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!

India Shining: What about Rural India?…

If you are one of those people, who are sick and tired of listening to “India Shining Stories” despite the growth not bringing about basic changes you had expected to be associated with an economic powerhouse – you will probably like where I am going with this. Over the last few days I have been reading a lot about the Great Indian Corporate Shopping spree.
What Lakshmi Mittal started last year with Arcelor, has seen several follow-up acts such as the Tata-Corus deal, Birla’s Hinduja takeover of Novelis and the Hutch deal with Vodafone. I wondered how much of Atanu Dey’s introduction to RISC (Rural Infrastructure & Services Commons) was relevant. I tried to understand this better. There is no doubt, that India is growing – and growing fast – the universally accepted eight percent GDP growth rate holds pretty good.

Graph: Poverty in Indian states (1999-2000)

But, how good is this economic growth, when more than half of children aged below five are undernourished or when one fifth of the entire population is chronically hungry. Dey also points out the recently released rankings in the Human Development Report, where our 126th rank (out of 177 counties) is nothing to be proud of. A quick look at the demographics explains this imbalance:
The National sample survey organisation (NSSO) estimated that 22.15% of the population was living below the poverty line in 2004–2005, down from 51.3% in 1977–1978, and 26% in 2000. I for one question, whether this is any indication of India’s overall upliftment (especially rural areas) or just migration of ‘cheap human resource’ from villages and towns to the IT/ITes based megapolis.
My doubt is further strengthened when you see that while services and industry have grown at double digit figures, agriculture growth rate has dropped from 4.8% to 2%.
More than three quarters of India depends on agriculture for livelihood, but the contribution of agriculture to India’s GDP is less than one quarter.
Precious little is being done to address plaguing problems in rural India such as availability of civic amenities, education and health & sanitation. This is further compounded by a high population growth rate.
So what does this translate to – more pressure on crumbling urban infrastructure, which has led to greater congregation of population in ‘hot pockets’ of corporate India. This in turn, had led the politicians to shift their already trivial focus on rural matters, by addressing matters concerning corporations, city development and infrastructure. There is absolutely no incentive for either the poitician to be concerned about the rural population, or for the people to participate in upliftment of villages.
The Discovery channel documentary on Thomas Friedman (Pulitzer winning author of The world in flat), showed that within an hour’s drive from India’s star performer – Bangalore, there were villages with no educational system or health-sanitation facilities. I wonder, how the villages deeper inside the world’s seventh largest country score on this scale.
The politicians with schemes such as Rural Employment Guarantee Bill (2005) and the Reservation Bill have resorted to controversial methods, that give scope to extreme corruption. I only read about initiatives done by NGOs and corporations that lay emphasis on their CSR. Moreover, a new controversy bogged my mind – shifting the BPO industry to villages on the fringe of urban centers. Satyam computers recently set up a BPO village in Andhra Pradesh. While, this practice may reap in profits for firms such as Satyam, who are struggling with infrastructure issues and high operating costs in traditional ‘hubs’, what is the payoff for rural India. The sustainability of such quasi-pro-rural initiatives depends largely on availability and willingness of ‘cheaper skilled labor’ in such rural belts. This also, if successful, will add to the wooing of potential agro-based laborers to cheaper service based jobs, which may disturb the long standing balance of our economic structure.
So, this brings me back to the initial debate – how can India shining not be a misnomer, but a whole, meaningful phrase, that applies to every sphere of India. Is RISC the only method of moving ahead, for rural upliftment ? I think, given a corruption-free, closely monitored and explicitly public undertaking by the GOI, NGOs and other partners, this could be one of the more effective solutions. The main idea behind RISC, is to bring to the rural population services that are normally available only in large urban locations. It is virtual grouping of villages and small towns to provide a common platform for Infrastucture (I-level) and user Services (S-level). The economies of scale works well with this model, as spreading the costs of such services over the large population of clubbed villages and towns, makes per unit cost as low as possible, while extending quality resources such as public health programmes, education and training and manufacturing capabilities (such as factories, logistics, access to markets, trading information).
We may be competing well in 2007. But to sustain a long term balanced growth, we cannot ignore the rural population with it’s promising resources, reduced inefficiences and potential to decongest not just the metros, but also the economy on the whole. Lastly, with projects such as RISC, governance of India shifts from small units such as villages, to larger congregations in these RISC centers. Let India Shine. Now.
References: Dey, Atanu and Vinod Khosla (2002), ‘RISC – Rural Infrastructure and Services Commons’.Full document available at and at; A Brief Introduction To RISC — Rural Infrastructure & Services Commons — Atanu Dey (

