Watch discussion on Farmers Suicides and Way forward on TV9 from 10.00 am to 1.00 pm live from Jubilee hall, Hyderabad on this sunday 8th January. Participants include leaders of various political parties, Journalist P. Sainath, Farmers and Rytu Swarajya Vedhika members.
The Round Table is jointly organised by Rytu Swarajya Vedhika and TV9
The year 2011 was one of the darkest years for farmers. Season, Technology and Policy all failed them. This year would be recording the highest farmers suicides in the history after 2003-04. The kind of negligence, lopsided policies by NDA at the centre, TDP at the state are repeating again. Every political party is seen to be using the occasion to voo the voters for electoral gains, and for corporates every disaster is turned to be a big business.
- in Andhra Pradesh for the first time large number of farmers have declared crop holiday in about 2 lakh acres in protest against the low MSPs and lack of procurement.
- On average farmers suicides are 10/day in AP
- Large land aquisition, land shift from agriculture, police firings on protesters against thermal power plants, petro corridors, mining…
- Crop failed in more than 85 lakh acres (official estimations) across the state due to severe drought and power failures
- 200 farmers died with electrical shocks and snake bites while going to field midnight to irrigate. The irregular power and late night power led to this situation.
- Cotton area has increased to 47 lakh acres a whooping 25% of the cultivated area more than forefolds increase in the last one decade. this year about 34 lakh acres crop failed with an average yield of only 1 q/acre
- pesticide poisoning cases again surfaced in several districts
- for the first time a agriculturally important state had no agriculture minster and no vice chancellors for both the agriculture and horticulture universities
- New draft legislation which will have long lasting impacts on farming were initiated and are pending before state and centre. some of them include Seed Bill 2004, Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill, Pesticide Management Bill, FDI in Retail sector, Food Security Bill, Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation bill etc
- Major scandals from Scientific organisations surfaced. The Pigeon Pea Genome scandal and Bt Cotton Scandal from UAS Dharwar.
Wish things would change in the coming year.
NCRB all-India figure 1995-2010: 2,56,913 farm suicides;
2010: 15,964 farmers’ suicides
First 8 years 1995-2002: 1,21, 157.
Second 8 years 2003-10: 1,35,756
Pawar, Agriculture Minister’s home state Maharashtra by far the worst in the country with 50,481 farm suicides between 1995-2010. That is, 1995-2002: 20,066 and for 2003-10: 30,415
Main points for us to push and use:
- · last 8 years was much worse at an annual average of 1832 higher than first 8 years.
- · It is disgraceful and decidedly odd that Pawar who fancies himself as an effective agri Minister and farmer never once referred to, quoted or discussed the recommendations of the National Farmers Commission (headed by DR. M.S. Swaminathan who is a member of the RS (Rajya Sabha – upper house). This was a government-appointed committee, and a very wide spectrum of opinion participated in its deliberations. It is now several years since the reports were submitted –
Neither the Government nor Pawar has taken note of this report. The Q that must be asked is “what gives” and WHY?
- · Until November 30, 2007, the GoI and the Agriculture Minister RIGHTL used NCRB data on farm suicides in their replies in Parliament.
However, the government and the minister abandoned using data from the NCRB which is in fact a division of the Union Home Ministry and the only authentic source of suicide figures nationally whether it be for farmers, students or anyone else.
- · As the figures grew worse, the government started suppressing NCRB data and instead using arbitrary figures from bureaucrats. Interestingly to this day, GoI uses NCRB data for the other categories, but not for farmers.
- · Using arbitrary state figures and estimates has led to GoI giving two very different estimates to the Rajya S in the same week ! : see How to be an eligible suicide: http://www.thehindu.com/
opinion/lead/article428367.ece) The Hindu, May 13, 2010. Unlike the states, NCRB has no vested interest in covering up the numbers.
- · “Why are the state government figures so much lower? Because they set up IMPOSSIBLE criteria to prove that a suicide is a farmer’s suicide and just be considered for compensation. For instance: In Andhra Pradesh, a family would have to get no less than 13 pieces of documentation approved at various level in order to establish this! These include five from the local police station, including a post-mortem report the family ends up paying for. And how the heck do they produce documents n private loans when those are on word-of-honour basis? Then there are pattas, bank papers, you name it. Maharashtra made it even more impossible, setting up committees that soon earned themselves the name ‘rejection committees’ which divided the deaths into ‘genuine suicides’ and ‘non-genuine suicides’. Note that in either case, the victim was just as dead. The dispute was over whether his or her death constituted a ‘genuine’ farm suicide driven by distress. In some months, not a single one in some districts would be accepted as a ‘genuine’ farm suicide” (Sainath).
