Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vidarbha Cotton Farmers to start agitation from 3rd November for Opening Procurement Centre

Vidarbha Cotton Farmers to start agitation from 3rd November for Opening Procurement Centre
Nagpur-28Th October 2009
3 million cotton farmers who are facing drought and crop failure now forced to sale the raw cotton in throw away prices much less than minimum support price (MSP) as till date neither Govt. of India nor local Maharashtra Govt. has started cotton procurement centres allowing private traders to exploit the hostile condition and distress sale of cotton by vidarbha cotton farmers adding more despair and gloom to the on going agrarian crisis which has claimed more than 7300 farmers suicides in last past five years .


"last year C.C.I. and NAFED started procurement @ Rs.3000/- per quintal that is MSP but now elections are over and congress has been benefited with that decision ,now there is no urgent need for them to address the cotton procurement issue " kishore tiwari of vidarbha jan andolan samiti informed in a press note .

VJAS has urged Govt. to start procurement centres by 2nd November otherwise ,3 million cotton farmers will start agitation from 3rd november by bringing cart at all centres and will start dharana agitation to start the centres with out further delay ,kishore tiwari informed today .

"this year both cash crop soybean and cotton of vidarbha failed due drought and distress sale will add fuel to the on going agrarian crisis hence we need Govt. intervention without further delay in order to on going farm suicides in the region" tiwari urged.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The medium, message and the money-P. Sainath



Return to frontpage


October 26, 2009

The medium, message and the money

P. Sainath
Elderly voters on their their way to the polling station during the Assembly elections at Karad in Maharashtra.
PTI Elderly voters on their their way to the polling station during the Assembly elections at Karad in Maharashtra.

The Assembly elections saw the culture of “coverage packages” explode across Maharashtra. In many cases, a candidate just had to pay for almost any coverage at all.

C. Ram Pandit can now resume his weekly column. Dr. Pandit (name changed) had long been writing for a well-known Indian language newspaper in Maharashtra. On the last day for the withdrawal of nominations to the recent State Assembly elections, he found himself sidelined. An editor at the paper apologised to him saying: “Panditji, your columns will resume after October 13. Till then, every page in this paper is sold.” The editor, himself an honest man, was simply speaking the truth.

In the financial orgy that marked the Maharashtra elections, the media were never far behind the moneybags. Not all sections of the media were in this mode, but quite a few. Not just small local outlets, but powerful newspapers and television channels, too. Many candidates complained of “extortion” but were not willing to make an issue of it for fear of drawing media fire. Some senior journalists and editors found themselves profoundly embarrassed by their managements. “The media have been the biggest winners in these polls,” says one ruefully. “In this period alone,” says another, “they’ve more than bounced back from the blows of the ‘slowdown’ and done so in style.” Their poll-period take is estimated to be in hundreds of millions of rupees. Quite a bit of this did not come as direct advertising but in packaging a candidate’s propaganda as “news.”

The Assembly elections saw the culture of “coverage packages” explode across the State. In many cases, a candidate just had to pay for almost any coverage at all. Issues didn’t come into it. No money, no news. This effectively shut out smaller parties and independent voices with low assets and resources. It also misled viewers and readers by denying them any mention of the real issues some of these smaller forces raised. The Hindu reported on this (April 7, 2009) during the Lok Sabha elections, where sections of the media were offering low-end “coverage packages" for Rs.15 lakh to Rs.20 lakh. “High-end” ones cost a lot more. The State polls saw this go much further.

None of this, as some editors point out, is new. However, the scale is new and stunning. The brazenness of it (both ways) quite alarming. And the game has moved from the petty personal corruption of a handful of journalists to the structured extraction of huge sums of money by media outfits. One rebel candidate in western Maharashtra calculates that an editor from that region spent Rs.1 crore “on just local media alone.” And, points out the editor, “he won, defeating the official candidate of his party.”

The deals were many and varied. A candidate had to pay different rates for ‘profiles,’ interviews, a list of ‘achievements,’ or even a trashing of his rival in some cases. (With the channels, it was “live” coverage, a ‘special focus,’ or even a team tracking you for hours in a day.) Let alone bad-mouthing your rival, this “pay-per” culture also ensures that the paper or channel will not tell its audiences that you have a criminal record. Over 50 per cent of the MLAs just elected in Maharashtra have criminal charges pending against them. Some of them featured in adulatory “news items” which made no mention of this while tracing their track record.

At the top end of the spectrum, “special supplements” cost a bomb. One put out by one of the State’s most important politicians — celebrating his “era” — cost an estimated Rs.1.5 crore. That is, just this single media insertion cost 15 times what he is totally allowed to spend as a candidate. He has won more than the election, by the way.

One common low-end package: Your profile and “four news items of your choice” to be carried for between Rs.4 lakh or more depending on which page you seek. There is something chilling about those words “news items of your choice.” Here is news on order. Paid for. (Throw in a little extra and a writer from the paper will help you draft your material.) It also lent a curious appearance to some newspaper pages. For instance, you could find several “news items” of exactly the same size in the same newspaper on the same day, saying very different things. Because they were really paid-for propaganda or disguised advertisements. A typical size was four columns by ten centimetres. When a pro-saffron alliance paper carries “news items” of this size extolling the Congress-NCP, you know strange things are happening. (And, oh yes, if you bought “four news items of your choice” many times, a fifth one might be thrown in gratis.)

There were a few significant exceptions to the rule. A couple of editors tried hard to bring balance to their coverage and even ran a “news audit” to ensure that. And journalists who, as one of them put it, “simply stopped meeting top contacts in embarrassment.” Because, often, journalists with access to politicians were expected to make the approach. That information came from a reporter whose paper sent out an email detailing “targets” for each branch and edition during the elections. The bright exceptions were drowned in the flood of lucre. And the huge sums pulled in by that paper have not stopped it from sacking droves of staffers. Even from editions that met their ‘targets.’

