Governor vows relief measures for farmers

By Akhel Mathew, Correspondent

Thiruvananthapuram: Farm sector figures as the main thrust area of Kerala’s 2007 budget session that began yesterday.

In his policy speech to the 12th session of the assembly, Governor R.L. Bhatia stressed that the crisis-ridden agriculture sector, which reported recently a string of farmers’ suicides due to financial troubles, would top the government’s priorities.

The governor also focused on the need to concentrate on agriculture-related areas and “sunrise” fields like information technology and tourism.

Bhatia declared the year ‘Haritha Varsham’ (year of agriculture). Aid would be made available to farmers in Palakkad and Idukki districts. A special council would be formed for the welfare of farmers.


An insurance policy for fishermen’s families, a debt relief scheme for fisheries sector, a loan scheme for fish vendors, a housing scheme for poor families and a commission to study schemes for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and land allotment to them were some of the welfare measures announced by the governor.

A separate court to deal with cases of atrocities on women and two special courts to deal with cases of atrocities on scheduled castes and scheduled tribes would be set up.

A plan to promote “responsible tourism” would be pushed in 2007 to ensure that the benefit of the sector went to the local community as well.

Maharashtra govt. accuses PMO of delay in releasing funds for farmers,000…
Satya Prakash

New Delhi, February 28, 2007

The Maharashtra Government has accused the Prime Minister’s Office of delay in releasing additional funds for ex-gratia assistance to suicide-affected farmers’ families in the state.
Due to undue delay in release of money from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund for this purpose, an amount of Rs 1.80 crore had to be earmarked from the chief minister’s fund for the purpose, the Maharashtra Government said in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court.
This component of the package authorised district collectors to sanction Rs 10,000 for a suicide-affected family for health and education related expenses, it said, adding an amount of Rs 50 lakh each was placed for disposal with the six District Collectors for this purpose in August 2006.
“This amount has fully been disbursed to the needy families and the state government has been requesting the Prime Minister’s Office for additional funds. The state government has even earmarked Rs 1.80 crore from the chief minister’s fund, with a view to keep the scheme running…otherwise the scheme had to be stopped due to delay in receiving grants from the Prime Minister’s Office,” the Maharashtra Government said in its affidavit.
The affidavit has been filed in response to a PIL by advocate Sanjiv Bhatnagar seeking review of the current agriculture policy in view of suicides committed by thousands of farmers in various parts of the country.
The court had on August 14, 2006 issued notices to the Union Agriculture Ministry and the governments of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala on the petition that also sought modifications in the agriculture policy to check suicides by farmers.
Maharashtra also complained that NABARD has shown its unwillingness to provide loans under the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund.
On crop loan too, it said that NABARD refinance at the rate of 2.5 per cent would be available only to the tune of the total crop loan requirement and the remaining finance had to be made available by the state agencies which would put them in huge loss.
“Thus, the State Government will have to bear this financial burden of about Rs 200 crore for implementing the decision of the Government of India for providing crop loan at the rate of 7 per cent. The Government of India needs to immediately take the decision of giving 100 per cent refinance at the rate of 2.5 per cent,” the state government said.
It said that 75 per cent of the suicides in the last five years took place in Amravati, Yavatmal, Akola, Buldhana and Wasim districts of Amarawati Division and Wardha District of Nagpur Division of the state. Yavatmal district alone accounted for 27 per cent of the total suicides, it added.
On the reasons behind farmers’ suicide, the affidavit said that it “is a complex problem and need not be understood in the light of indebtedness alone, which is only one of the multiple socio-economic and psychological factors”.
Quoting from a study by Mumbai-based Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, it said the main reasons behind farmers’ suicide were indebtedness, crop failure and low return, illness of family members, inability to arrange finance for marriage of daughter and lack of income earning opportunities from subsidiary occupations.
However, the state government asserted that it “is wholly committed to mitigate the problem of farmers’ suicides by comprehensive, scientific and realistic policy package but said impact on the ground certainly would take some time to show.”
Quoting the data released by the government, the petitioner had pointed out that in the last five years an alarming number of 8927 farmers committed suicide in the said four states-Karnataka (5910) Andhra Pradesh (1835), Maharashtra (981) and Kerala (201).
Email Satya Prakash:

