Four cotton growing states records 68% of the Farmers Suicides: NCRB 2012 data shows

National Crime Records Bureau Report-2012 shows increasing agrarian crisis in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra

The latest report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that the total farmers suicides recorded during the year 2012 were 2,84,694 in the last eighteen years. NCRB started documenting the ‘Farmers Suicides’ as a separate category under self employed from 1995 onwards.

Four states Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh which are predominantly growing cotton in rainfed conditions records 68% of the farmers’ suicides. The two major states Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have shown increase of 13% and 17% respectively compared over last year and together account for 46% of the total farmers’ suicides.

Maharashtra formulates special policy for organic farming

RAHUL WADKE

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/states/maharashtra-formulates-special-policy-for-organic-farming/article4369407.ece

Boon to farmers: Organic farming method will help improve the quality of land and reduce air and water pollution.

Boon to farmers: Organic farming method will help improve the quality of land and reduce air and water pollution.
MUMBAI, FEB. 1:

To encourage organic farming in Maharashtra, the State Government has formulated a special policy for the sector. The policy has devised a roadmap for developing the whole value chain — from the farm gate to the consumer.

The policy has defined organic farming as an integrated method, which uses local natural resources for farming and which rejects the use of chemicals for cultivation. Such a farming method will help improve the quality of land and reduce air and water pollution.

In Maharashtra, about 200 lakh hectares is under cultivation. Over the last 15 years, a number of farmers’ groups have been practising organic farming techniques. The total area under organic farming is still small, but it is growing steadily due to remunerative prices of such farms products in the metropolitan area.

Agriculture Commissioner of Maharashtra Umakant Dangat told Business Linethat the policy has set an aim of converting 10 per cent of the total farmland to organic farms, and 25 per cent of the farm lands to use some agronomic practices of organic farming. The policy has not set out any milestones, but in the next five years, it wants to get the maximum area covered under this framing method, he said.

CAPITAL REQUIRED

He said for implementing organic farming methods across the State, not much capital is required. The farmers need to be made aware of these methods, which their forefathers use to practice.

“In fact, by using organic farming methods, farmers can save money and not have to shell out for fertilisers and pesticides. If they convert farm waste into manure, their cost of cultivation can also be controlled,” Dangat said.

The policy is aiming to develop organic food safety standards, which are in sync with international ones. Incentives would be given for industries setting up units for processing, packaging and temperature controlled warehouses for organic foods. It also wants to develop a marketing infrastructure for such products.

Agriculture expert Raosaheb Pujari said awareness among farmers has been on the rise. Farmers know that chemicals are harmful for crops for personal consumption are grown using organic methods, “But a farmer’s land is now conditioned to chemicals. The farmer cannot switch overnight to organic methods, because his farm yield will take a hit,” he said.

“Today, a higher price for organic products and marketing infrastructure is the need of the hour. Only then, organic farming will be successful,” Pujari said.

rahul.wadke@thehindu.co.in

Economics of Organic Farming: A case study of Dhule district (M.S.)

Author(s): Shivaji B. Patil and Pawar Vishal S.
The present paper is to investigate the economics of organic farming. The concept of organic farming or natural farming came forward from Asian countries. This
art of farming already preserved and cultivated by Indian and Chinese farmer. Before the invention of chemical fertilizer farming is cultivated in organic farming way. even today the organic farming is increased all over the world due to environment point of view, health point of view and as well as economic point of view. Thus in the present paper it is find out economical benefit of organic farming with compare to chemical farming
http://www.isrj.net/PublishArticles/1270.pdf

Mahyco may lose license to sell Bt seeds in Maharashtra

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/agri-biz/article3631912.ece?homepage=true&ref=wl_home
RAHUL WADKE
SOILED FIBRE

MUMBAI, JULY 12:
Agriculture seed major Mahyco, which has been accused of black marketing its seeds and distributing it without informing the State Government, could well stand to lose its license to sell seeds in Maharashtra.

Maharashtra’s Minister for Agriculture, Mr Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, told Business Line that the State Government was left with no other option but to cancel the company’s licence, given the nature of the complaint. He charged that the company was involved in black marketing of Bt (Bacillus Theringuesis) cotton seeds and added that an FIR was lodged against certain company officials.

A few arrests have already been made, he said. The matter was discussed in the Assembly.