There are the standard arguments in defence of the whole process. Advertising packages are the bread and butter of the industry. What’s wrong with that? “We have packages for the festive season. Diwali packages, or for the Ganesh puja days.” Only, the falsehoods often disguised as “news” affect an exercise central to India’s electoral democracy. And are outrageously unfair to candidates with less or no money. They also amount to exerting undue influence on the electorate.

There is another poorly assessed — media-related — dimension to this. Many celebrities may have come out in May to exhort people to vote. This time, several of them appear to have been hired by campaign managers to drum up crowds for their candidate. Rates unknown.

All of this goes hand in hand with the stunning rise of money power among candidates. More so among those who made it the last time and have amassed huge amounts of wealth since 2004. With the media and money power wrapped like two peas in a pod, this completely shuts out smaller, or less expensive, voices. It just prices the aam aadmi out of the polls. Never mind they are contested in his name.

Your chances of winning an election to the Maharashtra Assembly, if you are worth over Rs.100 million, are 48 times greater than if you were worth just Rs.1 million or less. Far greater still, if that other person is worth only half-a-million rupees or less. Just six out of 288 MLAs in Maharashtra who won their seats declared assets of less than half-a-million rupees. Nor should challenges from garden variety multi-millionaires (those worth between Rs.1 million-10 million) worry you much. Your chances of winning are six times greater than theirs, says the National Election Watch (NEW).

The number of ‘crorepati’ MLAs (those in the Rs.10 million-plus category) in the State Assembly has gone up by over 70 per cent in the just concluded elections. There were 108 elected in 2004. This time, there are 184. Nearly two-thirds of the MLAs just elected in Maharashtra and close to three-fourths of those in Haryana, are crorepatis. These and other startling facts fill the reports put out by NEW, a coalition of over 1,200 civil society groups across the country that also brought out excellent reports on these issues during the Lok Sabha polls in April-May. Its effort to inform the voting public is spearheaded by the NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

Each MLA in Maharashtra, on average, is worth over Rs.40 million. That is, if we treat their own poll affidavit declarations as genuine. That average is boosted by Congress and BJP MLAs who seem richer than the others, being well above that mark. The NCP and the Shiv Sena MLAs are not too far behind, though, the average worth of each of their legislators being in the Rs.30 million-plus bracket.

Each time a giant poll exercise is gone through in this most complex of electoral democracies, we congratulate the Election Commission on a fine job. Rightly so, in most cases. For, many times, its interventions and activism have curbed rigging, booth capturing and ballot stuffing. On the money power front, though — and the media’s packaging of big money interests as “news” — it is hard to find a single significant instance of rigorous or deterrent action. These too, after all, are serious threats. More structured, much more insidious than crude ballot stuffing. Far more threatening to the basics of not just elections, but democracy itself.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Another black diwali vidarbha cotton farmers

Another black diwali vidarbha cotton farmers
Nagpur -17th October 2009
DIWALI is not for Soybean and cotton farmers in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region have planned to boycott Diwali, the festival of lights, this year after crop failure and very less yields,due to delayed monsoons, poor rainfall and pest attacks, the crop has been damaged this year.
as farmers have no bringing and selling their crop resulting distress sale below minimum support price MSP as it has been reported by daily sakal in nagpur today and

I quote
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वणीत खासगी कापूस खरेदीला सुरवात
सकाळ वृत्तसेवा
Friday, October 16th, 2009 AT 12:10 AM
वणी (जि. यवतमाळ) - दिवाळीच्या तोंडावर येथील खासगी व्यापाऱ्यांनी कापूस खरेदी सुरू केली असून, आज (ता. 15) पहिल्या दिवशी 2,751 रुपये क्विंटल असा भाव मिळाला. 41 बैलगाड्या, 15 टेम्पो, मेटॅडोर कापूस विक्रीसाठी दाखल झाले असून, पहिल्या पाच शेतकऱ्यांना शाल व श्रीफळ देऊन खरेदीला सुरवात करण्यात आली. कापसाला 2,751 रुपये क्विंटल भाव मिळाल्याने शेतकऱ्यांत नाराजी दिसून आली. मात्र, समोर असलेल्या दिवाळीची सोय करण्याच्या उद्देशाने शेतकरी कापूस घेऊन कृषी उत्पन्न बाजार समितीमध्ये हजर झाल्याचे दिसून आले. बापू गोहणे (मानवडी), बाबाराव गौरकार (वीरकुंड), दादाजी टोंगे (कोरबी मारेगाव), गुलाब राजूरकर (डोंगरगाव) व गणेश गुप्ता (वणी) यांना आज प्रथम मान मिळाला. प्रदीप निखाडे, नि. ल. झाडे, के. ल. कुलटे, ल. ना. बोंडे, ज. क. वैद्य, रेखा निमकर, सविता मिलमिले, सु. रू. धानोरकर, नि. श. गावंडे, संजीवरेड्डी बोदकुलवार, श. प. दगडी, म. का. लडके यांच्यासह खासगी व्यापारी व शेतकरी यावेळी उपस्थित होते. आज (ता. 15) अंदाजे 1,000 क्विंटल कापसाची आवक झाल्याचे सांगण्यात आले. यावर्षी कापसाची आवक कमी प्रमाणात होणार, असा अंदाज चर्चेतून दिसून आला. निवडणुकीच्या धामधुमीत ग्रामीण शेतकरी आपली सर्व कामे बाजूला सारून रणधुमाळीत रंगले होते. पण, मतदान होताच कापूस खरेदीला सुरवात झाल्याने शेतकरी पुन्हा घरच्या काळजीत दिसून येत आहेत.
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this is another black diwali for the farmers as daily Tarun Bharat in nagpur today reported that on the eve of diwali theree farmers committed suicides as reports made available by VJAS ,here is the News Item

