Krishi Desh

For Bharat and Bharati

Posts Tagged ‘how drought prone region functions’

Kill them all. Farmers do not deserve life. (forget good/bad)

Posted by संदीप नारायण शेळके on January 11, 2010


While reading on the internet about farmer suicides I came across P. Sainath’s very thought provocative article; which has enough information to understand the situation which forces Bharatiya farmers towards suicide. I’ve consolidated the statistics and probable reasons of farmer’s suicide (massacre) from this article on Counter Punch and from other resources like NCRB.

*************** The Largest Wave of Suicides in History:  P. SAINATH ********************

The Spate of Suicide in Bharatiya Farmers:

  • Number of farmers who have committed suicide 1997 and 2007  –  is staggering 182,936.
  • Nearly 2/3 suicides have occurred in 5 states (out of 28 states & seven union territories).
  • Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh
  • These states account for just about 1/3 of the country’s population but 2/3 of farmers’ suicides.
  • Farm suicides have also been rising in some other states of the country very rapidly example Odisa.
  • As many as 8 million people quit farming between the two censuses of 1991 and 2001.
  • Also the large-scale survey shows that given a chance almost 40% farmers are willing to quit farming permanently.
  • These suicide data is official and tends to be huge underestimate, suicide data in India is collated by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
  • Women farmers are not normally accepted as farmers. They do the bulk of work in agriculture – but are just “farmers’ wives.” This classification enables governments to exclude countless women farmer suicides. Which will be recorded as suicide deaths – but not as “farmers’ suicides.”
  • The spate of farm suicides accompanies India’s embrace of the brave new world of neo-liberalism.
  • The farmer suicide risen in every five years:
    • 1997 – 2001,   78,737 (or 15,747 a year on average).
    • 2002 – 2006,   87,567 (or 17,513 a year on average).
    • 2001 onwards, one farmer took his or her life every 30 minutes on average.
    • The 2007 figures (detailed below) place that year, too, in the higher trend.

  • What do the farm suicides have in common?
    • Those who have taken their lives were deep in debt.
    • Peasant households in debt doubled in the first decade of the neoliberal “economic reforms,” from 26 per cent of farm households to 48.6 per cent.
    • In Andhra Pradesh 82 per cent of all farm households were in debt by 2001-02.
    • Those who killed themselves were overwhelmingly cash crop farmers – growers of cotton, coffee, sugarcane, groundnut, pepper, vanilla. (Suicides are fewer among food crop farmers – that is, growers of rice, wheat, maize, pulses.)
    • The brave new world philosophy mandated countless millions of Third World farmers forced to move from food crop cultivation to cash crop (the mantra of “export-led growth”).
    • For millions of subsistence farmers in India, this meant:
      • Much higher cultivation costs,
      • Far greater loans,
      • Much higher debt, and
      • Locked into the volatility of global commodity prices.
    • Global commodities sector dominated by a handful of multinational corporations, with vested interest in profit-making only.
    • The extent to which the switch to cash crops impacts on the farmer can be seen in this:
      • Cost Rs. 8,000 ($165 today) roughly to grow an acre of paddy in Kerala.
      • Whereas for vanilla, the cost per acre was (in 2003-04) almost Rs.150,000

