with power dethroning the defaulter devotees of tortured Lord Rama. Yet the apathy for farmers remains the same.  
 
We are world’s largest democracy.  The full – fledged three-act-play ( nautanki) of democracy runs well.  Thanks to the farmers who unlike the urban   comfort – zone – dwellers take pains to cast their votes.   On the contrary comfort-zone-dwellers just remain at their sweet homes enjoying the holiday on polling day watching cricket match highlights on television or make it to their farmhouses at hill stations to realize the heaven upon earth. They believe in democracy however they don’t believe in taking pains for casting votes.   Strangely enough, yet they are ensured all that they deserve and even what they don’t deserve!  The robbed and helpless farmer gets pushed back ward from where he stood.   Compare his lot in last four five decades.  We would find that years back his lot was comparatively better. He was comparatively happy and healthy.  
 
Today we find the Farmers nothing but the endangered species caught in the inescapable cell of economic imprisonment.   He is not poor.  He has wealth in the form of land.  He has milk yet he cannot consume it.   In strict economic terms, it is the state of moneylessness. Money adequate enough to enjoy economic freedom does not reach him.  This is the crux.   He grows crops, sells them, pays debts and again borrows new debt.  The vicious circle continues denying him even a little freedom.  No breather.   Thus it is just a life sentence of economic imprisonment.  A vernacular proverb goes that you can act anything but not money ( sab soung chalata hai per paise ka soung nahi chalata ).   This is the basic reason that he is helplessly committing suicide,
                Varsity campuses are on record to have organized workshops on farmers’ suicides.   The comfort- zone-dwellers have their own prejudices and derive sadistic pleasure in analyzing and categorizing farmers’ suicides.  They classify them such as-debt-ridden, family worries, incurable chronic diseases, alcoholism and what not! Nobody bothers to compare farmers’ incomes, nutrition level and the quality of life.   Nobody wants to talk about his affected health, life expectancy. Under the burden of economic and multiple worries a 40-year farmer looks fifty five year old. The UGC is reported to have approved proposals and sanctioned money for so-called researches on farmer’s suicides. Paradoxically nothing comes the endangered farmers way. Son of soil Sharad Pawar finds cricket dearer and soothing than ugly agriculture and shabby farmers. Glamour has an edge over hunger.
 
The Raj looked down upon the native as a white man’s burden. A farmer is a parallel eyesore, a perfect equivalent of white man’s burden in independent India. Thus cricket is nothing but Sharad Pawar’s escapism rather than the identity crisis. Why does he not spare the portfolio to Sharad Joshi who holds it so dear and has all the way been struggling at the cost of his family and health and what not?
                Some intellectuals take trips to villages to satisfy their cacoethes – lonquendi in the guise of social reformers and prescribe farmers do and dont’s, moral and ethical lessons. Either a dose of spiritualism or an over dose of atheism, according to schools of thought they belong to.   They heap advices on farmers’ such as not to burst crackers in Diwali Period.  The fun is, it is the urban lot that burst crackers after every single four or six is driven or wicket is a claimed in cricket matches by their heroes.   Watching cricket matches is not a pass time or hobby, its a disease now.  And Sharad Pawar wants to spread it further into epidemics by building stadia. Needless to mention, bursting crackers these days is a distant dream for farmers. It’s long that they have forgotten such privileged luxuries. It can well be established from the statistics of sales in weekly markets at taluka places.   The same parameters can be applied to sales of liquor in villages. Farmers exploitation and undelivered due of economic justices is skillfully sidetracked.
                Our Prime Minister has over again reiterated the old story of equitable development and human face to it.  Thank god! Farmers don’t understand English language or else they would go mad with a humour called – Harshavayu.  He himself drove to his office on day one in an imported luxury car.  The advice to party men about code of ethics and simplicity from none other than Soniaji came much later.   Anyway, we should take our Prime Minister for granted for not only being a good economist but a kind-hearted human being too. Our last Prime Minister Atalaji was Carlyle’s Hero as Poet. However, his poetic insight did not reach the plight of farmers.   He found India was shining. The media black-magic did not work. To his great surprise the following election mandate was dazzling. We can expect Sardar Manmohan Singhji to know the ground realities and the seamy side and act before it is too late.
                The object of this paper is to play an eye opener for those at the helm of affairs and act as a communication gap bridge between the urban average middle class and farmers so that the prejudices can be shed mutually as it has unnecessarily been motivated as – salaried class vs farmers.   The shedding of prejudices on the part of urban intellectuals and shedding envy on the part robbed and hence poor farmer as he naturally compares his painful lot with the creature comforts and security they enjoy. This mutual bond of understanding will help throw the ball in court of those who are in planning process over the years.   Farmers don’t want PSU’s to be sold to private parties to ruin the workers.  But it’s the urban happy brother who should forward the hand for handshake.   In short, the trouble lies in planning.  And let me assert that the farmers are not committing suicides because middle class gets a fifth pay scale or a Collector gets chauffer driven car. The trouble is somewhere else.   And this is where communication is required.
                Farmer is victim of defective and visionless planning.  I have local metaphor for that.  I term it as milk cooker planning and milk cooker economy.   Years back there prevailed a popular trend of presenting a neither useful nor or ornamental pot called milk cooker.  It was so popular a trend that a wedding couple used to get even a couple of dozen milk cookers.   They were absolutely useless.  Hence landed even in latrines and finally in scrap.  For long the useless pot played its economic role.   Nobody except the manufactures of the pot benefited.   The closed sugar mills in Vidarbha where sugarcane can’t be grown and closed spinning mills at Daryapur in Amravati district and at Akot in Akola district are the glaring examples of milk-cooker economy and economic planning and vision.   The nearly 400 crore unwanted flyover at Amravati also is a glaring example of visionless planning.  This huge sum of money could well be used for some really necessary work.   Why haven’t those shouting for the back-log of Vidarbha struck it out so that the money could well be diverted to irrigation and water management. These instances are fairly reflective of the overall lack of vision and priorities in planning.   Today we are passing through a phase of- de – construct the old, re – built new and earn as much as possible.  This is the order of the day.   In short, India is under re-construction. You can’t build a strong nation by merely bringing up concrete jungles.
                Farmers have made this nation self – sufficient on food front. We can feed over a hundred crore population.  Yet millions starve. This has exposed all intellectuals. They are out of their pants.
 
