The farmer isn't feeling good

http://vkshashikumar.blogspot.com/2007/03/farmer-i…

You are Right, Mr. Advani, The Farmer isn’t Feeling Good
Tehelka
February 28, 2004
Meeting a group of farmers last week, the Deputy Prime Minister said the rural sector had reason not to feel good. Tehelka correspondents fanned out to figure the truth about the condition of our farmers. A report from India’s crisis-ridden rural heartlands put together by VK Shashikumar
To the passing eye, Harikishenpura in Bhatinda is like any other Punjab village. But linger a moment and you will find something unsettling here, something almost surreal. And soon enough you know why. The village of 125 families has put itself up for sale. “We have asked Raja sahib (referring to chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh) to buy whatever remains of our village,” says farmer Jarnail Singh, defeat and resignation writ on his face.
The farmers of Harikishenpura once owned 1,170 acres of fertile agricultural land; they are now saddled with just 500 acres of broken, fallow earth. Banks and moneylenders have confiscated the rest.
“The banks, cooperative societies and other lending agencies would come to our doorsteps and cajole us to take loans. Everything was there for the asking when the times were good. Now they only come to hound us,” says Roop Singh who owes the State Bank of Patiala Rs 4,00,000; he does not know how he will pay that back.
Their death knell was sounded fourteen years ago when they took to cotton as their primary crop. The first two years fetched them bumper dividends producing as much as 1,000 kg per acre. However, the initial euphoria died down when bollworm pests began destroying the crop year after year.
“Initially we need just three or four sprays of pesticide to kill the insect, but gradually the number of sprays increased and now even 30 sprays are not enough to kill the insect,” says Lal Singh the nambardar (village record keeper) of Harkishenpura.
Today the productivity per acre has reduced by more than 60 percent and the farmer considers himself lucky if his field yields 350 to 400 kgs of cotton per acre. With little productivity and burgeoning costs of pesticides, the farmers resorted to loans. Now, they stand indebted for life; so indebted they have had to resort to the bizarre remedies like putting their village up for sale.
Harkishenpura’s collective debt stands at over Rs 4 crores. The village panchayat is serious about selling the village. The villagers in one of India’s richest agrarian states, meanwhile, wait to live, die or become insane. More than 20 farmers from Harikishenpura travel to nearby towns, Rampura and Balawali. They work as daily labourers in the vegetable markets and bring home around Rs 60 every day. The once prosperous cotton farmers of Punjab now struggle to eke out a living for their families and themselves.
A grey shroud has fallen over Punjab’s green revolution. There couldn’t be a more torturous irony than this. The farmers of Punjab who played a stellar role in making India self-sufficient in food grain production now despair for a turnaround. But many have given up already. In the last couple of years eight Harikishenpura farmers have killed themselves, unable to bear their crop failures. Five have gone insane in trying to figure out their reversal of fortunes. The once fertile and prosperous rural outback of Punjab has turned into a remorseless killing field.
“I lost both my brother Shabia Singh and sister-in-law Nazeem Kaur, because they lost all their pride after being under debt for nearly five years and did not know how to return the money,” says Kunda Singh a farmer of the village.
The burden of paying back the Rs 7 lakh loan has now shifted to Kunda who has inherited the four acres of land after his brother death. He, too, has this vacant look in his eyes. Is he thinking about hope or about the future? Maybe, future because ever so often he breaks down and cries the silent the cry. “Even if I sell all of the land the maximum it will fetch me is four lakhs,” he says in a matter-of-fact manner. Its almost like the last line of a suicide.
If such is the shape of the farmer in Punjab, the cradle of the Green Revolution, it’s probably no surprise he is much worse off in other parts of the country. The farmer isn’t feeling good, his India isn’t shining. And that’s bad news for all of us because this remains a country whose majority lives in and off the village.
In India’s north eastern states, however, banks and cooperative societies are wary of giving loans. In Assam the farmers complain of being unable to avail of the facilities provided by government schemes.
Batuwa and Golap Boro, farmers in Sonapur village, barely 25 km from Guwahati are preparing to sow their second crop of the year but do not know where the money to buy the seeds is going to come from. “Whatever rice we produced last year was consumed by the entire family over the past six months. There is no cash in hand for purchasing seeds,” Golap at 50, the elder of the two brothers says.
Hasn’t he heard of governments and banks giving out loans? “Those schemes are all on paper Sir. Despite several attempts for the last so many years, we have not been able to understand the system of getting loans. Every visit to the block office is futile and time consuming,” says Batuwa.
Across the breadth of the gangetic plain farmers share a unique, albeit, tragic kinship. Take, for instance, the 52 farmer families of Paramanandapur village in Orissa’s Bargarh district. They once earned their livelihood from agriculture. The lush green fields have now become dust bowls.
Nothing grows here anymore except for rising gusts of dust storms. Five years ago a severe drought hit this village. Ever since the women, children and men in this nondescript village have lived in hunger and penury.
For five months in a year, after monsoon rains fill up the dry katas (ponds) these villagers cultivate paddy in their small patches of land. “We earn some money but it is difficult to survive in the other seven months of the year,” says Ranjit Bibhar.
Bibhar, like most others, is a marginal subsistence farmer with a small patch of land. Years of unremunerative agriculture have forced many of his fellow farmers to sell their land. “We have become landless wage workers,” says Bibhar. “At least 15 people of our village have migrated to Andhra Pradesh and Raipur, capital of Chhattisgarh, to work in brick kilns as daily wage labourers,” says Dhruba Chechama, another farmer.
Thousands of farmers across the country find themselves helplessly trapped in a downward spiral of mounting debt and diminishing returns. Their quest for survival is swelling the ranks of daily wage workers in the country.
And all this while, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre has covered up the dark truth about the inexorable impoverishment of the Indian farmer; it has lied about the desperate straits he is in. On the Punjab issue, the government officially announced in the Lok Sabha that “an NGO documented alleged cases of suicide by farmers” and then took refuge in technicalities, stating that “the issue is sub judice before the Punjab and Haryana High Court.”
Clearly, ‘all lies on deck’ is the rallying cry of a government hell bent on making India feel good about itself. Take, for instance, another murderous lie: “No report has been received from any state regarding suicides by farmers during July 2002 to June 2003.” This was stated on the floor of the Lok Sabha on July 21, 2003. However, the government’s own records show 191 farmers committed suicide in 2002 in Andhra Pradesh.
In neighbouring Karnataka, 850 farmers have committed suicide in the last 10 months. In Kerala thirteen farmers, mainly from the plantation-rich Wynad district, have committed suicide in the last three years. Most of them had pledged t
heir properties to the local co-operative banks. The recovery procedures from the banks, including confiscation of their houses, led to their suicides.