posted by aK @ 10:46


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A study on the prices of major agricultural crops of kerala

(By: Dr. P.Yageen Thomas . Dept of Statistics. University of Kerala)

In this study, we consider the prices of nine important crops of Kerala viz. (1) Coconut (Derivatives: Copra and Coconut Oil) (2) Paddy (3) Pepper (4) Arecanut (5) Ginger (6) Cardamom (7) Rubber (8) Tea and (9) Coffee. The price indices are calculated by taking 1983 as the base year for the first seven crops and 1995 is considered as the base year for Tea and coffee as for these crops price data are available from the year 1995 only.

To compare the amount of increase in the prices of Agricultural Produces to the extent it is necessary to keep the living standards of the farmers with these of other in the society, we may consider the rate of increase in the salary of State Government employees over 1983 to 2005. From the office records I have noticed that the Assistant Grade-11 of Kerala University (or any other Universities of Kerala State) was entitled to draw a minimum basic pay of Rs. 675/- with a DA of Rs. 123/- during July 1983 and thus the total salary was Rs. 798/- (HRA and other allowances are not considered as it changes from place to place). A person freshly posted as Assistant Grade-11 during 2003 would draw a basic pay of Rs. 7990/- and DA of Rs. 400/- with a total of Rs. 8390/- per month. Hence, by considering 1983 as the base year, the salary index of Assistant Grade-11 during 2005 at the entry level is 1051%. That is the present salary at the entry level of the post has been swelled to an extent of 10.51 times that of 1983. It may be noticed that the pending DA to Government servants for the time being is 15 % of the basic pay, so that the salary index will again rise up further, if the Government releases those pending instalments of DA.

From my personal diary, I have noticed that labourers who were engaged to do agricultural works in the premises of my house during 1983 were given a wage of Rs. 20/- per day. But for the same work in 2005 July, the wage given was Rs. 200/- per day. Hence, by taking 1983 as the base year, the wage index of Agricultural labourers during 2005 is 1000 %. That is the present wages of Agricultural labourers has been swelled to an extent of 10 times that of 1893. The above indices will reflect the overall growth of wages/salaries over all sectors of Kerala.

The computed price indices of the various crops are provided in Table No. 1. From the table we notice that none of the crops observed in the table has exhibited a price growth, which is more than 4.7 times the price of 1983. Further, the price are observed to be highly fluctuating and it indicates that the farmer cannot depend with confidence in raising any of the crops so as to get an assumed and reasonable price to his produce.

For Coconut, the present index is 314 % where as the indices of its derivatives: copra and coconut oil are 277 % and 269 % respectively. Thus I conclude that, if justice has to be done to coconut farmers, the Government have to give a salary of Rs. 3.15 x 798 = Rs. 2513/- per month to an Assistant Grade-11 instead of the present total salary of Rs. 8390/- or the price of coconut has to be increased to Rs. 10.51 x 1653 = Rs. 17,383/- per 1000 nuts of medium size.

The present price index of Paddy relative to the base year 1983 is 274 %. Thus in order to do justice to the rice cultivating farmers, the Government have to increase the price of paddy to Rs. 10.51 x 254 = Rs. 2,669/- per quintal.

The Pepper price have reached a very profitable rate during 1997 to 2000, (10 to 13 times of 1983 price) but later on it crashed and now the index is only 420.6 %. A similar argument for the price equivalence on pepper during 1983 so as to fetch an equal level of growth on wages or salaries can be also worked out.

