The horror comes through

Tavleen Singh

Thursday, March 15, 2007 11:23:19 IST

http://www.cybernoon.com/DisplayArticle.asp?sectio…

Thousands of crore rupees of taxpayers money is being wasted on a public distribution system for the poor that serves not to alleviate poverty but to enrich corrupt officials

Every now and then the horror that is India gets exposed from under the shining statistics that tell us that at over 9% annually we are the second fastest growing economy in the world and on the verge of becoming the world’s next economic superpower. Last week the horror came through in two unrelated stories.
First, we had the Minister of Agriculture, Sharad Pawar, admit in Parliament that all the wheat that the government sends to our Northeastern states through the Public Distribution System (PDS) is stolen. ‘Up to 100% of the wheat in six of the eight North-Eastern states is being diverted from PDS’, he said. After marveling at the frankness of this admission let us examine its implications. What it means is that thousands of crore rupees of  taxpayers money is being wasted on a public distribution system for the poor  that serves not to alleviate poverty but to enrich corrupt officials. As someone who has long argued that all anti-poverty programmes must be scrapped and reinvented from scratch I feel sadly vindicated by the Minister’s admission but would he like to now tell us why we continue with a programme that should have been modified decades ago.

A country of desperate shortages
At the time when the public distribution system was invented India was a country of desperate shortages.  The fifties, sixties and even the seventies were a time when there was always something in short supply. At festival time sugar and milk was rationed because there was never enough and at other times there would be a shortage of rice or wheat or something else or other so the government in its socialist wisdom created a system of ration cards and ration shops where your card could give you at least a minimum amount of whatever it was that you needed. Even then the system should have been designed to help only those who were too poor to pay market prices but today does it make any sense to have a PDS that includes rich and poor? It is an absurdity that we still need ration cards to prove domicile and identity and yet the system continues.
What is worse is that even when we know that our anti-poverty Programmes leak like sieves we continue to invent new ones. This government has given us the massive, unwieldy rural employment guarantee scheme.  It is supposed to guarantee a hundred days of employment to the desperately poor which is a sweet, thoughtful idea but as someone who has met those who get fifteen days of work a month may I confirm that the scheme will serve mostly to keep the poor desperately poor forever because what it amounts to is providing about Rs 10 a day for a family to live on. Having been in the homes of families who live on that much money I can assure you that even by India’s abysmal standards that is about as poor as it is possible to be. In Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district where children die routinely of what we like to call ‘malnutrition’ it is in families living on Rs 10 a day that these deaths occur. Yet, we are spending more than Rs 40,000 crores on the ruralemployment guarantee scheme.
The second horror story from last week relates to children. We also Spend thousands of crores on the welfare of children living below the poverty line through such well-intentioned schemes as the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) yet, according to a story in the Asian Age newspaper, Adivasis in Andhra Pradesh kill baby girls on a daily basis by starving newborns to death because they fear future dowry problems.  The story comes from a village called Parigi in Ranga Reddy district, just eighty kilometers from Hyderabad, where Lambada tribals admit that when baby girls are born their mothers refuse to feed them so that they die slowly and painfully of starvation.

What kind of peopleare we?
It sometimes takes two days for a baby to cry itself to death, then her little body is buried in dirt graves in the fields. Sometimes dogs dig the graves up and eat the bodies.  What kind of
monsters must their mothers be to be able to do endure this? And, how is it that schemes like ICDS do not reach villages that are less than a hundred kilometers away from the capital  of one of India’s more progressive states? What was Chandrababu Naidu doing in the days when he was regarded as one of India’s best chief ministers and what does Andhra’s Congress chief minister have to say about the Asian Age story?
Sonia Gandhi never loses a chance to tell the country how concerned she is about the
‘aam aadmi’ yet infanticide continues to exist in a state ruled by her own party and she
does nothing.
The shame, though, is not just hers it is ours. What kind of peopleare we that we remain unaffected by the horrors of India? What kind of people are we that we do not demand some answers from governments that claim to rule in  the name of the poorest of the poor? The only way forward is for all anti-poverty schemes to be scrapped so that they can be reinvented for thetruly needy and not for all of us.