NAGPUR: Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Wednesday announced a Rs 2,000 crore relief package for farmers growing cotton, soyabean and paddy. He claimed the compensation was highest in the state’s history and unprecedented for Vidarbha farmers. However, the Opposition rejected the package, saying it was too little too late.
Over 85 lakh farmers of Vidarbha, Marathwada and northern Maharashtra have been in crisis for over two months. They had hoped to get at least Rs 5,000 a hectare. But the relief announced by the CM may be about Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 a hectare for cotton and even less for soya and paddy growers.
After discussions with political parties, farmers, NGOs and department officials, the relief amount was fixed, said Chavan. He announced short and long-term measures in the package, including weather-based crop insurance schemes, availing of big ticket loans from Asian Development Bank to speed up irrigation projects, setting up of an expert panel to suggest reduction of expenses in dry land farming situation.
“This is the biggest aid package for particular categories of farmers. Last year, we had announced a Rs 1,000 crore package for farmers all over Maharashtra. This package would benefit farmers in Vidarbha, Marathwada and north Maharashtra,” Chavan told the House. He agreed to members’ demand of reconstituting the State Agriculture Pricing Commission.
In the Upper House, Opposition members staged a walkout over the “meagre” compensation (they claimed it would work out to less than Rs 1,000 an acre) and failure to spell out details. The Opposition warned they wouldn’t allow the House to function till the government provides justice to farmers in the region. After the CM’s speech, members from the Shiv Sena and ruling party almost came to blows. Sena MLC Diwakar Raote and Congress MLC S Q Zama abused each other. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar allowed members of the Opposition to speak on the issue.
The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti called the government’s package paltry. “It is like handing out alms. Vidarbha farmers will not tolerate such an insult,” VJAS president Kishore Tiwari said.
Chavan said there are about 1.5 crore farmers in the state, of whom 70 lakh need help. “Cotton growers need help. With packages from the PM and state, the number of suicides has come down,” he said.
Taking a dig at the Opposition for accusing the government of favouring sugarcane farmers, the CM said sugarcane earned huge tax revenue. “We provided Rs 122 crore to them this year and last year, it was Rs 470 crore. The state was richer by Rs 3,000 crore in the form of Customs and excise duties on the byproducts of sugarcane,” he said.
The shocks of rejection of farmers main demand to give hike to support price in cotton ,soya and paddy has reported four suicides in vidarbha ,identified as
1.Ankush Raut of Wadki in Yavatmal
2Ashok Bhongale of Bhamada in Yavatmal
3.Ramrao Kamble of Gaul in Wardha
4.Shayram Thege of Kesarwada in Bhandara
As per media reports published here taking toll to 722 in year 2011 alone,Kishor Tiwari, president of Nagpur-based Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, (VJAS), activist group working for cotton farmer rights in a Press release today.
Most of major cotton centre town are completely closed to support ‘Bandh’ called giving by opposition parties and hundreds of farm widows blockade N.H. Tuljaput –Nagpur highway at Arjuna 160 k.m. away from Nagpur .there are violent protest of farmers reported all round vidarbha .farmers of vidarbha region are demanding hike in cotton procurement price to @ Rs.6000/- in order to compensate the losses incurred by them and cash compensation @ Rs.20,000 per hector but state has announced Rs.2000 crore for nearly 90 lakh hector which will peanut hence there is demand to revised the relief package ,tiwari added.
Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, (VJAS), has welcomed initiative taken by Maharashtra DF Govt. to appoint committee to sort out issue of dry land farmers which are victims of Agrarian crisis and needs income base incentive to stop their on going suicides and such steps are must and should taken without delay,Tiwari said
Maharashtra DF Govt. today most waited announcement of giving Rs.2000 crore relief package for 40 lakhs hector crop loss compensation is another eyewash as earlier vidarbha farmer packages of year 2005 and 2006 has dashed hopes of more than 5 million farmers who are facing severe economical crisis due to massive crop failure who are demanding the bailout package and hike in MSP of cotton ,soybean and paddy as this will trigger another spiral of farmer suicides having failed to address the basic issue of price and future sustainability of dying agrarian community ,Kishor Tiwari, president of Nagpur-based Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, (VJAS), activist group working for cotton farmer rights in a Press release today.