The minister further noted that the company allegedly was indulging in this “illegal business” for sometime and that the State Government “could not tolerate it any further”. A final decision regarding the cancellation of license is to be taken on July 18, when the company would be given a hearing at the Agriculture Commissioner office, he added.

The matter came to light in May, when cotton farmers in Beed district were forced to pay significantly higher prices for Bt cotton seeds. MLA Mr Uttamrao Dhikale of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena brought this matter to the attention of the House.

Mr Dhikale, moving a calling attention notice, pointed out that Beed is a major cotton producing district. For the Kharif season, over 47,700 packets (of 450 gms each) of Mahyco 7341 Kanak variety (Bt cotton) was distributed amongst 11 distributors in the district.

However, these distributors did not supply the seeds to the sub-distributors, as is the norm. Instead, they raised bogus bills on the farmers’ name and sold the seeds at a higher price to others, Mr Dhikale added. The MLA has urged the government to initiate a CID probe into the matter.

Replying to the notice, in a written statement, the Agriculture Minister, Mr Patil, said that 10 distributors had resold the seeds directly to the farmers, without informing the Agriculture Department officials. He told the Assembly that it was now clear that Mahyco had resold the seeds with an intention to commit crime. Accordingly, a complaint has been filed at the city police station at Beed.

rahulw@thehindu.co.in

One day at a cattle camp


June 15,2012 Sameena DalwaiMann. 
WOMEN & DROUGHT

 

In Maharashtra’s drought-hit Satara district, a cattle camp has come to the rescue of women and their cattle, writes Sameena Dalwai.Mann taluka in Satara district is ground zero for the drought now ravaging interior Maharashtra. The only cattle camp in the vicinity, being run by the Mann Deshi Mahila Bank and Foundation, provides a snap distress.

This region, known as ‘Manndesh’ in Marathi folklore, falls in the rain shadow area of the state. Over the last three years there has been poor rainfall or none at all and the local lakes, ponds and wells have dried up.

Ironically, Mann falls in the parliamentary constituency of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who recently claimed to have spent millions shoring up irrigation facilities in Maharashtra. It is also adjacent to the ‘sugar belt’ — sugarcane is incidentally a notoriously water intensive crop — which Maratha politicians consider their stronghold, having poured in a lion’s share of Maharashtra’s development funds here. Yet, ‘Manndesh’ continues to remain at the mercy of capricious rains.

The cattle camp, spread over an expanse of five acres, presents scenes right out of a refugee camp. Thousands of animals and people stand under the scorching sun with not a tree in sight. There are, thankfully, tents to provide some shelter from the elements.

The idea of the camp emanated from social entrepreneurs Chetna and Vijay Sinha, who were political activists associated with the Jayaprakash Narayan movement in the Seventies. Chetna Gala-Sinha, a micro-finance expert, is founder-president of the Mann Deshi Mahila Bank, the only women’s bank in rural Maharashtra.

Along with innovative financial products and services for the rural poor, she has been banker to nearly two lakh poor local women and understands the adverse implications that droughts have on their lives.

She says, “Women find the drought harder as they have the primary responsibility of providing food and water in the household. Moreover, they are the main caregivers to the animals.” Nowadays, many are cooking and caring for two households, one at the village and another in the camp, adding to their already tremendous workload.

Says Vijay Sinha, a newly elected leader of the Mhaswad municipality, “The oncoming devastation was obvious as summer set in. We simply had to do something and couldn’t wait for the government to wake up.”

Laxman Nana Bhosale, a farmer from Hingane village captures the drought’s severity, “In earlier droughts, our village did well. When water of the local lake went down it offered us good arable land. This time even that land has turned arid.” He, like hundreds of farmers here, has had no option but to seek refuge in this cattle camp where water and cattle feed has been provided.

Running an endeavour of this magnitude, without government help, may be a formidable task but the camp’s staff seems up to it. After all, they are used to the meticulous functioning of an RBI-monitored cooperative bank. Naturally, to ensure its smooth functioning, some innovative systems and delivery mechanisms have been set up.

Innovative

The entire camp is divided into zones based on where the villagers come from, as also the time of their arrival.

The delivery of cattle feed follows a roster system. Rekha Kulkarni, CEO of Mann Deshi Mahila Bank, explains, “Each person has a card with the number of animals, and the feed they are entitled to.