Resoulutions passed in 35th National Convention of Bharat Krishak Samaj

http://raagbhairav.blogspot.com/2007/03/resolution…
The 35th National Convention of Bharat Krishak Samaj was held at Erode (Tamilnadu) from 17th to 18th February, 2007. The following resolutions have been passed:
Minimum Support Price

The minimum support prices (MSPs) of different crops estimated by the Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP) and subsequently endorsed by the government are low and not remunerative. There is a need for up-gradation of the methods for estimation of real cost of production and arriving at the real remunerative prices. The process should be transparent and open to farmers.
Scrap SEZs, promote AEZs

Government should scrap all Special Economic Zones set-up on farmlands acquired from farmers against a mere compensation. SEZs should not be promoted; as such policy tends to usurp fertile farmlands leading to food security problems. Rather Government should promote and encourage Agri Export Zones (AEZs), which is aimed at integrated rural development.
Seed Bill-2004

If the government wants to re-introduce the “Seed Bill-2004”, it should incorporate the all recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, because seed is the basic need for food security which should not be surrendered to corporates & MNCs at any cost. Further there is no need for any new act for regulating the seed sector. The Plant Varieties Protection & Farmers Rights (PVP&FR) Act is sufficient to regulate the seed sector and should be the only law in the country. The PVP&FR Act should be further amended to provide greater protection to farmers’ rights. The PVP&FR Act is already TRIPS consistent and there is no need for a patent regime on micro-organisms, genes and other life forms.
Agricultural Credit

Rate of interest on all agricultural credit should be brought down to 4% and made uniformally applicable in every State. The loans to farmers should be waved off subsequent on crop failure.
Impact of WTO

Unfortunately Indian agriculture has been dragged into the ambit of the WTO and we have given market access for some agro produces at a time when the developed counties have distorted global prices by their huge support to their farm sector. In this situation Indian farmers cannot compete with the farmers in the developed world. Both EU and US have protected their markets through high tariff barriers and non-tariff barriers. The US through its recent Farm Bill 2007 has increased direct payments to farmers by 10% over the previous years. It has increased direct payments by $ 5.5 billion.
Unethical manipulations and distortions by developed countries in Agreement on Agriculture (A.O.A) and unequal globalisation have negatively impacted Indian agriculture. Government should work out strategy to rectify the inequalities and try to restore the legitimate demands of India pertaining to phasing out of all types of subsidies and support by developed countries, reduction of import tariff, rationalisation of trade imbalances, enhanced market access for India.
Special Product & Special Safeguard Mechanism

As the developed countries have not fulfilled their commitments in the agreement on agriculture for reducing their subsidies and support to the farm sector, India should not open up its markets. For Indian farmers every crop is a Special Product and not a matter for negotiation. If the government wants to save agriculture from any consequent disaster, it should fight for recognition of every crop as Special Product at the WTO and seek for effective application of special safeguard mechanism. If this is not possible then India should ask for restoration of the right to impose quantitative restrictions (QRs) on imports.

Technology Mission on Oil Seeds & Pulses

The Technology Mission on Oil Seeds & Pulses should be revived and reactivated on war-footing because Oil Seeds & Pulses are the vital pillars of National Economy.

Immediate Ban on all GM Crops

Worldwide there are reports of farmers being put to heavy losses on account of cultivation of GM crops. There is a conspiracy being hatched against farmers in the name of increasing production for food security by forcibly introducing genetically modified (GM) crops. India should learn lessons from the failure of GM crops across the world. Recently the US court has called for a review of the approvals of GM crops in that country.
The failure of Bt Cotton, financially crippling thousands of Cotton growers, impelling a large number of them unable to repay the debt to commit suicides by the farming community is a National shame. The Government should put immediate ban on commercial cultivation and trials of all GM crops in the country, because GM crops will cause health & environmental hazards and destruction of bio-diversity.
Marketing of Agro-produce

