Governor vows relief measures for farmers

http://www.gulfnews.com/world/India/10108367.html

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.

Fishermen

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.

Samskarika koottayma to prevent farmers' suicides

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Friday March 2 2007 11:49 IST

T’PURAM: Various cultural organisations in the state will organise a samskarika koottayma named ‘uyirppu’ on March 3 to prevent farmers’ suicides in Wayanad district.
Cultural Affairs Minister M A Baby said on Thursday that Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan would inaugurate the koottayma at 4 pm at the Sulthan Bathery Panchayat Community Hall. Edasseri’s drama ‘koottukrishi’ will be staged after the function.
Kerala Lalitakala Akademi will organise a painting camp at Mananthavadi from March 3 to 8. A drawing-training camp will be organised by the Aranmula Vasthu Vidyagurukulam at Muthanga from March 9 to 12. A book festival and exhibition of manuscripts will be held at Sulthan Bathery from March 4 to 8.
Public meetings and samskarika jathas attended by writers, cultural activists and film personalities will be organised from March 25 to 28.
Exhibition of documentary and other films will be organised in various parts of Wayanad from March 3 to April 5 as part of the programme.
A man helps a group of visually-challenged to cross the National Highway near the moffusil bus stand in Kasargod. There is no zebra crossing here to help the pedestrians cross over to the bus stand.

RTI ACT-six farmer suicides per day

Nearly 7,000 farmers committed suicide in different parts of the country in just three years, according to government statistics alone. The average is even more frightening: it works out to six farmers killing themselves every day during that period.

Despite this, no mechanism has been put in place to monitor the progress of implementation of the Prime Minister’s special package for the farmers of 31 suicide-prone districts across Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra, according to the reply furnished by the Union agriculture ministry to a set of questions posed by this newspaper under the Right to Information Act.

The figures, complete only till November 2006, reveal that 6,899 farmers had committed suicide till that date. Of the affected states, Maharashtra, which was singled out by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a special visit, registered a tremendous increase in suicides by farmers with the toll rising from 577 in 2005 to 1,843, according to figures compiled by the state government till October 31, 2006. Kerala, according to government statistics, has registered an increase as well from 120 deaths in 2005 to 146 till November last year.

Andhra Pradesh, which had witnessed 1,126 farmer suicides in 2004-05, brought the figure down to 92 last year, while Karnataka’s highest of 708 deaths in 2003-04 has been reduced gradually to 44 till November last year. To a question on the “current status of benefits accrued to the victims of farmers’ families of these 31 districts as a result of the Prime Minister’s special package”, the ministry’s reply, signed by additional commissioner (policy) K.G. Radhakrishnan, remarked, “This is being handled in the Credit Division of DAC.” However, the actual reply gave a 10-point note with a leading remark that said, “The following benefits to the farmers are envisaged under the PM’s Relief Package.” The reply then mentioned ex-gratia assistance from the Prime Minister’s Natural Calamities Relief Fund of Rs 50 lakhs per district, debt relief for farmers, and an estimated credit flow of Rs 1,275 crores for the current financial year 2006-07. Notably, the reply failed to include what percentage of the credit flow in the same financial year has already been achieved.

Regarding interest waivers, it said, “The overdue interest on agricultural loans as on June 30, 2006, amounting to Rs 712 crores, will be waived. The burden of waiver will be shared equally between the Central and state governments.” The reply blandly repeated the special package announcement that “1.59 lakh hectares will be brought under assured irrigation facilities at a cost of Rs 2,177 crores over a period of three years through completion of all major, medium and minor irrigation projects.” The package included a massive seed replacement programme and the ministry’s reply fails to quantify what is the progress achieved, despite mentioning it. Though the package advocated watershed development and construction of check dams, none of the four states have so far begun work on check dams, according to ministry sources. However, the reply says, “500 check dams every year will be constructed over the next three years.” The watershed development programme has also not made much headway in the four states. The note throws no light on the progress of subsidiary income programmes like livestock, dairies and fisheries. Though the internal agriculture ministry action plan for the implementation of the package called for monitoring committees to be set up by respective state governments, only the Andhra Pradesh government’s monitoring committee has reported to the Centre so far, according to agriculture ministry sources.