This is tick-marked every time a person receives the daily quota. Each big animal gets 15 kilos of dry grass, sugarcane, and corn per day and three kilos of processed cattle feed per week.

Water is poured into big tanks around the camp and people carry it to their animals in buckets. Two water tankers make five trips a day to a pipeline 11 kilometres away to bring in the required three lakh litres of water daily.”

The expenditure for feed is Rs 80 per animal, which the government will pay for eventually. But the water — its transportation and delivery — costs more and government funds don’t cover this. The camp requires over Rs 2 lakh every day and the Sinhas have appealed to industrial houses, banks, sarvodaya organisations and animal rights groups to help.

Kisnabai Atpadkar from Varkute Malavadi village walked 16 kilometres with her animals to reach the camp. Talking about the situation in her village she says, “The tanker comes every 15 days. My six cows need over 200 litres of water daily. Where can we store this? If I decide to sell my cattle now, I would lose my life’s savings.”

Critical situation

Atpadkar has got timely support, but the situation in ‘Manndesh’ is critical. Says Rupesh Mane, Camp Manager, “Drought for the last three years has meant that even a borewell 300 metres deep does not yield water.

Each big animal needs around 60 litres of water every day. There is no water in the wells, taps run for two hours every four days and tankers hardly reach the villages.

With all this in mind, the cattle camp began on April 21.

By the end of May, the number of animals reached over 4,000 and the camp threatened to become unmanageable in terms of fodder, water and other internal logistics. So the organisers decided to stop new entries.

When this news spread, people from faraway villages gathered their animals together and brought them to the camp by trucks and tempos. In two days the number rose by over 1000. On the third day, when people reached the boundary of the camp and found the gates closed many were reduced to tears.

But no one has been denied entry. Today, there are 2,500 people and over 7,000 animals here. “Our camp is a small village now. This village has everything, from cooking facilities to neighbourhood support. We have also organised a dairy truck to provide milk every morning,” informs Vanita Shinde, Chief Administrative Officer at Mann Deshi Bank.

The local farmers have a deep connect with their livestock. They call them by their names, chat with them and despair over their fate. Says Jijaba Bangar, an elderly villager, “My wife goes home every evening to care for our school-going grandchildren, but she weeps when she has to leave her animals. She says our home looks desolate without cattle at the door!”

As the evening breeze picks up, we sit around and chat with some farmers. ‘What if this camp wasn’t there?’ we ask. They reply in unison, “Half these animals would have gone under the butcher’s knife. We would have to sell them and in these times there are no other buyers.”

In this situation the government is conspicuous by its absence. Manndesh has been let down in two ways — neither has there been effective planning for water here, nor has the drought-hit community been helped adequately.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on the skies for evidence of rain clouds. The fortune tellers with their Nandi bulls have forecast early rains and the Sinhas are constantly being told that the blessings of the mute animals they are helping keep alive will yield them golden results.

India loses faith in GM cotton: Guardian

Maharashtra state government orders German seed company to compensate farmers as cotton hybrids fail to deliver

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/15/india-gm-cotton-bayer?newsfeed=true

  • Julien Bouissou
india cotton

White revolution … but the promise of GM cotton in India has not been realised. Photograph: Sam Panthaky /AFP

Ten years after it was introduced to India, genetically modified cotton is not living up to its promise. It is vulnerable to new diseases and yields are not as great as expected.

The government of Andhra Pradesh announced that for almost two-thirds of land under cultivation, the 2011 harvest was down by half on the previous year. In a departure, the government of Maharashtra state, and a court in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, have ordered the German seed company Bayer CropScience to pay more than $1.1m in compensation to more than 1,000 farmers for cotton hybrids that did not deliver the promised yields.

Bayer CropScience has denied any responsibility and blamed “inadequate crop management and adverse environmental conditions”. It is preparing an appeal.

Since the introduction of GM cotton in 2002, harvests in India have doubled and the country ranks as the world’s second-largest producer. But the “white revolution” prompts distrust. Opponents of GM crops claim the increased yields of the early 2000s were due to better irrigation and favourable weather. Over the past six years average yields per hectare have barely changed, despite a fourfold increase in the use of GM cotton.