  • Seed Cost – an exploitation of the needy by Govt and Corporate?
    • Giant seed companies displaced cheap hybrids and far cheaper and hardier traditional varieties with their own products.
    • A cotton farmer in Monsanto’s net would be paying far more for seed than he or she ever dreamed they would. Local varieties and hybrids were squeezed out with enthusiastic state support. (Why did state support such thing? Who were the scholars consulted before this decision? Aren’t the agricultural experts also accountable along with the agriculture ministry?)
    • In 1991, a kilogram of local seed cost Rs.7 – 9 in today’s worst affected region of Vidarbha, Maharashtra.
    • By 2003, Rs.350 for a bag with 450 grams of hybrid seed. i.e. Rs.780/Kg
    • By 2004, Monsanto’s partners in India marketed a bag of 450 grams of Bt cotton seed for between Rs.1,650 and Rs.1,800 ($33 to $36). This price brought down dramatically overnight due to strong governmental intervention in Andhra Pradesh, where the government changed after the 2004 elections. The price fell to around Rs.900 ($18) – still many times higher than 1991 or even 2003.
  • Inequality among the “Emerging Tiger” nations of the developing world.
    • The predatory commercialization of the countryside devastated all other aspects of life for peasant farmer and landless workers.
    • Health costs, for instance, skyrocketed.
    • Many thousands of youngsters dropped out of both school and college to work on their parents’ farms (including many on scholarships).
    • The average monthly per capita expenditure of the Indian farm household was just Rs.503 (ten dollars) by early this decade. Of that, 60 per cent roughly spent on food and another 18 per cent on fuel, clothing and footwear. (Just imagine a young IT pro spends Rs. 500 for movie on weekend, of course pro earns it, so has right to spend it. But the situation can boom-rang anytime)

  • Farmers are number one food buyers?
    • Millions of small and marginal Indian farmers are net purchasers of food grain.
    • They cannot produce enough to feed their families and have to work on the fields of others and elsewhere to meet the gap.
    • Having to buy some of the grain they need on the market, they are profoundly affected by hikes in food prices, as has happened since 1991, and particularly sharply this year.  (We have seen “Dal – Rs.110/Kg, Sugar Rs.40/KG” which made a decent (Rs. 15k/month) salary earner think twice before buying)
    • Hunger among those who produce food is a very real thing.
    • Additionally, fact is that the “per capita net availability” of food grain has fallen dramatically among Indians since the “reforms” began:  from 510 grams per Indian per day in 1991, to 422 grams by 2005. (That’s not a drop of 88 grams. It’s a fall of 88 multiplied by 365 and then by one billion Indians. That is 3,21,20,000  tons of food grain shortage compared to 1991)
    • As Prof. Utsa Patnaik, India’s top economist on agriculture, has been constantly pointing out, the average poor family has about 100 kg less today than it did just ten years ago
    • The élite eat like it’s going out of style.
    • For many, the shift from food crop to cash crop makes it worse. At the end of the day, you can still eat your paddy. It’s tough, digesting cotton.
    • Even the food crop sector is coming steadily under corporate price-rigging control.
    • Speculation in the futures markets pushed up grain prices across the globe earlier this year. (Why do we need commodities trading at the hands of people who don’t have any idea about it? In the name of free trade we are killing traditional farmers. Our farm produce must have given higher preference, but unfortunately it did not happen and we see the results now 200000+ farmer suicides.)

  • Cash Crunch – All is for Urban Dwellers:
    • The neoliberal model that pushed growth through one kind of consumption also meant re-directing huge amounts of money away from rural credit to fuel the lifestyles of the aspiring elites of the cities (and countryside, too).
    • Thousands of rural bank branches shut down during the 15 years from 1993-2007.
    • Even as incomes of the farmers crashed, so did the price they got for their cash crops, thanks to obscene subsidies to corporate and rich farmers in the West, from the U.S. and EU.
    • Their battle over cotton subsidies alone (worth billions of dollars) destroyed cotton farmers not merely in India but in African nations such as Burkina Faso, Benin, Mali, and Chad.
    • India kept reducing investment in agriculture (standard neoliberal procedure).
    • Life is being made more and more impossible for small farmers.
    • As costs rose, credit dried up. Debt went out of control. Subsidies destroyed their prices. Starving agriculture of investment (worth billions of dollars each year) smashed the countryside.
    • India even cut most of the few, pathetic life supports she had for her farmers.
    • The mess was complete and from the late-’90s, the suicides began to occur at what then seemed a brisk rate.
    • In fact, India’s agrarian crisis can be summed up in five words (call it Ag Crisis 101): the drive toward corporate farming.
    • The route (in five words): predatory commercialization of the countryside. The result: The biggest displacement in our history.