Paddy fields are dry and uncultivated in most parts of Kerala today. The once famous Palakkad and Kuttanad fields wear a deserted look. Not only labourers and farmers with small holdings, even those with larger acreage are thinking twice before seeding their patches because agriculture has become unproductive and their debts are mounting.
For the rubber farmer in Kerala ,there is a slight recovery in the last year. But he knows very well that the price fell earlier due to entry of foreign rubber into the Indian market due to policy dilution.The increased competition led to the present recovery.“ This can end anyday and I am planning to sell my small estate and set up a shop or something or go to the Gulf’’. says newly wedded Aravindan off Pathanamthitta. Aravindan’s had been a family of traditional rubber farmers.His father had to sell nearly 50 percent of the holding before passing away, and passing the burden down.
This is a far cry from a situation ten years back when most of the `rubber kids’ went to schools and colleges in newly bought Marutis.
The plantation sector, coffee or tea, suffers equally.With the market hit badly, the plantation owners have cut down the wages .Unheard in the history of Kerala.Not resisted by the weak labourers.
Traditional sectors like coir or cashew are merely surviving.The subsidies extended by the Kerala Government make no difference. Globalisation has hit them badly. A few heavyweights survive.
It would be a shock for outsiders, especially Malayalis living outside Kerala without a recent visit home ,to learn that a nut in the market costs Rs 8. Kerala,named after ‘Kera’, or coconut, today is a seller’s market in coconuts.And who are the sellers? From the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.The diseases which have afflicted the coconut trees in the state have made coconuts a dear commodity.Nobody even bothers to climb the trees in many houses to pluck the dirty nuts.The offshoot industries like toddy are doing as badly.
Death is no longer a metaphor in the lush green lands of western UP. It’s a hard and sad reality. It’s been stalking the farmers of one of the most fertile regions in the country. Travelling through the once-prosperous western UP belt – Mathura, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Bulandshahar – you may not get an instant taste of the terrible living conditions. But look deeper and you will find people trapped in poverty and bondage. People do not venture out after dark. As the sun sets, gangs of bandits take over the highways and kuchcha roads. People are being killed for as little as Rs 50.
No major river, except the Yamuna, runs through this region. But despite that, this dustbowl turned into the country’s sugar bowl in the late 1960s. The agricultural pattern of the area changed dramatically with the farmers growing mostly cash crops – sugarcane, potato and vegetables. It brought success and money initially; then cash-cropping boomeranged on them.
Four years ago, a drive through Karnataka’s sugar bowl, Mandya, was a visual treat. Lush green fields of sugarcane, paddy and ragi reflected the resurgence of the farming community. Not any more. Drought has parched this otherwise irrigated land of its water and forced farmers to fall into debt and death traps.
Take the case of Doddabanasvadi, a village about 12 kilometres from Mandya. It has feeder canals from the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) dam for irrigation. But in the last three years, these canals have run dry. A trip to the village poses more questions than offering answers.
All its villagers depend on agriculture for livelihood. But debts and drought have made land owners become landless labourers over years. Sixty per cent of Doddabanasvadi’s villagers are agricultural labourers. Their numbers are rising. It’s soil has lost fertility with extensive use of chemicals, say farmers. Canals going dry has forced farmers to either switch crops or dig borewells. Despair pervades Doddabanasvadi.
Thanks to crop failure with scarce rains in the past three years, the only farmers who manage a good crop are those who can afford to dig borewells. Even here, farmers end up in debt to dig a borewell. Digging borewells and fixing pumpsets has even led to family feuds as the ground water table depletes. The region that earlier never needed ground water finds itself in a water crisis now.
Mandya reported 22 of the over 275 debt-driven farmers’ suicides in the State last year between April and September alone. Consider this: Mallaiah, 50, has a hut and a one-acre plot to call his own. To marry his elder daughter, he took a Rs one lakh loan, and spent Rs 1.35 lakh. This was four years ago. It took them all these years to repay the loan. The income from his last crop was minimal, with the sugarcane crushing factory in Mandya not paying him on time. For the last season’s crop, he borrowed another Rs 10,000. He is planning to take another loan of Rs one lakh for his younger daughter’s marriage. Despair has driven him to alcohol and his wife bears the brunt. He beats her up often after a bout of drinks.
Has the government not helped with loans? “They are lying if they say they help,’’ he says. “Whether he places that flower before God’s picture in the morning or not, he needs that drink,’’ says his wife Sarojamma of her husband’s desperation.
Mandya’s social workers say that online lottery promoted by the State government has been an added bane. The temptation of easy money has made farmers take to gambling and losing their meager earnings. That has only compounded their crisis.
In western UP, farmers not used to poverty do not know how to handle it. Their average incomes are down to Rs 400 a month. But they don’t admit that. They take out their anger and frustration within their domestic walls. Women are actually facing the brunt of it. Unable to cope with the crisis, some of them think of suicide all the time. “There is a crisis in all homes. People are on the verge of breaking down,” says Inderpal Singh, a farmer in Shamli.
All marriages in the area in the past one year have been plain and simple; they can’t afford grand shows. They are so glum, they don’t feel like celebrating anything anyway. “In these conditions, we are only concerned about surviving, nothing else. We haven’t seen days as bad as these,” says Rauf Ahmed, who runs a jaggery plant in Bharaut.
Everyone – the old, the young and children are getting caught in the ripple-effect of the crisis in the countryside. The elderly are getting increasingly worried about the youth. Half-educated and not interested in agriculture, they watch television all day and by night they drink. Then, some of them disappear into the dark. In the morning, people hear about a robbery on the road or a murder near the canal. But no one talks about it.
Rural communities in India are on the verge of collapsing into chaos. If appearances are deceptive, it’s here that one has to look.
Farmers in western UP have also resorted to massive agitations in the last two years. It’s just that Shining India has not heard or seen them. The farmers have staged rallies, blocked roads and faced police bullets to demand better prices for their crops.
This is western UP’s paradox – rich agricultural land, bumper crops but not good enough prices and fewer buyers. The government fixes the price of their crops. They can’t sell it for more than that. In most cases, the rate is too low. And in many cases, they even don’t get that much. Result: unsold crop stands in their fields. They burn it as the season gets over. “Until the farmers get the right to decide the rate they want to sell their crops at, this problem cannot be solved,” says Ishwar Singh of Baghpat. Is someone listening?
Reported by Nitin A Gokhale (Assam), Shobhan Saxena (Uttar Pradesh), Arnab P Dutta (Punjab), M Radhika (Karnataka), TN Gopakumar (Kerala) and Sudarshan
Chhotoray (Orissa)