Arecanut prices also fluctuate heavily and the price index reaches 422.3 % during 2005. The present price index for ginger is 470.7 %.

Cardamom is a much affected crop in terms of its price. The price index of this crop in 2005 reached a very low level of 97.9 % when compared with that of the year 1983. If one speaks of justice to cardamom growers, the Government have to increase its price to Rs. 279 x 10.51 = Rs. 2,932/- per kg.

The present price index of Rubber is 363 %. Thus in order to do justice to the rubber farmers, the Government have to increase its price of rubber to Rs. 10.51 x 16.6 = Rs. 169/- per kg.

Since Tea and Coffee prices are available only from the year 1995, we have taken 1995 as the base year to construct the price indices of these crops. Accordingly, the price index of tea for 2003 is 128.9 %. Similarly, the price index of Coffee for 2005 is equal to 40.7 % which is the worst of all crops in terms of price decay observed.

If we consider the total salary (Basic pay + DA) of Assistant Grade-11, then it is Rs. 2,832/- in the year 1995, whereas the total salary for 2005 is Rs. 8390/-. Thus the salary index of 2005 relative to the year 1995 is 296 %. Hence, we conclude that in order to do justice to coffee farmers, the price of coffee should be Rs. 115 x 2.96 = Rs. 340/- per kg, where as its existing price is only Rs. 47/- per kg.

Our hard working and strained farmers are living in a community consisting of Agricultural Labourers, Govt. Servants, workers of private and public enterprises, families of NRI’s and others. The consumeristic trend of people put them into trouble because of their incapability of purchasing power due to dis-proportionality low existing prices for their agricultural produces. Input costs of agriculture and labour costs are spiraling and this makes them to fail from proper scientific farming and this causes much reduction in the productivity of the crops. Temptations of modern essential amenities such as cell phones, TV’s, Fridges, vehicles, rich food etc. make them desperate. Thus they loss their morale and life become miserable to them and they end up their lives.

A serious by product of these problems makes many of the cultivators either to stop agriculture or switch over to other professions. We have conducted the trend analysis of rice crop and noticed that the area under this crop is diminishing steadily year after year. It is estimated that annually there is a reduction of 22615 hectares of land in rice cultivation. Consequently, the production of rice is also drastically reducing year after year causing much worry to the internal production of rice in Kerala.

In the light of the price study conducted here, immediate steps are to be taken to ensure fair prices to all agricultural commodities of the State if not equal to 10.51 times the price of 1983 at-least to a reasonable multiple of the price of the produce in 1983.

Agriculture marketing a high priority…

Why then governments allow farmers suicides even now?

There were two farmers suicides in the month of July. The two were in Karnataka. One in Tumkur district and another in Gulbarga district. The Tumkur farmers committed suicide by hanging himself in his field and the causes are the same ones known to the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi! So, too we hope the Gulbarga farmer. one of the many who flock the command area around the Upper Krishna Project in the district to cultivate high value crops like chillies and cotton.
We hope we need not go into the details of the losses made by the AP farmers cultivating chillies. But for those who sit cosy in Delhi bungalows and plush government offices, here are a brief indication what was lost. On average, chilli growers suffered losses ranging from Rs.1 lakh to Rs.3 lakhs on cultivation on 10 acres of land. The suicide farmer, Edukondalu, had taken up chilli cultivation on 10 acres in Ganwar in Jewargi (the state CM. Dharam Singh’s constituency) taluk he incurred a loss of Rs.2 lakhs because of the fall in prices. Many farmers families had deserted their camps and moved to AP because of the heavy crop losses. Thankfully, the newspaper report goes into some detail and how even the fertilise soil of the UKP command area, a” a goldminde” for AP farmers had led to the tragedy. Tragedy to many farming families. Some farmers have reported they have lost at the rate Rs.5 lakhs each. While the high value varieties of chillies, Bayadgi variety, fetched Rs.7,000 a quintal. Suddenly fell to Rs.2,000. The other Guntur variety, fell from Rs.2,500 to just Rs. 1,000.

