Sunday, September 14, 2008

Jadhav is running a rent-a-report service: Sainath

Jadhav is running a rent-a-report service: Sainath

After PM’s advisor Naresh Jadhav attacked Magasaysay-winning journalist over his report on Vidarbha farmers, P Sainath retaliates with an equally vitriolic counter attack

Posted On Sunday, September 14, 2008

Deepak Lokhande

Picking up the gauntlet thrown by the PM’s economic advisor and Pune University vice-chancellor Naresh Jadhav, Magasaysay award-winning journalist P Sainath on Saturday tore into him for his claims that the farmers’ plight in Vidarbha is not as bad as it has been made out and said that the V-C was running a ‘rent-a-report’ service for the state government.

As head of the one-man committee appointed by the state government to study the benefits of the Prime Minister’s relief package for Vidarbha farmers, Jadhav had said in his report that Sainath was painting an alarmist picture of Vidarbha and had ‘defamed’ the state by doing so.

Speaking to Mumbai Mirror from Norway, where he is attending an international conference, Sainath didn’t mince words, saying Jadhav’s report was just a ‘whitewash job for the state government’.

“How can criticising a state government mean criticism of the state,” said Sainath, the author of Everyone Loves A Good Drought who had described Maharashtra as a ‘graveyard for farmers’.

“He is running a rent-a-report service. His report is nothing but a whitewash job for the state government. He says Maharashtra is not the worst state, but only the fourth or fifth worst state in the country as far as farmers’ suicides are concerned. He is like a child who tells his father that he is not the last in the class, but fourth or fifth last,” said Sainath.

“Maharashtra is the only state where farmers are addressing their suicide notes to the CM and the PM. In Andhra, they wrote about policies, banks, moneylenders and others, but not the government. Here, they are telling the government we are killing ourselves because of you,” he said.

“In Maharashtra, we are putting our farmers in the pressure cooker and cooking them. And our CM says and I quote, ‘farmers should be grateful I am not prosecuting them as suicide is a crime’,” he added.

The veteran journalist added that contrary to Jadhav’s claims, the Maharashtra government had failed on every parameter, especially under Vilasrao Deshmukh’s leadership. Jadhav had claimed in his report that Sainath had used wrong parameters to indict the state government.

“The National Crime Records Bureau statistics show that one-fifth of 1.66 lakh farmers’ suicides between 1997 and 2005 were in Maharashtra. Is this figure something to be proud of?” Sainath asked, adding that the farmers’ plight in Vidarbha was the worst in 2006, a year after the prime minister and the chief minister announced separate relief packages.

“The year witnessed the highest ever number of farmers committing suicides since we started keeping records. Of the 17,060 farmers who committed suicides in the country, 4,453 were from the state, which is almost one-fourth. These figures are never rivalled by any other state. The closest figure was in 2004 - around 4,100 — and guess which state it was? Maharashtra, sadly,” he pointed out.

Countering Jadhav’s claims that Sainath chose wrong states (with less population to compare with Maharashtra), the journalist said even the population parameter didn’t save any grace for the state.

“The increase in the number of suicides (527) in 2006 was four-and-half-times that of Andhra Pradesh that recorded 117 more suicides than in 2005. Is Andhra four-and-half-times more populous than Maharashtra?” he asked.

“It’s amazing that after committee after committee found the situation in Vidarbha grave, Jadhav absolved the government. “The reports by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Indira Gandhi Institute for of Developmental Studies, the Planning Commission, NABARD team, state investigators have been more adverse than the previous.

And whatever the parameters or ratings, 34,000 farmers committing this something to be proud of?” he asked.

Pained that he was being painted as enemy of the state, Sainath said that if that was what he would get for telling the truth, then he wore it like a badge of honour.

Jadhav could not be contacted for his comments despite repeated attempts.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Farm activists hail hike in support price for cotton-

Farm activists hail hike in support price for cotton

Indo Asian News ServiceSun, Sep 7 06:10 PM

Nagpur, Sep 7 (IANS) Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), a people's movement group fighting for remunerative prices for agricultural produce, has hailed the government decision to raise the minimum support price (MSP) for cotton in the up-coming procurement year beginning next month.

'It's a good step to help the dying cotton farmers,' said VJAS president Kishor Tiwari, appealing to the state government to open all 516 procurement centres of the Maharashtra State Cotton Marketing Federation on time to fully reach the benefit to the cultivators.

The central government issued a notification Sep 1 regarding a hike of 33-40 percent in the MSP, saying it was necessary in view of the increased input costs and an overall rise in cotton prices. This was precisely what farmers had been persistently demanding over the last three years, Tiwari told IANS.

The MSP of medium staple cotton, which includes the popular Shankar variety, has been raised to Rs.2,500 per quintal while that of long staple fibre has been raised to Rs.3,000. The corresponding MSP for the two varieties last year was Rs.1,800 and Rs.2,250.