Neoliberalism and the Ideology of the cancer cell: Growth for the sake of profit

http://www.counterpunch.org/sainath03062007.html

By P. SAINATH

“As Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel laureate, said, “Faster growth rate is essential for faster reduction in poverty. There is no other trick to it.” So said India’s minister of finance, P. Chidambaram in his budget speech. Drawing on his words must have seemed a politically correct thing to do. Mr. Chidambaram might want to add another quote to his cupboard. This one from the late Edward Abbey, environmental activist and writer. “Growth for growth’s sake is the ideology of the cancer cell.” Few things grow as relentlessly as that cell does, with such fatal results. As the cancer of neo-liberalism claims an ever-higher toll, its greatest theologians now include standard disclaimers in their chant. Growth has to be “inclusive” and “sustainable.” Even the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have learned these escape clauses. In any case, growth in India this past decade has been neither. The appalling distress in the countryside is just one measure of this. Election after election also rubs it in. Especially that of 2004, which brought the United Progressive Alliance to power.

Even going by the government’s economic survey, by its own other data, agriculture is choking. Per capita growth has been negative. Farm incomes have taken a beating. Thousands of farmers commit suicide each year. The government has long known there is a frightful crisis, one driven by human agency, by state policy. Yet, for all the noise, Central plan outlay on agriculture as a share of GDP sees no increase worth the name. Nor is there anything that touches the acute farm distress on the ground. In that the trend of falling state investment in sector after sector continues, this budget does not break with neo-liberalism. It just dolls it up.

One of the most important steps the UPA took in 2004 was to assign the National Commission on Farmers the grim task of studying this crisis. The work of the NCF caught the imagination of farmers nationwide. In Vidharbha or in Andhra Pradesh, farmers when they speak at all of `relief packages’ do so with scorn. What they do demand is action on the NCF’s findings. It is hard to find to find a single one of its many vital proposals addressed in this budget.

There are no steps towards a Price Stabilization Fund. None at all towards debt relief, let alone a waiver. Nothing has happened that will make input costs cheaper. Racketeering on that front is not only left alone, it can dash on regardless. The ‘huge’ boost for rural credit does not touch the high interest rates, which are such a major source of the trouble. And government knows very well that small and marginal farmers have gained almost nothing from its earlier `expansion’ of credit. No incentives for food crops in crisis regions. No action, to cite just one problem, to prevent the dumping of American cotton subsidized by billions of dollars and devastating prices here and around the world. (In just marketing year 2001-02, as an official report shows us, U.S. raw cotton exports to India had tripled to more than a million bales.)

There is no move to use valid tools like raising duties to halt a process that is literally killing Indian farmers. Import duty on cotton remains at a low 10 per cent. Indeed, the lowering of other duties in many cases will hit other sectors of Indian agriculture too. Not just cotton. If this is a pro-farmer budget, it’s scary to think of what an anti-farmer one would look like. As always, the standards of judging the deal given to poor Indians differ totally from those used to measure what a `sulking India Inc.,’ gets. The big boys shouldn’t be too disheartened, though. Business as usual will resume after a pause for the Uttar Pradesh elections.

Even as the budget is hailed as `pro-farmer,’ there comes the embarrassment to the Centre from a Congress-led State. Responding to a PIL on farm suicides, the Maharashtra government tries telling the Supreme Court that the Center’s dragging its feet over funds for Vidharbha was a big factor in the problem. True, it backs off pleading an error when this is highlighted in the press. But it gives you a picture of how bad things are.

Many have shown that some of the `higher allocations’ of the budget are negative when adjusted for inflation. The Left, for instance, points out that spending on the government’s flagship employment programs is up by 7 per cent. Which amounts to stagnation, given inflation levels. The increase in outlays on food subsidies, at 6.2 per cent, means a cut in real terms.

There is also a rather clumsy dodge on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. To begin with, it was given Rs.11,300 crore [one crore = ten million] when it needed much more. And that was for 200 districts. Now it is to be “expanded” to 330 districts. But the outlay goes up by just Rs.700 crore. So the number of districts covered goes up 40 per cent. The money goes up six per cent.

The `huge’ hike in outlays for health still does not bring us to even the modest 2-3 per cent of GDP level promised in 2004. View education outlays as share of GDP and you see how far behind we still are. In the end, though, it’s not just about sector to sector funding. It’s the whole direction. And in that very little has changed. India is still on a path damaging and dangerous to the poor.

Big media, though, now view the Finance Minister with a `how-could-you’ air of injured innocence. He actually had to face some questions on television. He was questioned. But from a point of view which, at most other times, he would have been happy with. That is, the liberalization and `reforms process’ from a corporate outlook. (India Shining has been back for a while, jostling for space with India Rising and India Poised. But that’s another story.)

Mr. Chidambaram accused one interviewer of being obsessed “with the corporate sector.” That was code for `wait till after the State elections.’ (“Our program continues after a small non-commercial break.”) He even tried to explain that a “thrust” on agriculture in fact favored Indian industry. And he had a real point there. But I doubt it went home. The debate amongst the elite is still in terms of a `let down.’ A `setback in the pace of reforms.’ For the media, this is India with a shining black eye.

And so we have a budget that gives `top priority’ to agriculture. And eight more farmers have taken their own lives in Vidharbha. This is now a region where farmers killing themselves are directly addressing the Prime Minister or Chief Minister in their suicide notes. After the Prime Minister’s Independence Day Speech in 2006, you might have expected something different. That was a rare occasion. Dr. Singh spoke clearly of the state of our farmers. Even more rare for an I-Day speech, he singled out Vidharbha for special mention. And he clearly acknowledged a major crisis was on in agrarian India. Not a trace of that sentiment can be found in the philosophy or the numbers of this budget.

Nor is there even a sense that much has been learned from the polls in Punjab and Uttarakhand. There is even some bravado about how the Congress has fared better in rural Punjab. The price rise, among other things, was and is a major issue. But the government’s response to it is at most levels tokenism. Not a lesson has been learned by this government. Like others before it, it imagines it will make a few `course corrections’ just before the polls. It has forgotten the reasons for its win in 2004. Nor does it want to see just how awful the crisis in the countryside is.