The free entry of corporates and multinationals in agriculture marketing has raised new problems. They purchase produce from farmers slightly higher than the MSP to capture the market and dismantle the government’s procurement system. Subsequently they hoard the stock, manipulate the market prices and sell at high prices. This is the major cause for the present rise in prices of essential commodities. The manipulations in the futures market is another cause for price rise. Thus the present rise in prices benefits only traders and corporates. Government should immediately ban futures trading on agriculture commodities and restrict direct entry of corporates and multinationals in agricultural marketing.
Imports of Agro-produce

With a view to contain rising prices, the government is encouraging import of agro produces. This measure will be detrimental to farmers’ interest in the long run and destroy country’s food security. Imports of agro commodities should not be encouraged when they are available in plenty in the country.
Food Standard & Safety Act

With a view to destroy the traditional food habits and culture and to encourage the processed junk food of the MNCs and discourage consumption of fresh food, the Food Standard & Safety Act has been brought in. This Act should be immediately repealed.
Subsidy

The government does not give any direct subsidy to farmers. Whatever minimum subsidy the government intends to give for agriculture should be given directly to farmers.

Irrigation facilities

The Government should plan the policies to recharge the level of ground water. The irrigation projects and schemes to be made on priorities and the funds allotted to state Govt’s should not be diverted to other heads. Irrigation projects and linking of rivers should not be done at a cost to the ecology. The projects displaced persons should be compensated in full.
Because the water is the lifeline of agriculture, therefore, it should be saved. The farmers should use the sprinkler and drip irrigation system for irrigation to save the water. The Government should give 50% subsidy on it directly to farmers. The Government should also ensure availability of electricity for agricultural purposes at concessional rates. Exempt Agro Machines, Tools, Equipments etc., from Excise & Vat.
Utility items like tractor, agricultural equipments & machinaries, drip and sprinkler irrigation installations, fertilizers, seeds and agro-chemicals should be kept out from the ambit of excise and vat. Also, the subsidy on them should be enhanced and given directly to the farmers.

Export of Organic Foods

There is an increasing demand and unlimited scope for t
he export of organic food across the world and Indian farmers are missing this opportunity. The Government should bear the cost of certification of organic produces, which is presently high, and beyond the reach of farmers. The National Horticultural Board & APEDA should bear this responsibility immediately. The Government should also give adequate level of subsidies for cultivation of organic produce and for encouraging their exports.

Testing Laboratories

Well equipped soil, fertilizer, agro-chemicals and seeds Testing Laboratories should be established in every District Headquarter of the Country for the benefit of the farmers.
Promotion of Agro based Industrial Units
Sustenance is just not possible from ever increasing fragmentation of family farms. The Government therefore, should come-up with need based and area specific comprehensive blue print on agro based small and cottage industrial units in the villages and provide adequate incentive and financial assistance to the enterprising public of the rural belt.

Agricultural Insurance

Agri-insurance schemes must be made very responsive and its scope should be enlarged and widened to cover all sorts of calamities and the losses inflicted on the farmers should be adequately compensated. The assessment of losses should be done at village level as a unit in consultation with local farmers. Crop insurance programme should cover all crops in all areas of the country.

Employment Generation in Rural Belt

To generate employment opportunities in the rural belt, the Government should provide ready financial and infrastructural assistance to the farmers for dairy farming, animal husbandry, fisheries, poultry and bee keeping etc.

Agricultural Research

The cost of production has increased phenomenally due to the introduction of capital-intensive unsustainable agriculture. The use of costly chemicals has not only degraded the soil health and factor productivity.
Requisites of Indian agriculture and needs of the peasantry must be given top priority in the formulation of R/D policies. The Government should refrain from thrusting alien technologies on the farming community. Agri scientists should study traditional farming system and upgrade them, if necessary for implementation in farmers field. All farm policies and researches should be done in consultation with local farmers of the area.
Farmers’ representation

We demand that the Central and the State Governments should co-opt farmer leaders in all decision making bodies related to agriculture so as to make the policies more realistic, effective and action-oriented.
US-India Knowledge Initiative Agreement on Agriculture

Indo-US Knowledge Initiative Agreement on Agriculture should be immediately scraped as this treaty is designed to surrender country’s food security and research to US Government and US based multinationals.