Maharashtra topped the number for distress suicides by farmers last year across the country and two-thirds of the number of these suicides are accounted for by six districts in the Vidarbha region. Farmer suicides until October 31 last year in that state were 1,843. Six districts of the impoverished Vidarbha region — Akola, Amravati, Buldhana, Washim, Yavatmal and Wardha — witnessed 1,156 distress suicides by farmers, almost 100 suicides per day. Until November 2006, the number of farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh was 139, Karnataka recorded 77 and the state of Kerala recorded 135 suicides.

While states like Andhra Pradesh, too, witnessed a large number of farmer suicides, 1,843 in a year is unprecedented. Andhra Pradesh had witnessed 1,126 farmer suicides in 2004-05; no other state has recorded more than 1,000 farmer suicides in a year. Even in the case of Maharashtra, the distress deaths grew exponentially. In calendar 2003, the number of deaths was 170, in 2004 622 farmer suicides were recorded, 2005 saw 577 farmers perish, and in 2006 the suicide count reached 1,843, according to the data in the ministry’s reply.

Within the Vidarbha region, Yavatmal district witnessed 282 farmer suicides during the first 11 months of 2006. Buldhana, with 248 suicides, Amravati with 208, Akola with 146, Washim with 142, Wardha with 132 suicides, and more farmer suicides being reported from these districts continue to put a question mark on the effectiveness of the government’s measures.

Seven thousand farmers committed suicide in three years

Sunday, 18 February 2007

NEW DELHI, Feb 18 APP: About seven thousand farmers have committed suicide in India in just three years.

        The Asian Age in its lead story on Sunday quoting government statistics said the average is even more frightening:  it works out to six farmers killing themselves every day during the period.
       According to the daily no mechanism has been put in place to monitor the progress of implementation of the Prime Minister’s special package for  distressed farmers.
       In 31 suicide – prone districts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra.
     Quoting Union Agriculture Ministry, the paper said the figure complete only till November 2006, reveals that 6, 899 farmers have committed till that date. Of the affected states Maharashtra, which was singled out by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a special visit, registered a tremendous increase in suicides by farmers with the toll rising from 577 in 2005 to 1,843, according to statistics till October 31, 2006. 
      Kerala, according to government statistics, has registered an increase as well from 120 last year.  Andhra Pradesh, which had witnessed 1,126 farmer suicides in 2004 -05, brought the figure down to 92 last year, while Karnataka’s highest of 78 deaths in 2003-04 has been reduced gradually to 45 till Novembers last year.
        The paper quoted the PM relief fund to improving the plight of the farmers which include setting up dams, waiving off loans,  ex-gratia assistance from the Prime Miniter’s Natural Calamities Relief Fund of Rs. 50 lacks per district, an estimated credit flow of Rs. 1, 275 crores for the current financial year 2006-07.

Seven thousand farmers committed suicide in three years

 

Sunday, 18 February 2007

NEW DELHI, Feb 18 APP: About seven thousand farmers have committed suicide in India in just three years.

        The Asian Age in its lead story on Sunday quoting government statistics said the average is even more frightening:  it works out to six farmers killing themselves every day during the period.
       According to the daily no mechanism has been put in place to monitor the progress of implementation of the Prime Minister’s special package for  distressed farmers.
       In 31 suicide – prone districts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra.
     Quoting Union Agriculture Ministry, the paper said the figure complete only till November 2006, reveals that 6, 899 farmers have committed till that date. Of the affected states Maharashtra, which was singled out by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a special visit, registered a tremendous increase in suicides by farmers with the toll rising from 577 in 2005 to 1,843, according to statistics till October 31, 2006. 
      Kerala, according to government statistics, has registered an increase as well from 120 last year.  Andhra Pradesh, which had witnessed 1,126 farmer suicides in 2004 -05, brought the figure down to 92 last year, while Karnataka’s highest of 78 deaths in 2003-04 has been reduced gradually to 45 till Novembers last year.
        The paper quoted the PM relief fund to improving the plight of the farmers which include setting up dams, waiving off loans,  ex-gratia assistance from the Prime Miniter’s Natural Calamities Relief Fund of Rs. 50 lacks per district, an estimated credit flow of Rs. 1, 275 crores for the current financial year 2006-07.