At the margin of economic boom…

Rasheeda Bhagat

There is a growing chorus against the viability of Indian agriculture. A checklist of concerns and a wish-list for Budget 2007…

The tottering Mulayam Singh government in Uttar Pradesh faced another blow last week as 35-year-old Maniram, a farmer from Mahoba district, tried to immolate himself even as the UP Chief Minister was thundering at a rally in Mahoba: “Not a single farmer has committed suicide in UP during my regime and those making such claims are Opposition-sponsored agents. Farmer suicides are taking place only in Congress-ruled states like Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.”

Maniram sustained over 50 per cent burn injuries and was in a serious condition. He was protesting the district administration’s “callous approach” in compensating him for the death of his animal. According to his neighbours, Maniram was in dire straits as he had already sold his land to pay back agricultural loans.

Add to this the continuing suicides in the Vidharba region and the agrarian crisis is getting worse as we are on the eve of another Budget.

Shabby governance, outdated or non-existent land records, lack of effective marketing mechanisms or value addition to their produce, bribes and corruption in accessing government subsidies or credit earmarked for them at low interest rates, and inability to access latest technology or agricultural practices have all contributed to making agriculture unviable in India. “In this backdrop, it is no surprise that the small and marginal farmers and wage labourers are increasingly at the margins of an otherwise growing economy. But they constitute the vast majority of India, and status quo cannot be sustained for long,” says Jayaprakash Narayan, National Coordinator of the Hyderabad-based Loksatta, which he prefers to call a `movement’ rather than an NGO.

On the threshold of yet another Budget, the bright intelligent faces of young men from Tamil Nadu one had met at the Infosys campus in Bangalore last year come to mind. Many of them were the children of farmers from Tamil Nadu, none of them wanted to follow the family profession and all of them were thrilled that children from medium-sized farm families were finally going to benefit from India’s booming IT sector. Their one-line answer to the shift from agriculture. “Agriculture in India is not viable.”

So what makes agriculture unviable in India? And what kind of intervention is required to make it viable? What would be a farmer’s wish-list if he could reach his voice to the Finance Minister?

Analysing the various factors responsible for the farmer’s dire plight, increasing numbers opting for suicide and high distress levels among farmers, particularly small farmers and tribals who cultivated their land, Narayan blames the ineffectiveness of our extension machinery; “most farmers are not able to gain from modern technologies for want of knowledge and poor availability of inputs.” He also blames wild price fluctuations adding uncertainty and gives the examples of tomato and onion prices that oscillate dramatically in the 1:30 ratio range. “No farmer can withstand such vagaries when the margin of survival is thin. Even non-perishable commodities like cotton witness wide price range, and farmers have no staying powers or storage facilities to wait for better prices. Industrial lobbies force government to lower tariffs, and OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) farmers often have a price advantage thanks to huge subsidies,” he says.

Also, lack of effective marketing mechanisms, “except in Punjab and Haryana where Sir Choutu Ram’s Mandi Act created vibrant markets” and failure to create a linkage with retail chains have put producers at the mercy of middlemen. “You only have to see the fruit and vegetable markets to understand the plight of the farmers, and even small traders,” he adds.

K. Bhanumathi, Director of the Visakhapatnam-based NGO Samata that works for the rights of tribals in Andhra Pradesh, is sceptical about government schemes coming to the rescue of small farmers and tribals, whose land is consistently being taken away from them on one pretext or the other. “Even the Andhra Budget says it has allocated a large sum for agriculture; but the details tell you that the money is mainly for big dams and big irrigation projects and not for small farmers.”