We are now at that mid-way mark where, historically, the Congress revives the Bharatiya Janata Party. A party gasping for breath after 2004 regains its oxygen. The Congress is hard at work on this in Maharashtra, too. The government’s terrible power cuts have a clear regional, urban, and class bias. Talleyrand is said to have remarked of the Bourbon monarchs of France after their restoration that they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
The UPA has gone one better. It has learned nothing and forgotten everything.

P. Sainath is the rural affairs editor of The Hindu (where this piece initially ran) and the author of Everybody Loves a Good Drought. He can be reached at: psainath@vsnl.com.

The suicide economy of corporate globalisation

http://sheelsuniverse.blogspot.com/2007/03/suicide…

The Indian peasantry, the largest body of surviving small farmers in the world, today faces a crisis of extinction.

Two thirds of India makes its living from the land. The earth is the most generous employer in this country of a billion, that has farmed this land for more than 5000 years.

However, as farming is delinked from the earth, the soil, the biodiversity, and the climate, and linked to global corporations and global markets, and the generosity of the earth is replaced by the greed of corporations, the viability of small farmers and small farms is destroyed. Farmers suicides are the most tragic and dramatic symptom of the crisis of survival faced by Indian peasants.

1997 witnessed the first emergence of farm suicides in India. A rapid increase in indebtedness, was at the root of farmers taking their lives. Debt is a reflection of a negative economy, a loosing economy. Two factors have transformed the positive economy of agriculture into a negative economy for peasants – the rising costs of production and the falling prices of farm commodities. Both these factors are rooted in the policies of trade liberalization and corporate globalisation.

In 1998, the World Bank’s structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta. The global corporations changed the input economy overnight. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate seeds which needed fertilizers and pesticides and could not be saved.

As seed saving is prevented by patents as well as by the engineering of seeds with non-renewable traits, seed has to be bought for every planting season by poor peasants. A free resource available on farms became a commodity which farmers were forced to buy every year. This increases poverty and leads to indebtedness.

As debts increase and become unpayable, farmers are compelled to sell kidneys or even commit suicide. More than 25,000 peasants in India have taken their lives since 1997 when the practice of seed saving was transformed under globalisation pressures and multinational seed corporations started to take control of the seed supply. Seed saving gives farmers life. Seed monopolies rob farmers of life.

The shift from farm saved seed to corporate monopolies of the seed supply is also a shift from biodiversity to monocultures in agriculture. The District of Warangal in Andhra Pradesh used to grow diverse legumes, millets, and oilseeds. Seed monopolies created crop monocultures of cotton, leading to disappearance of millions of products of nature’s evolution and farmer’s breeding.

Monocultures and uniformity increase the risks of crop failure as diverse seeds adapted to diverse ecosystems are replaced by rushed introduction of unadapted and often untested seeds into the market. When Monsanto first introduced Bt Cotton in India in 2002, the farmers lost Rs. 1 billion due to crop failure. Instead of 1,500 Kg / acre as promised by the company, the harvest was as low as 200 kg. Instead of increased incomes of Rs. 10,000 / acre, farmers ran into losses of Rs. 6400 / acre.

In the state of Bihar, when farm saved corn seed was displaced by Monsanto’s hybrid corn, the entire crop failed creating Rs. 4 billion losses and increased poverty for already desperately poor farmers. Poor peasants of the South cannot survive seed monopolies.

And the crisis of suicides shows how the survival of small farmers is incompatible with the seed monopolies of global corporations.

The second pressure Indian farmers are facing is the dramatic fall in prices of farm produce as a result of free trade policies of the W.T.O. The WTO rules for trade in agriculture are essentially rules for dumping. They have allowed an increase in agribusiness subsidies while preventing countries from protecting their farmers from the dumping of artificially cheap produce.

High subsidies of $ 400 billion combined with forced removal of import restrictions is a ready-made recipe for farmer suicides. Global prices have dropped from $ 216 / ton in 1995 to $ 133 / ton in 2001 for wheat, $ 98.2 / ton in 1995 to $ 49.1 / ton in 2001 for cotton, $ 273 / ton in 1995 to $ 178 / ton for soyabean. This reduction to half the price is not due to a doubling in productivity but due to an increase in subsidies and an increase in market monopolies controlled by a handful of agribusiness corporations.

Thus the U.S government pays $ 193 per ton to US Soya farmers, which artificially lowers the rice of soya. Due to removal of Quantitative Restrictions and lowering of tariffs, cheap soya has destroyed the livelihoods of coconut growers, mustard farmers, producers of sesame, groundnut and soya.

Similarly, 25000 cotton producers in the U.S are given a subsidy of $ 4 billion annually. This has brought cotton prices down artificially, allowing the U.S to capture world markets which were earlier accessible to poor African countries such as Burkina, Faso, Benin, Mali. The subsidy of $ 230 per acre in the U.S is genocidal for the African farmers. African cotton farmers are loosing $ 250 million every year. That is why small African countries walked out of the Cancun negotiations, leading to the collapse of the W.T.O ministerial.

The rigged prices of globally traded agriculture commodities are stealing incomes from poor peasants of the south. Analysis carried out by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology shows that due to falling farm prices, Indian peasants are loosing $ 26 billion or Rs. 1.2 trillion annually. This is a burden their poverty does not allow them to bear. Hence the epidemic of farmer suicides.

India was among the countries that questioned the unfair rules of W.T.O in agriculture and led the G-22 alliance along with with Brazil and China. India with other southern countries addressed the need to safeguard the livelihoods of small farmers from the injustice of free trade based on high subsidies and dumping. Yet at the domestic level, official agencies in India are in deep denial of any links between free trade and farmers survival.

An example of this denial is a Government of Karnataka report on “Farmers suicide in Karnataka – A scientific analysis”. The report while claiming to be “scientific”, makes unscientific reductionist claims that the farm suicides have only psychological causes, not economic ones, and identifies alcoholism as the root cause of suicides. Therefore, instead of proposing changes in agricultural policy, the report recommends that farmers be required to boost up their self respect (swabhiman) and self-reliance (swavalambam).