There are several economic aspects of this issue that shall be dealt with in the course of time. The immediate object of this eassay is to express wearer best knows where the shoe pinches account of the first hand experience of the problem as I am a debt-ridden farmer having no other income source other than agriculture. I am a landlord hence not poor. However, I don’t have money. This is thus a farmer’s FIR.
Thus to define poverty we will have to get away from traditional parameters of economics. It is nothing but moneylessness.   And as money doesn’t reach farmer’s hands he is caught in the dark tunnel of economic imprisonment. And economic untouchability is another thing that he finds himself rejected as a leper. This is the reason that he is kissing death by committing suicide.
 
Money is the magnet that pulls goods around it.   Commodity does not travel from one place to another by means of transport. The magnet called money pulls it.
 
There are wonderful arguments about there being no money. For instance, the World Bank finances projects such as construction of nullah. The fun is, cement and steel required for constructions is produced in our nation, sand is ‘ours’, Water required for mortar is neither imported nor mineral. Labours are very much Indians.   The nullah is ‘ours own’, but we can’t undertake the work because we don’t have money and money finally comes from great grandmother -in law – WORLD BANK, great grand father in law IMF and the good Samaritan Uncle Sam.
                It would take some time to digest this maxim and interpretation, as it is new.  It is not absolutely new. Economists Milton Friedman, even Barbara Ward (in her book, Poor Nations) has a great deal spelt it out quite explicitly.   However, in Indian context where as the hold of tradition is much too fast, the openness to accept it would come taking its own time.  But it will come because ultimately it is India that has historically accepted many things that even the west would have found hard to accept and digest.   It is not socialism or communism but decentralization of capitalism. It is as simple as empowering the grampanchayat.  The farmer should be monetarily empowered to liberate him from the present economic imprisonment. Let him breath the fresh air of being a consumer so that Industry will grow. The goods won’t require to be sold in ‘ SALE ‘ after they get shop-soiled and old.   Even Bata footwears remain unsold and get offered in ‘SALE’ in less than an year with 50 % discount.  This is because farmer has no buying power.   Let us hope that our kind hearted Prime Minister Sardar Manmohan Singh and lawful economic Minister will cast look at villages through their bifocal glasses and do justice to farming community.
                We produce peerless mangoes such as hapus and other varieties but we don’t have money to consume them. Thus the Americans consume them because they have money. Isn’t this something funny? All quality fruits, food grain, dry-fruits are meant for Americans.   
                It simply wonderful that cotton fabric and garments are in fashion.  The prices of cotton clothes have gone up almost five to ten times compared to raw cotton prices.   However, besides the rise in demand raw cotton prices have come down.  Who will explain this?  Will the mainstream economist try to be sensible? Unfortunately trespassing their territory, they are busy prescribing condoms to their growing children. ( Swaminomics – in ToI )
                The phenomenon of SALE economy and sale market is the result of denying farmers power to purchase and his right to be a consumer.  Perverted consumerism of Amway genre at the cost of consumer’s health and environment is a bad thing.   However, the lopsided growth of it is deadly for the natural and healthy growth of market economy and ultimately industry.  In short, farmer stands as an economic untouchable in market economy, almost a leper.   Hence   suicides. The  advocates of globalization will find no bush on the sea shore to hide behind and put the clothes on. The ” Buddha of Welfare economics” perhaps deserves another Nobel for the art of euphemism and intellectual blackmail.
                I have long back underlined all this in my paper, “From Mahad Lake to Mineral Water : Economic Untouchability in  21st Century” (Oct 2000).   To do justice to the farmer we will have to alter the course from Jai Jawan Jai Kisan to Jai Kisan Jai Jawan for he is the breadwinner of the Nation in strict economic dimension and not emotional. Stop the, emotional blackmail, in the name of annadata and act. Enough is enough.
 