The highest support price under the state governments run by the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party front and the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance under the aegis of the monopoly cotton procurement scheme was Rs.2,500.

The scheme was all but wound up two years ago limiting the role of the federation to that of a competing player in the market with private traders.

With the federation operating only a small number of procurement centres, traders generally offering lower prices than the MSP and the global market prices of cotton falling during the 2005-2007 recession, the cultivators were left high and dry - many of them committed suicide.

The market prices went up to Rs.3,000 a quintal last year and are likely to rule higher this year, a key factor explaining the MSP hike, another reason being the forthcoming general elections.

Pointing to these factors, farm activist Vijay Jawandhiya has demanded the government undertake steps to maintain the MSP at this level in the years to come even if the market prices fall.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Nine more farmers commit suicide in Vidarbha

Yavatmal, Aug 31 (PTI) The relentless suicides of Vidarbha farmers have further intensified during the last three days as nine more suicides of farmers have been reported during the Pola festival from different parts of the region.
According to sources in Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti, nine more debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide during the Pola festival in the last three days.

All the victims belonged to dalit and tribal families who were debt-ridden farmers and were in acute financial crisis.

The credit starved local co-operative banks failed to give fresh crop loans to the farmers even as Finance Minister P Chidambaram claimed that loans are being distributed to all the distressed and debt-ridden farmers.

As a matter of fact the local banks are not having the money to give fresh farm credit as NABARD has not given agriculture short-term loans for this purpose till now. More than 90 per cent cotton farmers are left out of the loan waiver scheme announced by the Union government and farmers are still not getting the fresh crop loan in Vidarbha, the Samiti said in a press release here today. PTI

Four Vidharbha farmers kill themselves on their biggest day of the year

Indo Asian News ServiceMon, Sep 1 12:30 PM

Nagpur, Sep 1 (IANS) Four debt-trapped Vidarbha farmers ended their lives last weekend on the day of Pola - the year's biggest religious festival for farmers in Maharashtra, according to reports received here Monday.

The farmers were anguished by their inability to celebrate Pola in even a symbolic manner, said the reports, reviving sad memories of the Pola day two years ago, when two farmers had committed suicide.

The four suicides this weekend were reported from Soneri village of Amravati district, Muktapur of Nagpur district and Pendhri and Kona of Yavatmal district on the day farmers in the region worship their bullocks with great gusto and rejoice in the midst of the emerging kharif harvest.

Five more debt-trapped farmers in this region had killed themselves just a day before that, already casting a pall of gloom on the festival despite the central government's unprecedented Rs.710 billion farm loan waiver.

While a tragic story hangs by each suicide, that of 32-year old Rajesh Wange of Soneri village is most striking. Owner of a seven-acres farm, three of them irrigated, Rajesh had taken a loan of Rs.51,000 from a credit cooperative society which he could not repay. He needed more money as everything had been spent on re-sowing and repeated farming operations necessitated by a 45-day-long dry spell. On top of it, his soyabean crop suffered severe damage due to an attack of spodoptera pest (army worm).

Rajesh drank poison at home Saturday afternoon while his family had joined the rest of the village right in front of his house, with their bedecked bullocks ready for the Pola show. Coming to know of the suicide, the villagers abandoned the festivities.

Villagers of Muktapur in Nagpur district also abandoned their Pola as one of them, Pramod Chowre, committed suicide even as the celebrations there were about to reach a crescendo.

Shamrao Kumre, 37, of Pendhri village and Vitthal Upre, 30, of Kona village in Yavatmal district were the two others to cut short their lives on the day of the farmers' signature festival.

The five farmers who committed suicide a day earlier were Sanjay Gond of Ibrahimpur and Shamrao Waghmare of Sawargaon in Buldana district, Devidas Petkar and Tulsiram Nagose respectively of village Wadha and Chora in Chandrapur district and Narsinglu Rukmawar of village Mandvi in Yavatmal district.

The suicides of Gangaram Meshram and Anil Shende of Yavatmal district on Pola day in 2006 had stirred the conscience of the country.

That was the year that saw the maximum number of suicides in Vidarbha and elsewhere mocking the Rs.37.50 billion relief package of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. That year, cotton, the region's main cash crop, fetched a record low price of Rs.1,700 per quintal.

In 2008, while a whopping Rs.170 billion loan waiver has been announced, only a small proportion has so far been disbursed as the cooperative banks are facing a cash crunch. The ongoing monsoon in the region has been punctured by two dry spells - one that lasted 45 days in June-July followed by another, which is still on, with a brief spell of rainfall in between.

The vagary has been compounded by an unprecedented attack of the spodoptera pest that damaged standing crops spread over at least 150,000 hectares.

Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti leader Kishor Tiwari told IANS he apprehended more suicides in the days to come as enough funds were not being provided for loan disbursal and the farmers hit by the army worm attack were not being bailed out quickly enough.