I quote

VJAS has urged GOI to provide immediate relief dying vidarbha farmers as there is no supply of food grain under PDS to BPL families in last two months in vidarbha that's resulted black diwali of farm workers too.
procurement centers should be opened without delay in order to stop distress sale of cotton as this will trigger new spate of cotton farmers suicides adding fuel to on going agrarian crisis in the region ,kishore tiwati of VJAS urged the administration today.

the ground reality too serious to express as it has been reported today in local media via ANI that
===============
A majority of the farmers have invested their money on the crops, but have incurred losses. Therefore, this year, they have decided to boycott Diwali celebrations. “Diwali is for high-class people and not for us. This year, we didn’t have good crop yields. Most of the crops have bee damaged. Whatever money we had, we have invested it on crops,” said Datta Shirke, a farmer. Soyabean crops are usually ready for the market before Diwali. But this year, due to delay in crop cutting, the crop is still lying in the fields. Besides, pests have also damaged the crop. “We had some hope this year of receiving a good crop. Then, we could have celebrated Diwali. But now that all our crops are destroyed, we are in no mood to celebrate Diwali. We have no money to spend during this festival,” said Manohar Nagose, another farmer. By Sunil Dhage
==============

Now elections are over and huge cry of political parties on vidarbha cottton farmer s suicide is also over hence the ground situation is much more hostile as we are left to count the farm suicide figure ,tiwari added.

VJAS urged international community to save vidarbha farmers.




Farmers in vidarbha not to celebrate Diwali

Vidarbha (Maharashtra): Soybean and cotton farmers in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region have planned to boycott Diwali, the festival of lights, this year after receiving poor crop yields.

Soyabean and cotton are primary crops grown in the drought-prone Vidarbha region. Due to delayed monsoons, poor rainfall and pest attacks, the crop has been damaged this year.

Farmers have little money left after cutting and selling their crop.

A majority of the farmers have invested their money on the crops, but have incurred losses. Therefore, this year, they have decided to boycott Diwali celebrations.

"Diwali is for high-class people and not for us. This year, we didn't have good crop yields. Most of the crops have bee damaged. Whatever money we had, we have invested it on crops," said Datta Shirke, a farmer.

Soyabean crops are usually ready for the market before Diwali. But this year, due to delay in crop cutting, the crop is still lying in the fields.

Besides, pests have also damaged the crop.

"We had some hope this year of receiving a good crop. Then, we could have celebrated Diwali. But now that all our crops are destroyed, we are in no mood to celebrate Diwali. We have no money to spend during this festival," said Manohar Nagose, another farmer.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vidarbha Agrarian crisis-TIME magazine cover story







Monday, Oct. 26, 2009

Back to the Land: The New Green Revolution





Anyone walking through Prashant Thakare's freshly planted cotton field in the central Indian village of Takarakhede Shambhu could easily mistake a 65-ft.-wide (20 m) pool of murky water for, well, a pool of murky water. Yet that simple pond has transformed Thakare's 22-acre (9 hectare) farm and, indeed, his life.

Thakare, like nearly all the farmers in this arid region of Vidarbha in the state of Maharashtra, is dependent on India's annual monsoon to provide the water necessary to grow his cotton and soybeans. A failed monsoon meant disaster. Without the rain, the crops withered, and so did his primary source of income. Every year, all Thakare could do as the midyear planting season approached was wait and hope that the monsoon would deliver enough rain so he could support his family. (Read "Hungry? How About Some Protein-Rich Cotton...")

Then came the pond. The local government sent a construction team to Thakare's farm last year to dig the 10-ft.-deep (3 m) pond, financing the $600 investment with funds from a new program to support local agriculture. Strategically located in the path of runoff rainwater, the pond — a common feature of rural-resource management — collects water from the monsoon rains that would otherwise have just been wasted. By capturing and storing rainwater, the pond helps to fill the farm's wells. With a more reliable supply of water, Thakare's productivity soared. Not only did he plant his usual summer cotton crop last year, but he also had enough water to grow an entirely new crop of sunflowers during the winter. The pond, he says, helped double his usual output of lentils as well. The added sales put an extra $1,000 in his pocket, which he saved as a nest egg for his two children. "I feel that my life is secure," says Thakare, 36. "You don't worry about what will happen in the future."

With so much yield for so few bucks, it might seem surprising that Indian authorities hadn't dug Thakare a pond long before now. But small farmers like Thakare have been neglected for much of the past three decades — and not only in India. Throughout the developing world, agriculture was the also-ran of the global economy. Governments equated economic progress with steel mills and shoe factories. While urban centers thrived and city dwellers got rich, hundreds of millions of farmers remained mired in poverty. Agriculture in many developing nations stagnated.

Now the farm is back. Fears of food shortages, a rethinking of antipoverty priorities and the crushing recession are causing a dramatic shift in world economic policy in favor of greater support for agriculture. Farmers like Thakare are being showered with more aid and investment by governments and development agencies than they have in decades in a renewed global quest for food security and rural development. The effort is still in its early stages, and some promises made have yet to be translated into real results. Some programs already in place may prove to be flawed. But a new commitment to agriculture by the global community is clearly emerging. The latest G-8 summit of the world's largest economies, held in Italy in July, declared "there is an urgent need for decisive action to free humankind from hunger" and, citing the sector's perennial neglect, pledged $20 billion for agriculture. "Since 2007, we have seen greater attention from world leaders on food security, in developed and developing countries alike," says Kostas Stamoulis, director of agricultural-development economics at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome. The resources being committed to farming "is putting-your-money-where-your-mouth-is kind of money."

Seeds of Disaster
The world's farmers haven't felt such love since the 1970s. Then, as food prices spiked, there was real concern that the world was facing a Malthusian crisis in which the planet was simply unable to produce enough grain and meat for an expanding population. Governments across the developing world and international aid organizations plowed investment into agriculture in the 1960s and 1970s, while technological breakthroughs, like high-yield strains of important food crops, boosted production. The result was the Green Revolution. Food production exploded. In India, for example, grain output more than doubled between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s.

