300 Farmers Suicides officially reported in 2012 in Six Districts of West Vidarbha- Prime Minister urged for Urgent Intervention


Nagpur- Saturday, May 19, 2012
When central Govt. and Maharashtra is working hard to disburse Rs.700 Crore relief aid released to specific districts of   western Maharashtra after server followup  of union minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar ,News Paper ‘SAKAL’ owned his family reported today that more than 300 farmers committed suicides in six districts of farm suicide prone west vidarbha taking tally to 8520 as per official reports of Maharashtra Govt. ,the agrarian crisis has hit badly to the region where in an average @ 8 hourly one innocent cotton farmer is committing suicide since June 2005 but recent figure of farm suicides given by administration is totally contradicting Govt. own data that farmers suicides number has drastically reduced and  shows ground reality too serious to explain hence we demand urgent intervention of Indian Prime  Minister  as local Maharashtra failed to tackle crisis moreover all  relief packages given by center amounting more than RS.5000 crore has been siphoned out by politician and contractors as per reports of CVC,CAG and PAC ,informed Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Jandolan Samiti (VJAS) farmers rights group  fighting save dying cotton farmer community since 1997 reported today .
“if west vidarbha farmers suicide figure is more than 300 then east vidarbha’s five districts which also under severe drought will add certainly more than 150 taking toll 450 which is much more shocking than earlier years figure reflecting size and gravity of the crisis hence center intervention is must to save dying farmers who are killing themselves due debt and distress “Tiwari added.
 here is report publish by daily SAKAL on it’s front page
QUOTE 
विदर्भाच्या आत्महत्याग्रस्त 6 जिल्ह्यांमध्ये  135 दिवसांत 300 शेतकऱ्यांच्या आत्महत्या-सकाळ वृत्तसेवा

Saturday, May 19, 2012 AT 04:30 AM (IST)
http://online2.esakal.com/esakal/20120519/4982566681578913101.htm
अमरावती – शेतकऱ्यांच्या आत्महत्या थांबाव्या यासाठी विविध स्तरांवर प्रयत्न केले जात आहेत; तरीदेखील आत्महत्या थांबण्याचे नावच घेत नसल्याची गंभीर स्थिती आहे. चालू वर्षाच्या 135 दिवसांत शेतकऱ्यांच्या आत्महत्येचा आकडा 300 च्या घरात गेल्याची धक्कादायक माहिती आहे.

विशेष म्हणजे, गेल्याच महिन्यात विदर्भाच्या 6 जिल्ह्यांत 82; तर मे महिन्यात आतापर्यंत 14 शेतकऱ्यांनी जीवनयात्रा संपविली. 2001 पासूनच शेतकऱ्यांच्या आत्महत्यांची मालिका विदर्भातील अमरावती, यवतमाळ, अकोला, वाशीम, बुलडाणा तसेच वर्धा या सहा जिल्ह्यांत सुरू झाली होती. 2005 साली या 6 जिल्ह्यांत 445 शेतकऱ्यांनी आत्महत्या केल्याने पॅकेजची घोषणा करण्यात आली. शासनाने शेतकऱ्यांसाठी विविध योजना हाती घेण्याच्या घोषणा केल्या. तथापि, 2006 साली 1,449 शेतकऱ्यांनी आत्महत्या केल्याने हे प्रकरण अधिकच गंभीर झाले. शेतकऱ्यांच्या आत्महत्या रोखण्यासाठी मुख्यमंत्र्यांचे 1,075 कोटी रुपयांचे पॅकेज तसेच पंतप्रधानांचे 3,750 कोटी रुपयांचे पॅकेज शासनाने जाहीर केले. या पॅकेजचा निधी 2010 मध्ये संपला. मात्र, शासकीय आकडेवारीवर नजर टाकली, तरी ज्या कालावधीत पॅकेजचा निधी होता व शेतकऱ्यांना विविध योजनांचा लाभ दिला जात होता, त्याच कालावधीत सर्वांधिक आत्महत्या झाल्यात. या 5 वर्षांत तब्बल 6 हजार 26 शेतकऱ्यांनी आपली जीवनयात्रा संपविली.

यावर्षी अमरावती जिल्ह्यातील 1,981 गावांची आणेवारी 50 पैशाच्या आत आहे. बुलडाणा जिल्ह्यातील 1,419 पैकी 747 गावांची आणेवारी 50 पैशाच्या आत आहे. त्यामुळे विभागातील या 2 जिल्ह्यांतील एकूण 2,728 गावांत दुष्काळ आहे. या स्थितीतही दुष्काळ निवारणासाठी करावयाच्या कामांना अद्याप वेग आलेला नाही. केवळ उपाययोजना आखण्यात आल्याचे सांगितले जाते. त्यामुळे येत्या काही दिवसांत पावसाचे आगमन झाल्यावर दुष्काळावर उपाययोजना करणार काय, असा प्रश्‍न विचारला जात आहे. गतवर्षी पिकांची स्थिती दयनीय झालेली होती. शेतकऱ्यांना त्यांच्या शेतमालाचा योग्य मोबदलादेखील मिळालेला नाही. कापूस, सोयाबीन सोबतच आता हळद, कांदा पिकालादेखील भाव मिळत नसल्याची गंभीर स्थिती आहे. विदर्भात सिंचनसोयींचा अभाव हेच पिकांची दयनीय स्थिती होण्यास कारणीभूत असताना या गंभीर विषयाकडे येथील पुढारी लक्ष देण्यास तयार नाहीत.