Save Doha WTO seminar evokes farmers protests

MEDIA RELEASE

12 March 2007, New Delhi

An International seminar organized by the Commerce Ministry of India under the banner of ‘Saving Doha and Delivering on Development’ evoked protests from several groups including farmers, students unions and civil society organisations. As ministers, corporate lobbyists, academicians and bureaucrats met in the expensive Maurya Sheraton hotel in New Delhi, hundreds of activists congregated outside the hotel demanding their voices be heard. Reports indicate that 200 activists have been arrested and detained at the nearby Chanakya Puri police station. Those arrested include activists from the Bharatiya Kisan Union, Housing Rights Association, Peoples Campaign for Justice and Sovereignty, Youth for Justice and Slum Dwellers Association.

The meeting was co-organised along with groups such as UNCTAD, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Oxfam International, National Council for Applied Economic Research and CUTS International. The intention was to identify the key parameters to serve the so called ‘development imperatives’ of the Doha Round.

‘Time is not on our side. The credibility of the WTO is at stake and India is a key player to breaking the deadlock, said WTO Director General Pascal Lamy. WTO talks commenced in February 2007 after the July 2006 collapse.

Commerce Minister Kamal Nath in his opening address stated that India will not be party to an outcome that sustained prosperity in the developed countries at the cost of livelihoods of its farmers. ‘A one size fits all approach was not acceptable and we need a genuine development outcome from the talks, he argued.

‘This is empty rhetoric. A development outcome that meets the needs of small and marginal farmers is impossible within the WTO framework. Studies by the World Bank and Carnegie Foundation show that there are no or minimal gains to developing countries from the conclusion of the Doha Round, said Devinder Sharma from the New Delhi based Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security. These studies indicate that per year gains for all 110 developing countries in the WTO would amount to a total of only 35,000 crore rupees. The insignificance of this amount is evident by the fact that India’s Rural Development Ministry has a budget of 65,000 crore rupees a year. ‘This meeting has completely ignored farmers groups in the country’, said Yudvir Singh of the Bahratiya Kisan Union, speaking from the police station where he was detained by the Delhi police. ‘Pascal Lamy, corporate lobbyists and Commerce Ministry officials are sitting together to sell out Indian agriculture’, said Singh.

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For more information contact:

Benny Kuruvilla (Focus on the Global South) – 09820181191, <bennyk@focusweb.org>,

Bhaskar Goswami (Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security) – 9811191335, <bhaskargoswami@hotmail.com>,

Umi Daniel (Action Aid International) – 09849797773, <Umi.Daniel@actionaid.org>,

Centre serious about implementing Swaminathan report

http://www.hindu.com/2007/03/11/stories/2007031107…

S. Rajendran

Agriculture Minister Pawar says it has been sent to the Ministries concerned for their views


Sharad Pawar

BANGALORE: Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Saturday said the Centre was serious about implementing the recommendations of the National Commission on Agriculture headed by M.S. Swaminathan.

He told The Hindu here that the voluminous report had been sent to the Ministries concerned, asking them to give their feedback in quick time. “Thereafter, I will place the report, with the views of the various Ministries, before the Cabinet for approval. I am confident that this exercise will be completed in about three months. We are privileged that an international agriculture scientist of repute headed the commission and the recommendations are highly valuable”.

Mr. Pawar, who is on a two-day trip to Bangalore, said the five-volume report had been sent to the Ministries of Rural Development, Water Resources, Forests, Rural Electrification, Finance, Planning and Women and Child Welfare.

Appreciative of the commission’s findings, he said all importance would be given to the recommendations.

His Ministry was now laying stress on increasing the area under irrigation, providing quality seeds to farmers, ensuring availability of agricultural credit at reasonable rates of interest, enhancing post-harvest facilities including agro-processing, development of cold storages and remunerative prices for all produce.