But the Green Revolution became a victim of its own success. Food prices plunged by some 60% (when adjusted for inflation) by the late 1980s from their peak in the mid-1970s. Policymakers and aid workers turned their attention to the poor's other pressing needs, such as health care and education. Farming got starved of resources and investment. In 1979, 18% of official development aid worldwide was directed at agriculture; by 2004, that amount sank to 3.5%. "Agriculture lost its glitter," says the FAO's Stamoulis. "The world didn't think that food was a major issue. There was plenty of food, at low prices."

The years of neglect took their toll on the world's farmers, laying the groundwork for a crisis. During the Green Revolution in India, for example, crop yields routinely grew at 4% to 6% a year; by the late 1980s, the annual increase had fallen to 2% or less. At the same time, demand for food increased. As consumers in high-growth giants such as China and India became wealthier, they began eating more meat, so grain once used for human consumption got diverted to beef up livestock. Making matters worse, land and resources also got reallocated to produce biofuels. Once voluminous reserves of grain evaporated; this year, they are at the lowest levels since the mid-1970s. By early 2008, panicked buying by importing countries and restrictions slapped on grain exports by some big producers helped drive prices up to heights not seen for three decades. Protests broke out across the emerging world; in Haiti, fierce food riots toppled the government. NEW LIMITS TO GROWTH REVIVE MALTHUSIAN FEARS, a Wall Street Journal headline screamed in March 2008.

Watch TIME's video "Saving China's Grasslands."

Read "The World's Growing Food-Price Crisis."

The food crisis spurred global leaders into action. "There seems to be an awareness that [food security] is one of the fundamental issues in the world that has to be dealt with," says Christopher Delgado, policy adviser on agriculture and rural development at the World Bank in Washington. In a July report, a committee of British parliamentarians called on their government to invest in agricultural research and encourage local farmers to grow more fruit and other produce. The U.S., which traditionally provisioned food aid from American grain surpluses to help needy nations, is moving toward investing in farm sectors around the globe to boost productivity. "If we can help countries become more productive for themselves, then they will be in a better position to feed their own people," U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in June.

The New Green Revolution
Africa, which missed out on the first Green Revolution due to poor policy and limited resources, is also witnessing the beginnings of real change. In Senegal, 2008 protests sparked by rising food prices scared the government into instituting a program to make the country of 12 million people less dependent on imported grain. Grandly named the Great Agricultural Offensive for Food and Abundance, or GOANA, policymakers aimed to boost local agricultural production by subsidizing seeds, doling out farm implements and speeding up irrigation investments. The program convinced Ngor Sarr, a subsistence farmer in the region of Fatick in western Senegal, and the other members of his agricultural cooperative to expand their paddy fields last year. Though the seeds he received through GOANA weren't of top quality, leading to mediocre yields — a common problem with the program, critics contend — Sarr's rice output increased enough to encourage him to join GOANA again this planting season. The new government scheme "gives us the chance to do something extra, to try and expand our fields, and that's very good," Sarr says. (See pictures of a global food crisis.)

The renewed focus on the farm is being driven by more than fear. Development experts believe a new approach to farming is crucial in order to lift up the world's remaining poor, 75% of whom live in rural areas. Swayed by the success of East Asia, the primary poverty-fighting method favored by many policymakers was to get farmers off their farms and into modern jobs in factories and urban centers. But that strategy has proven insufficient. Income levels in the countryside badly trail those in cities in many countries, while the FAO estimates that the number of poor going hungry in 2009 reached an all-time high at more than 1 billion. "The bottom of the pyramid really depends on agriculture," says Suresh Babu, senior fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington. "There is no other way to bring them out of poverty except with agriculture."

India is a salutary case study for its renewed commitment to agriculture — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for "another Green Revolution" in his Aug. 15 Independence Day speech — as well as for how much still needs to be done. In 2004 politicians in New Delhi got a wake-up call on the plight of the country's farmers. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ran for re-election in 2004 with a campaign slogan of INDIA SHINING, aimed at capitalizing on the country's astounding record of rapid growth. But India's struggling farmers didn't see much shining in their own lives, and voted the BJP out. The unacknowledged reality was that the farms hadn't yet joined in India's economic boom. While GDP grew on average 5.7% a year between the launch of India's market reforms in 1991 and 2004, agriculture slumped along at just 2.9%. Indian farming had also become miserably inefficient. Each hectare of cultivated land in India produces half that grown in Thailand. "The government thought that after liberalization, agriculture would grow automatically, that money would go from industry" to the farms, says Shreenivas Khandewale, director of the R.S. Ruikar Institute of Labor and Socio-Cultural Studies in Nagpur. "But it didn't come."

Growth Model
When the indian national congress took power in 2004, Singh changed course and began an intensive effort to improve the lot of the nation's farmers. Between the 2003-04 and 2008-09 fiscal years, the central government's budget for agriculture quadrupled. Government schemes built rural roads to help farmers get their produce to market, forgave some of their debts and raised minimum purchase prices on cotton, rice and other crops. In 2005, policymakers launched the Bharat Nirman program, aimed at providing electricity, housing and irrigation systems to the country's farmers, and, a year later, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which promised at least 100 days of work each year for poor farming households, often on public-works projects to develop infrastructure in the countryside. In the latest federal budget, announced in July, funds allocated for the rural jobs scheme jumped 144% from the previous year to more than $8 billion — making it the largest social-welfare program in the budget — while funding for Bharat Nirman was boosted by 45%. "It was very clear to us that if you want inclusive growth, it is going to require a significant increase in the productivity of land," says Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of India's Planning Commission in New Delhi.

Perhaps no single region of India's vast hinterland has received more concentrated government attention than Vidarbha. One of India's more distressed farming regions, Vidarbha became infamous for its high rate of farmer suicides. The problem became so severe in 2006, when more than 1,250 took their lives, that Singh toured Vidarbha and announced a special $780 million development program for the area, which the locals refer to simply as "the package."