Published- Farmers’ Forum—VOL-6 No- July-    2006
 
Plot No. 1, Shriram Housing Society, Sambhaji Nagar, Amravati Ph. 9226592406
khetibadiwala@gmail.com, khetibadiwala@indiatimes.com
, pradeepnarhar@rediffamil.com

Farmer committed suicide on dais of daughter's marraige

NAGPUR-27TH MARCH 2007

SUICIDE OF COTTON FARMER ON SUNDAY IN MARRIAGE CEREMONY OF HER OWN DAUGHTER HAS ONCE AGAIN BROUGHT THE HIGH COST MARRIGAE IN RURAL VIDARBHA HAS BEEN COMING OUT TO BE MAJOR REASON OF DISTRESS AND SUICIDE ,DEVIDAS TAYADE IS NOT FIRST TO DO SO MORE THAN 4500 FARM SUICIDES HAS SAME OR THE OTHER STORIES OF ECONOMIC CRISIS TO BRING THE ATTENTION OF INDIAN ADMINISTRATION.

“A Debt bidden farmer ended his life after solemnising the marriage of his beloved daughter .the deceased farmer devidas tayade (45) was a small farmers of village Brahman Wada thadi in amaravati distt.the incident occurred on Sunday at Savarkheda village in Morshi taluka at the time of marriage itself. Jyoti tied the nuptial knot with Pradip Gaikwad of Shirajgoan Kasaba. Devidas in the queue to bless newly married couple. When he reached the couple he collapsed on the dais.

Tayade was admitted to the hospital where doctor declared him dead. Tayade had consumed pesticide.

Tayade had sold his farm of more than three acre for marriages of two punam and jyoti .having become land less ,he was worried about how he would marry of his third daughter Varsha and complete education of his son Manoj .”

Indian farmers abandoning cotton

By Zubair Ahmed

BBC News, Vidarbha

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/6434957.stm

Powar, 26, works as a farm labourer and is getting ready to leave for his day’s work. Others are preparing to take the cattle to the field.

Until recently, the Powars – like all others in their neighbourhood – were cotton farmers.

But things have changed now, the family no longer grows cotton.

Powar’s father committed suicide last year due to mounting debts and Prakash Powar decided to become a farm labourer.

The tiny Kulzari village of 500 people predominantly grows cotton, and the farmers here, as all across Vidarbha, are caught in a cycle of debt and there have been several suicides.

In Vidarbha, on average, three debt-trapped farmers commit suicide every day. And cotton has now been dubbed “the killer crop”.

In protest, a few months ago the entire village decided to stop growing cotton and switch to alternative cash crops, such as lentils.

Prakash Powar was part of the collective decision-making process.

Alternative crops

“The entire village sat together. There were influential people as well. We all decided that cotton will not be grown in the village, because we don’t get the right price for it,” he says.

Raju Rathode is a farmer who, like others, is in debt and thinking of abandoning cotton.

“In a month’s time, some more villages are going to have a meeting in which they’ll debate the idea of growing alternative crops,” he tells me.

Kulzari’s decision may sound like a desperate attempt to draw the authorities’ attention to their plight rather than a well-considered plan of switching to more profitable crops.

But the villagers insist their decision is final.

Says Rathode: “We will grow maze, soya beans and lentils, enough to feed ourselves, not to sell. We’ll work in other people’s fields as labourers or work in cities to earn some cash.”

The idea is catching on.

Dr RL Pitale, a former member of the National Commission on Farmers, says he is visited by cotton-growers who seem determined to switch to alternative crops.

Loss making

“They want to produce enough to just feed their bellies and for other expenses they say they want to work in cities as rickshaw pullers or daily wage workers.”