On sugar production in the current year, Mr. Pawar said he would draw the Cabinet’s attention to surplus availability of about 90 lakh tonnes and the need to open up exports. The production this year was expected to be about 240 lakh tonnes and with last year’s buffer of 40-lakh tonnes, the total availability would be around 280 lakh tonnes compared to the country’s requirement of 180-190 lakh tonnes. “We have no choice but to export around 90 lakh tonnes.” The major sugar-producing States were Uttar Pradesh (90 lakh tonnes), Maharashtra (75 lakh tonnes) and Karnataka (25 lakh tonnes). The others were Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

On the incidence of suicide by farmers, Mr. Pawar said that according to the latest reports from the vulnerable States of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, there was a drop in the number of suicides following the implementation of schemes for the benefit of farmers.

The Union Government was closely monitoring the situation.

The first part of the financial package granted to 32 districts in the four States related to waiver of interest on all farm loans and was totally implemented.

Further, the loans taken by farmers from private financiers were transferred to commercial banks.

Of the total of about 1.20 lakh suicides reported in the country every year, around 16,000 cases involved farmers (around 11 per cent).

The suicides were not merely a fallout of crop failure. There were also those who had obtained loans for other reasons and committed suicide unable to repay.

The second part of the package, relating to stepping up irrigation facilities in the 32 districts, would be implemented shortly.

