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More than 3000 participate in Global Vigil for Farmers on Gandhi Jayanti

Posted by Ramoo on September 26, 2007

Even as the United Nations declared October 2nd as the International Day of Non-Violence, a unique event was unfolding around the world which was perhaps closer to Gandhi’s principles and actions. More than 3000 people including 1000 NRIs took part in “Our Food, Our Farmers” global vigil in 58 locations. Responding to the call for a coordinated global event by Association for India’s Development (AID), dozens of organizations participated and voiced their solidarity with the farmers and expressed outrage at the policies which are deepening the crisis. Remarkably, these vigils drew thousands from urban India and NRI community who are typically very distant from the realities of rural India, and they spoke out in a strong voice, “Thousands of suicides, hundred millions in distress – the farmers’ crisis is unacceptable!”

In New Delhi, 2 days of street plays Connaught Place, Dilli Haat and other popular locations were followed by a Photo Exhibition on the evening of October 2nd visited by hundreds of people. AID-Delhi volunteers were joined by activists from Mehdiganj (UP), a few farmers from Vidarbha and Tamil Nadu and a large farmers’ group from AP who were on a dharna. The vigil at Hyderabad saw the participation of about 40 organizations. “We are all with you!” was the simple message to the farmers from a large crowd of IT professionals and students.

In all, 18 locations in India conducted various events like rallies, marches and candlelight vigils. Many organizations and individual activists have been enthusiastic partners, including Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, Bhumi, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Bharat Uday Mission and Youth for Social Change. Eminent citizens and experts on agriculture including Devinder Sharma, Prof. Arun Kumar, Dr. Ramanjaneyulu, Kavitha Kuruganti, Kishor Tiwari and others spoke at various locations.

In the US, about 1000 people participated in candlelight vigils held in 39 locations including cities such as Seattle, San Diego, Bay Area, New York and Washington DC, as well as university campuses such as such as Cornell, Univ. of Texas, Univ. of MD, West Virginia University and so on. Besides events at common locations like public parks, Gandhi statue and university commons, the organizers also used more unusual strategies to attract attention of NRIs such as gathering outside popular Indian restaurants and marching from one Indian grocery store to another one. One 65-year old visitor from Chennai informed AID volunteers, “Though I have lived all my life in India, I didn’t realize the magnitude of the problem until I heard you today.” Participants also reflected on their own consumer choices: “Why should food be cheap?  People who farm need to make a living too. We want a 99 cent lunch but what is the big picture of this 99 cent lunch?”

Even as the organizers are deeply moved by the continuing spate of farmer suicides – 836 in Vidarbha alone in 2007 – they strongly believe that the underlying causes need be addressed to find a long-term solution. Eminent journalist P. Sainath, who was awarded the 2007 Magsaysay Award, says, “The tragic farmers’ suicides are, finally, an extreme symptom of a much deeper rural distress. The result of a decade-long onslaught on the livelihoods of millions. The crisis now goes way beyond the families ravaged by the suicides.”

The government policies in the past fifteen years have consistently removed support structures for Indian farmers while promoting unsustainable, high-input agriculture which farmers, especially in dry areas, cannot afford to practice. The petition circulated as part of this campaign has been supported by several thousand signatures and demands genuinely pro-farmer policies from the government. The demands include strengthening the minimum support price system to cover the real cost of production, waiver of debt and proactive support to low-input sustainable agriculture especially in rainfed areas.

Here it must be mentioned that developed countries such as US heavily subsidize their agriculture. It is estimated that nearly 25,000 cotton growers in America receive $3.2 billion subsidy per year, which affects the cotton prices world over. If the American government can act for its farmers, why is the Indian government allowing our farmers to kill themselves?

The organizers say, “The amazing response to this event which was proposed just 3-4 weeks ago, has proved that the farmers’ suicides and the underlying agrarian crisis stirs the conscience of people around the world. At a short notice, thousands of people who never participated in such events came out to voice their concern. Are the governments ready to listen and take the right action?”