From farmers who owned plots of land to farm labourers who work on other people’s land – that’s the plight of many in this village.

A relatively rich farmer, Suresh Bulenwar, in a neighbouring village explains how growing cotton has become a loss-making activity which is fuelling suicides.

“It costs 10,000 to 12,000 rupees ($238 to $285) to grow cotton in one acre of land. But the yield fetches only 7,000 to 8,000 rupees ($166 to $190),” he says.

“The farmer borrows money from money lenders after defaulting on his bank repayment and then commits suicide when he is unable to pay back the money lender.”

Dr Pitale refers to a recent report which says the input costs of seeds, pesticides and fertilisers have risen by 50%.

“This has led to the agricultural production costs going higher and incomes going down.”

Urban lifestyle

Kishor Tiwari, who has been campaigning for the farmers’ rights for many years, believes their rising personal expenses too are to blame for their plight.

“The reach of television means the farmer watches the urban lifestyle. He wants a TV, a motorcycle, a fridge and the urban lifestyle. His income doesn’t permit it. So, he borrows, but is unable to pay it back.”

He says “the government and policy makers need to look into this aspect as well.

It seems the government is listening, but only partially.

Sreekar Pradesi is among Yavatmal’s leading district administrators.

“To solve the farmers’ problems, we are trying to reduce their input costs. We are inviting schools and women’s groups to participate in water conservation efforts so that the farmers can grow at least one more crop during the season,” he says.

Experts say growing two crops a year will help raise the farmer’s income level.

But for that to happen, the government first needs to convince farmers, such as Prakash Powar, not to give up cotton cultivation.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/6434957.stm
Published: 2007/03/26 09:05:40 GMT

Soap opera aims to stop farmer suicides

Ashling O¿Connor in Bombay

  • March 26, 2007

Burdened by crop failures and unmanageable debts, thousands of desperate farmers are killing themselves every year despite the announcement of sizeable subsidies that were supposed to improve their lot.

There have been more than 200 suicides this year in the western state of Maharashtra alone, adding to 1,452 in the region last year. Official estimates put the death toll since 2001 on India’s western and southern farming plateaus at more than 5,000; unofficial surveys suggest that the number could be near double.

Faced with these alarming statistics, state officials have produced a docu-soap as a way of engaging with increasingly depressed and disenfranchised farmers.

The half-hour programme will run for three months initially on Sahyadri, the Marathi language channel belonging to Doordarshan, the state-owned national television network.

The concept is part enactment and part reality TV. A handful of professional actors would be required for some storylines but the central creative thread is that the farmers are the stars of the show.

The aim is to educate farmers on emerging cultivation methods, diversification options, available subsidies and loans as well as offer tips and counselling for dealing with a harsh and unwanted existence.

A popular quip among the 650-million-strong agricultural workforce is that, given the choice, they would rather be reborn a European cow than an Indian farmer.

Government officials are discussing deals with two production companies and hope to release the programme on June 6, World Environment Day.

“Television is a very important medium. It has a far reach, which means we can address their problems directly,” Leena Mehendale, principal secretary of Maharashtra’s animal husbandry department, said.

“One farmer can watch the serial and be entertained while another may pick up tips or good practices. The success of the programme will be judged on whether farmers have felt the need to participate and have felt that it will help them.”

The problem of farmer suicides has dogged a Congress-led administration aware that it must include agriculture in the Indian success story if the wider economy is to continue growing at 9 per cent a year and social frictions are to be avoided.

Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, toured the worst-affected area of Vidarbha last July to assure farmers that their need for a fairer system of credit and improved irrigation facilities would be addressed.

His 37.5 billion rupee (£440 million) relief package has yet to make a real difference. After visits by more than 16 government committees, farmers in Vidarbha continue to borrow from loan sharks charging 60 per cent interest.

Nearly 2.8 million of the 3.2 million cotton farmers are defaulters and for every 100 rupees they borrow, about 80 rupees goes into servicing old loans, according to the Planning Commission. Meanwhile, only 3.5 per cent of the land is irrigated in a region that receives more than 800mm (30in) of average rainfall annually.

The docu-soap idea has emerged as pure monetary measures fail to stem the suicide rate. The Roman Catholic Church in India is thinking along similar lines. It recently began a counselling programme involving street plays, songs and art exhibitions to cheer farmers.

Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, the so-called hugging saint, has also announced a two billion rupee programme focused on farmers’ psychological, emotional and spiritual needs.

Soap opera aims to stop farmer suicides

Ashling O¿Connor in Bombay

  • March 26, 2007

Burdened by crop failures and unmanageable debts, thousands of desperate farmers are killing themselves every year despite the announcement of sizeable subsidies that were supposed to improve their lot.