“Even farmers who had taken up cultivation of cotton had burnt their fingers because the failure of BT cotton and other varieties also failed this season. “While leaving their camps, the AP farmers left behind dumps of chilli in their fields, worth several lakhs of rupees, which was rotting as they could not get the remunerative price for their produce. “There was a chain reaction. Farmers could not pay their lease rent for their fields or the wages for farm labour.

On the very same day of this news item, alongside was another news item. Policemen were on rounds (we don’t know whether there was any lathi charges or not) when the Agriculture Produce Market Committee Act of 2003 was amend and the traders, farmers, marketing yard personnel were staged a bandh. Why? The APMC Act amendment is seen as the government giving in to the MNCs in retail and wholesale trade and that would hit the farmers to get the best prices for their produce.
We do not know the details or the intricacies of the APMC Act. What we know for sure is that the farmers are facing the distress sales of chillies, not only in the one place we have detailed but also in other century old chillies market in Karnataka and elsewhere.

Mr.Deve Gowda, the former PM, is heading a highly strong pro-farmers party and also holding a critical role in ensuring the coalition government hangs on! Gowda also could give some shock to the UPA government in Delhi, if he chooses to do so!

There is a feeling among the farmers of the Karnataka state that Gowda could do much in pursing lot of pro-farmers policies in Delhi. But sop far there is no indication. Rather he seems to be having his own priorities. As an experienced politician he might have his own reasons why he interferes in the Bangalore Metro rail project, why he doesn’t in the farmers issues. Luckily, the Karnataka Dy. CM, Mr.Siddaramaiah, who comes from a predominately small farmers, sheep farming community, has been doing some really genuine radical changes. The crop loans interest rate had been brought down to 6 per cent. Why the PM thinks it fit to ask other state governments to do the same for crop loans?

The irony is there was this news item on the same day. That was about the “second” meeting of the “task force on rural development”. The way the newspapers report this meeting suggests as if it is a UN general assembly meeting! It was a routine bureaucratic exercise considering the “presentations’ by ministries and the ,as usual, P.Chidamabaram’s interventions! All the task force was to discuss was to allot funds for rural roads and rural electrification and additional irrigation.

This is no meeting where the PM should waste his precious time. Rural infrastructure is very important. In fact, we feel, this one-year government which didn’t do much in one year, can do nothing but only concentrate on “infrastructure” alone! Please do what the predecessor government did for National High Ways. Dr.Singh will be remembered only for such initiatives. Not for his silent, all pure all correct conduct of day to day existence!

What rural infrastructure is critical? It is IT connectivity. So, expand broadband connectivity. Set targets. Build rural godowns that will store farmers produce. Cold storages that would preserve perishables for some months. If info-kiosks are installed, farmers can access latest information and also know when to move their crops and where. There must be a price stabilisation funds for ensuring stabilising the prices of sensitive crops like chillies and vegetables and fruits.

MNCs are not evils. Not any more in farming. But there is a need to define what MNCs can and cant do in rural areas. Contract farming is an inevitable current need. Not MNCs, even state level agencies, private sector would come in, as textile mills in Coimbatore are doing in cotton cultivation on contract farming. There are now any number of small scale initiatives by farmers themselves, in contract farming projects, for a number of crops. What New Delhi does not know or what it does not care to know is the fact that banks are terribly ignorant. Why, we know many PSU banks are openly hostile to farmers! The Nabard and banks officials are so ignorant they do not know the latest developments, be it agri information or use of Internet information or an open mind. In India’s biggest bank, there are 5 layers of bureaucracy in the zonal office. Their branch manager takes up a project. After making farmers spend money, time over two months, the zonal office ignoramuses talk through their hats!

Farmers distress comes in plain government indifference. See UPA’s promises not being kept! Banks are not willing to give agri credit! There are market failures! Then, there is a blacout of this rural reality in New Delhi!

