State gets more teeth to curb moneylenders: Maharastra clears Maharastra Moneylenders (Rules) Act 2009

http://www.freepressjournal.in/FPJ/FPJ/2010/02/25/ArticleHtmls/25_02_2010_011_013.shtml?Mode=1

THE State Cabinet on Wednesday cleared the Maha- rashtra Moneylenders (Rules) Act, 2009 for implementation in the state. This new act will replace the Bombay Money- lenders Act, 1946 that was amended in 2006. Since the last three years, the law had been awaiting a formal nod from the Central Government. Though the Central nod was received last year, the implementation of this Act got further delayed due to the elections held then.
Subsequently, this Act was re- introduced in the cabinet on Wednesday and formally cleared. The provisions of this Act will be announced in the form of a government resolu- tion after the nitty-gritties are worked out.

This act is being implement- ed in a bid to provide protec- tion to poor farmers burdened by money lenders who lend at exorbitant interest rates and is meant to cap the problem of farmers committing suicides.

Though this is considered to be a landmark move, activisits say that it will not be of much help in reducing suicides by farmers. Kishore Tiwari, presi- dent of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti feels that this legislation is too little and too late. “The moneylenders have already donned different garbs to exploit farmers. Now, they have opened shops of pesti- cides, fertilisers and seeds and sell them on credit at huge lending rates. Once the farmer is unable to pay back, they officially file a recovery suit against them,” Tiwari told FPJ.
He explained that this legisla- tion would not have much impact because children of moneylenders are now lend- ing using this position in con- juction with multi-national firms and businessmen. This gives them official sanction to lend at exorbitant interest rates. They not just lend but also are traders for buying cot- ton and soyabean. This means that the farmer ends up com- pletely dependent on him, accuses Tiwari.

Institutionalised corruption in Vidharba-hostile to farmers: VJAS writes to Maharashtra CM

VJAS has been monitoring vidarbha farmers suicides and agrarian crisis since 1999 and we are glad that your Govt. and UPA govt. at the centre has first officially admitted that west vidarbha cotton famers are in pathetic condition and committing suicides and has declared timely relief packages in 2005 and 2006 but as on today if we look at the net result of these Rs.5000 crore relief packages it is crystal clear that all relief packages failed to stop on going farm suicides on vidarbha more over it failed to provide any help or healing touch to the 2 million distressed farmers of west vidarbha .please look at the graph which is true picture of result of relief packages.

Institutionalised corruption has made hostile condition of administration

The massive corruption in which minister are directly involved are mainly responsible for the failure for the failure of these relief packages, In the relief packages main chunk of money around Rs.2500 crore which is 70% of total relief package under AIBP has been released for but money was siphoned out and it failed to increase not even 2% land to be covered under irrigation .all other schemes of relief packages the money was has not reached to distressed farmers and touts and agents have been benefited along with minister concerned deptt.

With this letter I want to thorow light on the fact that entire Indiais quite aware with the gravity and the depth of the issue of continued grave plight of Farmers in light of unpresented & unfortunate situation arising out of hundreds of suicides committed by distressed farmers in the Cotton Cultivating Belt of Vidarbha Region of State of Maharashtra. The gross failure of the State Administration even to take the cognizance of the Survey Report prepared by the State Controlled Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swawlamban Mission at Amravati Commissionerate in the month of May-June 2006, in which the information pertaining to farmers’ families in distress and with the extreme illness have not been attended by the State Administration even after 18 months from the Survey conducted in May-June, 2006.

The Government has formed a High Power Committee headed by Vice-Chancellor of Pune University, Dr. Narendra Jadhav to examine the shortcomings in the Farmers’ Packages under implementation and to suggest remedial measures to stop farmer suicides. At the time of visit of Dr. Jadhav to Vidarbha Region, the Farmers Organization – Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti (VJAS) – which is following the issue since last almost 9 years on the basis of the ground study & analysis of each and every case of unfortunate suicides of the farmers in different villages of Vidarbha Region of Maharashtra State has submitted a detailed report to the Jadhav Committee.