She accuses the government of taking away land from farmers. “Under the land bank system the banjar (infertile or waste) land that was originally allotted to landless labourers is now being taken away from them for irrigation projects. What is effectively happening is that land is being taken away from one set of farmers/tribals and given to another set that is agitating for land. Empty promises are being made but we find that no real rehabilitation is taking place.”

She adds that any Budget scheme that seeks to help the small farmers should ensure that the land they already have stays with them, and they are given access to water and power at affordable rates.

Bhanumathi doesn’t agree that we Indians are paying too little for our food. “On the contrary prices of all commodities have gone up but the tragedy is that the farmers are not getting more money. The cost of their inputs — water, power, etc — has gone up; so what the government needs to do is ensure that there is more efficient distribution of water and power.”

Echoing Narayan’s thoughts P. Arunachalam, a sugarcane farmer, who also grows some paddy in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, says the fluctuating prices of grains hit farmers badly. “The price of paddy is very low during the harvest season and the increase goes up to Rs 200 per quintal. But how many farmers have storage facilities to wait for better prices? Farmers should be given godown facilities at affordable prices. For those who produce perishables such as vegetables or red chillies and tamarind should be given cold-storage godowns.”

With “agriculture being a gamble against the monsoons”, crops should be completely insured and the farmer’s entire family should be given medical insurance, he suggests.

Credit availability

Coming to accessing credit, Narayan says 60 per cent of Indian farmers have no access to credit from commercial and cooperative banks and borrow at 36-100 per cent. “Costs of private education and hospitalisation add to the burden. The cheap credit offered by government can at best reach the formal credit sector. Even there, given the corrupt and incompetent delivery system, there are too many leakages. In any case, government’s capacity to expand interest subsidies is limited, given the fiscal imbalances. There is no substitute to revitalisation of cooperative credit sector. Evidence shows that in most rural areas, the savings are higher than the credit disbursal. Despite adversity, rural people are naturally thrifty. We need to build a strong and viable credit system that can reach all rural families, backed by effective land records management,” he says.

K. Raghunandan, President, Sugar Division of EID Parry, adds that aggressive canvassing by moneylenders and bondage, along with “hassle-free availability of loan from them at much higher rates of interest” was pushing the Indian farmer into a deeper hole. “Add to this exploitation by moneylenders, local customs and celebrations exhausting working capital, and loan waiver schemes by state governments affecting his credit eligibility, most farmers fail to get new crop loans in time.”

He adds that banks give loans to crops like sugarcane as the recovery is assured with the support from the factory with which the farmers are associated. For other crops banks are hesitant to extend loans to farmers who are unable to repay them, as the price of their produce does not match the cost of production. Also, the labour component of farm produce has gone up from 11 to 25 per cent with migration of labour to
urban centres.

Budget wish-list

On his wish-list from the Budget for the agri sector, Narayan says, “Only a combination of daring and innovative strategies, and restructuring of rural economy will rejuvenate rural India.” The Vaidyanathan Committee recommendation to revitalise the cooperative sector should be implemented, but a second dose of debt relief similar to the 1989 Charan Singh scheme is not an option. “Ensure that coops are fully member-controlled, well managed, and financially viable in order to expand their reach and re-deploy rural savings in rural economy,” is his suggestion.

Boosting storage, marketing, and agro-processing through infrastructure, equity and technology support, and member-controlled markets is critical, he adds. For commodities like cotton that get huge subsidies in OECD countries, import tariffs should be raised to protect Indian farmers. “The largest number of suicides are by cotton farmers across the country, and unfair competition from abroad is at the heart of this crisis. Also, a massive boost to healthcare and agriculture will significantly reduce the burden on rural population. Again, altered incentives and accountability are the keys to outcomes. Mere allocations and pious platitudes are not sufficient.”

Economic hubs should be created within rural hinterland, but “with a judicious combination of infrastructure, incentives and market mechanisms. Every family aspires for an urban house site whose value is likely to escalate significantly. This should be leveraged to promote these economic hubs, and encourage skill promotion and orderly migration to neighbouring small towns.”

