Sunday, September 2, 2007

‘Sack Pawar, Deshmukh for ignoring Vidarbha’

'Sack Pawar, Deshmukh for ignoring Vidarbha'


The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti has alleged that the Rs 3,750-crore package announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last July has not helped reduce the number of suicides by cotton growers of Vidarbha. "In fact, 1,600 farmers have ended their lives after the PM's package was announced,'' Samiti convenor Kishor Tiwari told newspersons on Thursday. Singh is scheduled to review the implementation of the package at a meeting on Friday.

Tiwari said in the past seven years, over 10,000 debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide, but neither the Central nor the state government was treating the crisis seriously. "Even though Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar is from Maharashtra, he has not visited the affected farmers even once. The PM should sack him. Similarly, chief minister Vilasrao Desh
mukh also needs to be replaced since he too has failed the farmers,'' he said.

"If the government really wants to provide some relief, two primary demands of the farmers have to be met: complete waiver of all loans and procurement of cotton at Rs 3,000 per quintal. The government has granted concessions to the industrial sector with alacrity, but when it comes to writing off farmers' debts, it has dragged its feet," Tiwari said.

According to Afsar Jaffri of the Samiti, under the BJPled NDA regime American cotton was dumped on Indian markets and this had a disastrous consequence. He said American cotton growers, who numbered 25,000, received subsidies running into a few billion dollars which made it possible for them to produce cheap cotton. "The Manmohan Singh government should counter this subsidy, by imposing a 60% import duty on American cotton. Else, Indian cotton growers would continue to cultivate against heavy odds and end up incurring huge debts. The agrarian crisis in Vidarbha is symptomatic of the problems confronting Indian farmers as a whole. We should fight for a better deal for our farmers at WTO,'' he observed.

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