‘It was most expected that after CM indicated earlier that bankrupt financial condition of Maharashtra can’t even give Rs.1000/- per hector to 5 millions farmers against the demand of Rs.10,000/- and the cotton farmers of western vidarbha will get nothing as administration has shown minimum crop failure in this region and now out 70 lakh hector area under cultivation of cotton, soya and paddy whop will get what that god know?. Farmers and all parties including congress NCP that MRP hike in cotton ,soya and paddy and cash compensation in line with sugarcane growers of western Maharashtra but once again Govt. has mad mockery of agrarian crisis and announced such penny relief which is nothing but hoax’Tiwari added.
‘we are demanding long term solution to agrarian crisis not any package which are mostly contractor driven and designed to rehabilitation of the ill managed politician runs cooperative banks. our farmers are working for handful MNCs who are manufacturing Gm seed, fertilizer and pesticides and revival of own agriculture is must which is not being done ’ Tiwari said.
The vidarbha agrarian is result of wrong policies promoted by state and situation of cotton growers in west Vidarbha has worsened when ban of cotton export imposed last year and massive crop failure this year .
“There is a need for state government’s intervention in this regard. The government should provide at least Rs 6,000 per quintal. The chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had promised that he would talk with the union government for better support price for the raw cotton. However, nothing has been done in this regard,” Tiwari alleged.
Tiwari continued, “The government did not concede our demand of providing food security to desperate, distressed and marginal farmers even. The government needs to behave sensibly and responsibly to address farmers’ woes and prevent the prevailing spate of suicide in the killing fields of Vidarbha.” If the cotton growers do not get better price this season, the situation will assume drastic proportions, he cautioned.
VJAS has urged Govt. of India to send team of expert to assess the Bt. Cotton crop damage in Maharashtra and west vidarbha in particular where cotton farmers are killing themselves .VJAS has been demanding hike in cotton MSP Rs.6000/- per quintal and relief package to dying cotton farmers of region, Tiwari added.
|It is clearly the absence of political will rather than a paucity of ideas that is responsible for the country’s agrarian crisis.|
SINGAM VENKATA RAMANA
THE GRIEF-STRICKEN FAMILY members of T. Ramulu, a debt-ridden farmer who committed suicide at Velamakanne village in Nalgonda district, Andhra Pradesh, in January 2010.
EXACTLY seven years ago this month, the Commission on Farmers’ Welfare, appointed by the government of Andhra Pradesh, submitted its report to the then Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. His Congress government assumed office earlier that year replacing the Telegu Desam Party regime led by N. Chandrababu Naidu, which lost the popular mandate largely because of public dissatisfaction with the economic conditions in the State. This was reflected in poor and fragile employment prospects despite much talk of development in the capital city, Hyderabad, and a growing agrarian crisis, which was evident from a high incidence of farmers’ suicides. True to its electoral promise to make agrarian rejuvenation the centrepiece of its economic strategy, the Congress government appointed this commission to make recommendations accordingly.
The report, which was submitted in 2004, began as follows: “Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh is in an advanced state of crisis…. Drought-affected areas in Rayalaseema and Telangana bear the brunt of the burden, even though even farmers in irrigated areas have been facing problems. In addition, the burden has fallen disproportionately on small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers and rural labourers. The most extreme manifestation of this crisis is in the suicides by farmers, who are typically driven to this desperate act by the inability to repay debt incurred in the process of cultivation, which has become a volatile and economically less viable activity. But this is only the tip of the iceberg of generalised rural distress which had become prevalent across the State, and has also been expressed in severe cases by kidney sales and hunger deaths in certain areas. The problems of farming are evident, ranging from frequent droughts and soil degeneration, to lack of institutional credit and insurance leading to excessive reliance on private moneylenders, problems in accessing reliable and reasonably priced inputs to problems of marketing and high volatility of crop prices. But the crisis is also reflected in other features of the rural economy: the decline in agricultural employment and stagnation of other employment, leading to reduced food consumption and forced migration of workers; the evident decline in per capita calorie consumption even among the poor.”
The commission noted: “The economic strategy of the past decade at both Central government and State government levels has systematically reduced the protection afforded to farmers and exposed them to market volatility and private profiteering without adequate regulation, has reduced critical forms of public expenditure, has destroyed important public institutions, and did not adequately generate other non-agricultural economic activities.”