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.

The unkept promises and rising suicides

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Thursday February 15 2007 10:15 IST

KALPETTA: The farmers in Wayanad, who did weave their dreams around the LDF, it seems, are losing their faith in the government and its promises. The number of suicides, which came down in 2004, is steadily on the rise again.
As many as 344 persons, including 87 women, committed suicide in 2006 whereas in 2005 it was 320 and in 2004 it was 302.
According to the data available with the District Crime Records Bureau, as many as 76 farmers committed suicide due to debt in the year 2006 while 44 committed suicide due to mental illness, which also could be attributed to financial crisis. 70 committed suicide due to family problems.
The other details are: Prolonged illness – 39; death of dear ones – 5; unknown reasons – 53; other causes – 48 and personal – 4. Majority of the victims were in the age group of 29 to 59 (210) while 206 victims were married. 161 persons committed suicide by hanging while 158 persons consumed poison.
In 2004 and 2005, almost all the farmers’ organisations took to the streets demanding complete write off of farm loans.
The Karshaka Sangham, the farmers’ outfit of the CPM, was in the forefront of agitations against the then UDF Government.
V S Achuthanandan, the then opposition leader, while participating in farmers’ agitations in the district had promised to write off of all loans taken by farmers.
All these agitations helped the LDF to expand its support base in the district. In the last election, the Left front won all the three legislative seats in the district, which was the UDF citadel for many decades.
The farmers issue and the suicides figured in the Parliament and about a dozen high-level delegations of Central and State Governments scanned the district on fact-finding missions. Sharad Pawar, Union Minister for Agriculture, himself had visited the district to have a look into the matter.

VS Achyuthanandan blames it all on officials

Wednesday January 31 2007 12:52 IST

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T’PURAM: Blaming officials for the non-performance of the LDF Government, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan here on Tuesday hit out at them against their over-enthusiasm regarding foreign funds.
Achuthanandan’s latest bash on the officials came against the background of the controversy regarding ADB loan, which left the most productive officials like S.M. Vijayanand, scapegoats.
Officials should try their best to make use of the available domestic resources for the welfare of the public, than showing over excitement towards foreign funds, Achuthanandan said while addressing the Collectors’ conference here.
Farmers’ suicides could not be checked even after the LDF came to power, as the officials failed to pass on the relief plans announced by the government, he said.
“The situation has changed after the LDF Government came to power. Now no farmers need to commit suicide due to debt. But the officials failed to drive home the idea to the farmers”, he said.
The failure of government officials in acting as per the government directives was evident in the lapses in reporting vacancies, he said.

Farmers must be given a better deal: Kerala governor

Friday, January 26, 2007

Continuing farmer suicides are unacceptable in a modern society and it is up to not just the government but also the people to ensure that they are given a better deal, Kerala Governor R.L. Bhatia said Friday in his Republic Day address.

Presiding over the Republic Day celebrations at the Central Stadium here, Bhatia unfurled the national flag and took salute at the march past. He also distributed awards for meritorious services in a function attended by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, ministers and top officials.

Declaring that farmer suicides were a shame, he said Kerala must make advances in the financial sector.

Reports indicate that after Achuthanandan took over last May, about 60 farmers, mostly in Wayanad and Palakkad, have taken their lives following huge debts due to falling prices of agricultural produce, especially cash crops like pepper and areca nut.

‘This is not only the responsibility of the government but of the entire society,’ said Bhatia.