Whom to blame? Taking their lives is the only left out choice for farmers who are forced to the wall!

Karnataka considering loan waiver for farmers

By Indo Asian News Service
Bangalore, Jan 25 (IANS) Karnataka Governor T.N. Chaturvedi Thursday said the state government was thinking of waiving loans obtained by farmers from cooperative institutions.

‘A comprehensive study is being made to decide the quantum of loans to be waived and to which category of farmers,’ Chaturvedi declared in his address to the winter session of the joint state legislature in the Vidhana Soudha here.
The government is set to mobilise resources for the loan waiver scheme from the revenue likely to accrue from the retrieval of encroached lands in and around the Karnataka capital and their disposal as per rules.
The state government had recently set up a special task force in the revenue department to recover the encroached lands, which have been identified by a joint legislature committee. It is estimated that about 18,000 acres of government land have been encroached over the years in and around the city.
‘My government has issued an ordinance Dec 11 prescribing imprisonment and fine for any one who unlawfully enters or occupies government land or creates forged documents on government lands or sells agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes without getting such land converted under the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964,’ Chaturvedi told the members.
Expressing grave concern over the farmers’ suicides reported from various places in the state, the governor appealed to the farming community not to take such extreme step and assured them of his government’s commitment to protect their interests and fulfil their aspirations.
‘Karnataka is the first state in the country to provide agriculture loan to farmers at four percent. The new agriculture policy, announced recently, will provide permanent relief to farmers from most of the problems they are facing and improve their quality of life,’ Chaturvedi said.
Referring to the centre’s special package for the six districts in the state where high incidence of farmers’ suicides was reported, he said a cabinet sub-committee had been constituted to oversee its implementation.
‘Besides providing seeds by subsidising 75 percent of the cost to farmers during this fiscal (2006-07), my government is bringing a legislation to help farmers market their products directly to end users,’ he said.
The governor also announced his government was considering a ban on the manufacture and sale of arrack from April 1 to protect the life of common people.
Copyright Indo-Asian News Service

It ain't only about rain

The monsoon, in Vidarbha at least, has washed away an enduring myth. “The age old notion of farmers jumping with glee when the first monsoon showers fall is now merely a delusion confined to primary school text books. The reality here is quite different,” says Suryapal Chavan from Nandgaon taluka in Amravati.
Extensive damage to the cotton and jowar crop in this region last year due to unseasonal rains, hail storms and a pest attack shattered the local economy, leading to 60 people committing suicide.
“Most farmers here are in a peculiar dilemma. While they want to make up for the previous year’s losses, they are unable to find the money for ploughing, preparing and sowing their fields. The majority have not yet begun work on their lands,” Mr Chavan explains. This dilemma has led to other forms of deprivation which have been overshadowed by the public attention directed towards the dramatic suicides in Vidarbha.
Climatic changes were merely the last straw that exposed the real, deep-rooted problems of the rural economy in this area. These include the shrinking bank credit, heavy dependence on money lenders, unscientific agricultural practices and the vice-like grip that local traders have on the produce market. With the government turning a blind eye to these issues, the coming kharif season does not augur well for farmers here who have no money to invest in their fields.
Left with no other choice, several land owners have left their fields fallow. They are working on others’ fields to try and scrape together enough to survive. “The rains have just arrived and I should be working on my land. But that may not be possible this year,” says Kausalya Pusam, a resident of Kotha Veni village in Kalam taluka of Yavatmal.
After slogging it out in the fields, she does not want to be paid in cash. “Seeds would be a better option. At least our land will not lie fallow in the coming season,” says Kausalya, whose family owns five acres.
Chief minister Manohar Joshi visited Kausalya’s village to hand over a cheque of Rs 1 lakh to the family of a suicide victim. “But he left in his helicopter immediately after, without bothering to speak to anyone else,” complains Chabbulal Jaiswal, Kausalya’s employer.

