Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cotton conclave resolves to lay seige to CM house if price not hiked-TIMES OF INDIA

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Cotton conclave resolves to lay seige to CM house if price not hiked

Ramu Bhagwat/TNN

Pandharkawda: Cotton growers of Vidarbha who gathered here in large numbers for the cotton conclave were up in arms against the low minimum support price (MSP) announced by the state government to the cotton crop. With farm widows in front, they have resolved to lay a siege to the chief minister’s house during the winter session of the state legislature beginning in Nagpur from December 1 to demand a hike from the current Rs 3000 to Rs 4500 a quintal of cotton.

The resolution was moved by Bharati Pawar, a widow and victim of the farm crisis that has devastated thousands of families in the cotton belt as farmers and bread winners of the families were forced to commit suicide because of mounting losses in agriculture.

The farmers supported in unison the three major demands in the resolution : (1) That a compensation of Rs 10,000 be paid immediately to farmers who suffered crop damage because of excessive rains , (2) Rs 4,500 a quintal MSP for cotton and (3) immediate lifting of restrictions on cotton exports. The doughty widow from Saikheda village from Yavatmal district was cheered when she said “ I along with hundreds of my widowed sisters will sit on a dharna in front of the chief minister’s house to press for these four demands.” The conference also demanded that Cotton Corporation of India and NAFED, who procure the cotton in the state should pay Rs 5000 a quintal.

Farm leaders and farmers from Yavatmal, Akola, Amravati, Washim Buldhana, Wardha , the distressed districts for which special relief package was announced by prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2006 were present at the conference.

“The input costs have more than doubled in last two years, today we have to spend over Rs 20,000 per acre to grow cotton. When textile prices have doubled, inflation is spiraling, government employees are getting revised wages as per sixth pay commission, why should farmers be denied their due? “ asked Vijay Jawandhiya, the former president of Shetkari Sanghatana and farm leader from Wardha. He also strongly supported the need to give incentive to cotton exporters instead of putting restrictions on it.

“Cotton prices dropped in world market in 1995. No farmer in America committed suicide because the American government bailed out its cotton growers with huge subsidies . But there was no mercy shown by the government of India or our states. So it is no wonder that when cheap cotton was imported here, the cotton growers of Andhra Pradesh were first to feel the distress in 1998 and started committing suicide in hordes,” said Jawandhiya.

President of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti and convenor of the conclave Kishore Tiwari said international prices were ruling around Rs 6000 to 8000 a quintal . “But the government completely disregarding it, was firm on measly MSP of Rs 3000 for cotton. Just to serve interests of some 2000 textile units who form a powerful lobby, the government is ignoring the plight of 6 million people in the country who depend on the cotton crop,” said Tiwari. People were being misled with reports of bumper crop when excessive and untimely rains had damaged crop to the extent of 50 % , he alleged.

Pro-Telangana leader from Andhra Pradesh and Supreme Court lawyer Nurup Reddy, who was chief guest at the conclave, stressed on the need to organize all cotton growers to raise their just demands. “Out of 18 lakh hectares land under cotton crop in Andhra Pradesh, 13 lakh hectares is in Telangana region. But since the region has no political power, the cotton growers’ plight is ignored,” said Reddy. He said cotton growers across the country should unite to fight for own cause. “Do not end your life in distress as it will solve no problem. Instead, join hands to fight for your just demands. Only that will benefit all,” said Reddy

After farmers' suicide, widows live a tragedy

PANDHARKAWDA: Present at the cotton conclave among over a hundred widows of farmers on Tuesday was Saraswatibai Ambadwar (45) of Telangtakli. Her husband Ramdas committed suicide some 13 years ago leaving her with four daughters and ten acres land to take care of.

Today her tears may have dried but her ordeal continues. So many years after her world collapsed, creditors still harass her for the money they claim to have lent her husband. The widow, who lives with her daughter of marriageable age, is putting up a brave fight on various fronts - from running the household to arrange for dowry for marriage of daughter Manjushree (19).

For all this, she may have to incur more debts. There appears no end to her miseries. Ramdas' suicide in 1997 attracted the then chief minister Narayan Rane's attention who rushed to Telangtakli and handed over compensation of Rs 1 lakh to Saraswati. Rane assured to take care of the education of her four daughters. The widow spent the compensation amount on one daughter's marriage. Life was soon back to square one for her.

Her third daughter Jayashree died of kidney failure a couple of years ago. The family couldn't afford her treatment. Being a defaulter of a bank and the moneylenders, she cannot get fresh loans for farming operations. In this suicide heartland of western Vidarbha, such tragic stories of farm widows fighting a grim battle for survival abound.

A Sasikala or a Kalavati may have managed to tide over the crisis, but hundreds of Saraswatis are left to suffer their miseries in silence.

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