In the context of the report submitted by Dr. Narendra Jadhav Committee, it is relevant to throw light on certain facts. At the time of visit of Dr. Narendra Jadhav to Nagpur, various Organisations submitted Memorandum to the said Committee, but the Memorandum submitted by VJAS through its President Shri Kishore Tiwari highlighted the detailed analysis the causes of the Farmers Suicides and after reviewing the success of implementation of the State Government Package & PMO Package for Farmers, the Committee admitted that the Packages have totally failed to provide any immediate help to those farmers’ families in the category of “Farmers Families in Extreme Distress” (total families 4,34,291) and “Farmers Families with extreme illness” (total families 92,456),though the complete data of which is available in the Report of the Survey conducted by Govt. of Maharashtra in June, 2006. It is required that it must act now, otherwise it will be too late to sort out the broken social structure in dying Rural Vidarbha.

VJAS pointed out that we all are very well aware that though the issue is complex and is the overall effect of various factors governing it, still we have few points to be highlighted for your immediate action in the interest of dying farmers, apart from the various long term measures suggested by various agencies including the High Power Committee appointed by Your Government under the Chairmanship of Hon’ble Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, Former Chairman of National Commission of Farmers & the Father of Green Revolution in the country.

VJAS highlighted these points on the very basis of the above referred document, which is the Survey Report dated 15th June, 2006 conducted by the Government of Maharashtra’s Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swawlamban Mission at Amravati in connection with the Farmers’ plight and also reflected in the report submitted Dr. M.S. Swaminathan Committee.

It is evident from the Survey Document that the farmers ‘in extreme distress’ as mentioned in the column 9 of the Survey Chart are 4,34,291 and the farmers families suffering from serious illness are 92,456.

The detailed survey was conducted by the said Government Controlled Mission at Amravati under the guidance of Divisional Commissioner at Amravati, in the 8351 Villages of 6 Districts of Vidarbha comprising of Yavatmal, Amravati, Akola, Buldhana, Washim & Wardha in which 17,64,438 families were surveyed by the Mission.

On the basis of the in-depth study and analysis conducted by VJAS, out of such a huge numbers of families from those surveyed villages, VJAS had drawn the immediate attention of the Jadhav Committee towards the facts pertaining to the farmers in extreme distress and farmers with serious illness as stated above.

THE FACTS & OUR EXPERIENCE :

VJAS pointed out that in majority of cases of farmers suicides, we came to know that there is no food or medicine available to them and this plight has continued to result the extreme step of suicide by the said farmer and / or its family members.

Now, it is imperative on the part of the Union of India and State of Maharashtra that this known factors / points are to be attended to immediately so that these two class of farmers families i.e. the Farmers in Extreme Distress and Farmers Suffering from Serious Illness need to be attended immediately to remediate the plight of such farmers on the verge of committing suicides. It is regretted that the State Administration has miserably failed to attend these two known categories even though these required immediate relief measures to control the unfortunate incidents of suicides.

1) NEED OF FOOD SECURITY TO FARMERS IN EXTREME DISTRESS –

IDENTIFIED FAMILIES : 4,34,291.

CAUSES IDENTIFIED :

After visiting the families of the farmers which committed suicides, we came to know that there was no food even sufficient for 2 days in the houses of such farmers. These unfortunate facts of non-availability of Food or money to buy food grain and / or the medicine, resulted in the ultimate sad and unfortunate incident of suicide by the said farmers who were unable to face the agony and distress of such unfortunate plight of indirect hunger and ultimate starvation of the family members including small children and old parents.

REMEDY SUGGESTED :

The Union of India through State of Maharashtrais providing food grain at the subsidized rate to the BPL families amongst the farm / landless labours. In order to stop the indirect hunger and starvation of these 4,34,291 Identified ‘Families in Extreme Distress’, most of them are small farmers of which the economic condition is not above the landless labourers (Col No. 9 of the Survey Chart), State of Maharashtra to provide 25 Kg of Food grain per month at the subsidized price @ Rs. 3 – 5 per kg under the PDS and/or any other special scheme to be announced at least for a period of 18 months now onwards. This will immediately result in provi
ding direct food help to the 4,34,291 Identified Families in Extreme Distress and the indirect starvation of such families can be stopped so that the ultimate effect which is leading to the unfortunate suicide of the farmer family can be stopped, once the hunger and the indirect starvation of such families is attended to.