The follow-up measures by AID volunteers include meeting policy makers with our demands and memoranda, building advocacy collaborations with activists, experts and resource organizations, and promoting sustainable agriculture practices through AID projects. We invite broad sustained support and involvement from all concerned citizens, especially those inspired by this effort.

Farmers Vigil Locations


United States India
Atlanta, GA New Delhi
Austin, TX Kolkata
Baltimore, MD Hyderabad
Baton Rouge, LA Bangalore
Bay Area, CA Mumbai
Berkeley, CA Jaipur
Bloomington, IN Chandigarh
Boston, MA Nagpur
Buffalo, NY Pune
Chicago, IL Cuddalore
Cleveland, OH Bhubaneswar
College Park, MD Chennai
College Station, TX Paralekhamundi, Orissa
Dallas, TX Bhopal
Fairfax, VA Kanpur
Gainesville, FL Kakinada, AP 
Gaithersburg, MD Jammu 
Harford County, MD Doda, J&K
Houston, TX  
Lexington, KY  
Los Angeles, CA  
Louisville, KY Netherlands
Madison, WI Amsterdam
Milwaukee, WI  
New York, NY  
Columbus, OH  
State College, PA  
Philadelphia, PA  
Pittsburgh, PA  
Portland, OR  
Princeton, NJ  
Redmond/Bellevue, WA  
San Diego, CA  
Santa Barbara, CA  
Seattle, WA  
Tempe, AZ  
Washington, DC  
Morgantown, WV  

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ADB says rural loan may help stem farmer suicides

Posted by Ramoo on March 16, 2007…

March 15, 2007
By Unni Krishnan and Surojit Gupta
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The Asian Development Bank hopes a $1 billion loan aimed at reforming India’s rural credit structure will help stem farmer suicides in the country, a senior official said on Thursday.
An estimated 5,000 farmers have killed themselves over six years across India’s sprawling western and southern plateau — where the black soil has long borne a rich harvest of cotton — because they could not repay loans taken for their crops.
The spate of suicides in the country’s richest state of Maharashtra has not abated despite efforts by New Delhi to ease the farmers’ financial burden.
“We are hoping in terms of outcome I hope two years from now there will be a reduced number of farmers committing suicides,” Kunio Senga, director general of the South Asia department of the bank told Reuters in an interview.
The programme, carried out in five Indian states, aims to revitalise the cooperative credit structure and reach masses of small farmers, Senga said.
Economic growth of more than 8 percent in the past three years has made millions in the cities richer, but it has bypassed the farming sector that supports more than 60 percent of India’s one billion-plus people.
Most of India’s farming community is poverty-stricken and many farmers borrow from the village moneylender at rates as high as 30-60 percent a month.
Ensuring economic growth was inclusive of poorer members of society has become increasingly important in India and the communist-backed ruling coalition has made it the centrepiece of its economic agenda.
The Congress party-led coalition, which swept to power in May 2004, has been trying to bridge the rural-urban divide and include millions of poor in the country’s largely city-based boom. “We are very much into assistance directly to address inclusiveness of growth. Our $1 billion rural finance programme is one signal that we are very much now into inclusiveness of growth,” Senga said.
He said upgrading of rural infrastructure, particularly to develop the farm sector, was key to sustaining growth and the bank was optimistic about reforms undertaken by the government to reform the sector.
The Union budget for 2007/08 has doled out gifts aimed at giving a major boost to the ailing farm sector which puts food on the tables of 115 million farming families.
Analysts say the government should focus on linking farmers to the markets through private investment in production, post-harvest infrastructure and refrigerated distribution.
“Inclusiveness requires more reforms including agricultural related and I am quite optimistic,” Senga said.

Posted in Debt burden, Economix, Farmers Suicides, News, Policy issues, Second Green Revolution | Leave a Comment »

Bankers want government to up small farm loan rates

Posted by Ramoo on January 22, 2007

HT Correspondent

New Delhi, January 22, 2007


Major banks want the government to make up for losses on small loans to farmers at a concessional rate of 7 per cent.