On what corporates that are directly engaged in acquiring farm produce can do to help farmers, Raghunandan says, “We have an agri crisis because research findings or even inputs like seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, do not reach farmers in time. Add to this the vagaries of the monsoon and lack of irrigation facilities, no assured market for end-products, exploitation by middleman and rising cost of inputs.” Also, monoculture and non-application of organic content led to soil depletion and reduced yield.

Indian corporates, he says, can help by ensuring supply of farm inputs like fertilisers, pesticides and good quality seeds at reasonable cost; reducing the lab-to-land time, providing a one-stop-shop service concept, helping in the introduction of more organic farming and better storage facilities, investing in building food processing industry so that farmers can get remunerative prices through value-added products, developing field instruments to suit Indian field condition particularly for small farm holdings, coordinating with research institutes to improve services at rural level and also playing the role of marketing agencies to export agricultural products.

Land acquisition for SEZs

Narayan says the abdication of government in key social sectors and the appalling failure in education and healthcare impose a disproportionate burden on poor and rural population. “Low literacy and poor health diminish productivity. Access to even indifferent quality private services costs a great deal, and impoverishes farmers and agricultural labourers,” he says.

When it comes to land acquisition and SEZs he feels we have to create equity in land for the small farmer. “Certainly we need to industrialise, or build projects. But the land loser cannot be asked to pay the whole price for economic growth.” He suggests 20-30 per cent more land than required should be acquired and extra land, after development, should be re-allotted to the land losers; this in addition to the compensation at the time of acquirement. Rural people should also be empowered with skills to make them productive workers in non-farm sector, with credit and infrastructural support to help the transition from agriculture to industrial economy,” he adds.


EID Parry’s Raghunandan has these suggestions to help farmers:

Fix responsibility and accountability for extension workers, reward and award system needs to improve.

Reduce gap between lab and land.

Arrange easy availability of inputs in time.

Ensure remunerative price for end product.

Introduce strong and robust crop insurance scheme.

Like other countries give subsidy for agriculture.

Open more farmer training centres in villages.

Direct procurement of end product at field level.

Innovate and identify micro mechanisation suited to rural conditions.

Strengthen existing cooperative system for input service and procurement work.

Improve education and healthcare facilities in rural areas.

Provide water for dry tract and avoid water wastage to sea, improve storage.

Protect agricultural workers by effecting minimum wage rule.

Need-based and result-oriented research.

Mandatory and increased agri-business micro-credit by all lending institutions.

Doorstep services to genuine agri entrepreneurs.

Tax relief and incentive scheme to agri-oriented industry at rural level.

Change present government agricultural procurement systems.

Response may be sent to

Cotton prices wrecking Indian Farmers…


Special to The Japan Times

MADRAS, India — The western Indian state of Maharashtra, whose capital is the nation’s financial capital Bombay, has made great strides in lifting cotton production. Land dedicated to growing cotton increased from 92,000 hectares in 2003 to 480,000 hectares in 2004, according to government sources.

As more and more land continues to be planted in cotton, India has now joined the list of “biotech” mega-nations (those growing at least 50,000 hectares of biotech crop) — along with the United States, Argentina, Canada, Brazil, China, Paraguay and South Africa.

Yet there is no sign of farmer suicides abating. In January alone, 62 farmers took their lives, and the state government says some 3,000 farmers have killed themselves in the past three years.

Maharashtra’s farmers underscore the most painful example of India’s agrarian crisis. Underlying this tragedy is an irony: India heads a group of more than 40 poor countries represented in the now stalled Doha Round of World Trade Organization talks, and New Delhi has been trying very hard to protect its farmers from foreign competition.

Studies conducted in India reveal that the plight of the cotton farmers has worsened because they have been forced into an unfair global trading system. Hoping that “modern” farming techniques would help them integrate better with globalization, farmers bought expensive “biotech” cotton seeds that were ill-suited for their small plots, traditionally irrigated with rainwater. Most farmers in Maharashtra have small holdings.