74 शेतकरी अपात्र 
आत्महत्याग्रस्त 6 जिल्ह्यांमध्ये 300 शेतकऱ्यांनी आत्महत्या केली, तरी त्यातील 74 शेतकरी अपात्र ठरविण्यात आलेत. त्यामुळे त्यांच्या कुटुंबीयांना कोणताही शासकीय लाभ मिळणार नाही. 48 शेतकरी पात्र ठरलेत. 178 प्रकरणे चौकशीसाठी प्रलंबित आहेत.

शेतकऱ्यांच्या आत्महत्या  (शासकीय आकडेवारी 
2006 – 1,449
2007 – 1,247
2008 – 1,148
2009 – 1,005
2010 – 1,177
2001 ते 2012 – 8,520 आत्महत्या

(शासकीय आकडेवारी )
जानेवारी ते आजपर्यंतच्या आत्महत्या 

यवतमाळ – 69
अमरावती – 68
अकोला – 52
बुलडाणा – 49
वाशीम – 32
वर्धा – 30

2012 तील आत्महत्या 
जानेवारी – 65
फेब्रुवारी – 64
मार्च – 75
एप्रिल – 82
मे (आजपर्यंत) – 14

===========================
UNQUOTE  

OFFICIAL DATA OF FARMER SUICIDE 
2006 – 1,449
2007 – 1,247
2008 – 1,148
2009 – 1,005
2010 – 1,177
2001 ते 2012 – 8,520

(GOVT.FIGURE )
FROM  JAN.2012 AS ON TODAY FARMERS SUICIDES DISTRICT WISE 

YAVATMAL – 69
AMARAVATI – 68
AKOLA- 52
BULDHANA – 49
WASHIM- 32
WARDHA – 30

FARMERS SUICIDES IN 2012 MONTH WISE
JAN- 65
FEB. – 64
MARCH – 75
APRIL – 82
MAY (AS ON TODAY) – 14
====================

Reaping gold through cotton, and newsprint: P. SAINATH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phantom miracle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yavatmal farm widows’ plight moves Kelkar: Akola univ says Bt cotton not suitable for this region

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Yavatmal-farm-widows-plight-moves-Kelkar/articleshow/12563503.cms

NAGPUR: Economist, chairman of the 13th finance commission and retired bureaucrat Vijay Kelkar, who heads the committee formed by Maharashtra governor to take a fresh look at regional imbalance, was moved by the plight of widows of farmers who ended their lives unable to bear the economic stress. “The crisis in Vidarbha’s dry-lands is deep and of immense proportions,” he agreed after meeting hapless members of the distressed farming community and others at Bacchat Bhavan in Yavatmal collectorate on Friday.

Kelkar was particularly touched by the misery of Rekha Thag, a farm widow from Venikota village, who was allegedly thrown out of the house by her in-laws after husband’s death. She now fends for herself working as a domestic help in Yavatmal and looks after her children. Kelkar reportedly promised to support education of her daughter.

Kelkar and some of his team members had a separate meeting with elected representatives from Zilla Parishad and panchayat samitis who recounted to him the abysmal conditions in which people live in the backward district. Progressive farmer Subhash Sharma, who has successfully tapped organic farming techniques, also presented his views.

Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti’s Kishore Tiwari, in his presentation, blamed the faulty policies of the Maharashtra government for the agrarian crisis that farmers’ of the region find themselves in leading to the unending suicide crisis. “The only plausible solution is creation of separate state of Vidarbha,” Tiwari stressed.

However, Kelkar while summing up the meeting made it clear that he may not able to recommend creation of a new state as it was beyond the scope of his assigned task. Kelkar said the obsession with the perceived backlog figures must go. He would certainly seek policy reforms and long term planning for narrowing gaps in per capita income in the various regions of the state. Different groups within the 14-member committee are tackling issues like governance deficit, infrastructure needs and policy initiatives needed to meet goalposts like poverty alleviation. Kelkar also suggested that technology thrusts like broadband network which could be game-changers and open new avenues for economic development weaning it from agriculture and other traditional resources would be examined.

