Tuesday, October 6, 2009

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

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Babytai to campaign against cotton crop

TNN 6 October 2009, 05:12am IST

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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