See TIME's photo-essay "From Farm to Fork."

(See pictures of urban farming.)

Three years later, K.S. Mulay, a state agricultural officer based in the Vidarbha town of Amravati, proudly reads off a long list of the progress the government has made so far. Nearly $39 million has been spent subsidizing high-yield seeds, Mulay says, plus $24 million on developing fruit orchards and other pricey produce, and another $24 million on building micro-irrigation projects. As Mulay drives down narrow roads through Vidarbha's cotton fields, he stops his jeep every few miles to show off the government's handiwork. First, he marches up a muddy hillside to a small dam the government built to help farmers preserve monsoon rainwater — one of more than 9,000 constructed in the region over the past three years. Next he visits the farm of Bhiamrao Mahore, who received free orange-tree saplings from a state-funded nursery. Mahore hopes his oranges will bring more money than the cotton he had planted before. Next stop is a state-sponsored training session where scores of local farmers collect for a PowerPoint presentation on how best to protect crops during a drought. "We are trying to increase the income and productivity of the farmers," Mulay says. "All the work cannot be done in three years. But it is a beginning."

And, for now, just that. Some Indian economists criticize the government for spending too much on welfare programs, such as the job-guarantee scheme, and not enough on irrigation systems and other investments that could make farms more productive. "Giving a cow won't help a farmer long-term," says Paurnima Sawai, 42, a farmer in Takarakhede Shambhu village. "But money to build a dam is a long-term investment. For years, you get benefits from it." With only 40% of its farmland irrigated, India's entire economic boom is held hostage by the unpredictable monsoon. With much of India's farming areas suffering from drought this year, the government will have a tough time meeting its economic-growth targets. In an August report, Goldman Sachs predicted that this year's weak rains could cause agriculture to contract 2% this fiscal year, making the government's 7% GDP-growth target look "a bit rich." Even Thakare, with his pond, may not have enough water to plant his extra crops this year. Abusaleh Shariff, a senior fellow at IFPRI's New Delhi office, argues that allocating money is only part of the government's task. The farmers also need better training, technology and marketing opportunities. "Do we have any of these? Almost none," Shariff says. "The government program needs to be improved, and we need to devote a lot more resources." (See pictures of urban farming around the world.)

Nature vs. Nurture
Tulasidas mandase of bivara barsa village in Vidarbha couldn't agree more. Though he has received aid from the government, Mandase, 38, complains that it hasn't been the right kind. The state donated a metal plow and a pesticide sprayer, but neither worked. To get subsidized soybean seeds, he spends a full day traveling by bus to a nearby town. It often takes two or three trips, and, with bus fares costing him 60� per roundtrip, he wonders if the cheaper seeds are worth the effort. What he really requires, he says, is better infrastructure to make him less dependent on the monsoon. Mandase believes that he might need a deeper well and electricity to run a pump — investments he could never afford on this own. In lieu of that, Mandase, with the local monsoon spotty, can only pin his hopes on divine intervention. In late July, Mandase visited a Hindu temple near his village and offered a coconut to the gods. He then split it, left half on the altar and took the other home to eat. The puja, or religious rite, is meant to bring rain. "All I need is water," Mandase says.

Kishor Tiwari believes the farmers require much more than that. The Nagpur-based activist, whose organization, the Vidarbha People's Protest Forum, has championed the region's cotton growers, says that the package has alleviated some of the farmers' distress. But Tiwari says that more government intervention is needed to solve the real underlying problem: a global agricultural market rigged against the small tiller. While the costs of crucial inputs, like fertilizer, have been rising, global prices for cotton are being depressed to an artificially low level by U.S.-government subsidies for its cotton farmers — a one-two punch, he says, that makes profitable farming in Vidarbha practically impossible. "The input prices are set by someone else while the purchase prices are set by someone else," Tiwari says. "That's why the farmers are killing themselves." He wants the Indian government to better defend its own farmers by providing heavier subsidies for cotton production, protection from imports, easier access to finance and price supports. "If the government forces the farmers to have better productivity, it should have an integrated approach that is devised to have more profitability," he says.

Yet Tiwari's protectionist approach could actually hurt farmers. The World Bank's Delgado says that most projections show trade liberalization in agriculture would create significant increases in prices — as much as 20% for cotton and 7% for food grains. Not only would those gains increase the incentive for farmers to grow greater quantities of food, but they would also put more money in farmers' pockets, creating a new source of global demand. But with World Trade Organization negotiations on agricultural trade stalled on the issue of subsidies, it seems unlikely that farmers in Vidarbha and elsewhere will see these benefits anytime soon.

Policymakers can't afford to wait. The FAO forecasts that food production will need to double by 2050 in order to keep up with rising demand, a task that will require $30 billion of investment annually. "Governments are scrambling to fix some of the problems, but it will take time," says Akmal Siddiq, a natural-resources economist at the Asian Development Bank in Manila. Farmers like Namdeo Sidam, 48, know that all too well. He, his wife and three sons live in a mud-walled shack in the fly-infested village of Marathwakadi in Vidarbha, and aside from a free plow, the government's ample funds have yet to trickle his way. Sidam gets no subsidies for his seeds, no guaranteed rural work has been available in the area and no new water resources have been developed near his farm, nor did he get state help with his $350 debt. Government agricultural officials hardly ever visit the village, he says, and he appears uninformed about the new initiatives that might help him. He is still dependent on the cotton crop he grows on his small farm, supplemented by the wages his sons can earn in part-time jobs. "Not much has changed," he laments. To make the new Green Revolution a reality, the global community still has much backbreaking farm work to do.

— with reporting by Nilanjana Bhowmick / New Delhi, Chengcheng Jiang / Beijing, Yuki Oda / Tokyo, Shashikant Sawant / Nagpur and Joost Van Egmond / Dakar

See pictures of what the world eats.