In a ripple effect, farmers thought they could sink deep wells and depend less on the monsoon for water. But when the price of diesel fuel to operating well pumps shot up, many farmers found themselves deep in the hole.

Added to this, farmers had taken out high-interest loans to sink the wells and buy the pumps and biotech seeds in the first place. They have struggled just to pay the interest on these loans.

More misery was to be found in the “global village” as the price of cotton fell. It has dropped by more than a third since 1994. Last year, the Maharashtra government cut the minimum support price for 100 kg of cotton from 2,000 to 1,750 rupees. World prices are falling because cotton is heavily subsidized by rich nations, especially the U.S.

According to the World Bank: “The Doha round aims to cut these handouts ambitiously and expeditiously. If they were cut completely, it might add about 13 percent to world prices. But the Doha round is unlikely to reach such an accord soon. A more likely scenario, in which cotton subsidies are cut by a third (and export subsidies eliminated), would add less than 5 percent to the price.”

India’s textile mills are happy with the decline in cotton prices. They are making hay amid the farmers’ misery. In fact, the prices of cotton garments and related goods have not come down at all.

At one time, British colonizers forced Indian cotton farmers to sell their produce at nonviable prices to feed the Lancashire cotton mills. This ruined the farmers as it did many weavers left without yarn to work with. Everything was being shipped to Britain.

In what seems like a stopgap measure to tackle the contemporary crisis, the Maharashtra government has delivered a relief package that includes 50 billion rupees (more than $ 1 billion) in direct aid. But this is chicken feed in light of the number farmers in debt: 1.2 million, along with their families, are considered in bad shape. Sadly, many see no choice but to hang themselves — this in what is still largely an agrarian country.