JADHAV COMMITTEE has accepted the suggestion given by the VJAS and recommended to provide immediate Food Security to 4,34,291 Identified Families in Extreme Distress and order to formulate immediate scheme to provide 25 Kg of Food grain per month at the subsidized price @ Rs. 3 – 5 per kg under the PDS and/or any other special scheme to be announced at least for a period of 18 months i.e. upto December, 2009.

FARMERS FAMILIES SUFFERING FROM SERIOUS ILLNESS –

IDENTIFIED FAMILIES : 92,456.

CAUSES IDENTIFIED :

After visiting the families of the farmers which committed suicides, we also came to know that there was no medicine in the houses of such farmers where the family members are seriously ill or suffering from such diseases. The non-availability of medicine or money to buy food grain and / or the medicine, resulted in the ultimate sad and unfortunate incident of suicide by the said farmers who were unable to face the agony and distress of such unfortunate plight of indirect sufferings due to illness, hunger and ultimate starvation of the family members including small children and old parents.

REMEDY SUGGESTED :

The State is providing medical / health services to BPL families at the subsidized rate amongst the farm / landless labourers. In order to stop the indirect plight due to serious illness coupled with hunger and starvation of these 92,456 Identified Farmers Families with Serious Illness, most of them are small farmers of which the economic condition is not above the landless labourers (Col No. 8 of the Survey Chart), State of Maharashtra to provide Special BPL / Health Cards to such families so that they get the subsidized health care in Government run hospitals at par with the landless labourers or BPL families. This will immediately help in providing direct health care to the 92,456 Identified Families with Serious Illness and in Extreme Distress and which can help to stop the unfortunate suicide of the farmer families with serious illness.

JADHAV COMMITTEE has accepted the suggestion given by the VJAS and recommended to provide direct health care to the 92,456 Identified Families with Serious Illness and in Extreme Distress and which can help to stop the unfortunate suicide of the farmer families with serious illness

OTHER IMPORTANT CAUSES NEEDS GOVERNMENT’S IMMEDIATE ATTENTION :

1. ISSUE OF INADEQUATE AND POOR AVAILABILITY OF CREDIT FACILITIES TO THE FARMERS :-

It has been observed that the financial Institutions mainly Nationalized Banks are not providing credit facilities to farmers as per their actual needs. The scale of finance is extremely discriminatory. In Western Maharashtra, farmers are getting upto Rs.2,00,000/- per Hectare Crop Credit, but in Vidarbha it is extremely poor, not even Rs.10,000/- per Hectare. It is mockery of Credit Policy and Govt. Control thereon. The banks are not carrying out the periodic review exercise for increasing the scale of finance. In some cases it is observed that though the farmers are eligible for increment in scale of finance, but it is not made available merely for the reason of the extra staff / manpower for the purpose of documentation and credit papers at bank is not provided by the Regional Offices of the Banks. For want of such bank documentation and paper works, the farmers are denied the fresh incremental loans / credit facilities even though they are eligible for enhanced credit facilities. This is indirectly causing great hardships to the farmers and they have been denied the enhanced scale of finance / credit facilities for the failure of banks to revise the documentation or papers. Thus, inadequate and poor availability of credit facilities to the farmers is the main reason of exploitation of the farmers community at the hands of private money lenders / sahukars, who all are charging exorbitant rate of interest for such short term crop loan / credit made available to farmers by such sahukars. This is ultimately resulting in the unfortunate incidents of farmers’ suicide across the Vidarbha Region.

IMMEDIATE REMEDY

All the Nationalized banks be strictly advised / ordered to review the scale of finance and accordingly have extra manpower / staff for documentation and / or the paper work for reviewing and revising the scale of finance / credit facilities to the farmers as per their eligibility. The Banks be advised / instructed / ordered to make suitable computer software for the purpose of assessment and documentation for providing the new scale of finance / credit facilities to the farmers, which is being denied due to manual / lengthy / time killing and labourious documentation system presently being implemented in the Banks and could not be effectively made operational for want of staff / manpower and infrastructure in the Rural Sector Branches of the Banks. The farmers who have been denied the new scale of finance be given additional finances / credit facilities by extending the last date for such short term of loan. The forms / formats for credit facilities to the farmers be revised in such way that the time consumed in lengthy documentation can be avoided at the time of the review / revision of the credit limits on account of enhancement in the scale of finance, to the advantage of farmers as well as banks. It is unfortunate that the banks have not done computerization alongwith other infrastructures / net working for the agricultural sector and as such the benefits arising out of the advantages of new generation techniques / networking is being denied to the farmers especially in the Rural Vidarbha.