At a pre-Budget meeting with Finance Minister P Chidambaram, chief executives of major banks, including the State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Citibank and HDFC Bank, urged the government to raise the interest rate for small loans or hike the subvention.

The government had asked all banks to issue small loans up to Rs 3 lakh to farmers at a concessional rate following widespread reports of farmers committing suicides in various parts of the country, partly because of the lack of access to low-cost credit.

The government already pays a 2 per cent subsidy on such loans to banks, making their effective rate 9 per cent. However, bankers say that is not enough on small loans, not when the prime lending rate stands at 11 to 12 per cent.

Apart from small loans up to Rs3 lakh, banks are free to set their own deposit and loan rates. While the government’s order for setting the interest rate was meant to aid farmers, it came at a time when even public sector banks were moving away from socialistic approach.

At the meeting with Chidambaram, bankers also demanded tax concessions on investment in bank deposits. Interest income from such deposits is taxable, while dividend income from investments in equities is tax-free.

“Why would anyone keep their money in bank deposits?” said a banker. “Unless this is corrected, flow of funds in to banks will not increase.” Borrowings from banks by individuals and companies have been growing at around 30 per cent for the past three years.

While banks are allowed to issue bonds to raise money for capital, they cannot do so to fund their loan programmes.

The banks representatives also drew the minister’s attention to what they see as an impending liquidity crunch or lack of money in the system.

They suggested allowing banks to reduce their mandatory holding of government bonds, which would, in turn, allow them to divert these funds to loan programmes.

A finance ministry official said many of these issues would have to be addressed by the Reserve Bank of India, and not the ministry. RBI will announce its quarterly monetary policy on January 31.

Posted in Debt burden, Economix, Farmers Suicides, News | Leave a Comment »

Cong claims drop in farmer suicides in AP

Posted by Ramoo on January 21, 2007

Tejeswi Pratima
Saturday, January 20, 2007 (Ranga Reddy district):

Is there a turnaround in the crisis in the agriculture sector in Andhra Pradesh? The Congress government is patting itself in the back and saying yes.
According to the Congress government, farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh have come down from 184 in August 2004 to nine last month.
The government claims farmer-friendly initiatives like free power, moratorium on repayment and increase in institutional credit have boosted the farmers’ confidence.
“One of the main reasons for farmer suicides is harassment by moneylenders. But we have clearly instructed all police officers that any such harassment will have to be booked as cruelty,” said N Raghuveera Reddy, Agriculture Minister, Andhra Pradesh.
Farmers unhappy
However, just 30 km from Hyderabad, 50-year-old Mankallaya has a different story to tell.
The farmer says he is trying to grow vegetables this year instead of paddy because power supply is erratic and water scarce. And he has not managed to get a bank loan in the last two years.
“Where are the banks helping? I have been going around offices for the last two years to get my loan sanctioned. This officer is not there, that paper is not there. And they ask us not to take loans from moneylenders. Who will help us in that case?” asked Mankallaya.
While the Congress government claims it’s spending three times the amount that the TDP spent for the agricultural sector, many farmers say the plan is grand only on paper.
This is perhaps the reason why Mankallaya, who voted for the Congress in the last elections because it promised him a better life, does not want to vote for the same party again.

Posted in Farmers Suicides, News | Leave a Comment »