B. Gautam writes for a leading Indian newspaper.

The Japan Times

(C) All rights reserved

India-the land of contradictions

From Alternative Perspective by Madhukar Shukla
NOTE: 1 crore = 10mn; 1 lac = 0.1mn; $1 = about Rs.45
India is world’s 2nd largest exporter of rice, and world’s 5th largest exporter of wheat
Over past 5 years, on average 15,000 farmers have committed suicide every year (i.e., 4-5/day) due to poverty and indebtness. An Indian farmer household has an average debt of Rs 12,585 – 82% farmer households in Andhra Pradesh, 74.5% in Tamil Nadu, 65.4% in Punjab, 61.1% in Karnataka, 54.8% in Maharashtra, etc. live in debt.
India is world’s 2nd largest fruit and vegetables producer, and the largest producer of milk
One third of India’s population goes hungry to bed everyday.
India is world’s largest producer of tea accounting for 30% of global produce, and 25% of spices produced globally.
1/3rd of world’s population without adequate water-supply lives in India.
Agriculture accounts for 14-15% of country’s exports
600mn Indians depend on agriculture for subsistence. 60% of farmers are small/medium farmers with holdings of up to 4 hectare plot. The average farm holding in India is 1.4 hectare, and only 15% farmers have plots larger than 10 hectare. Of the 455mn acre cultivable land, less than 5mn is with rural poor.
India is world’s largest producer of mica, 3rd largest producer of coal lignite, 2nd largest producer of cement.
India has around 400-410mn employable workforce, of which about 377mn are employed. Only 7% of India’s employed work in “organised” sector.
44% of India’s workforce is illiterate, and 23% has education up to primary level. More than 90% rural workforce, and more than 80% of urban workforce has no “marketable” skill (e.g, typing, brick-laying, fishing, driving, basket-making, carpentry, tailoring, etc.).
India is among the 3 countries (US and Japan being the other two), who have built its own indigenous 4th generation super computer.
80% of India’s public health problems are due to water-borne diseases; 1 in 4 persons dying from a water-borne disease is an Indian.
India is among the 6 countries worldwide, who have developed its own space technology (23 satellite in orbit and 14 geo-stationary satellites). It has not only launched its own satellite, but also for countries like Germany, Korea and Belgium. ISRO/Antrix Corp.’s clientele include the European Commission (for agriculture and forestry), Japan (volcanic activity), US (telephone network mapping, rail alignments, Wal-Mart, airlines) and Thailand (information). Its images are distributed by Space Imaging Inc and Euromap.
The official definition of poverty in India is: a monthly income of less than Rs.329(or $7)/month (rural) and Rs.457(or $10)/month (urban); 33.6% (rural) and 28.5% (urban) of Indian population – i.e., around 280mn Indians – lives below poverty line. Of India’s poor, 40% are landless labours, 45% small/marginal farmers, and 7.5% rural artisans.
India has one of the world’s largest technically qualified manpower, comprising of 15mn doctors, engineers and scientists. There are about 30mn graduates, post-graduates and doctorates in India.
India has around 0.6mn primary schools – out of which around 60% have a single teacher (for class I-V), 59% have no drinking water, and 85% have no toilets. As for teaching aids, 26% have no blackboard, 59% have no access to maps and charts, and 77% have no library.
India is world’s largest producer of sponge iron.
India hosts 1/3rd of world’s leprosy patients
India’s real estate investment market is estimated to be $50bn, and is predicted to grow to $180bn by 2020. During last 4 years, the average return on investment has been of around 50%.
India is estimated to have 50mn DIDs (Development-Induced-Displaced “oustees”) – excluding the displaced landless labours, fishermen, and the rural artisans, who are not counted for compensation and rehabilitation.
There are close to 0.8mn HNWIs (“high net worth individuals”) in India, whose net worth is more than $1mn. The number of HNWIs in India is growing twice the global rate, and their cumulative liquid wealth is moe than $200bn.
Between 1951-90, 26mn were DIDs due to development of dams and canals, mining, new industries, etc.; According to Govt of India, in 1995, 75% of them were still “awaiting rehabilitation”. 40% of DIDs are tribal who constitute 8% of India’s population.
Indian pharmaceutical industry ranks 4th in the world in terms of volumes, and 13th in terms of value. Indian Pharma industry has the highest number of plants approved by US FDA outside US. Indian drug companies also topped the drug filing with FDA, accounting for 20% of all drugs coming into US market.
For a country with 3/4th of population in villages, India has 20% hospital beds in villages.
India is world’s largest center for diamond cutting and polishing. 9 out of 10 diamonds sold anywhere in the world pass through India.
In rural India (comprising of 3/4th of population), only 7.3% have a monthly income of more than Rs.775/month; In urban India, only 7.8% earn of more than Rs.1500/month. Only 15% of India’s 190mn households have an family income of more than Rs.2.5 lacs/ annum; only 4% of India’s population earns more than Rs.4 lacs/annum.
Moser Baer is the world’s 3rd largest optical media manufacturer and lowest cost manufacturer of CD-recorders. It supplies to 7 of the world’s top 10 CD-R manufacturers.
About 0.5mn people in India die from TB every year
Bharat Forge is world’s 2nd largest maker of forged vehicle component, and has the world’s largest single-location facilility of 1.2 lkh tonnes/annum. Its client list includes Toyota, Honda, Volvo, Cummins, Daimler Chrysler. Exports account for 3/4 of its earnings.
1.5mn infants die from diarrhoea in India every year – i.e., 1 out of every 4 infants worldwide. 68/1,000 Indian babies die before their first birthday.
Hero Honda is the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles (annual production 1.7mn)
There are about 3crore legal cases pending in Indian courts, and there is a shortage of about 3,000 judges.
Asian Paints has production facilities in 22 countries spread across five continents. Acquisition of Berger International gave it access to 11 countries; it also acquired SCIB Chemical SAE in Egypt. Asian Paints is the market leader in 11 of the 22 countries in which it is present, including India.
About 285-290mn Indians live in urban India. Of these, 21% live in slums, and 60% work in unorganised sector without any social security.
Hindustan Inks has the world’s largest single stream, fully integrated ink plant, of 1 lakh tonnes per annum capacity, at Vapi, Gujarat. It has a manufacturing plant and a 100 per cent subsidiary in the US. It has another 100 per cent subsidiary in Austria.
About 66% of India’s 640,000 villages have a population of less than 1,000 – and without connectivity to the rest of the world; only 2.3% have a population of more than 5,000.
Essel Propack is the world’s largest laminated tube manufacturer. It has a manufacturing presence in 11 countries including China, a global manufacturing share of 25 per cent, and caters to all of P&G’s laminated tube requirements in the US, and 40 per cent of Unilever’s.
For every 100 girls enrolled in rural India, only 40 reach class IV, 9 reach class IX and only 1 reaches class XII.
Ajanta is the world’s largest clocks manufacturer, which exports to more than 60 countries.
India, as the cliché goes, is a land of contrasts!