  • Corporate Farming on the horizon:
    • Corporations do not as yet have direct control of Indian farming land and do not carry out day-to-day operations directly.
    • But they have sewn up every other sector, inputs, outlets, marketing, prices.
    • And now are heading for control of water as well (which states in India are busy privatizing in one guise or another).

  • किसानोने  भर  दी इंडिया में  जान, इंडियाने  लेली  किसानो  कि  जान:
    • The largest number of farm suicides is in the state of Maharashtra.
    • Home to the Mumbai Stock Exchange and with its capital Mumbai being home to 21 of India’s 51 dollar billionaires and over a fourth of the country’s 100K dollar millionaires.
    • Mumbai shot to global attention when terrorists massacred 180 people in the city in a grisly strike in November.
    • In the state of which Mumbai is capital, there have been 40,666 farmers’ suicides since 1995, with very little media attention.
    • Mumbai have 21 billionaires and a 25k millionaire just to make sure media does not notice the massacre (by neo-liberal policies and development) of 40,666 farmers since 1995.

  • Farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra:
    • It crossed the 4,000-mark in 2007, for the third time in four years, according to the NCRB, that is 25.48% of total national suicides.
    • As many as 4,238 farmers took their lives in the state in 2007, the latest for which data are available, accounting for a fourth of all the 16,632 farmers’ suicides in the country.
    • That national total represents a slight fall from the 17,060 farm suicides of 2006. But the broad trends of the past decade seem unshaken.
    • Farm suicides in the country since 1997 – 2007 are total 182,936.
Year MH Total Bharat Total
1995 1083 -
1996 1981 -
1997 1917 13622
1998 2409 16015
1999 2423 16082
2000 3022 16603
2001 3536 16415
2002 3695 17971
2003 3836 17164
2004 4147 18241
2005 3926 17131
2006 4453 17060
2007 4238 16632
Total 40666 182936

Source: FinalReport_SFM_IGIDR_26Jan06 : report is accepted by Govt of Maharashtra, NCRB data.

  • The five worst affected states:
    • Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh
    • These states account for two-thirds of all farmers’ suicides in India. Together, they saw 11,026 in 2007.
    • Maharashtra alone accounted for over 38 per cent (4,238).
    • Andhra Pradesh saw a decline of 810 suicides against its 2006 total (1,797).
    • Karnataka saw a rise of 415 over the same period (2,135).
    • Madhya Pradesh posted a decline of 112 (1,375).
    • Chattisgarh’s farm suicides mean an increase of 110 over 2006 (1,593).
    • Specific factors in these states nourish the problem.
      • These are zones of highly diversified,
      • Commercialized agriculture where cash crops dominate.
      • Water stress has been a common feature, and gets worse with the use of technologies such as Bt seed that demand huge amounts of water.
      • High external inputs and input costs are also common, as also the use of chemicals and pesticides.

In the end I’ll say this mindless deregulation lit a lot of pyres and dug a lot of graves. So what are we doing? Are we ready to support initiatives to discuss these issues in public and support others who are fighting for farmer’s cause? Aren’t we indebted by the farmers for the food produced by them?

“कृषितोनास्ति दुर्भिक्षं” – Dearth of farming is famine.

Welcome your thoughts and comments….


जय भारत!

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कृषितोनास्ति दुर्भिक्षं – Dearth of Agriculture is Famine

Posted by संदीप नारायण शेळके on January 2, 2010


While browsing on internet I came across this very meaningful quote about farming and agricultural.  This Sanskrit proverb makes it very clear where the whole world is leading. In the times ahead there will be less agriculture so less will be the farm yields and if that is true then Famine is inevitable.

So very truly said:

कृषितोनास्ति दुर्भिक्षं

[kRuShitOnaasti durbhikShaM]

{Dearth of Agriculture is Famine}

(शेतीची कमतरता म्हणजे अन्नाचे दुर्भिक्ष)

What you all say?

जय भारत!