In 2011, the head of the Central Institute for Cotton Research, Keshav Raj Kranthi, issued a warning on hybrid cotton’s increased vulnerability to bacteria.

“Productivity in north India is likely to decline because of the declining potential of hybrids; the emerging problem of leaf curl virus on the new susceptible Bt-hybrids; a high level of susceptibility to sucking pests (straight varieties were resistant),” Kranthi explained in a paper published in June 2011. He also pointed out that GM varieties consume more water and nutrients, leading to soil depletion. This in turn means that fertilisers are needed to achieve optimal yields.

Fertilisers, insecticides and GM seed all come at a cost. Farmers must borrow money, often from local loan-sharks or the seed and fertiliser merchants themselves. Unfavourable weather conditions or a tiny drop in the world price of cotton can sometimes spell disaster. In 2006, in the Vidarbha area, some farmers unable to repay their debts committed suicide by swallowing pesticide.

GM cotton is a new technology that demands a certain know-how to yield good results. Each of the 780 varieties available on the Indian market corresponds to a particular type of soil and different fertiliser requirements. To prevent diseases or insects developing resistance to GM varieties, local seed must be planted in just the right proportions.

“Small farmers have no idea what they’re buying and even less idea how to grow these new varieties. Their traditional know-how is disappearing,” says Sridhar Radhakrishnan, of the Coalition for a GM-Free India.

If the crops fail the Indian government has made no legal provision for farmers to obtain compensation. The nine states using Bt seed should pass laws so that if “something goes wrong […] if farmers suffer, there has to be provision where the company pays compensation”, theagriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, told parliament in March.

Ten years after the introduction of GM cotton, local seed varieties have virtually disappeared. The GM-seed market, launched with a massive advertising campaign, is now worth an estimated $364m. The seed companies have promised to introduce new varieties, which offer even greater resistance, while consuming less water and fertiliser. Their opponents are calling for a moratorium on GM cotton in India.

Reaping gold through cotton, and newsprint: P. SAINATH

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article3401466.ece?homepage=true

A facsimile of The Times of India’s August 28, 2011 page with the ‘marketing feature’ on Bt Cotton.

A facsimile of The Times of India’s August 28, 2011 page with the ‘marketing feature’ on Bt Cotton.

The same full page appeared twice in three years, the first time as news, the second time as an advertisement

“Not a single person from the two villages has committed suicide.”

Three and a half years ago, at a time when the controversy over the use of genetically modified seeds was raging across India, a newspaper story painted a heartening picture of the technology’s success. “There are no suicides here and people are prospering on agriculture. The switchover from the conventional cotton to Bollgard or Bt Cotton here has led to a social and economic transformation in the villages [of Bhambraja and Antargaon] in the past three-four years.” (Times of India, October 31, 2008).

So heartening was this account that nine months ago, the same story was run again in the same newspaper, word for word. (Times of India, August 28, 2011). Never mind that the villagers themselves had a different story to tell.

“There have been 14 suicides in our village,” a crowd of agitated farmers in Bhambraja told shocked members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in March this year. “Most of them after Bt came here.” The Hinduwas able to verify nine that had occurred between 2003 and 2009. Activist groups count five more since then. All after 2002, the year the TOI story says farmers here switched to Bt. Prospering on agriculture? The villagers told the visibly shaken MPs: “Sir, lots of land is lying fallow. Many have lost faith in farming.” Some have shifted to soybean where “at least the losses are less.”

Over a hundred people, including landed farmers, have migrated from this ‘model farming village’ showcasing Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech’s Bt Cotton. “Many more will leave because agriculture is dying,” Suresh Ramdas Bhondre had predicted during our first visit to Bhambraja last September.

The 2008 full-page panegyric in the TOI on Monsanto’s Bt Cotton rose from the dead soon after the government failed to introduce the Biotech Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill in Parliament in August 2011. The failure to table the Bill — crucial to the future profits of the agri-biotech industry — sparked frenzied lobbying to have it brought in soon. The full-page, titled Reaping Gold through Bt Cotton on August 28 was followed by a flurry of advertisements from Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech (India) Ltd., in the TOI (and some other papers), starting the very next day. These appeared on August 29, 30, 31, September 1 and 3. The Bill finally wasn’t introduced either in the monsoon or winter session — though listed for business in both — with Parliament bogged down in other issues. Somebody did reap gold, though, with newsprint if not with Bt Cotton.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture appeared unimpressed by the ad barrage, which also seemed timed for the committee’s deliberations on allowing genetically modified food crops. Disturbed by reports of mounting farm suicides and acute distress in Vidarbha, committee members, who belong to different parties, decided to visit the region.