JADHAV COMMITTEE has accepted the suggestion given by the VJAS and recommended that all the Nationalized banks be strictly advised / ordered to review the scale of finance and accordingly have extra manpower / staff for documentation and / or the paper work for reviewing and revising the scale of finance / credit facilities to the farmers as per their eligibility.

2. ISSUE OF SUPPORT PRICE OF COTTON TO BE ENHANCED TO RS. 3,000/- PER QUINTAL :-

It has been observed that the rate of cotton has not been increased as compared to the cost of input. It is not viable to sell cotton below Rs.3,000/- per quintal but since the support price is much below, the cotton purchasing agencies are not giving any rise and the rates are maintained just to the level of Rs.2,100/- per quintal maximum even though the national / international market rates are much much above. The increment in the minimum support price to the level of Rs. 3,000/- per quintal alongwith monopoly guaranteed cotton purchase scheme is the effective need of the hour. The farmers need support of the price as well as guaranteed purchase scheme other wise market players will exploit them and the unfortunate incidents of farmers suicides will continue unending and our civilized country will face an awkward position in the world.

IMMEDIATE REMEDY

The minimum support price of the cotton be increased immediately to Rs. 3,000/- per quintal. State Controlled Cotton Procurement Centers be started immediately from the first day & date of arrival of cotton crop to avoid exploitation of the farmers at the hands of Private Players in the Cotton Trade.

It is relevant to place on record that Government of India has increased and enhanced the support price to wheat to make it Rs. 1000/- per quintal by giving 40% hike this year. The same rationale an
d equity principle may please be adopted for the Cotton Cultivating Farmers in the Vidarbha Region as a Special Case, in view of the unpresented crisis being faced by the farmers.

JADHAV COMMITTEE has accepted the suggestion given by the VJAS and recommended that The minimum support price of the cotton be increased immediately to Rs. 3,000/- per quintal. State Controlled Cotton Procurement Centers be started immediately from the first day & date of arrival of cotton crop to avoid exploitation of the farmers at the hands of Private Players in the Cotton Trade.

3. ISSUE OF UNCONTROLLED & UNRESTRICTEDSALE OF BOGUS & DUPLICATE SEEDS :-

It has been observed that Bogus & duplicate seeds being sold to poor and illiterate farmers due to Non implementation by the Govt. of Maharashtra of the Seed Control Order, 1983 issued under Sec. 3 of Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to arrest and control the big wig seed trades and manufacturers. This massive corruption in sale of duplicate & bogus seeds has resulted in cheating of the farmer and increasing of debt due to improper farm yield because of poor and bogus quality of seeds being sold freely due to apathy of State Government. This has indirectly resulted the unfortunate suicide of the farmers who lost their crops due to poor quality of seeds being provided to them in lack of proper administrative control by the agriculture department quality & input of the seeds which otherwise could have been possible due to the stringent provisions contended in the SEED CONTROL ORDER, 1983 OF ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES ACT, 1955 if implemented in its true spirit & meaning. This failure on a part of State of Maharashtra to control the quality & input of seeds is one of the prime cause for the overall cheating and exploitation of the poor and illiterate farmers residing in the villages.

IMMEDIATE REMEDY

FOR IMMEDIATE CONTROL OF QUALITY & INPUT OF SEEDS, IT IS HIGH TIME THAT THE STATE OF MAHARASHTRA BE ORDERED BY UNION OF INDIA TO IMPLEMENT THE PROVISIONS OF SEED CONTROL ORDER 1983 AND TO INSTRUCT TO ISSUE DELEGATION OF POWER TO ITS INSPECTING OFFICER FOR CONTROL OF QUALITY & INPUT SEEDS AS REQUIRED UNDER SEC. 12 OF THE SEED CONTROL ORDER OF ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES ACT, 1955 WHICH IS THE PRIME TOOL FOR THE CONTROL OF QUALITY & INPUT OF SEEDS.