Maharashtra debt-ridden farmers threaten suicide over irregular power supply

Posted by Ramoo on January 20, 2007

Palshi village (Maharashtra), Jan 20 (ANI): Hundreds of farmers in Maharashtra’s Amravati District on Friday threatened to commit suicide en-masse over the State Government’s failure to redress the problem of irregular power supply.  Farmers of Amravati District’s Palshi village climbed atop a 150-feet high water tank to protest against irregular electricity supply.
“We demand that we be provided uninterrupted electricity supply for 12 hours every day, and at a proper voltage.
Currently we get electricity for just four to five hours everyday, at low voltage levels,” said Rajendra Marade, Deputy Chief of the Palshi Village Council.
They descended after a few hours, but only after receiving assurances from power supply officials that the matter will be looked at an urgent basis.
“We have been assured by the power distribution company officials that they will solve our problems in seven days,” said Marade.
The suicide threat was no gimmick, said Marade, adding that the step was taken as a last resort by the farmers who have nothing to harvest for want of enough electricity for irrigation.
The region has experienced three consecutive droughts and scores of farmers have committed suicide in the past year following crop failure and growing indebtedness.
India has officially admitted to the death of about 3,600 farmers over the last five years, in most of the cases huge debts being the cause of taking the extreme step.
Suicides in Maharashtra, especially in the Vidarbha region, crossed the 900 mark in 2006, despite highly publicised efforts by New Delhi to ease the financial burden of the farmers through Central and State Government grants. (ANI)

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DC hears woes of ryots families

Posted by Ramoo on January 20, 2007


Saturday January 20 2007 12:36 IST

SHIMOGA: Distressed widows, sons and daughters who were orphaned by the death of their farmer husbands or fathers gathered at the DC office to seek help from the government.
Due to the heavy loans the head of their family had committed suicide. But the major question who will solve their problem? A meeting was called at the DC’s office on Friday to discuss their problems.
The meeting aimed to identify cases of farmer suicides in Shimoga division and to disburse compensation under the special package announced by the Central Government. The poor condition of the families of the dead farmers was the main issue of the meeting.
Members of 65 agriculture families residing in the villages of Shimoga, Bhadravati and Tirtahalli taluks were present. They briefed the DC on the circumstances which forced the farmers to commit suicide.
Expressing grief over losing her mother Narasamma, Mamata said, ‘‘I am living like an orphan. My mother used to cultivate on our three acres of land in Nidige. She had taken Rs 2 lakh loan for the purpose. She failed to repay the loan due to crop loss and later committed suicide’’.
Vishalakshamma, Shantabai, Gangamma, Dhanalakshmi and others too requested to provide them compensation, immediately. They also demanded that the government should appoint their children to different government posts as per their educational qualification. Out of the 65 farmer families, only 10 received compensation. Farmers had committed suicides between 2003 and 2006. Members of such families used the meeting as a proper platform to convey their miseries.
Assistant Commissioner Vijaykumar, HQA to DC M Omkaramurthy, Zilla Panchayat deputy secretary Hemoji Naik, Registrar for Co-operative Societies Eshwaraswamy, Agriculture Department joint director Manjappa, Horticulture Department assistant director Shakeel Ahmed were present.

Posted in Debt burden, Farmers Suicides, News | Leave a Comment »

Adopt bottom up approach to revive agriculture: Experts

Posted by Ramoo on January 19, 2007

Financial Express, January 19 2007

NEW DELHI, JAN 18: Farmers and experts have told the Knowledge Commission that top-down approach in planning has damaged Indian agriculture. It is time to initiate the process of bottom-up approach and recognise the knowledge generated by generation of farmers over centuries as the tool for resolving the present crisis.
Knowledge Commission was set up Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh in October 2005 under the chairmanship of the telecom czar, Sam Pitroda to suggest generation, dissemination and use of knowledge in all sectors of the economy.

The commission recently met exclusively for agriculture and the meeting was presided over by the panel’s vice chairman Pushp M Bhargava and co-ordinated by Jayati Ghosh.

A farmer leader, Krishan Bir Chaudhary of Bharat Krishak Samaj who participated in the discussion said, “The present crisis in Indian agriculture is due to imposition of the model of capital-intensive, mechanised and chemical agriculture on small farms. Productivity through chemical agriculture has reached a plateau and factor productivity has started declining. Farmers have incurred heavy losses on account of failure of Bt cotton in different parts of the country.”

Another farmer leader, Vijay Jawandhia also questioned the relevance of transgenic crops in the country. Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign questioned the flow of extension services from universities to farmers. It is time to train rural youth in extension services and this would also generate rural employment.