Bhambraja, touted as a model for Mahyco-Monsanto’s miracle Bt, was an obvious destination for the committee headed by veteran parliamentarian Basudeb Acharia. Another was Maregaon-Soneburdi. But the MPs struck no gold in either village. Only distress arising from the miracle’s collapse and a raft of other, government failures.

The issues (and the claims made by the TOI in its stories) have come alive yet again with the debate sparked off by the completion of 10 years of Bt cotton in India in 2012. The “Reaping Gold through Bt Cotton” that appeared on August 28 last year, presented itself as “A consumer connect initiative.” In other words, a paid-for advertisement. The bylines, however, were those of professional reporters and photographers of the Times of India. More oddly, the story-turned-ad had already appeared, word-for-word, in the Times of India, Nagpur on October 31, 2008. The repetition was noticed and ridiculed by critics. The August 28, 2011 version itself acknowledged this unedited ‘reprint’ lightly. What appeared in 2008, though, was not marked as an advertisement. What both versions do acknowledge is: “The trip to Yavatmal was arranged by Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech.”

The company refers to the 2008 feature as “a full-page news report” filed by the TOI. “The 2008 coverage was a result of the media visit and was based on the editorial discretion of the journalists involved. We only arranged transport to-and-from the fields,” a Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India spokesperson told The Hindu last week. “The 2011 report was an unedited reprint of the 2008 coverage as a marketing feature.” The 2008 “full-page news report” appeared in the Nagpur edition. The 2011 “marketing feature” appeared in multiple editions (which you can click to online under ‘special reports’) but not in Nagpur, where it would surely have caused astonishment.

So the same full-page appeared twice in three years, the first time as news, the second time as an advertisement. The first time done by the staff reporter and photographer of a newspaper. The second time exhumed by the advertising department. The first time as a story trip ‘arranged by Mahyco-Monsanto.’ The second time as an advertisement arranged by Mahyco-Monsanto. The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

The company spokesperson claimed high standards of transparency in that “…we insisted that the publication add the source and dateline as follows: ‘This is a reprint of a story from the Times of India, Nagpur edition, October 31, 2008.’ But the spokesperson’s e-mail reply to The Hindu‘s questions is silent on the timing of the advertisements. “In 2011, we conducted a communications initiative for a limited duration aimed at raising awareness on the role of cotton seeds and plant biotechnologies in agriculture.” Though The Hindu raised the query, there is no mention of why the ads were run during the Parliament session when the BRAI Bill was to have come up, but didn’t.

But there’s more. Some of the glowing photographs accompanying the TOI coverage of the Bt miracle were not taken in Bhambraja or Antargaon, villagers allege. “This picture is not from Bhambraja, though the people in it are” says farmer Babanrao Gawande from that village.

Phantom miracle

The Times of India story had a champion educated farmer in Nandu Raut who is also an LIC agent. His earnings shot up with the Bt miracle. “I made about Rs.2 lakhs the previous year,” Nandu Raut told me last September. “About Rs.1.6 lakh came from the LIC policies I sold.” In short, he earned from selling LIC policies four times what he earned from farming. He has seven and a half acres and a four-member family.

But the TOI story has him earning “Rs.20,000 more per acre (emphasis added) due to savings in pesticide.” Since he grew cotton on four acres, that was a “saving” of Rs. 80,000 “on pesticide.” Quite a feat. As many in Bhambraja say angrily: “Show us one farmer here earning Rs.20,000 per acre at all, let alone that much more per acre.” A data sheet from a village-wide survey signed by Mr. Raut (in The Hindu‘s possession) also tells a very different story on his earnings.