JADHAV COMMITTEE has accepted the suggestion given by the VJAS and recommended that the State of Maharashtra be ordered by Union of India to implement the provisions of Seed Control Order 1983 and to instruct to issue delegation of power to its inspecting officer for control of quality & input seeds as required under sec. 12 of the Seed Control Order of Essential Commodities Act, 1955 which is the prime tool for the control of quality & input of seeds.

4. ISSUE OF HIGH COST OF BT COTTON SEEDS :-

It has also been observed that the farmers are not being given proper advice and training by the Government of Maharashtra in Department of Agriculture since last several years. The costly and improper BT cotton seeds which are not suitable for dry land farming is being freely propagated and sold at a very high cost of Rs. 2000/- to Rs. 3600/- Per Kg of BT cotton seeds, cost of which is virtually killing the farmers due to high input cost and low yield.

REMEDIES SUGGESTED :

There must be the blanket ban on BT cotton seeds in the dry land farming and rainfed areas. This has to be done immediately in order to save the farmers from undue exploitation and cheating. There must be ban on sale and mis leading advertisement of BT cotton seeds in the dry land areas of Maharashtra where such seeds are not useful for cultivation of cotton due to the high cost of input as compared to the yield. The so called upgrade technology is killing the farmers. So immediate steps may please be initiated by the Union of India in this regard to stop free trials and sales of GM and BT seeds to protect the farmer community at large.

JADHAV COMMITTEE has accepted the suggestion given by the VJAS and recommended that the good quality BT Seeds to be provided by the Government to stop the exploitation by the Multi-National Seeds Company.

5. DR. NARENDRA JADHAV COMMITTEE HAS ALSO MADE VITAL RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE FOLLOWING TOPICS l

A) The Interest Remission Scheme under Packages have not been implemented properly by the State Government. The benefit of concessional rate of interest and also of interest remission has not reached to the Thousands of Farmers. Only Banks have been benefited. In Restructuring of Loans, Banks are tactfully exploiting the Farmers. The higher rate of interest is charged & in no case the concessions have been passed on to the farmers. The amount of Rs. 800 Crores have been shown as spent for the interest remission, but it has benefited only to the sick co-operative Banks and Nationalised Banks to clear their NPA on account of crop loans defaults.

B) The amounts spent on Accelerated Irrigation Development Programme (AIDP) has benefited only to the contractors of Irrigation for clearing their old dues. The amount so far spent is shown as Rs. 780 Crores, but it has given benefits to contractors and even no long term irrigation benefit in sight for the farmers, because only routine old work is going on even after spending Rs. 780 Cr.. The officers are enjoying. Farmers are dying. Please review it by heart.

C) The Subsidy actually meant for farmers for developing Cold Chain and Cold Storage / Warehousing should be made available only to the farmers and the Farmers Group and not to the Corporates – Companies – Multinationals like Walmart, Trumart, Reliance, ITC, Subhiksha, Birla, Godrej, TATA, Hindustan Lever, DLF, etc. etc., otherwise the basic purpose of providing Food Processing subsidies / Infrastructure benefits to farmers for Value Addition will be defeated and if given to the Corporates, the basic advantage to the farmers will be taken away for want of proper statute to control such lapses.

D) The amount spent on subsidy on fertilizers be passed on to actual farmers / users instead of the fertilizer manufacturing corporates.

E) To promote use of bio-fertilisers, Union Ministry of Agriculture had set up Directorate of Bio-fertilisers having Regional Centers across the country to educate the farmers about use of Bio-Fertilizers. However, now this Directorate is changed to Directorate of Organic Farming and the whole thrust of the Regional Centres have now shifted to Organic Farming being propogated without proper Infrastucture & Market Support to the Organic Farming Sector. Union of India should separate out Organic & Bio-Fertiliser Wings to function independently. So that the basic purpose of Bio-Fertiliser and Organic Farming be protected in its true sense & meaning.

F) Farmers in the extreme distress categories may please be provided with free education facility to their wards.

G) Farmers in extreme illness categories should be provided with Special Health Card in order to facilitate them with the concessional medicine and health care. This will directly help to reduce the distress and depression level and save the farmers from committing suicides.

H) Special Schemes for promotion of Food Crop Farming and natural farming may please be introduced with the attractive schemes of subsidies for food crop farming and natural / low budget farming.

I) The farm sector insurance companies be advised / directed to settle the claims of farmers in stipulated time period of 30 days.