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Living with drought!! Is this a curse of Nature or ignorance by Bharat and Rajya Sarkar

Posted by संदीप नारायण शेळके on December 8, 2009


While browsing through the India Together website I came across this report which says the tragedy of village dwellers, poor, especially farmers. The ignorance by Bharat sarkar is by and largely responsible for the sorrow condition of farmers.

******************* Excerpts from Kannan Kasturi’s Report **********************

**********************************************************************************
29 October 2009
-

Large parts of the country have had poor rainfall this year, and so the word ‘drought’ is on a lot of lips this these days, but in one part of India, it seems more permanent. Bundelkhand – the region of Central India between the Yamuna and the Narmada – has lived with drought for five of the last six years, the sole exception being 2008. The region’s 13 districts figure in all the lists of “most backward” districts compiled by the central government. People here are reportedly the beneficiaries of various schemes for drought mitigation.

I am traveling through this region, accompanying a group that has decided to come here to get first hand accounts of how farmers are coping with the drought. As we travel, I learn the lay of the land, and its history. Bundelkhand includes almost the entire course of the rivers Betwa, Dhasan and Ken. These flow down from the Vindhyas to confluence with the Yamuna and cradle the towns of Jhansi, Chhatarpur and Sagar, the diamond mines of Panna and the fabulous temples of Khajuraho. The region is united by its language – Bundeli – and a largely shared history and culture of over 1000 years but is divided administratively between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Our first stop is Mamna village in Hamirpur district of Uttar Pradesh, a settlement of about 10,000 people. We begin talking to a couple of villagers and soon a crowd gathers around us. With no irrigation available to them, the kharif crops are a total loss, say the villagers. They are struggling even for drinking water, sometimes having to transport it from a neighboring village. Harish Kumar has had a job card (guaranteeing him a job under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) for 2 years at least. He was given some work for 1.5 months, and shows an injury sustained while working; however, he has not been paid. The date of registration on his job card has been overwritten twice to make it unclear when the card was issued. There are no work entries in the booklet.

Small farmers in Mamna Village, Hamirpur District, UP holding their 2 year old job cards. There are no work entries in their cards.

Seeing our interest in the job cards, the villagers collect over 10 job cards without any entries in a few minutes. They are all small farmers with a few bighas of land each, and willing to take up any work – but they say none is available. They show the compensation cheques they have got from the state government after the area has been declared drought affected – most are for Rs.250, less than 3 days’ wages, for the loss of their kharif crop.

Some steps away, Durjan Chamar, a cobbler in his late sixties, sits forlornly with his tools outside his house waiting for customers. His daughters have married and left home, and having no sons he and his wife have to continue the struggle for a livelihood. He has thepatta for three bighas of land given by the government, but as there is no water, there are no crops to be had. There are few customers for his skills in this village. He has tried to obtain work under the NREGA, but without success.

Basket weaving seems to be the sole non-farming related source of income in the village. Not just old men, even able bodied young men can be seen weaving daliyas (baskets) from dried stalks. The baskets fetch Rs.10 each and an old man we talk to says he can make only 3 baskets in a day. He receives no old age pension and is too old to take up any other work.

A large number of the small and marginal farmers have left the village in search of work. They travel to the nearby UP towns to work in brick kilns and to distant Delhi to work in the construction industry or in the factories in the NCR as unskilled labor or even driving rickshaws. We are told that a bus full of migrants from Mamna and neighboring villages has fallen into the Yamuna recently.

Durjan Chamar, a cobbler, displays his job card which has no work entries. There is no demand in the village for his skills and no produce from his 3 bigha land.

On a lane leading to the center of the village, a man sits in the front room of his thatched cottage running his sewing machine. He continues to work as we sit across on a charpoy and talk. His name is Jagdish he tells us, but everyone in the village calls him Bhikari Lal, a name used by his mother to shield her only child from evil eyes.

A farmer with 2 acres, he has turned to tailoring and leased his land for a 50 per cent share of the produce. The income from the land hardly counts. He has already spent a number of years in Kandla and is back now to look after his wife and two children after his mother passed away. He could earn Rs 300 per day in Gujarat, while back in the village, he can at best earn half that amount and the payment does not come easily as the villagers do not have ready cash. He is particular about the education of his children and sends them to a private school; the quality of teaching at the government school, he says, cannot be trusted.