The ridicule that Bhambraja and Maregaon farmers pour on the Bt ‘miracle’ gains credence from the Union Agriculture Minister’s figures. “Vidarbha produces about 1.2 quintals [cotton lint] per hectare on average,” Sharad Pawar told Parliament on December 19, 2011. That is a shockingly low figure. Twice that figure would still be low. The farmer sells his crop as raw cotton. One-hundred kg of raw cotton gives 35 kg of lint and 65 kg of cotton seed (of which up to two kg is lost in ginning). And Mr. Pawar’s figure translates to just 3.5 quintals of raw cotton per hectare. Or merely 1.4 quintals per acre. Mr. Pawar also assumed farmers were getting a high price of Rs.4,200 per quintal. He conceded that this was close to “the cost of cultivation… and that is why I think such a serious situation is developing there.” If Mr. Pawar’s figure was right, it means Nandu Raut’s gross income could not have exceeded Rs.5,900 per acre. Deduct his input costs — of which 1.5 packets of seed alone accounts for around Rs.1,400 — and he’s left with almost nothing. Yet, the TOI has him earning “Rs.20,000 more per acre.”

Asked if they stood by these extraordinary claims, the Mahyco-Monsanto spokesperson said, “We stand by the quotes of our MMB India colleague, as published in the news report.” Ironically, that single-paragraph quote, in the full-page-news story-turned-ad, makes no mention of the Rs.20,000-plus per acre earnings or any other figure. It merely speaks of Bt creating “increased income of cotton growers…” and of growth in Bt acreage. It does not mention per acre yields. And says nothing about zero suicides in the two villages. So the company carefully avoids direct endorsement of the TOI’s claims, but uses them in a marketing feature where they are the main points.

The MMB spokesperson’s position on these claims is that “the journalists spoke directly with farmers on their personal experiences during the visits, resulting in various news reports, including the farmer quotes.”

The born-again story-turned-ad also has Nandu Raut reaping yields of “about 20 quintals per acre with Bollgard II,” nearly 14 times the Agriculture Minister’s average of 1.4 quintals per acre. Mr. Pawar felt that Vidarbha’s rainfed irrigation led to low yields, as cotton needs “two to three waterings.” He was silent on why Maharashtra, ruled by an NCP-Congress alliance, promotes Bt Cotton in almost entirely rainfed regions. The Maharashtra State Seed Corporation (Mahabeej) distributes the very seeds the State’s Agriculture Commissioner found to be unsuited for rainfed regions seven years ago. Going by the TOI, Nandu is rolling in cash. Going by the Minister, he barely stays afloat.

Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech’s ad barrage the same week in 2011 drew other fire. Following a complaint, one of the ads (also appearing in another Delhi newspaper) claiming huge monetary benefits to Indian farmers landed before the Advertising Standards Council of India. ASCI “concluded that the claims made in the advertisement and cited in the complaint, were not substantiated.” The MMB spokesperson said the company “took cognizance of the points made by ASCI and revised the advertisement promptly…. ASCI has, on record, acknowledged MMB India’s modification of the advertisement…”

We met Nandu again as the Standing Committee MPs left his village in March. “If you ask me today,” he said, “I would say don’t use Bt here, in unirrigated places like this. Things are now bad.” He had not raised a word during the meeting with the MPs, saying he had arrived too late to do so.

“We have thrown away the moneylender. No one needs him anymore,” The Times of India news report-turned-ad quotes farmer Mangoo Chavan as saying. That’s in Antargaon, the other village the newspaper found to be basking in Bt-induced prosperity. A study of the 365 farm households in Bhambraja and the nearly 150 in Antargaon by the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) shows otherwise. “Almost all farmers with bank accounts are in critical default and 60 per cent of farmers are also in debt to private moneylenders,” says VJAS chief Kishor Tiwari.

The Maharashtra government tried hard to divert the MPs away from the ‘model village’ of Bhambraja (and Maregaon) to places where the government felt in control. However, Committee Chairperson Basudeb Acharia and his colleagues stood firm. Encouraged by the MPs visit, people in both places spoke their minds and hearts. Maharashtra’s record of over 50,000 farm suicides between 1995 and 2010 is the worst in the country as the data of the National Crime Records Bureau show. And Vidarbha has long led the State in such deaths. Yet, the farmers also spoke of vast, policy-linked issues driving agrarian distress here.

None of the farmers reduced the issue of the suicides or the crisis to being only the outcome of Bt Cotton. But they punctured many myths about its miracles, costs and ‘savings.’ Some of their comments came as news to the MPs. And not as paid news or a marketing feature, either.