Save small farmers and public health not DOHA

http://andolan.blogspot.com/2007/03/save-small-far…

SAVE SMALL FARMERS AND PUBLIC HEALTH, NOT DOHA
Statement of Indian People’s Movements against WTO on the “Save Doha” Seminar
The government of India with NGO’s who have been supporting WTO is organizing a seminar on “Saving Doha and Delivering on Development”. The Doha Round of WTO collapsed in Cancun and has been on life support since the Hongkong Ministerial. No progress has been made because more “progress” in trade liberalisation will devastate the lives of millions more than a decade of WTO has already devastated. More than 150,000 farmers have committed suicide in India due to distortions introduced in agriculture as a result of trade liberalisation. Seed monopolies have pushed up he prices of inputs, and market access forced through removal of Quantitative Restrictions (QR’s) has made the prices of farm products collapse. WTO has imposed a suicidal economy on India’s small farmers and peasants who constitute two third of the population.
The G-33 has been struggling to implement the commitments made in WTO to protect small farmers through instruments of Special Products And Special Safeguard Mechanism (SPSSM). The G-33 was to meet in Delhi. The meeting was shifted to Jakarta because the Indian government was reluctant to host it. Instead an anti-Third World, anti-farmers and anti-worker and anti-public health meeting is being organized in Delhi on 12-13th of March to push the corporate agenda of further liberalisation of trade, bypassing the multilateral negotiations where the WTO agenda is being blocked. This meeting has no democratic standing. It has no political legitimacy. It does not represent the will or perspective of the Indian people. It is a desperate attempt by the global corporate powers, and the governments they control to manipulate a “consensus” to “Save Doha”, when citizens access the world and the majority of Third World governments want to save democracy and the rights of people to food and water, jobs and livelihoods, medicine and health. The US government has been repeatedly stating that India must play a role in moving the Doha negotiations. And India is rushing ahead to provide market access to US agribusiness and industry as witnessed in wheat and corn and wine imports and in reduction of duties on industrial products. The US India Knowledge Agreement in Agriculture is effectively a bilateral agreement. On the board of the agreement are Monsanto, and Walmart. Under US pressure, the government of India has already implemented more than the Doha round commitments and have signed the Indo-US MOU on Patents. That is why the Indian government is being used by the US and EU to bulldoze Doha on other countries. And the “Save Doha” seminar is part of this bulldozing.
The bias of the ‘Save Doha” seminar is apparent in terms of who has sponsored it, who is being invited and what will be discussed.
Orchestration of Consensus
The two NGO’s involved have been supporting WTO over the past decade. CUTS initially supported WTO on grounds that trade liberalisation would make food cheaper for consumers. Today, food prices are going through the ceiling in India. The ruling Congress party has recently lost elections in two states, and the Party President, Sonia Gandhi, has admitted that increase in prices of food and essential commodities was the reason behind the electoral defeat. Trade liberalisation translates into falling prices for farmers and rising prices for consumers, with the increasing polarization of prices generating super profits for agribusiness. Further liberalization will deepen the livelihood and food insecurity of the poor. The recent NFHS 3 (National Family Health Survey) has clearly shown increase in malnutrition, anemia and maternal mortality in many parts. The serious public health implications are clear specially for women and children. Over 20% maternal deaths are anemia related
The second NGO involved in organising the seminar to “Save Doha” has been supporting WTO even when the massive people’s movements brought the WTO Ministerial to a halt in Seattle. While farmers’ movements across the world have been mobilising to protect farmers’ lives and livelihoods, as was evident in Seattle, Cancun and Hongkong, Oxfam International has been working to save WTO on terms of the corporate led North. It has been arguing that trade liberalisation serves the interests of Third World farmers even while farmers across Latin America, Africa and Asia are fighting for food sovereignty not for “free trade”. Hundreds of thousands of farmers are being pushed to suicides, and millions are being uprooted from their land and livelihoods to make for global agribusiness, which is the only beneficiary of the WTO rules of Agriculture. Oxfam International blocked a change in these rules after Seattle by supporting the Market Access rules of WTO which would mean unregulated imports, while farmers groups demanded FOOD SOVEREIGNTY. It is now blocking the SPSSM demands of Third World countries by “Saving Doha” instead of the peasants of the South.
If the seminar was committed to Delivering on Development, it would have addressed the agrarian crisis that the globalisation has unleashed on India besides in other parts of the third world. It would have had other farmers leaders like Krishan Bir Chaudhry of Bhartiya Krishan Samaj, Mahendra Singh Tikait of Bharatiya Kisan Union, Kishore Tiwari of Vidharbha Jan Andolan, or Puttaniah of Karnataka Rajya Ryotu Sangha to share their concerns about farmers and their families impacted by WTO led agricultural policies, not Sharad Joshi. Sharad Joshi has been supporting WTO and globalisation of agriculture even while globalisation robs 87 farmers per day of their lives in Vidharbha, Maharashtra, Joshi’s home state. When 100,000 farmers gathered at India’s historic Red Fort in 1994 to caution the government against signing the Dunkel Draft of GATT which lead to the signing of the WTO agreements in Marrakesh, Sharad Joshi was a lone voice supporting WTO. Today, too, his is the only voice talking of “Saving Doha”, while farmers’ movements are talking of “Saving Small Farmers”. This calculated exclusion of the people’s viewpoint and biased selection of issues reflects that a consensus is being orchestrated to protect and promote corporate interest.
This is obvious from the exclusion of TRIPS as the Save Doha seminar does not have any sessions on TRIPS even though the Doha Declaration included a commitment to review TRIPS and a commitment to public health. TRIPS review which was due in 2000 is still pending. The way Dunkel draft was pushed with only take it or leave it option, this exercise is being undertaken to push some corporate led agenda excluding others which are protective of public health and public interest. And this lapse is extremely significant since Novartis is challenging India’s patent laws clauses that provide safe guards for ensuring that affordable generic medicines are available to Indian citizens and citizens worldwide. India is the source of 67% of the World’s low cost generic medicines. The “Save Doha” seminar’s silence on TRIPS is infact support for Novartis, and hence on attack on citizens right to affordable medicines, and the movements fighting to defend peoples’ rights by preventing corporations monopolies. The spirit of Doha Declaration in TRIPS and Public Health is a matter of life and death for millions across the world specially the Third World.
The outcome of this seminar will not be based on a democratic dialogue in society or among the governments of the world. It will be a contrived “consensus” among corporate cronies in governments and among NGOs.
The seminar should not be used to subvert the rights of Third World countries to defend the rights of their peoples’ through democratic negotiations at the multilateral level and democratic policies at the national level. Asia, Caribbean, Pacific and African countries have already expressed unhappiness
over how the G-4 – US, EU, Brazil and India – were keeping others out of the process of reviving trade talks. They are worried that the G-4 would present a grand package and offer it as a “fait accompli”. The “Save Doha” Delhi meet driven clearly by the G-4 should not be allowed to be another step in this exclusion of the concerns of the majority.