See TIME's Pictures of the Week.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Vidarbha Farm Widows Crisis-Bebitai's victory before election - Indian Express

Indian Express

In Kalavati’s wake, out of Kalavati’s shadow

Shweta Desai Posted online: Thursday , Oct 08, 2009 at 1148 hrs
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/in-kalavatis-wake-out-of-kalavatis-shadow/526378/0#
Wani (Yavatmal) : Dressed in a pale green sari, her head neatly covered, her feet bare, 45-year-old Babytai Bais is out campaigning for the second day in her small village of Hivra Basra, giving out pamphlets with her photograph next to the symbol of a burning candle. She does not make speeches nor does she seek votes for herself. Instead, touching the feet of village elders, she just says: “Lakshya rahu dya (watch out for me).”

Following the withdrawal from the Assembly elections of Kalavati Bandurkar — the Vidarbha widow who became the face of the farm crisis after Rahul Gandhi visited her and mentioned her in a speech in Parliament — the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) has fielded Babytai against Congress ex-MLA Wamanrao Kasawar and Sena MLA Vishwas Nandekar in Wani.

Babytai admits she does not know the names of her opponents. She refers to them just as ‘Panja’ and ‘Dhanushban’ (symbols of the Congress and Sena) candidates. However, the political novice and Class IV dropout is fast learning her politics.

Criticising Kalavati for withdrawing her nomination, Babytai says: “She thought only about herself and not about her sisters like me... I am contesting the election for my 7,000 distressed sisters. I hope the government gives them a pension and raises the price of cotton per quintal.”

While there is cynicism about her candidature following the drama that surrounded Kalavati’s nomination and withdrawal, there is no discounting the fact that Babytai remains one of the most active women from her village. She led the campaign for ‘daaru bandi (prohibition)’ in Hivra Basra, and became among the few from the village to have stepped outside Maharashtra, or for that matter Yavatmal, when she went to Delhi to highlight the plight of farm widows in 2007.

VJAS chief Kishore Tiwari is confident of her victory. “Our workers have reached all the villages of Wani and they know Babytai. We are not here to be spoilers, but want to fight the elections for farmers and their real problems,” he says.

One vote Tiwari is obviously counting on is the growing number of women whose husbands killed themselves after being caught in a debt trap across Vidarbha, and particularly Yavatmal district. With at least one farm widow in each village, they are a small force.

Rekha Chahare from Babytai’s village and her neighbour is one among them. Having lost her husband two years back, 25-year-old Chahare fends for her two small daughters all alone. “There is no one to look after us . What am I supposed to do — look after my farm, raise my daughters, or earn money for survival?” she says.

At Kosara village, 50 km from Hivra Basra, five widows from the same hamlet are rooting for Babytai. “We have been going door to door campaigning. People easily relate to us as we tell them Babytai is a widow like us and is standing for farmers’ plight,” says Sushila Aswale, who lost her husband in 2005. While she is among the few who got a loan of Rs 1 lakh from the government, life is tough on a daily basis, she says. Lata Bhoyar’s husband killed himself a few days after Aswale’s husband drank poison. She has two sons to feed, and no land of her own. “It will be good if Babytai wins, we hope she helps us get pension,” she says.

It was on the first day of September 2007 that Babytai’s husband Chhatarsingh consumed pesticide in their farm, after the cotton crop on their four-acre plot failed.

“We were in debt since we got our elder daughter married in 2005. The dowry was Rs 20,000 and the rest of the expenditure in gold and for the ceremony came to another Rs 70,000,” Babytai says. The following year, another loan was taken privately for the farm but Chattarsingh soon found himself in the complex web of rising debt and bad yield. “He committed suicide.”

Since then, the family has not progressed much, their three-room house bare except for a TV set and a lone speaker. Her second daughter, Deepa (17), had to drop out from school to work in the fields while son Pankaj (18), who never went to school, had to take up farming full time. “We are happy that she is contesting elections,” they say.

After a long time, Babytai herself has got something to look forward to.“I fasted all nine days of Navratra for Durga mata,” she says. “I have asked her to help me win this election.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Massive public response to farm widows Bebitai’s poll campaign in Maharashtra

Massive public response to farm widows Bebitai’s poll campaign in Maharashtra



























Nagpur-6th October 2009

Door to door farm widows Bebitai’s poll campaign in maharashtra to received massive response from poor and farmers in tribal belt of Zari of Wani assembly segment in Yavatmal district where more than 1600 cotton farmers committed suicides in last five years as victim of on going agrarian crisis .

Bebitai bais is first farm widows contesting election in last 66 years of independence on farm suicide and farm widows crisis issue when Indian Govt. officially confirmed that more than 1,86,000 farmers killed themselves due huge debt and despair and Bebitai is one unfortunate victim of this national calamity .she is fighting this election to draw the attention of Indian policy makers and experts who are claiming the toll picture of Indian economic growth and so called big economic power ,Kishore Tiwari of VJAS informed in press note .

Earlier before starting the door to door poll campaign in interview to national daily ,she clarified her object of contesting election and here are details of her interview














I quote

Babytai Bais, who replaced Kalavati as official candidate of Swatantra Bharat Paksha in assembly polls, promises to wean farmers away from the 'killer' cotton crop and ban liquor in Yavatmal, the district infamous for farmers'suicide. Bais is now being projected as the 'new' face of farm crisis, after Kalavati Bandurkar, who shot to fame after Rahul Gandhi's visit to her house, withdrew from the fray. Bais, in her campaign set to roll out from Wednesday, will stress on rehabilitation of 6,000 other farm widows like her.

Cultivation of cotton is one of the prime reasons for farm suicides, so her poll campaign would include an assurance on pushing for a legislation to ensure food crop on at least 30% of the land holding, said Kishor Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS). Tiwari's VJAS, which launched her into the poll fray, has tied up with Sharad Joshi's Swatantra Bharat Paksha. There would be no mudslinging on other parties during the campaign, he said.