Five farmer suicides in Maharashtra in 24 hours says NGO

NDTV Correspondent | Updated: May 01, 2012 16:10 IST

Mumbai:  May 1 is celebrated as Maharashtra Day across the state. However for five families it’s not meant to be that. There are reports that five farmers including one woman farmer have committed suicide in the Vidarbha region of the state in the last 24 hours. Three farmers were from Yavatmal, one each from Washim and Amravati districts. According to statistics released by a Farmer advocacy group Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) the five farmers – like thousands of other farmers – were waiting for relief aid declared in December 2011 by Maharashtra chief minister but hadn’t received anything till date.

Ramdas Dhale of Chincholi village in Yavatmal district, the VJAS says, was a debt trapped farmer who owned over Rs.3 lakhs taken as a bank loan and from a money lender.
Last week, in Yavatmal district, another farmer killed himself by drinking pesticide. In his alleged suicide note, he asked co-farmers not to vote for the Congress and the NCP accusing them of failing to bring relief to distressed farmers.

According to VJAS, the administration officially admitted that standing crop on nearly 90 lakhs hectares were damaged due to poor monsoon and a dry spell in September. Out of this, 40 lakh hectares was the cotton crop. They say the government then went on to declare a relief amount of Rs. 2000 crore and cotton growers were assured minimum Rs.8000 relief aid per family. However many farmers say they haven’t received anything till date which has resulted in this fresh spurt of suicides.  VJAS adds that the state administration hasn’t even prepared list of farmers who suffered crop failure.
Maharashtra’s agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil told NDTV that farmer suicide figures have been decreasing and that Rs. 1,300 crore of the sanctioned Rs. 2,000 cr had already been disbursed.
Patil said, it took time to prepare the list as they had to confirm farmers who were eligible for relief.

The issue farmers say is connected with the Union Textile Ministry’s ban on cotton exports that lead to a surplus in the domestic market and a subsequent crash in prices. Farmers say the returns they are getting for the market doesn’t even cover the cost of production. Faced with severe losses and loans to pay, many farmers have taken the extreme step.

However, after pressure from Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and the Gujarat and Maharashtra governments, on Monday Union Minister for Textiles Anand Sharma said in New Delhi that the restrictions on cotton exports have been lifted and would be reviewed every three weeks.

About 332 farmers have killed themselves in Maharashtra since January this year

DNA investigations: Marathwada region beats Vidarbha in farmer deaths

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_dna-investigations-marathwada-region-beats-vidarbha-in-farmer-deaths_1657782

In 2011, the highest number of farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra was not in Vidarbha, but unexpectedly, in Marathwada.

This region and Khandesh, where farmers suffered crop failure and massive debt, have emerged as the new epicentres for suicides in the state.

The numbers: Marathwada had 435 farmers’ suicides, Vidarbha 276 and Khandesh 133. Overall, 860 farmers killed themselves in 2011, the highest figure in the last four years, according to Maharashtra’s law and order department. (In 2008, there were 771 farmers’ suicides, in 2009 535 and just 363 in 2010). Within Marathwada, Beed district (represented by a BJP stalwart) had the highest number of farmer suicide deaths.

The reason for this desperation was the failure of the BT cotton crop due to lack of irrigation, scanty rainfall, and massive debt. (These will be detailed in subsequent stories in this series.)“These are the reasons for the suicides but the government remains ignorant,” says Dr RP Kurulkar, retired economics professor and chairman of the Marathwada Statuary Development Board (MSDB) in Aurangabad.

Marathwada comprises Aurangabad, Nanded, Latur, Jalna, Beed, Parbhani, Osmanabad and Hingoli. Khandesh comprises Jalgaon, Dhule, and Nandurbar. DNA visited several districts in both Marathwada and Khandesh and heard several poignant stories.

Just 30 days ago, Shivaji Munde, 45, of Hivrabel in Kalamnuri tehsil of Hingoli district hanged himself because his BT cotton crop failed. His son Pravin, 21, said the crop failed as they had no irrigation and there were no rains. “Out of debt my father killed himself,” he cries. Pravin, a standard XII student, now has to give up his dream of higher education.