J) Contrary to the interest of the poor farmers, the Government is blindly promoting the Contract Farming which is being implemented with a help to corporate and multi nationals. The farmers interest is not protected at all. Proper legislation be enacted to regulate & control the contract farming to protect the interest of small farmers.

K) Food Processing Policy of Union Ministry of Food Processing be simplified in such a way that the illiterate farmers will get direct adv
antage out of it.

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Maharashtra tops the list of farmers’ suicides

New Delhi (PTI): Fourty-six farmers commit suicide every day in this country even as packages were rolled out in a bid to bailout the debt-ridden community from crisis.

A whopping 16,632 cases of suicides by farmers, including 2,369 women were reported across the country last year with Maharashtra retaining the dubious distinction of having the largest number of such incidents despite a slump in figures.

Farmers’ suicide constituted 14.4 per cent of the total 1,22,637 suicides in the country in 2007, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) said in its latest report, Accidental Deaths and Suicide Report — 2007′.

In 2006, the figures were 17,060 and since 1997 there were 1,82,936 cases of farmers’ suicide in the country.

In a grim reminder of the appalling conditions of the farmers in this agriculture dominated country, the NCRB said besides Maharashtra, six other states have recorded over 1,000 cases of farmers’ suicides each in 2007.

Maharashtra, where the Central Government pitched in with a special package, reported 4,238 suicides last year, a decline of 215 from 2006, it said.

Karnataka (2,135), Andhra Pradesh (1,797), Chhattisgarh (1,593), Madhya Pradesh (1,263), Kerala (1,263) and West Bengal (1,102) followed Maharashtra in the list.

These states were in the top-seven list in 2006 too. While Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh showed a decline in the number of farmers’ suicide last year compared to 2006, such cases witnessed an increase in Karnataka, Kerala and West Bengal.

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4,850 farmer suicides in last four years: VJAS

31 Oct 2008, 1749 hrs IST, PTI

NAGPUR: As many as 4,850 farmers have committed suicide during the four-year tenure of the Congress-NCP Democratic Front (DF) government in Maharashtra from 2004 to 2008, though the trend is on the decline, an NGO said today.
From 456 farmer suicides in 2004 to 660 in 2005 which grew to 1,886 in 2006, the number of suicides has gone down to 1,213 in 2007 and further dropped to 635 in 2008, Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti President Kishore Tiwari said in a release here.
Admitting that suicidal tendencies among farmers in the Vidarbha region was fast reducing, Tiwari said that mounting debts, crop failure and harassment from private money lenders had multiplied the problems of farmers in the region.
Meanwhile, three farmers committed suicide during Diwali. They were identified as Arvind Madhavrao Deshmukh (Lakhanwadi, Amravati), Narendra Gulabrao Panchre (Kohla, Nagpur) and Atul Shriram Kale (Kandhli, Wardha), the release said.

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Govt modifies rehab package for suicide-prone districts

CABINET DECIDES

BS Reporter / New Delhi October 09, 2008, 1:25 IST

The government today modified the rehabilitation package for the farmers in suicide prone districts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra.

The government had earlier announced a rehabilitation package on September 29, 2006 for 31 identified districts in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra, involving a total amount of Rs 16,978 crore.

After the feedback from implementing agencies, the Union Cabinet today decided to extend the period for implementation of the non-credit component of the package by two more years or up to September 30, 2011.

It has also given in-principle approval for provision of need-based additional financial support to the concerned ministries and departments of the Government of India for implementation of the programmes.

The rehabilitation package aims at establishing a sustainable and viable farming and livelihood support system through debt relief to farmers, complete institutional credit coverage, crop-centric approach to agriculture and assured irrigation facilities.

Other modifications in the scheme include increase in per farmer area limit under the Seed Replacement Programme from 1 hectare to 2 hectares, adoption of ‘Cafeteria Approach’ for participatory Watershed Development Programmes, and inclusion of ‘Women Farmers’ Empowerment Programme’ under extension services.

The Union Cabinet today also approved new legislation that seeks to set up a National Judicial Council (NJC) to conduct inquiries into allegations of incapacity or misbehaviour by judges of the High Court and Supreme Court. “The provisions of the new Bill would bring in transparency in the functioning of the judiciary and would also enhance its prestige,’’ an official handout said.