"Cotton crop has led to farmers' doom and this issue has been taken up in various forums. Cotton has very erratic price movements. The input cost has gone up 10 times in a decade while the prices have hardly doubled. The climate change does not support cotton growing in Yavatmal anymore. There were no rains in June this year and it poured when the crops reached flowering stage. All these factors eventually lead the farmer into a debt trap," added Tiwari. Instead, there should be stress on growing short-term food crops, like jowar, bajra, pulses and groundnut, he said.

While liquor was not directly related to farmers' suicides, it was a social evil and had led to degradation of social structure in the hinterland, said Tiwari.

Tiwari said that her campaign would extend out of the Wani constituency to other parts of Yavatmal. This was because the candidature was a symbolic gesture to highlight the farm crisis. "With candle as her election symbol, Babytai would be projected as the last candle of hope for the farm widows. Widows in Bodbodhan village from where the election campaign was kicked off had lit candles on October 3," he said.

Bodbodhan village is situated in Yavatmal constituency but has always been in news for suicides. It was also visited by Rahul Gandhi as 18 farmers' suicides have been recorded here. Of these only eight were officially recorded as due to farm crisis, Tiwari mentioned. The campaign took a break due to rains for two days and would once again start from Babytai's village Hiwra Barsa from Wednesday onwards, said Tiwari.

Her candidature has been supported by the Left Front. Sharad Joshi has provided Rs 1 lakh for campaign expenses. During the campaign, volunteers would collect token one rupee from each villager which would be eventually used for the farm widows' relief, he added.

Unquote

“We are trying our level best to see the farm suicide issue should be focused throughout the election and political parties should take it seriously for the long term sustainable solution. No country can allow such mass genocide of farming community now this isuue is beyond the election political arena” Tiwari of VJAS added.

==========================================================

Babytai Bais-face of Rural India-set to give National farm policy-TIMES OF INDIA

Printed from

Babytai to campaign against cotton crop

TNN 6 October 2009, 05:12am IST
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/city/nagpur/Babytai-to-campaign-against-cotton-crop
/articleshow/5091390.cms

NAGPUR: Babytai Bais, who replaced Kalavati as official candidate of Swatantra Bharat Paksha in assembly polls, promises to wean farmers away from the 'killer' cotton crop and ban liquor in Yavatmal, the district infamous for farmers'suicide. Bais is now being projected as the 'new' face of farm crisis, after Kalavati Bandurkar, who shot to fame after Rahul Gandhi's visit to her house, withdrew from the fray. Bais, in her campaign set to roll out from Wednesday, will stress on rehabilitation of 6,000 other farm widows like her.

Cultivation of cotton is one of the prime reasons for farm suicides, so her poll campaign would include an assurance on pushing for a legislation to ensure food crop on at least 30% of the land holding, said Kishor Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS). Tiwari's VJAS, which launched her into the poll fray, has tied up with Sharad Joshi's Swatantra Bharat Paksha. There would be no mudslinging on other parties during the campaign, he said.

"Cotton crop has led to farmers' doom and this issue has been taken up in various forums. Cotton has very erratic price movements. The input cost has gone up 10 times in a decade while the prices have hardly doubled. The climate change does not support cotton growing in Yavatmal anymore. There were no rains in June this year and it poured when the crops reached flowering stage. All these factors eventually lead the farmer into a debt trap," added Tiwari. Instead, there should be stress on growing short-term food crops, like jowar, bajra, pulses and groundnut, he said.

While liquor was not directly related to farmers' suicides, it was a social evil and had led to degradation of social structure in the hinterland, said Tiwari.

Tiwari said that her campaign would extend out of the Wani constituency to other parts of Yavatmal. This was because the candidature was a symbolic gesture to highlight the farm crisis. "With candle as her election symbol, Babytai would be projected as the last candle of hope for the farm widows. Widows in Bodbodhan village from where the election campaign was kicked off had lit candles on October 3," he said.

Bodbodhan village is situated in Yavatmal constituency but has always been in news for suicides. It was also visited by Rahul Gandhi as 18 farmers' suicides have been recorded here. Of these only eight were officially recorded as due to farm crisis, Tiwari mentioned. The campaign took a break due to rains for two days and would once again start from Babytai's village Hiwra Barsa from Wednesday onwards, said Tiwari.

Her candidature has been supported by the Left Front. Sharad Joshi has provided Rs 1 lakh for campaign expenses. During the campaign, volunteers would collect token one rupee from each villager which would be eventually used for the farm widows' relief, he added.
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Sunday, October 4, 2009