Debt drove Dadarao Mhende of Phuldhaba in Hingoli to kill himself last November. “This year we had a lot of hope from BT cotton,” his brother Bapurao says. “Seed sellers said the yield would increase and that we could repay loans from previous years, but the crop failed completely.”

Even 65-year-old Ratan Patil of Dahivad in Amalner, Jalgaon, recently killed himself by drinking the very pesticide he was supposed to spray on his BT cotton crop. He had no crop due to no water, and recurring debt drove him over the edge.

“My uncle could not bear the ever-increasing debt, so he chose to end his life in old age,” says nephew Ashok. When asked if he used irrigation facilities, he said: “We have never seen any irrigation facility in this region.”

“If the government does not take the right steps immediately, then like Vidarbha, Marathwada and Khandesh, we will see more farmer suicides yearly,” warns Rajan Ksirsagar, a political activist from Marathwada.

Seeds of Change

T. NARAYAN
A healthy cotton plan
AGRICULTURE: HYBRID COTTON
Seeds Of Change
Maharashtra sounds clarion call on hybrid crop liability

Competition is tough in the seed market, which may explain why marketing gimmicks are often used to woo farmers. It’s tougher still for the farmers to get compensation when the claims fail and they are saddled with a bad or damaged crop. Sometimes the state government steps in to offer compensation or the farmers turn to the consumer court for relief. Typically, of course, the lack of compensation leads farmers deeper into debt.

In a departure from the norm, Maharashtra agriculture commissioner Umakant Dangat recently directed multinational seed major Bayer BioScience to pay 164 farmers in Dhule district Rs 44.8 lakh compensation for damage to their cotton crop in 2010. The culprit: bacterial blight (the plants had stunted growth and leaf damage, which affected the quality of the cotton bolls)—even though the labelling on the seed packet had assured a good yield and the ability to resist pest or disease attack.

“The company’s claim was that the crop would be less susceptible to pest and bacterial (alternaria leaf) blight disease, but our inquiry found it to be a false claim,” Dangat tells Outlook. Prakash Sangale, district superintendent agriculture officer, Dhule, says inspection of the fields showed bacterial blight had damaged between 40-70 per cent of the crops of the 164 farmers who had complained about the Bayer’s SurPass hybrid cottonseed. The total number of affected farmers was much higher, he claims. The average crop area of the affected farmers was one hectare.

Bayer’s representatives were part of the field inspection team and also participated in the three-tier appeal system provided under the Maharashtra Cottonseeds Act 2009. In its defence, Bayer officials had told the committee of experts, which included members from the agriculture university and the Central Institute for Cotton Research, Jalgaon, that the complaints pertain to only 500 farmers from one area though 45,000 seed packets of the hybrid variety had been sold. The implication being that no direct correlation could be established between the blight and the seeds.
As the farmers wait for compensation, Bayer has challenged the agriculture commissioner’s order in the high court. In an official statement to Outlook, Bayer said, “As per our investigations, the yields below expectations in a few pockets are due to combination of inadequate crop management and adverse environmental conditions. We are in the process of contesting the unjustifiable claims through a legal course.”


The team inspects the damaged crops

In another case in Madhya Pradesh, Bayer was ordered in December 2011 by the consumer court in Khargone district to pay Rs 3 crore to farmers whose cotton crops failed to deliver the promised yield, allegedly due to poor quality of seeds. Declining to comment on the Maharashtra order due to lack of information, agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan points out, “In the report on biotechnology, submitted in 2004, I had recommended that seed companies should give an insurance policy to farmers who buy their seeds. Unfortunately, this has not been implemented so far.”

It is rare for the farmers to get compensation directly from companies providing agriculture inputs like seeds. Whether it is the Rs 61 crore paid in 2010 for poor performance of hybrid maize in Bihar or the Rs 2,000 crore relief announced last year for cotton crop damage by Maharashtra, it’s generally the state government that picks up the tab. A notable exception is the compensation Mahyco was made to give in 2007 to farmers in Tamil Nadu.

“Seen together with the SC verdict last month recognising farmers’ rights as consumers, it is an important development outside the ambit of the Seeds Act 1966 wherein only seeds inspectors can initiate proceedings,” says Sudhir Panwar of the Kisan Jagriti Manch. Experts feel it’d be a fitting follow-up if other states heed the call and become voices of their farmers’ interests. But, farmers too need to fight unsubstantiated claims.