And ironically, its recommendations for farmer self-reliance are changes in the Karnataka Land Reforms Act to allow larger land holdings and leasing. These are steps towards the further decimation of small farmers who have been protected by land “ceilings” (an upper limit on land ownership) and policies that only allow peasants and agriculturalists to own agricultural land (part of the land to the tiller policies of the Devraj Urs government).

While the “expert committee” report identified “alcoholism” as the main cause for suicides, the figures of this “scientific” claim are inconsistent and do not reflect the survey. On page 10, the report states in one place that 68 percent of the suicide victims were alcoholics. Five lines later it states that 17 percent were “alcohol and illicit drinkers”.

It also states that the majority of suicide victims were small and marginal farmers and the majority had high levels of indebtedness. Yet debt is not identified as a factor leading to suicide. On page 32 of the report it is stated that of the 105 cases studied among the 3544 s
uicides which had occurred in five districts during 2000 – 2001, 93 had debts, 54 percent had borrowed from private sources and money lenders.

More than 90% of suicide victims were in debt. Yet a table on page 63 has mysteriously reduced debt as a reason for suicide to 2.6%, and equally mysteriously, “suicide victims having a bad habit” has emerged as the primary cause of farmers suicides.

The government is desperate to delink farm suicides from economic processes linked to globalisation such as rise in indebtedness and increased frequency of crop failure due to higher ecologic vulnerability arising from climate change and drought and higher economic risks due to introduction of untested, unadopted seeds.

This is evident in recommendation no. 4.3.24.3 “The government should launch prosecution on the responsible persons involved in misleading the public and government by providing false information about farmers suicide as crop failure or indebtedness” (page 113 of expert committee report).

However, farmers suicides cannot be delinked from indebtedness and the economic distress small farmers are facing. Indebtedness is not new. Farmers have always organised for freedom from debt.

In the nineteenth century the so call “Deccan Riots” were farmers protests against the debt trap into which they had been pushed to supply cheap cotton to the textile mills in Britain. In the eighties they formed peasant organisations to fight for debt relief from public debt linked to Green Revolution inputs.

However, under globalisation, the farmer is loosing her / his social, cultural, economic identity as a producer. A farmer is now a “consumer” of costly seeds and costly chemicals sold by powerful global corporations through powerful landlords and money lenders locally.

This combination is leading to corporate feudalism, the most inhumane, brutal and exploitative convergence of global corporate capitalism and local feudalism, in the face of which the farmer as an individual victim feels helpless. The bureaucratic and technocratic systems of the state are coming to the rescue of the dominant economic interests by blaming the victim.

It is necessary to stop this war against small farmers. It is necessary to re-write the rules of trade in agriculture. It is necessary to change our paradigms of food production. Feeding humanity should not depend on the extinction of farmers and extinction of species. Another agriculture is possible and necessary – an agriculture that protects farmers livelihoods, the earth and its biodiversity and public health.

The suicide economy of corporate globalisation

 

http://sheelsuniverse.blogspot.com/2007/03/suicide…

The Indian peasantry, the largest body of surviving small farmers in the world, today faces a crisis of extinction.

 

Two thirds of India makes its living from the land. The earth is the most generous employer in this country of a billion, that has farmed this land for more than 5000 years.

 

However, as farming is delinked from the earth, the soil, the biodiversity, and the climate, and linked to global corporations and global markets, and the generosity of the earth is replaced by the greed of corporations, the viability of small farmers and small farms is destroyed. Farmers suicides are the most tragic and dramatic symptom of the crisis of survival faced by Indian peasants.

 

1997 witnessed the first emergence of farm suicides in India. A rapid increase in indebtedness, was at the root of farmers taking their lives. Debt is a reflection of a negative economy, a loosing economy. Two factors have transformed the positive economy of agriculture into a negative economy for peasants – the rising costs of production and the falling prices of farm commodities. Both these factors are rooted in the policies of trade liberalization and corporate globalisation.

 

In 1998, the World Bank’s structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta. The global corporations changed the input economy overnight. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate seeds which needed fertilizers and pesticides and could not be saved.

 

As seed saving is prevented by patents as well as by the engineering of seeds with non-renewable traits, seed has to be bought for every planting season by poor peasants. A free resource available on farms became a commodity which farmers were forced to buy every year. This increases poverty and leads to indebtedness.

 

As debts increase and become unpayable, farmers are compelled to sell kidneys or even commit suicide. More than 25,000 peasants in India have taken their lives since 1997 when the practice of seed saving was transformed under globalisation pressures and multinational seed corporations started to take control of the seed supply. Seed saving gives farmers life. Seed monopolies rob farmers of life.

 

The shift from farm saved seed to corporate monopolies of the seed supply is also a shift from biodiversity to monocultures in agriculture. The District of Warangal in Andhra Pradesh used to grow diverse legumes, millets, and oilseeds. Seed monopolies created crop monocultures of cotton, leading to disappearance of millions of products of nature’s evolution and farmer’s breeding.

 

Monocultures and uniformity increase the risks of crop failure as diverse seeds adapted to diverse ecosystems are replaced by rushed introduction of unadapted and often untested seeds into the market. When Monsanto first introduced Bt Cotton in India in 2002, the farmers lost Rs. 1 billion due to crop failure. Instead of 1,500 Kg / acre as promised by the company, the harvest was as low as 200 kg. Instead of increased incomes of Rs. 10,000 / acre, farmers ran into losses of Rs. 6400 / acre.

 

In the state of Bihar, when farm saved corn seed was displaced by Monsanto’s hybrid corn, the entire crop failed creating Rs. 4 billion losses and increased poverty for already desperately poor farmers. Poor peasants of the South cannot survive seed monopolies.

 

And the crisis of suicides shows how the survival of small farmers is incompatible with the seed monopolies of global corporations.

 

The second pressure Indian farmers are facing is the dramatic fall in prices of farm produce as a result of free trade policies of the W.T.O. The WTO rules for trade in agriculture are essentially rules for dumping. They have allowed an increase in agribusiness subsidies while preventing countries from protecting their farmers from the dumping of artificially cheap produce.

 

High subsidies of $ 400 billion combined with forced removal of import restrictions is a ready-made recipe for farmer suicides. Global prices have dropped from $ 216 / ton in 1995 to $ 133 / ton in 2001 for wheat, $ 98.2 / ton in 1995 to $ 49.1 / ton in 2001 for cotton, $ 273 / ton in 1995 to $ 178 / ton for soyabean. This reduction to half the price is not due to a doubling in productivity but due to an increase in subsidies and an increase in market monopolies controlled by a handful of agribusiness corporations.