Earlier, after arrival here on Thursday evening, Kelkar, in his interaction with a select group of people, stressed on need for policy changes, especially reforms needed in forest laws that would be taken up by his committee. He said no deadline was fixed for submission of his report as the committee work had suffered because of civic and other elections recently.

Kelkar committee visits Yavatmal in Vidarbha

Yavatmal, Apr 6 (PTI) A committee headed by economist Dr Vijay Kelkar visited the city today and held discussions with the representatives of NGOs, farmers, office-bearers of local bodies, and widows of farmers. The committee has been appointed by the Maharashtra government to study the agrarian crisis in Vidarbha region, which has become infamous for farmers’ suicides. The committee held a marathon sitting at Bachat Bhavan, inside the Collector’s office premises. Addressing a press conference later, Dr Kelkar assured that his report would take note of problems of the area and people’s sentiments. As to the demand for separate state of Vidarbha, Kelkar said terms of reference of the committee did not cover the issue. The committee is to “identify indicators for determining the regional developmental imbalance” in the state, and to prepare an action plan to rectify it, he said. The committee includes Vijay Borade, Dr Madhav Chitale, Dr R P Kurulkar, Dr V M Mainde and Dr Vinayak Deshpande. When asked about the impact of the Bt Cotton, Dr Mainde, vice chancellor of Akola Agriculture University, conceded that Bt cotton may not be suitable for the region. “Bt cotton needs adequate and regular water supply and if it is disrupted, it would adversely affect the production,” Mainde said, adding that Vidarbha farmers were facing the brunt of irregular rainfall and lack of irrigation. PTI COR KRK

Vidarbha farmers, widows to ‘mourn’ decade of BT cotton

http://www.newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/2012/03/25/236–Vidarbha-farmers-widows-to-mourn-decade-of-BT-cotton-.html

Maharashtra,Immigration/Law/Rights, Sun, 25 Mar 2012IANS

Nagpur, March 25 (IANS) Thousands of farmers and farm widows shall ‘mourn’ and protest the tenth anniversary of the introduction of US-based GM Seed’s revolutionary “BT Cotton” in the country Monday, an activist group said here Sunday.

“Tomorrow, thousands of farmers and farmland widows shall protest in various towns and villages across Vidarbha against BT Cotton, which failed in 400,000 hectares since 2005 and in 4.20 million hectares this year,” Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) chief Kishor Tiwari told IANS.

The VJAS has been fighting the cause of Maharashtra farmers opposed to BT cotton, which, Tiwari claimed is the root cause of farmers’ suicides claiming over 10,000 lives so far in the state.

Farmers will gather in two of the worst suicide-prone villages – Hiwara and Bothbudan – demanding suspension of all commercial trials of BT Cotton in the dry regions of the Vidarbha region of eastern Maharashtra and banning GM cotton in the country.

“Vidarbha is a classic example of a wrong selection of GM technology in dry regions since BT Cotton requires proper irrigation facilities that are lacking here,” Tiwari pointed out.

When the permission was granted by India ten years ago, experimental cultivation of BT cotton was started in 10,000 hectares in different parts of the country.

“Today, it has gone to over 12 million hectares, especially after Maharashtra permitted commercial cultivation trials of BT cotton from June 2005,” said Tiwari.

He said the VJAS has demanded a special discussion by parliament on cotton farmers crises since the past ten years of BT cotton and setting up of a special parliamentary committee to inquire into the mess created by BT cotton.

In a report released Sunday, a group of NGOs under the banner of ‘Coalition for GM-free India’ has claimed that the government’s own data proved that BT cotton has resulted in stagnant yields, pest resistance and evolution of new pest and disease attacks.

“The real yield gains in the past decade, from 278 kg/hectare to 470 kg/hectare was seen between 2001-2005 when BT cotton accounted for only 5.6 percent of the total cotton cultivation area. After that, till 2012, when the BT cotton area covered 90 percent of the total cotton cultivation area, the yield noticed was 470 kg/hectare to only 481 kg/hectare,” Kiran Vissa, co-convenor of Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture, said in the study report.

Documentary on Vidarbha farmers bags National award

Documentary on Vidarbha farmers bags National award-TIMES OF INDIA

NAGPUR: “If a quarter million farmers kill themselves over a span of 16 years, then it is genocide and not suicide. The globalization of economies has given rise to a new form of agrarian warfare where seeds are the new weapons.” This observation formed the basis of the documentary ‘Cotton For My Shroud’ made by Nandan Saxena and his wife Kavita Bahl.

The 90 minute film, shot in the hinterlands of Vidarbha, which have earned the infamous sobriquet of farmer’s graveyard, has won aRajat Kamal for the best investigative film at the 59th National awards announced in New Delhi on Wednesday. The film has been winning accolades since it was first released at Mumbai Film Festival in April last year, and has also received the Gold for best script at the IDPA in Mumbai in October 2011.

