Indian Agrarian Crisis now moved to

Farmer-the most endangered species

Nothing "new" New Year…the forgotten woes….!

Posted by Ramoo on January 31, 2007…

Come again…What was it..? The farmer’s woes or owes!??! Or is it woes of owes! 11 more farmers have embraced death in the last 48 hours in vidarbha…reports a news paper at one insignificant corner, in a matter of fact way. Last year 1060 farmers have committed suicide and in Jan 07, 62 farmers have already preferred death to life!! The level of apathy and indifference in the media is appalling! (Well, not really! “Understandable!” would have been a better word) initially, there was furor over the issue in the media. Latter it took backburner as it became “routine”. Why should the media allot any place for such “drab, dull and outdated” piece of news when the latest news of Shilpa shetty’s wounded self-respect sells better!! After all “We give what people want” is what they would say! In fact these deaths have become sooo routine that the figure of 62 suicides is seen as “positive” development by a NGO, as it is first time in months that the death toll is less than 100 in a given month!

Note that the figures are “official”. Most of the deaths are not accepted as suicides due to “farm distress”. They are rejected as “family/personal problems” by the revenue officials who verify! So even as the reported rate of suicides decreases on paper, the fact could be otherwise with increase in the rate of such rejections, which goes unreported !!! The ever manipulative, adept at skin-saving bureaucracy, you see!!!

The declared “relief packages” never reach the needy. The wait for them would make a classic art movie!! The suicides have been consistent for almost two years now…but who in Mumbai would care with the SENSEX reaching the historic highs each day!! After all India is poised!!! (Wonder whether u can call it equilibrium!!!)

The role of nature is very minor compared that of the man-made reasons. Having to re-sow because of delayed monsoon, the crop ready to be harvested getting drowned in untimely heavy rains or having to helplessly look at the growing crop dying a slow death due to lack of rain/water is only one part of the story.

Let’s just “assume” a “good harvest” and see if things would be any better for the Indian farmer!

Ok, good harvest, what next? Obvious! Go sell and get the money!!! Well, any layman with zero knowledge of economics of demand-supply would know that it is not that simple!

The world cotton prices keep plummeting as “developed” countries like the United States keep pumping billions of dollars of subsidies each year to its 25,000 cotton producers and dump the produce in the world market. Thanks to the “open markets” in India…Now anyone can import or export it. The import duty on cotton is ten per cent. And if you’re the textile lobby you don’t pay even that. Anyone can buy, sell or trade in it. Smell the profit and the Private traders land up in droves! I let the figures speak “India’s cotton imports between 1997-98 and 2004-05 stood at over 115 lakh bales. That is over three times what was imported in the preceding 25 years!!”

Don’t we have any protection for Indian farmers from such “not in our hands” factors? Logically they should exist, at least on paper! Well, right, they do! There is something called “Minimum support price (MSP)” declared by govt., to protect Indian farmers. But you see, you can’t force the bureaucracy to do something good just by jotting a few rules on paper. They always have a back door! In this case it is the amount of cotton being picked up by State agencies at MSP!!! In 2005 there were 411 official centres to procure cotton. It was a mere 141 in 2006. Where do the poor farmers knock? Yes, private traders!! Private traders do buy generously large volumes, but often at below the minimum support price (MSP)!!!

This, given that deciding the MSP itself is a big humbug and the support price is definitely less than the input costs for the farmer! Add to that the fact that the State withdrew the “advance bonus” of Rs.500 a quintal, which brought down what the farmer received!!

That is not ALL though… read on!

Costs of production were up 25 per cent last year because of rising input prices. Bt cotton was a disaster. Also, the crop was hit by diseases. As Bt bombed for many, they used pesticides for that too. In a country where cotton is anyway the highest user of pesticides, this further upped the farmer’s costs.

Think it can’t get any worse..? Well, no, we still have petty problems like – There is no water in the bore well or no power supply even if there is water!

PS: I remember seeing a photo in a local daily with tomatoes dumped all far as u can see the entire place was shades of red and yellow…at a market ground in Andhra! There was record harvest of tomatoes that year and the prices plummeted to 25 paisa per basket. Then there was a rumor that tomatoes were being bought at 2Rs per basket and all the farmers flooded the market with produce. Which means they loaded all the bullock carts and came to the “city market” from their villages, only to find that the actual price is 25 paisa!!!? They have no means to store the perishable goods, so in protest they dumped everything and preferred to go back empty handed!!!

This is at the same time when there were starvation deaths reported from some parts of central India and the dry north Andhra as well!!

If the possible solutions are not discussed this would only amount to “fretting” over the issue. So let’s brainstorm! Do leave a comment on what you think is the practical way of handling this…

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