While Kausalya’s family was able to hold on to its land, several others were forced to sell off their agricultural properties to pay off their debts. Gajanan Bhomle from Waiphad village in Wardha sold off his two-acre plot to repay his loans amounting to Rs 80,000 borrowed for crops, constructing a well and to conduct his sister’s wedding.
“Now I look for work in others’ fields. The daily wage rate for agricultural labour has reduced from Rs 50 to Rs 35 for men and from Rs 35 to Rs 20 for women. Employers cannot afford to pay the full wages. You either take it or leave. There are many others looking for work,” says Gajanan.
While marginal and small farmers are in most distress, those with medium to large sized holdings are also finding it difficult this kharif season. Says Vijay Kuldhariya, the sarpanch of Dahegaon village in Wardha, “I have 45 acres of land. But I have prepared only 10 acres for sowing. The banks will not give me money to cultivate the rest as I was unable to repay my previous loans. If I am in such a quandary, can you imagine the plight of the smaller farmers?”
Even those who have managed to sow their fields are using second generation seeds, whose yields are far lower than the hybrid variety. Shops selling farm products are hardly doing any business. “Last year, I sold goods worth Rs 80,000 in the week after the first monsoon shower. But this year, I have not even sold one item,” says Dinesh Kothari who owns a shop in Waiphad village of Wardha.
In a bid to bail out the cultivators from this agricultural crisis, the state government hurriedly announced certain fire-fighting measures. The chief minister promised to provide seeds worth Rs 1,000 to farmers. Interest on bank loans are proposed to be waived so that short term crop loans can be extended to the medium term. This will make defaulting farmers eligible for bank credit this season.
“Of what use are these waivers?” asks Ashok Dhavale from the Maharashtra Kisan Sabha. “Only a few big farmers actually have access to bank credit. The rest rely on moneylenders who charge interest ranging from 60 to 120 per cent.”
Even the few who may benefit from the waivers are impatient. “The banks are waiting for written orders from Mantralaya before issuing new loans. By the time the bureaucracy get moving, the rains will have gone,” says Vijay. Adds Dilip Madhukar Ikhad from Anjangaon Bari village in Amravati, “I will have to go back to moneylenders who may threaten to take our land. They cut our throats with love.”
Until the government starts showing its ‘love’ for farmers, who constitute 61 per cent of the state’s work force, they look forward to little besides the tyranny of debt.
3 July 1998, The Times of India, Mumbai

Maharashtra moneylender attacks farmer over debt…

Kamanpur village (Maharashtra), Jan 22 (ANI): A moneylender in Maharashtra’s Kamanpur village today allegedly attacked a farmer due to the latter’s inability to pay the interest on a principal amount of 32,000


The victim, Vinayak Raut, was working in his field in Kamanpur village when at least six persons attacked and assaulted him, allegedly with a sharp weapon.

Raut, who was rushed to a nearby primary health centre on a bullock cart by his father, identified a local moneylender for the attack.

“It was a 30,000 rupee debt, with an additional 2000 rupees, making it 32,000 in all. I gave back the principal amount, but they insisted that with the interest, the payback came to 150,000 rupees. I lodged a complaint with the authorities, and that probably scared them,” Raut said.

Admitting that he had not yet paid the interest, he insisted the demanded interest was too high, at almost four times the principal amount. He went on to allege that the local moneylender was known for use of strong-arm methods to recover loans.

Meanwhile, police have detained one person in connection with the attack.

“The victim and his family members alleged he was attacked with a sword. However, it is yet to be confirmed, as we have not been able to confiscate the weapon as yet. We are still trying to locate it,” said P.D. Dongare, a police officer with Walagaon police.

The incident assumes significance as commercial money lending is banned in India unless it is done through some government ratified institution. Yet, farmers taking loans from private moneylenders is not uncommon in the rural parts of the country, where public sector banking infrastructure is inadequate.

India has officially admitted to the death of about 3,600 farmers over the last five years owing to huge debts.

Suicides in Maharashtra, especially in the Vidarbha region, crossed the 900 mark in 2006, despite efforts by New Delhi to ease the financial burden of the farmers. (ANI)