 

Thus the U.S government pays $ 193 per ton to US Soya farmers, which artificially lowers the rice of soya. Due to removal of Quantitative Restrictions and lowering of tariffs, cheap soya has destroyed the livelihoods of coconut growers, mustard farmers, producers of sesame, groundnut and soya.

 

Similarly, 25000 cotton producers in the U.S are given a subsidy of $ 4 billion annually. This has brought cotton prices down artificially, allowing the U.S to capture world markets which were earlier accessible to poor African countries such as Burkina, Faso, Benin, Mali. The subsidy of $ 230 per acre in the U.S is genocidal for the African farmers. African cotton farmers are loosing $ 250 million every year. That is why small African countries walked out of the Cancun negotiations, leading to the collapse of the W.T.O ministerial.

 

The rigged prices of globally traded agriculture commodities are stealing incomes from poor peasants of the south. Analysis carried out by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology shows that due to falling farm prices, Indian peasants are loosing $ 26 billion or Rs. 1.2 trillion annually. This is a burden their poverty does not allow them to bear. Hence the epidemic of farmer suicides.

 

India was among the countries that questioned the unfair rules of W.T.O in agriculture and led the G-22 alliance along with with Brazil and China. India with other southern countries addressed the need to safeguard the livelihoods of small farmers from the injustice of free trade based on high subsidies and dumping. Yet at the domestic level, official agencies in India are in deep denial of any links between free trade and farmers survival.

 

An example of this denial is a Government of Karnataka report on “Farmers suicide in Karnataka – A scientific analysis”. The report while claiming to be “scientific”, makes unscientific reductionist claims that the farm suicides have only psychological causes, not economic ones, and identifies alcoholism as the root cause of suicides. Therefore, instead of proposing changes in agricultural policy, the report recommends that farmers be required to boost up their self respect (swabhiman) and self-reliance (swavalambam).

 

And ironically, its recommendations for farmer self-reliance are changes in the Karnataka Land Reforms Act to allow larger land holdings and leasing. These are steps towards the further decimation of small farmers who have been protected by land “ceilings” (an upper limit on land ownership) and policies that only allow peasants and agriculturalists to own agricultural land (part of the land to the tiller policies of the Devraj Urs government).

 

While the “expert committee” report identified “alcoholism” as the main cause for suicides, the figures of this “scientific” claim are inconsistent and do not reflect the survey. On page 10, the report states in one place that 68 percent of the suicide victims were alcoholics. Five lines later it states that 17 percent were “alcohol and illicit drinkers”.

 

It also states that the majority of suicide victims were small and marginal farmers and the majority had high levels of indebtedness. Yet debt is not identified as a factor leading to suicide. On page 32 of the report it is stated that of the 105 cases studied among the 3544 suicides which had occurred in five districts during 2000 – 2001, 93 had debts, 54 percent had borrowed from private sources and money lenders.

 

More than 90% of suicide victims were in debt. Yet a table on page 63 has mysteriously reduced debt as a reason for suicide to 2.6%, and equally mysteriously, “suicide victims having a bad habit” has emerged as the primary cause of farmers suicides.

 

The government is desperate to delink farm suicides from economic processes linked to globalisation such as rise in indebtedness and increased frequency of crop failure due to higher ecologic vulnerability arising from climate change and drought and higher economic risks due to introduction of untested, unadopted seeds.

 

This is evident in recommendation no. 4.3.24.3 “The government should launch prosecution on the responsible persons involved in misleading the public and government by providing false information about farmers suicide as crop failure or indebtedness” (page 113 of expert committee report).

 

However, farmers suicides cannot be delinked from indebtedness and the economic distress small farmers are facing. Indebtedness is not new. Farmers have always organised for freedom from debt.

 

In the nineteenth century the so call “Deccan Riots” were farmers protests against the debt trap into which they had been pushed to supply cheap cotton to the textile mills in Britain. In the eighties they formed peasant organisations to fight for debt relief from public debt linked to Green Revolution inputs.

 

However, under globalisation, the farmer is loosing her / his social, cultural, economic identity as a producer. A farmer is now a “consumer” of costly seeds and costly chemicals sold by powerful global corporations through powerful landlords and money lenders locally.

 

This combination is leading to corporate feudalism, the most inhumane, brutal and exploitative convergence of global corporate capitalism and local feudalism, in the face of which the farmer as an individual victim feels helpless. The bureaucratic and technocratic systems of the state are coming to the rescue of the dominant economic interests by blaming the victim.

 

It is necessary to stop this war against small farmers. It is necessary to re-write the rules of trade in agriculture. It is necessary to change our paradigms of food production. Feeding humanity should not depend on the extinction of farmers and extinction of species. Another agriculture is possible and necessary – an agriculture that protects farmers livelihoods, the earth and its biodiversity and public health.

Task ahead for new government: Green agenda for sustainable Punjab

http://www.countercurrents.org/en-dutt030307.htm

By Umendra Dutt

03 March, 2007
Countercurrents.org

The SAD-BJP government has assumed office in Punjab. Obviously the new government will announce its plan with in few days. These elections were fought on the issue of development. It is a fashion to brand every economic and construction activity –the development. The development has become very catchy phrase these days. Every body talks about development, but despite being known as developed state Punjab is experiencing the burns of this so-called development. It is one of most debt ridden state; it has witnessed thousands of farmers’ suicides, its environment is one of most degraded, it has almost lost its precious wealth of natural resources, it is in midst of the most severe environmental health crisis in the world. Ironically this developed state was the first where indebted villages had put themselves on sale.

And yet the our planners and politicians are mesmerized to develop further more on the same lines without any corrections in line of action, without analyzing the errors in the developmental path, without any kind of review and evaluation that what went wrong where and how? There is still a chouse about what should be the development path for Punjab. And notwithstanding the adversities of the unsustainable development, nature abusive agriculture systems and perishable growth model there is no discussion on corrective measures.

The SAD-BJP government has taken the reins at a very crucial juncture; the new government can play a historic role by evolving a Green Agenda for Sustainable Punjab. The new government should demonstrate that it is highly concerned about the ecological and agricultural catastrophe leading to farmer’s suicides, depleting natural resources, degraded environment, and intense environmental health crisis posing a serious socio-economic and ecological challenge to the state. The new government should resolve to adopt the green agenda for a sustainable Punjab with an imperishable prosperity which will be free of debt, suicides, displacement and diseases caused due to environmental discrepancy.