……………………
We walk to a basti populated by the poor Raikwar community – people who traditionally work in water related occupations – to get a different picture. Swami Prasad has a job card that was made in January 2006. He has not got even a single day’s work till now. But it is not Swami Prasad alone. Everyone in a group that collects around us have the same story. Job cards are there, but no jobs. Only people close to the Pradhan get work, we hear. No Panchayat Inspector or Block CEO leave alone Collector has ever visited the community, according to these residents. Some of them have been out – to Delhi, Noida and Punjab – to look for jobs and come back after working a while. After Deepawali, some of them will head out again. More than half the people from this village of 10,000 have migrated outside the state seeking work.

A government school just across from where we are standing has a board displayed that declares the menu for the mid day meal each day – the menu includes rice, different dals and green and other vegetables. According to the residents, the children only get rice gruel. The open well in the colony has not been cleaned for ages and has been rendered unfit for use. It would cost just Rs.3000-4000 to clean the well and some people would have got jobs – but this is not a priority of the panchayat. The school has its own well. Residents have to wait for the school to open to lift their water.

Meghraj Singh in front of his hut. He has been denied a BPL card – so he can get no rations except Kerosene.

Adhiyara, a village in Chattarpur District has over 400 families split between the communities of Thakurs, Harijans and Adivasis. There are only 5 bore wells in the village of which 2 are private and one belongs to the school and one has been set up in the Harijan basti. The lone public bore well functions only when there is power. Sometimes, the village has no power for weeks. People are forced to go to neighboring villages for water, walking 2-3 km. In summer, if there is no electricity, women sometimes stand all night in line waiting for water.

At least 100 families have migrated to Delhi, Ludhiana, Punjab and other places, we are told. People with small children migrate with their entire family leaving behind an elderly person to look after their house and cattle. Many small farmers have given their land on lease to others for a fixed sum or a share of the crop. NREGA work is available only for 10-15 people and the Panchayat President distributes it among his friends, the residents allege.

Meghraj Singh has 7 acres of land and is one of three brothers. He is not entitled to a BPL card though he lives in a crude hut. His crop has completely failed. There are two ponds near the village with rain water that is used for watering the cows – but no irrigation is available for the fields. He says farming is unviable and that there are no alternate sources of employment.

The Adivasi hamlet of 20 families is at the far end of the village. Only a few emaciated old men are to be seen around – the younger men have apparently migrated. Their condition is pathetic – no job cards or jobs, no ration cards (BPL or APL), no pension, no compensation for crops lost. There is no government intervention here where the people are most in need. The only forest product available to them is Mahua. The only work is gathering tendu leaves for the forest contractors for which they are paid based on quantity of collection.

Nathu Singh, a farmer with 15 acres land in Adhiyara village, district Chhatarpur has only one plea – “Please tell them to solve our drinking water problem.”

Paglu tells us he owns 2 acres but they are useless to him. There is no work to be had in the village even with the bigger farmers. He has worked in cities but he doesn’t like it there and prefers to remain in his village. At one time, they used to hunt in the nearby forests but the government has taken away their firearm licenses.

On our way out of the village we meet Nathu Singh. He has 15 acres land. Lest we think he is prosperous, he quickly explains that he has a large family – 3 boys and 3 girls. One can see that he is but a shadow of his former proud self. He has only one plea – please, please tell the authorities to solve our drinking water problem.

All the villages we visit present the same story – complete crop failure for the small and marginal farmers who depended on the rains coupled with a lack of local employment opportunities. The much touted employment guarantee scheme of the government is not functional where it is most needed forcing large scale migration on the landless and even on small farmers. At close quarters, the picture of the panchayati raj is unedifying – viewed, as it is, as being all pervasively corrupt. The rains may have failed Bundelkhand but it is the governments of the two States, and at the Centre who have forsaken the people.

जय हिंद!

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