Devinder Sharma of Forum for Food Security & Biotechnology questioned the lack of accountability among scientists and extension staff.

GV Ramanjaneyulu of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture suggested non-chemical pesticidal management (NPM) practices and organic farming and system of rice intensification (SRI) practices as solutions to the problem.

RB Singh of the National Commission for Farmers (NCF) suggested speedy implementation of NCF recommendations.

Posted in News | 1 Comment »

India: Bumper cotton yield fails to resolve agrarian crisis

Posted by Ramoo on January 18, 2007

January 18, 2007…

Bumper cotton yield in the 2006-2007 season failed to resolve agrarian crisis that farmers in Maharashtra are facing.

Even after bumper cotton yield, Government officials declared special relief packages to curb farmers’ suicides in Vidarbha.

While Maharashtra cotton marketing federation estimated yield of around 27.5 million quintals, Cotton Advisory Board revised its estimates to 25 million quintals now.

According to estimate, about 15 million quintals of cotton have been traded by private traders, Cotton Corporation of India and the state federation till mid-January.

During this season, cotton productivity increased from three quintals per acre to six on an average. Even the cost of production also increased and farmers have to invest between Rs8,000 and Rs10,000 which include cost of pesticides and fertilisers and labour charges.

Although cost of production has increased, private buyers are offering farmers an average price between Rs1,800 to Rs2,000 per quintal.

Posted in Economix, Farmers Suicides, News | Leave a Comment »

CPM cadres raid Nandigram

Posted by Ramoo on January 10, 2007

8 dead; TMC, Cong call for bandh today
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, January 7
A group of CPM cadres, armed with automatic rifles and other weapons and wearing police uniforms, raided Nandigram village last night and gunned down at least six farmers in accordance to the party’s suddenly adopted policy of applying force against the Krishi Bachaoo Committee, opposing the land transfer to Indonesia’s Salim group.

In the clashes that followed between the two groups, two CPM workers were also killed. Over 12 were severely injured either by gunshots or blasts and they had been admitted to different hospitals in Midnapore town and Kharagpur, where the condition of seven was stated to be critical.

The villagers killed included Biswajit Maiti, Bhudeb Mondal, Sk. Salim, Bharat Mondal, Sankar Samanta and Bishnu Maiti.

According to official reports, the CPM workers encircled Nandigram village around midnight and attacked the farmers assembled in the Garchakraberia, Sonachura and Tekhali bazaar areas. The attacks were retaliated and soon followed an armed clash between the two groups.

Oddly enough, there was no police force posted around the place at the time of the incident as it had been withdrawn earlier following the decision of the all-party meeting in the morning.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC), Congress, SUCI and several other parties have givev a call for Bangla bandh tomorrow demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and the imposition of President’s rule in the state.

Meanwhile, Mr Bhattacharjee, who was busy today negotiating with a Dubai-based industrialist, Sheikh Suleman, for an investment proposal at Kulpi in the Sunderbans where some 640 acres would be needed for the project, regretted the incident at Nandigram but reiterated that the industrial expansion programme would continue.

The incident was an outcome of a provocation call to the party cadres by Mr Benoy Konar, senior central committee member, who is also a prominent leader of the party’s Kishan Front, for confronting the unwilling farmers and their supporters with force for ensuring an easy transferring of 10,000 acres there to Salim industries.

He said their policy would now be “gun for gun and lathis for lathis”, alleging that some Naxalites and the branded criminals had been behind the farmers’ agitations who needed to be firmly tackled. Mr Konar had asked the Left front partners like the CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc either to support the government or quit.

Leaders of the three major front partners, namely the CPI, RSP and the FB demanded that the government should immediately stop “land grabbing policy” and hold all-party talks and adopt a decision on the future land acquiring for industries.

Ms Mamata Banerjee, who has been recuperating at a nursing home, and Mr Pradip Bhattacharyya, working WBPCC president, squarely blamed the chief minister for acting as an agent of the capitalists and held him responsible for the innocent killing in the Nandigram village.

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