No government on earth can subsidize 60 % farmers…

Dr Sudhir Kumar Goyal, Divisional Commissioner, Relief, Amravati, in an interview, has said that immediate relief had been given to farmers where interest worth Rs 782 cores had been waived off. But the entire loan cannot be waived. “Subsidies are given. But no government on earth can give subsidy to 60% of its farmers.”

The Vidarbha farmers have been given fresh loans, which Dr Goel said was three times more than in the past.

This is called “singing a tune as per the ears of the listener“. This is a sure indication that Congress political bigwigs are beginning to wake up to the rural crisis in Vidarbha and are being given instructions to dirty their white cotton linen kurtas and designer goggles. Politicians are now instructing bureaucrats to begin to appear reasonable and avoid the image of apathy and callous behaviour towards farmers.

After years of hiding the facts, then cautiously being forced to admit it, in the face of rising media pressure, local government officials have begun to sing a different from the tune that is being sung by the Indian Prime Minister, the Sensex Minister and the Cricket Ministers.

Let us see in which direction, the issue of Indian farm suicides heads now. Congress cannot risk an electoral rout in Vidarbha. It is now a matter of time before top Congress think tanks begin to look at the issue of agrarian suicides. And yes, they will first ask the Indian bureaucracy to shoulder the blame rather than take the blame on faulty agricultural prescriptions of last six decades which skim rural surplus for industrial subsidization.

Attempts will now be made to blame the plight of Vidarbha farmers, on faulty implementation of the Vidarbha package announced by the Prime Minister.

The real question not being asked is why, when the richest consumers on earth are shifting to wearing cotton, cotton growers in India are committing suicides.

Linen suits retail for Rs 8000, and cotton trousers are retailing in Western markets for Rs 2500.

The WTO Multi Fibre Agreement is rolled out and yet the Vidarbha cotton growers are suffering.

Should they not have been the richest farmers in the world by now ?

Is the Divisional Commissioner of Amravati not still talking on behalf of his masters and trying to sell a new story to the cotton farmers of Vidarbha ?

We will now hear many different perspectives on why farmers are committing suicides but people are still not ready to do a stock taking of the last six decades of New Delhi and Mumbai backed plunder of Indian rural areas.

India's poor law’s-poor-…

India’s poor politics, Hinders economic development.

