Saturday, November 10, 2007

Vidarbha farmer suicide toll crosses 1,000 in 2007

Farmer suicide toll crosses 1,000
NGO Disputes CM, Says Distressed Farmers' Relief Package Has Failed

Manish Sakharwade TNN

Nagpur: Even as Diwali festivities lit up every home, the same could not be said for a number of farm-families that fell victim to the grave agrarian crisis sweeping the Vidarbha region. The toll of distressed farmers taking the extreme step due to repeated crop failure and mounting indebtedness has crossed the 1,000 mark this year, with around seven more farmers committing suicide over the last two days alone. Till November, 1,015 farmers have committed suicide this year, claimed Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), which has been documenting Vidarbha's agrarian crisis along with farmers' suicides in the region. On Diwali day, a distressed cotton farmer Maroti Ramji Gedam consumed pesticide in Tumup, a remote village under Parwa police station of Yavatmal district. Gedam, a tribal farmer, failing to break the vicious cycle of debt and crop failure, consumed poison, claimed VJAS. According to VJAS convener Kishore Tiwari, six more farmers including, Eknath Namdeo Kadu (Amarvati), Ashok Mahadev Desai, Durgakar Chaudhari (both from Chandrapur), Babulal Jayram Rathode (Yavatmal), Anand Pandurang Kedar (Yavatmal) and Vasant Bhikaji Umare (Yavatmal). Recently, Tiwari had strongly disputed the claim of Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh's claim of success of package meant to bail-out distressed farmers of Vidarbha. ''The chief minister is painting a rosy picture which is quite contrary to reality,'' Tiwari claimed. Tiwari also alleged that the delay on part of the government in complete loan waiver for Vidarbha farmers ― as proposed by both the Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and the chief minister ― was one of the prime reasons driving distressed farmers to take the extreme step. ''On its part, the Centre and the Maharashtra government, in principle, agreed to give Rs 1,500 per hectare relief up to a maximum of five hectare to all cotton growers, yet there has been a delay in execution of the decision. Moreover the aid is not even reaching the farmers,'' Tiwari alleged. The state government had recently appointed another panel, headed by economist Narendra Jadhav, to study reasons for Vidarbha farmers' suicides. Prior to the appointment of Jadhav committee, the government had appointed seven fact finding panels to study Vidarbha farm suicides. The panel would also review the impact of prime minister's Rs 3,750-crore relief package announced last year for the six farmers' suicide-hit districts of Vidarbha. ''If the government was serious to save Vidarbha's dying farmers then they should act fast to provide relief to over 3 million dying farmers of Vidarbha,'' Tiwari said while reacting over the appointment of another probe panel on Vidarbha farm suicides. ''Loan waiver is a part of the relief but not a complete solution to Vidarbha agrarian crisis. The issues related to the cotton price and sustainable farming, along with Food Crop Promotion Programme has to be implemented,'' Tiwari added.

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