In a telephonic chat with TOI from New Delhi, Saxena says that he has been screening the docu-film at various forums and people have been stunned by its content. “The film is meant for both, victims as well as those who can change this dismal scenario. It is easy to blame the simple farmer for not managing his resources.” “The cotton farmer is torn between aggressive marketing of supposedly ‘better varieties’ of transgenic crops by the state, and his traditional wisdom of low-cost and eco-friendly agriculture. He thus falls prey to the honey trap of Bt. The result is in an unending cycle of debt and misery.”

Narrated in the first person, the film looks at the macro picture while following the lives of three families. Saxena says that he learnt about the plight of the farmers in Vidarbha while researching water linked projects they were handling in Rajasthan. “It was so horrible that we began looking for more information. When we called up Kishor Tiwari, president of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, which has been drawing attention to these tragedies, he told us to check it out first hand. My wife and me arrived and began moving around in Yavatmal, Raipodh, Pandharkawda and Kolijhari, which were worst hit by these tragedies.” It was not easy for the couple to win the confidence of farmers. Saxena says that the families of victims were weary of media spotlight.

“We came without booking our return tickets.We had all the time and were willing to wait. Gradually, they began to open up,” he says. The research and first hand conversations helped them put together a narrative.

“There were two triggers for the suicides. The first at the time of sowing, when the cash strapped farmer is pushed to buy seeds he can ill afford, so he takes credit. The next is at the time of harvest, when he arrives in the market and realizes that he will not get the price that will enable him to repay the loan. That’s when the desolate fellow has no option but to consume pesticide.” Saxena,who admits to leftist leanings, says that once they had put together the film it was difficult to edit it, as they had to relive these heart wrenching stories once again. “But we overcame our emotions and released it in 2011.” Awards aside, the duo feels that true recognition would be when farmers stop taking their lives and sustainable agriculture becomes a policy.

Farmers’ suicides tripled in 2011: Attention of PMO sought

Government figures of farmer suicides in Vidarbha’s agrarian crisis hit cotton belt of western districts for year 2011 has shocked the local media and civil society after a national daily reported that figures compiled by government at Yavatmal district in Maharashtra- the epicenter of the agrarian crisis.

THE SHOCKING figures completely contract earlier reports of the Government of India and Mahrashtra Government in 2011 – as suicides commited due to agrarian crisis tripled as compared to the last year.

In Yavatmal district as against in 2010 administration confirmed 35 farmer suicides due to agrarian crisis, and all are eligible for government compensation whereas in 2011, 76 suicides were declared – which is more than twice the number of suicide cases reported the last year – reflecting the seriousness of the vidarbha crisis even after a series of relief packages and the Prime Minister’s visit to Vidarbha in July 2006. 

Hence Vidarbha Janadolan Samiti (VJAS) activist group, working for farmers’ rights in the region since 1997, and demanding the complete rehabilitation of farm widows and kids of farmers families who committed suicide. The group has written a letter requesting the prime minister to provide long term solution to the crisis and integrated solution to the vidarbha agrarian crisis.

Kishor Tiwari convener of VJAS, said in a press release that due to farm crisis since 2000, 2,332 farmers have committed suicide in Yavatmal. Out of which 714 have been declared to be due to farm. Tiwari has urged the PMO to review all cases in light of the changed norms.

The Indian government claims to spent more than Rs.5,000 crore apart from Rs.70,000 crore national loan waiver, which has given additional Rs.8000 crore to the package in 2006 and 2008 but there has been no change in the agrarian economy and the rate of farm suicides in the region has exposed total failure of the Indian government to solve the agrarian crisis in dry land regions of Maharashtra.

Bt or Not to Bt? Risk and Uncertainty Considerations in Technology Assessment

http://www.igidr.ac.in/pdf/publication/WP-2012-001.pdf
Srijit Mishra & Sarthak Gaurav
IGIDR

The acreage under the transgenic Bt cotton seeds in India has risen significantly since its legalization in the year 2002. Discussions on the advantages from the technology have focused on increments in
productivity and income, without much analysis on risk. We point out that claims on productivity gains
seem to be misplaced, as appropriate counterfactuals do not exist for the same hybrids. In this article
we analyse production costs and crop incomes in drought years to test a simplistic theory of risk based
on first principles. We employ a mixed-methods framework to draw inferences by combining data from
two cross-sectional surveys in Gujarat (Saurashtra and Southern-Plains) and Maharashtra (Western
Vidarbha) for the period 2009-10 and compare it with unit-level data for the corresponding regions
from a nationally representative sample for the period 2002-03. Empirical evidence, though limited,
brings out the problem of how a high cost technology could be associated with higher risks and may be
dominated by traditional alternatives under certain conditions. Ethnographic accounts from the field
provide qualitative support to our understanding of potential risks and uncertainties associated with the
new technology.