There have been more than 200 suicides this year in the western state of Maharashtra alone, adding to 1,452 in the region last year. Official estimates put the death toll since 2001 on India’s western and southern farming plateaus at more than 5,000; unofficial surveys suggest that the number could be near double.

Faced with these alarming statistics, state officials have produced a docu-soap as a way of engaging with increasingly depressed and disenfranchised farmers.

The half-hour programme will run for three months initially on Sahyadri, the Marathi language channel belonging to Doordarshan, the state-owned national television network.

The concept is part enactment and part reality TV. A handful of professional actors would be required for some storylines but the central creative thread is that the farmers are the stars of the show.

The aim is to educate farmers on emerging cultivation methods, diversification options, available subsidies and loans as well as offer tips and counselling for dealing with a harsh and unwanted existence.

A popular quip among the 650-million-strong agricultural workforce is that, given the choice, they would rather be reborn a European cow than an Indian farmer.

Government officials are discussing deals with two production companies and hope to release the programme on June 6, World Environment Day.

“Television is a very important medium. It has a far reach, which means we can address their problems directly,” Leena Mehendale, principal secretary of Maharashtra’s animal husbandry department, said.

“One farmer can watch the serial and be entertained while another may pick up tips or good practices. The success of the programme will be judged on whether farmers have felt the need to participate and have felt that it will help them.”

The problem of farmer suicides has dogged a Congress-led administration aware that it must include agriculture in the Indian success story if the wider economy is to continue growing at 9 per cent a year and social frictions are to be avoided.

Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, toured the worst-affected area of Vidarbha last July to assure farmers that their need for a fairer system of credit and improved irrigation facilities would be addressed.

His 37.5 billion rupee (£440 million) relief package has yet to make a real difference. After visits by more than 16 government committees, farmers in Vidarbha continue to borrow from loan sharks charging 60 per cent interest.

Nearly 2.8 million of the 3.2 million cotton farmers are defaulters and for every 100 rupees they borrow, about 80 rupees goes into servicing old loans, according to the Planning Commission. Meanwhile, only 3.5 per cent of the land is irrigated in a region that receives more than 800mm (30in) of average rainfall annually.

The docu-soap idea has emerged as pure monetary measures fail to stem the suicide rate. The Roman Catholic Church in India is thinking along similar lines. It recently began a counselling programme involving street plays, songs and art exhibitions to cheer farmers.

Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, the so-called hugging saint, has also announced a two billion rupee programme focused on farmers’ psychological, emotional and spiritual needs.

Banks set up financial counselling centres to help distressed farmers

HEMA RAMAKRISHNAN

TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2007 12:11:20 AM]

SATARA: Several Indian banks are on course to set up financial counselling centres to help distressed farmers, particularly in states such as Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, that have witnessed a spate of suicides. RBI is sensitising banks to have such centres, said Usha Thorat, deputy governor, Reserve Bank of India.
The move follows the government’s decision to set up a Financial Inclusion Fund with Nabard for meeting the cost of developmental and promotional interventions. It also plans to set up a Financial Inclusion Technology Fund to meet the costs of technology adoption. Each fund will have an overall corpus of Rs 500 crore, with the initial funding to be contributed by the centre, RBI and Nabard.
Financial counselling centres may, however, not be a commercially viable proposition for banks. One of the options could be for the banking regulator to provide financial support to banks for setting up these centres.
Policy makers reckon that farmers need to diversify their risks instead of depending on just one crop. Finance is only one of the inputs and turn around in the farm sector hinges on a host of other factors including higher investments and an improvement in the yields.
Bank of India and ICICI Bank have launched credit counselling services. However, most banks in India are yet to have a formal financial system for financial counselling or improving financial literacy. Banks in the US, for instance, are expected to contribute towards educating persons from socially and financially disadvantaged groups on matters relating to their financial needs as per the Community Re-Investment Act.
Financial inclusion is delivery of banking services at an affordable cost to vast sections of disadvantaged and low-income groups. An estimated 600 million rural poor in India are either not served or under-served by the formal financial sector. The concept of financial inclusion was articulated by the RBI in 2005-06. Banks were mandated to make available basic banking “no frills” account either with nil or minimum balances and charges that would make such accounts accessible.
“The concept has caught on. But for real empowerment banks also need to ensure the continuity in use of these accounts by rural households. Such households need access to the entire gamut of financial services — including remittance facilities,” said Thorat. She said the RBI has asked all state-level bankers to identify at least one district in each state for financial inclusion.