The Economist magazine, true to its verbal gymnastics, had called India’s much talked about employement guarantee programme (or just a promise on date?) as India’s poor law! In the same typical imperial mindset the magazine goes on to elaborate its wisdom as it see it. Of course what the Singh government is promising seems everyday becoming just hope! The budget’s first impression seems quite positive. On closer look there are some disquieting questions. The critics have ranged from known critics like S.Gurumurhty and theTN CM and some others. The budget doesnt give a specific agriculture development focus.
What it gives as rural India development focus hinges on the employment guarantee scheme that has transformed now as an all-encompassing umbrella programme. The food for work programme (launched in 2004) now converted into Rural Employment Guarantee Programme. The budget speech doesnt spell out the sources of funds for this programme, merely promises to”find the money for the programme” “Livelihood security for crores of poor families”. Elsewhere one crore rural jobs promised under the Bharat Nirman vision,”without a single rupee as budget provision for it” as Gurumurthy puts it. Promises are too many without any specific binding targets for even this year! The1000-odd pages of the budget papers no one reads. More and more TV and print media gushes with announcements of so many fringe tax benefits. Gurumurthy saracastically puts, this budget” deceives even the intelligent”. The budget seems obsessed with managing the budget deficit and here again, as pointed out by critics, the States are burdened with the responsibility to “borrow from the market Rs.29,003 crores for financing their plans. There are too many bureaucrats and economic experts around! As far as agriculture is concerned it is a big disappointing budget.

Yes, horticulture gets a boost but some of the crucial questions like revamping the agri credit, write-off of farmers debts haven’t been given any thought. While the sugar industry’s heavy debt burdens are taken care off by 2% debt reduction package, why not the very farmers, sugarcane farmers included, other farmers producing foodgrains, farmers in Punjab to TN, are reeling under debt burdens and farmers in AP are in deep debts? No one seems to have given a thought to the farm sector’s accumulated burdens. Banks and the agri credit subject needs a more radical policy package. As for the big picture, what happens to the inter-State river links? Or, even the NH development? The budget speech concludes with a quotation with Amartya Sen. Poor Sen! He is now a convenient mascot for everyone who dont want to do a practical job! Prof.Amartya Sen descened at the right time and he held forthe in Kokatta on the four areas where he sees light. They are delivery of healthcare system, land reforms and its completion, basic education and microcredit. Who can fault his priorities? Then of course there is the redoubtable M.S.Swaminathan with his own pet themes. Now, he warns of ecocides, ecological suicides, as farmers’ones!

He points to Punjab too where there are farmers suicides. So, what is his alternative? Not any clear path. Except villages as knowledge centres and of course improved farm practices. Nothing to quarrel about. Of course we have the veterans who sit pretty in Delhi’s various dingy and airy corridors, as you can see their importance or non-importance! So, in sum agriculture is going get the boost this time, right? Finance Minister visited Krishi Bhavan. This is news. Horticulture, irrigation, wet/dryland farming, insurance, employment guarantee. As for Prof Amartya Sen, with due respect we say : he is totally out of touch with ground level realities in Indian countryside. He advocates land reforms and its completion! There is an acute farm labour shortage even in Kerala. So in other states. The farm labour is now migrating to neighbouring states, even distant states, where the farm wages are high. The villages are now faced with farm labour shortage. So, what chance there is for land reforms? One can buy any amount of land today for throwaway prices in any states!

Sen advocates healthcare delivery system. He is here again mistaken. In his own West Bengal state the healthcare system is in shambles. First let him help to put the system in one state in place. The problems are quite complex. So too basic education, Sen may be a great advocate for education. But there is 53 percent of heavy dropout!

We are not a serious people. Mr.A.B.Vajpayee, the former Prime Minister the other day in Mumbai released a book on the state’s PWD minister Mr.Gadkari who in record time constructed the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Vajpayee did say that he got his inspiration for his national highway project from Gadkari’s experience. Vajpayee in one stroke launched the NH project and today he is admired the world over what the NH project triggered off. Every NH is dotted with multiplier developments, petrol bunks construction and other developments. The point is that one need not talk too much,one need not be an expert, Vajpayee was certainly not an expert in any sphere. It is a vision and some resultant boldness to launch something imaginative is all needed. So, we say : speed up more NHs. Agricultre, rural hinterland, communications etc. would create the multip-lier effects on an unprecedented scale. E-governance, telecommunication networks are some of the technological backups we need today.

We conclude : agriculture hadn’t benefitted much by this government so far. So we can’t expect much for agriculture. Do your job in other spheres. Agriculture will dictate its own dynamic responses! The very market forces will force changes to bring about needed mindset change!