The first step in this direction the new government can take is that it should bring out its ‘Vision for Sustainable Punjab’ with in minimum stipulated time. The vision paper should target the issue of ecological and agricultural sustainability of Punjab. This vision paper should be widely circulated in public for discussions to evolve a road map for sustainable agriculture, sustainable development and sustainable environment. After all only this kind of sustainability can assure sustainable prosperity to the Punjab. The new government should resolve to make this commitment an agenda for each and every citizen of Punjab . Actually there should be a political and social consensus on this Green Agenda so that this ought to be a participatory action.

Secondly, another new initiative the SAD-BJP government should take on priority bases is formation of ‘Punjab State Environment Commission’ as a statuary body with Chief Minister as its Chairman. The proposed Environment Commission will be first of its kind in India. The Environment Commission shall protect the environmental rights of people of Punjab to get clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, beautiful, historical, esthetic, cultural and spiritual values of the environment. It will also monitor the environmental duties to be obeyed by the people, as natural resources of Punjab are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. The present generation is mere trustee and as trustees of these resources it is their duty to conserve them for coming generations.

Then another important issue is to establish Cancer Hospital in Malwa region. The new government is bound to do this as this was promised by Akali Dal in its election manifesto. Beside this cancer hospital the new government should take the care of entire environmental health scenario in Punjab. As cancer is only one aspect of environmental health catastrophe, there are other dimensions also to this crisis. There is urgent need to establish Punjab Institute for Environmental Health Research and Studies in Malwa region. The proposed institute should be headed by an eminent environmental epidemiologist of the international repute and exposure. The institute shall have Regional Centers in various regions of the State. Then, another most important step the SAD-BJP government must take is to undertake a widespread and multicentric environmental epidemiological mapping through an extensive study and participatory research . This study is already recommended by PGIMER –PPCB study on cancer, interestingly the previous government had put all recommendations in dust bin only. The new government can take lead in this issue. This study must be entrusted to the proposed Institute for Environmental Health Research.

The Environmental health crisis with such intensity ,can only be mitigate by large scale community intervention and participation thus the new government should form a Environmental Health Mitigation Task Force under the aegis of Institute for Environmental Health with majority participation from NGOs and farmer groups. A senior Epidemiologist or Environmentalist should head this task force with powers minimum of the secretary rank to the Government. This task force would be constituted by taking members from medical fraternity, social activists, and teachers of life sciences, farmers and experts from various governmental departments.

The south western Malwa is facing most severe environmental health crisis. This entire area should be treated as the toxic hot spot. To focus its efforts government must declared and imposed immediately the state of ecological and environmental health emergency in the entire belt. For this specially drawn plans are needed with specific focus on the natural and organic farming, with adequately allocated funds for the targeted problem.
The agriculture of Punjab needs a fresh vision for its sustainability as well as sustainability of natural resources. To take up this issue with urgent priority the SAD-BJP government should formulate a policy and action plan with a fixed time frame to promote sustainable agricultural practices and various eco-friendly methods of farming. Special budget allocations should be made available for the purpose. There should be a bottom-up formulation of a coherent Sustainable Agriculture Policy for the state of Punjab . This should have a pro-organic stance.

The SAD-BJP government should evolve special support systems to promote sustainable agriculture practices of natural and organic farming. The government should take lead to implement the recommendations made by Task Force on Organic Farming headed by Dr. Kunwarji Bhai Jadav constituted by NDA government in centre, which brought out its report in November 2001. The implementation of these recommendations shall become an instrument to empower farmers and local economy.

The new government should provide incentives to farmers for community level production and supply of natural and organic inputs and produce as it is offered by some other states. The Government should also make sure that farmers get proper price for their natural and organic produce. Of course there is Punjab State Organic Farming Council is already working in this direction. But, its entire thrust is export orientated certainly it will not benefited the farmers of Punjab. More there is wider question that is pesticide free produce is only meant for foreign markets? Do the ordinary citizen of Punjab not have right to get pesticide free stuff? When the data from All India Coordinated Research Project on Pesticidal Residue clearly indicates presence of DDT, HCH and BHC in cereals, milk, butter, fruits, vegetables and even infant formula samples from Punjab and the edibles have residues of other pesticides li
ke Phosphamidon, Quinalphos, Chlorpyriphos, Endosulfan, Malathion, Parathion, Monocrotophos and lindane it is a alarm bell for a devastation in offing. More over the presence of pesticides in blood as detected by Centre for Science and Environment also raises serious questions. CSE report states the presence of cocktail of 6 to 13 pesticides in blood samples. CSE also find organo-chlorine and residues of the newer and so-called ‘non-persistent’ pesticides – organophosphates in blood. This situation demands that pesticide free food must be first offered to Punjabi people, but Organic Farming Council of Punjab has no vision and commitment in this regard. The new government should take initiative to revamp and reconstitute the organic farming council.

The SAD-BJP government can set an example for rest of country by establishing an autonomous Institute for Sustainable Agriculture in Punjab headed by a person with vast experience in natural and organic farming practices. This institute should be autonomous in working, policy formulations and adoption of techniques. The institute shall be guided by a governing Council drawing experts and practicing farmers from all over the country. This council shall have representation from the civil society organizations and practicing organic and natural farmers with a bottom up approach.

The SAD-BJP government must show its deep committed to the welfare of farmers and should ensure farmers a proper take home salary. For this purpose the government has to constitute an ‘Income Commission for Farmers’. Eminent agriculture policy expert Dr Davinder Sharma has already put forward this concept on various forums.

As Punjab has suffered the most severe ecological crisis, thus it needs a paradigm shift to save from ecological suicide. Let be there first ever ecological audit to seek an analysis on ecological condition of Punjab. A high power working group has to be constituted by involving independent experts to take up this study. This group must be free from green revolution mindset. This is indeed very important to get a clear picture of ecological damages and hence to evolve a strategy for ecological revival and environmental sustainability of the Punjab.