The proposed Bill would incorporate recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee that had looked into an earlier Bill — Judges (Inquiry) Bill, 2006.

Raigad SEZ: Maharashtra had ignored objections

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Mumbai/Raigad_SEZ_Maharashtra_had_ignored_objections/articleshow/3516112.cms
MUMBAI: The state is planning to declare Raigad SEZ area a green zone if the referendum goes against Mukesh Ambani’s mega SEZ plans. The issue of land in the command area was discussed at length at a high-level meeting on February 2, 2006, including the fact that part of the land proposed to be acquired for the SEZ was in the green zone, the CRZ area and the area of the proposed international airport. The objections were ignored at that time, and the collector was asked to issue a notification for land acquisition. Meanwhile, a senior irrigation official has confirmed that due to the paucity of funds, the department has not been able to complete the canal work on the Hetwane dam which was approved in 1981 for Rs 15.36 crore. So far, the department has spent Rs 329 crore on the project, but no land in the command area has been irrigated. The dam was planned for irrigating nearly 7,000 hectares of land, but the water has instead been used largely for drinking and industrial purposes. The Reliance group has already challenged the opinion process, saying it has no legal validity. A writ petition challenging the referendum is likely to come up for hearing on September 23. “Since the referendum process is over, we have no comments to offer. We have filed a writ petition before the high court,” a Reliance official said.

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‘Raigad votes against SEZ in referendum’

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2008/09/23/stories/2008092352471000.htm

Mumbai, Sept. 22 A majority of people in the 22 villages in Raigad district have voted against the SEZ in the referendum process which was held on Sunday, claimed Mr N.D. Patil, senior leader of Peasants and Workers Party of India, who is spearheading the agitation.

The State Government is likely to announce the result of the referendum in next 15 days.

The promoters of Maha Mumbai SEZ, which includes promoters of Reliance Industries Ltd, want to set up 10,000 hectares SEZ in the district.

SEZ is expected to attract an investment of nearly Rs 40,000 crore and generate 20 lakh jobs.

Mr Patil said that although the Maharashtra Government has undertaken the referendum process, it is not necessary that the report would be tabled any time in the near future.

“When under pressure, the State Government acts in a circular manner.

“The report could be further handed over to a committee, which will take the further circuitous route,” he said.

Mr Patil said that the people of the district do not want SEZ and no amount of compensation from the corporate houses and government will change their view about selling their land.

A senior official in the industries department said that in the eventuality of referendum going against the promoters of the SEZ, the land acquisition process for the other mega projects and SEZs in the State will suffer.

“We will not be mute spectators; we are also prepared for a court battle,” Mr Patil said.

Raigad villagers participate in referendum on Reliance project
21 Sep, 2008, 1717 hrs IST, IANS

 

PEN/MUMBAI: Thousands of villagers around Pen area in Maharashtra’s Raigad district Sunday took part in a referendum to decide the fate of Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Group’s proposed Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
District Collector Vinayak Nipun and Superintendent of Police Pradeep Digavkar were present to monitor the referendum – the country’s first on an industrial project – even as a huge security blanket covered Pen, around 150 km from Mumbai, a police official told IANS.
Residents of 22 villagers who will be affected by the Reliance Group’s mega-project came out in substantial numbers to give their verdict on the SEZ.
During the referendum, a small group of people at one village opposed to the project and raised anti-Reliance and anti-government slogans.
Around 10,000 farmers from these villages are reluctant to part with 3,415 hectares of land for the project, touted to be Asia’s largest.
Through the referendum, the district administration is ascertaining their views and recording their statements, which will be forwarded to the state government.
The villagers’ sentiments shall be taken into consideration before deciding whether the proposed Rs.400-billion (Rs.40,000-crore) project can come up in that region or not.
A district official said the outcome of Sunday’s referendum may be available only by early October.
The Reliance SEZ is slated to come up over 10,000 hectares in Pen, Uran and Panvel sub-districts of Raigad. However, the group has faced stiff resistance from the people of Pen, necessitating the referendum.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena executive president Udhav Thackeray has offered to secure a better financial deal for farmers willing to sell their land for the SEZ.
He made the offer to a delegation of villagers that called on him in Mumbai two days ago and conveyed the sentiments of the local population regarding the SEZ.