Govt ignoring farmer suicides

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/Ahmedaba…

GANDHINAGAR: A senior BJP MLA from Saurashtra, who resigned from the Modi ministry two years ago, has written a scathing letter to the chief minister complaining of as many as seven suicides by farmers in Amreli in the last three months. Bavku Undhad has bemoaned that the state government has not take cognisance of the growing distress in the rural areas.
Undhad wrote the letter a few weeks back, but its details were made known on Wednesday after a verbal duel in the state Assembly with Modi on an issue concerning about his tenure in the government from 2003 to 2005 as youth and culture minister.
Belonging to the rebel camp and the Leuva patel community, to which Modi’s main detractor Keshubhai Patel belongs, Undhad has demanded ‘immediate compensation’ to the farmers.
In the letter Undhad has said that the number of suicide deaths in Saurashtra is much more as many of them are not being reported. In a written reply to his starred question, the government has admitted to 1,508 suicides in the state in 2006 against 600 to 700 on an average each year.
Undhad’s calling attention notice in the state Assembly for discussion on the suicide by Amreli farmers, was rejected. State BJP chief Purshottam Rupala, also from Amreli, however, denied that there were any suicides.
Rebel MLAs, however, asked why the government was refusing to discuss the issue in the House if there was no issue.
Undhad has also listed the farmers who have committed suicide after being heavily in debt. The suicide victims mentioned in the letter are Shambhubhai Khunt of Randal-Davda village had borrowed Rs 4 lakh which he could not pay back; Jagdishbhai Vasoya of Sanadi village was unable to pay back Rs 2 lakh; and Dinesh Lambasia of Khajuri village had a debt of Rs 4 lakh.
Undhad said four others committed suicide by drowning off the Somnath-Veraval coast. They were harassed by the state electricity board officials to pay up Rs 2 lakh for which they took a loan from a local moneylender at high interest which they failed to pay. In the end they owed the moneylender Rs 12 lakh.
In the Assembly, Undhad supported Opposition leader Arjun Modhvadia, who said that Undhad as youth and culture affairs minister had written to Modi that the state’s sportsmen had recommended an increase in stipend from Rs 45 to Rs 75 per day which had not been implemented. “If this is true, this was a violation of oath of secrecy, and action would be taken, if true,” Modi declared.
Undhad shot back later, “If you can pay Rs 500 per dish to the Vibrant Gujarat guests, what’s wrong if I recommended increase in the stipend for sportsmen.
Even Rs 75 isn’t enough.” He denied that his letter to Modi was a violation of oath of secrecy.

Budget 2007 is an exit budget for farmers, says Devinder Sharma

Express News Service

Ludhiana, March 7: Well-known activist, and Director, Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security, New Delhi says the Budget is an exit-budget for farmers. “This budget does not want the farmers who earn their livelihood. This budget wants them to give up agriculture,” said Dr Sharma, who was in PAU today to deliver a lecture. “The intention of the government help the farmer can be gauged from the fact that farmer suicides continue despite the so called futuristic budgets,” he said.

Ridiculing Dr Manmohan Singh announcement of a grant for Vidharbha and subsequent claim that the impact of it would be visible in six months at farmer suicide ridden land, Dr Sharma said the impact was visible, as the rate of suicide rate has gone up from one in every eight hours to one in every four hours.

Dr Sharma said, “Farmers need credits and need income, too, and for that we need to work towards making agriculture sustainable. But the mindset of our policy maker has changed from that of sustainable agriculture to commercial agriculture. Our finance minister says that and more clearly does out agriculture minister who candidly says there is no place for small farmers