रितेपणाच्या उमेदवार!- मृणालिनी नानिवडेकर

रितेपणाच्या उमेदवार!
मृणालिनी नानिवडेकर
Sunday, October 04th, 2009 AT 12:10 AM

बेबीताई बैस

महिनाभराच्या प्रचारात शेकडो लाखो कोटींचा खुर्दा उडतो. आश्‍वासनांचा धुरळा थेट आभाळाला भिडतो. जातीपातींची गणिते नव्याने तपासली जातात. लोकशाही पुन्हा पाच वर्षांनी घासूनपुसून स्वच्छ केली जाते. पण ही प्रक्रिया खऱ्या अर्थाने "नाही रे' वर्गाच्या झोळीत प्रगतीची काही शिते टाकते का? बेबीताई बैस यांची वणी मतदारसंघातील उमेदवारी हाच प्रश्‍न पुढे करत असावी. कापूस उत्पादकांच्या विधवांच्या त्या प्रतिनिधी आहेत. आम्हाला या मतदानाच्या उत्सवात काही स्थान आहे का हे विचारण्यासाठी समोर आलेल्या! राहुल गांधींनी कलावतीबाईंच्या घरी भेट दिल्याने त्या अचानक "नॅशनल सेलिब्रिटी' होऊन बसल्या. घरात वास करणारे दारिद्य्र अंगावर येणारे. राजाने ते बघितले. स्वत:च्या संवेदनशीलतेचा प्रत्यय देण्यासाठी अवघ्या देशासमोर ते मांडले. कलावतीबाईंच्या घरातल्या अभावाच्या सर्व जागा मग राहुल गांधींच्या प्रभावाने भरून गेल्या. दुःख सरले नाही; पण दैन्य मात्र सरले.
कलावतीबाई आत्महत्याग्रस्त महिलांचे आणि राहुल गांधींच्या आम आदमीबद्दलच्या कळवळ्याचे प्रतीक बनल्या. त्यांची विधानसभा निवडणुकीतील उमेदवारी या प्रतिकात्मकतेचा वापर करणारीच होती. बाईंचे घर उदार हाताने दिलेल्या देणग्यांनी भरून टाकणाऱ्या व्यवस्थेला त्यांची उमेदवारी सहन होईलच कशी? झपाट्याने चक्रे फिरली आणि कलावतीबाई रिंगणातून बाहेर पडल्या. त्यामुळे आता कलावतीबाईंऐवजी बेबीताई रिंगणात अवतरल्या आहेत. त्यांच्यामागे "स्टार स्टेटस' नाही. मतदानप्रक्रिया, निवडून येणे, एखाद्याला पाडणे, याबद्दल त्यांना काही माहिती असण्याची शक्‍यताही नाही. त्यांची उमेदवारी प्रतीकात्मक आहे. लोकशाही व्यवस्थेत आमच्यापर्यंत काहीच पोचत नसल्याची बोचरी जाणीव जनतेपर्यंत, निदान माध्यमांपर्यंत जावी, यासाठीची ती उमेदवारी.
विदर्भात सातत्याने पैसा ओतूनही अनाथ झालेल्या झोपड्यांची, रित्या मनांची कहाणी सांगणे हेच या उमेदवारीचे उद्दिष्ट. कलावतीबाई किंवा बेबीताई जिंकणार तर नाहीत, कोणाला पाडण्याची क्षमताही त्यांच्यात नाही. त्यांच्या मागे असणाऱ्या आंदोलकांनाही याची जाणीव असावी; मात्र सातत्याने चर्चेत आलेला शेतकऱ्यांच्या आत्महत्यांचा प्रश्‍न आजही किमान दहा हजार कुटुंबांच्या जीवनात कोणतीही आशा जागवू शकलेला नाही. बेबीताई या भाळावरचे कुंकू पुसल्या गेलेल्या सहा हजार शेतकरी विधवांच्या प्रतिनिधी. छोट्याशा जनिमीवर भल्या थोरल्या कुटुंबाची जबाबदारी. मुलांची, त्यांच्या लग्नाची शिक्षणाची; शिवाय पतीच्या डोक्‍यावर असलेल्या कर्जाची वास्तपुस्त मागे राहिलेल्या अर्धांगिनीने करायची. बेबीताईंकडे शेती चार एकर. म्हणजे थोडाथोडका मामला नाही. पण, शेतीला सिंचनच नसल्याने जमिनीचे काय करायचे, हा प्रश्‍न. ४२ वर्षांच्या या महिलेवर चार मुलांचे पालकत्व येऊन पडलेले. नवऱ्याने काढलेले ४७ हजारांचे कर्ज फेडायचा बाईंचा निश्‍चय. २००७ मध्ये नवऱ्याने विष तोंडाला लावले, तेव्हापासून बाई उभी आहे.
विदर्भात पर्यायी उत्पन्नासारखे दुधाचे व्यवसाय उभे नाहीत, की कोंबडीची अंडी विकून कनवटीला दोन पैसे जोडता येत नाहीत. पश्‍चिम महाराष्ट्राप्रमाणे नेतृत्वाने इथे विकासाचा वेध कधी घेतलाच नाही. त्यामुळे बेबीताईंसारख्या कित्येक बायका विदर्भ जनआंदोलनाच्या किशोर तिवारींच्या माध्यमातून मिळणाऱ्या महिन्याच्या तीनचारशे रुपयांच्या मनीऑर्डरची आतुरतेने वाट पहायच्या. बेबीताई आंगणवाडी मदतनीस म्हणून काम करायला तयार; पण तशी संधी मिळणे शक्‍य नाही. आता मुलींचे दोनाचे चार हात करण्याची वेळ आलेली. एखाद्या सहृदयी माणसाने जरा मदत केली, की चर्चा झालीच सुरू. बेबीताई म्हणजे कोणी समाजसेविका नाहीत. हजारो महिलांन
ा नेतृत्व देण्याची क्षमता त्यांच्या अंगी नाहीच; पण पंचक्रोशीतल्या अशा तरुण विधवांना आश्रय देण्याचे काम त्या आपल्या परीने करताहेत. वणी विधानसभा मतदारसंघात प्रचारासाठी त्यांच्या बरोबरीने अशाच महिला मालमजुरीचे काम सांभाळून दारोदारी फिरतात. कलावतीबाईंच्या स्टंटबाजीसाठी माध्यमे महामार्ग सोडून त्यांच्या घरापर्यंत "ओबी व्हॅन' घेऊन गेली. आता तो "ड्रामा' संपल्याने बेबीताईंच्या उमेदवारीकडे कुणाचे लक्ष नाही. राहुल गांधी ना त्यांच्याकडे गेले, ना त्यांचे नाव लोकसभेत गाजले. चेहरा नसलेल्या, नावगाव माहिती नसलेल्या खऱ्या करुण कहाणीतील बेबीताईंसारख्या सहा हजार महिला वंचिताचे जगणे पुढे रेटताहेत. एका निवडणुकीत उभे राहून या समस्येकडे मतांच्या मारामारीत गुंतलेल्या राजकीय प्रक्रियेचे लक्ष काही वेळासाठी तरी त्या वेधू शकतील का? शंकाच आहे!