Seven years later, despite this commission’s report and many other detailed policy recommendations and declarations of intent on the part of both Central and State governments, it is shocking to realise that little or nothing seems to have changed in the situation on the ground. Furthermore, farmers’ suicides, which indicate the extreme despair and desperation of the farming community, have continued and even increased in number despite a fall in the number of those who say they are engaged in farming. In 2004, around 2,000 such suicides were reported; in 2010 there were 2,525, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
It is a different matter that the State government’s own records show only 158 such deaths in 2010. This is largely because the paperwork required to establish that the death of a farmer is a suicide has become vastly more complicated ever since the State government introduced a system of compensation for the families in 2005.
Currently, no less than 13 documents are required to establish this. Five documents have to be obtained from the local police station: a first information report, a panchanama report, a post-mortem report (which has to be paid for by the family), a forensic science laboratory report and a final report. In addition, other documents are required: private loan documents and/or bank loan documents as proof that the farmer was indeed indebted, the Land Pass Book, dependents’ certificate, ration card and three years agriculture pahani. Then there has to be a report from the mandal-level verification committee, which consists of the mandal revenue officer, a police sub-inspector and the agriculture officer, and finally, a division level verification committee report from the Revenue Divisional Officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police and Assistant Director of Agriculture. Is it any wonder that only 158 cases could meet these stringent criteria?
In fact, it seems that the problem is now possibly even more acute than before. A report recently released by the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (“Farmers Suicides and Agrarian Crisis in Andhra Pradesh: A report of fact-finding visits November 2011”) found that in the month between October 7 and November 8, there were 95 farmers’ suicides in six districts, Medak, Anantapur, Mahboobnagar, Karimnagar, Adilabad and Khammam. Disturbingly, the causes the report identifies for such distress are very similar to the factors described in the 2004 commission’s report. They include changing cropping systems with more reliance on cash crops, whose prices are uncertain; delayed and unreliable rainfall; high costs of cultivation, reflecting an unsustainable model of cultivation with high-input, high-risk mono-cropping; unremunerative prices; policy neglect of rain-fed areas – all resulting in high indebtedness, which is made worse by the farmers’ inadequate access to institutional credit.
What has happened at the State level has been replicated – and the tragedy therefore multiplied – at the national level as highlighted by P. Sainath in a series of recent articles in The Hindu. It is striking that this problem has persisted despite a period of boom in agricultural prices. However, the perception of policymakers in Delhi is that in general farmers are doing very well.
Indeed, only two States have experienced declines in the incidence of farmers’ suicides (which, despite all protestations to the contrary, have become a kind of proxy for the state of distress of the peasantry). The two States, Kerala and West Bengal, under Left Front governments took active measures to make peasant cultivation viable. In Kerala, a debt commission was appointed to reduce the crushing burden of debt in a feasible way.
The inaction elsewhere cannot be ascribed to a lack of ideas. Seven years ago, the Andhra Pradesh commission suggested interventions in six important areas:
correcting spatial inequities in access to irrigation and work towards sustainable water management;
bringing all cultivators, including tenant farmers, into the ambit of institutional credit;
shifting policies to focus on dry-land farming through technology, extension, price and other incentives;
encouraging cheaper and more sustainable input use, with greater public provision and regulation of private input supply and strong research and extension support;
protecting farmers from high volatility in output prices;
emphasising rural economic diversification, to more value-added activities and non-agricultural activities.
The report had provided detailed proposals in each of these six areas, covering issues such as land relations, rural credit, irrigation and power, agricultural research and extension, input provision, crop prices and markets, the special problems of drought-prone areas, non-agricultural employment, and the health, nutrition and education of farmers. When the report was first submitted, it was welcomed by the State government and roundly criticised by the representatives of the previous government, now in opposition. A few years later, the tables were turned: the same opposition that had condemned the report then began demanding that its recommendations be implemented, while the State government sought to downplay it. (Incidentally, the report was never formally published by the State government although it is available online at http://www.macroscan.org/ pol/apr05/pol070405 Andhra_Pradesh.htm).
Similarly, more than five years ago, the National Farmers’ Commission submitted to the Central government an excellent and meaningful set of detailed recommendations to deal with the agrarian crisis. The government has used various means to delay or avoid implementation, including setting up yet more committees to examine ways to implement the proposals. Clearly, it is the absence of political will rather than the paucity of ideas that is to blame.