Other critical issue of ecological sustainability is crisis of water resources. Depletion and contamination of water resources and providing safe potable water to the people is one of the most sought after task for the new government in Punjab. The water crisis in Punjab is escalating day by day. In 1984 there were 53 blocks as dark zones, in 1995 they were 84 and in 2005 the figure went up to 108 out of total 138 development blocks in Punjab. Ground water level falling much faster then assumed. In 1973 only 3% area of Punjab has water table below 10 meters, it goes up to 14.9% in 1989, 20% in 1992, and 28% in 1997, 53% in 2000, 76% in 2002 and in 2004 the situation goes beyond expectations when 90% area of Punjab is drawing water from the depth of more then 10 meters. More over 30% area of Punjab has depth of 20 meters or even more. In 1980 there are 3712 villages identified as drinking water problem villages, this figure went up to 6287 in 1990, and then in year 2000 the number goes as high as 8518 and as of now 11849 villages or habitations out of total 12423 in Punjab are facing drinking water problems.

It is high time to save every drop of water by a participatory community action. Punjab has sufficient amount of rain fall and harnessing the rain water shall revive its empty ground water aquifers. More over the traditional water wisdom could provide potable water to large number of villages in Malwa, where water scarcity has brought doom for the villagers.

The SAD-BJP government should make rain water harvesting mandatory in whole of Punjab accept the areas under water logging. To administer this community led initiative, ‘Save Water Mission’ should be formed with large scale membership of community groups. An advisory board drawing water experts and water warriors from all over India shall be constituted to steer the proposed Save Water Mission.

Environmental crises are to be dealt holistically, with inter disciplinary interventions and multisectorial approach with large scale community participation in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. ‘Unidirectional and de-bureaucratized’ earnest effort is urgently needed to take up environmental conservation to bring Punjab out of present ecological catastrophe. This is the need of the hour to ensure safe and sustainable future of coming generations of Punjab.

Viewing this problem the SAD-BJP government should initiate a state level water conservation drive with all inclusive community participation. The state government must formulate a time bound action plan to rejuvenate the old and to build new water bodies across the Punjab by involving Panchayati Raj Institutions, civic bodies, farmers and farmers groups, village youth clubs, civil society groups, religious and social organizations, educational institutes and various governmental departments. Will the new government make river action plan after learning lessons from innovative initiative of rejuvenating Kali Bain rivulet by Sant Balbir Singh Sencheewal? Government should come forward with a concrete action plan to revive all rivulets and ensure pollution free flow of its rivers.

Lastly the most important aspect of water conservation is State Water Policy. The Punjab has a draft water policy from last two years and it has to be finalized. But, this draft is totally based on National Water Policy which very much corporate oriented. The new government of Punjab should dare to take a bold decision to redraft state water policy very mush in accordance with water heritage, ethos and values of Punjab. The government should immediately call open dialogue on water policy and must circulate the present draft for wider public participation in water governance.

These are few urgent task chalked could be part of Green Agenda for Sustainable Punjab. Would the new government show its commitment for Environmental justice to all living beings and sustainability of natural resources?

The Punjab is awaiting the government that dare to take up the challenge of paradigm shift.

Author is Executive Director of Kheti Virasat Mission. Jaitu, Faridkot district based environmental NGO in Punjab . Phone: 9872682161, E-mail: umendradutt@gmail.com)

The Kheti Virasat Mission – KVM

The KVM is a nor for profit conscious civil society organization established in March 2005 and registered as a charitable trust with head office at Jaitu town of district Faridkot.

KVM is working in the field of natural farming, sustainable agriculture, conservation of natural resources, environmental health and eco-sustainable technologies.

Samskarika koottayma to prevent farmers' suicides

http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IEO200…

Friday March 2 2007 11:49 IST

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

High inflation result of wrong policies

http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?…

Tall promise of providing farm credit at 7% in last year’s Budget stayed a pipe-dream, writes Narendra Modi

The Union Budget for 2007-08, including the Railway Budget, has failed miserably in providing the necessary impact for growth initiatives to the economy.

It is often stated that India lives in villages. More than 60% of the common man earns their livelihood in rural India, but their share in the nation’s GDP is less than 20%. Therefore, the first and foremost task for the Union finance minister should have been to suggest measures for improving agriculture productivity for food grains, pulses and oil-seeds; so as to raise the farm income by introducing better irrigation system like drip and sprinkler irrigation, introduction of bio-technology, application of better farm techniques, including better seeds and organic farming. However, this Budget has failed to address these vital issues effectively, as the provisions suggested are more of token nature and insufficient to meet the country’s demand.

The Indian agriculture sector is facing a serious crisis. As per the Economic Survey, growth in agriculture sector during 10th Plan will be only 2.3%, against the target of 4%. The tall promise of providing farm credit at 7% in last year’s Budget has remained a pipe-dream. This is proved by the fact that there have been more than 10,000 suicides by farmers in the last few years. What is more painful to note is that many of the suicides have taken place in more developed states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. In the last few years of the UPA regime, farmers have suffered the most.

The second priority for the economy, according to me, is to ensure growth without inflation or growth without tears for the common man. The NDA government had taken the economy on take-off stage, without high inflation. However, under the UPA government, the overall growth target of 10th Plan of achieving 8% of GDP is unlikely to be achieved by the country. On the other hand, due to various wrong policies of the UPA government, the monster of inflation is raising its head, with inflation rate surging to more than 6 to 7%, affecting the lives of the common man.

The Central Budget has claimed higher resource mobilisation through service tax, excise and customs. However, these three taxes are either directly or indirectly passed on to the common man. The finance minister has given tax reduction for ‘‘cat and dog pet-food’’ by lowering custom duty from 30% to 20%. However, he has not shown any compassion for the common man and his articles of daily necessities.

MAT has been extended to companies, availing benefits under S.10A & 10B of the I-T Act for Infrastructure projects, which will be counter-productive for infrastructure development. While providing special funds for history and culture on 150th year of Independence, Sardar Patel’s contribution is forgotten, which is regrettable.

Our third top-most priority is to build excellent infrastructure in terms of power, road, port, air-port, railway, irrigation, etc. The golden quadrilateral road project was started by the NDA government and it was to be completed in 2003, but under the UPA government, it is still incomplete. Similarly, the east-west, north-south corridor road project is way behind its target, because of poor monitoring under the UPA government. In the power sector, the performance of the UPA government in the last few years has been very dismal in terms of achieving targets for generation of thermal, hydro and atomic power, because of which the country faces huge short-fall of peak load power.

In the sector of port development, instead of encouraging mari-time States, like Gujarat, to undertake nation building activity, through port connectivity, the railways have shown utter neglect in providing railway linkage. Thus, the UPA government has missed the bus in taking a major leap forward in the infrastructure sector, which could have provided a solid base for rapid growth in the first decade of 21st century.

The writer is chief minister of Gujarat