This is reproduced from A village in Vidarbha for sale, any buyer please?
Sale! Sale! Sale!
“YE GAON bikna hai (This village is for sale).” Is there any buyer please? The name of the village is Dorli; district Wardha, Mumbai. The posters, urging the buyers, are visible all through the village.
The villagers are desperate to leave because they are totally sold out to the mahajans but do not want to commit suicide. They want to live by selling out the whole village and square up the loans and start a fresh lease of life, may be by begging, elsewhere. They are all cotton producers in the Vidarbha region of western India, which is now known to the world as ‘farmers’ suicide zone.
According to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) statistics, tabled in Parliament, the suicide graph has been on the rise in the suicide belt of Vidarbha for the last three years. In 2005-06, 712 farmers committed suicide. In 2006-07, it went up to 1414. In the first quarter of 2007-08, suicide deaths reported counted to 608.
But Vidarbha Jana Andolan Samiti claims that in the last five years, 2384 farmers have committed suicide in six districts of Vidarbha. In every four hours, one farmer is committing suicide just to come out of painful, dishonoured life. Poverty, uncertainty, and hunger have been taking lives of 48 farmers everyday in the new death valley – India.
The reason is very simple and known to the administration in depth. The cotton farmers of Vidarbha used to spend Rs 1700 to 1800 to produce one quintal of cotton and sell the same at a price of Rs 2800 to 2900 per quintal. They were having a profit of minimum of Rs 1000 per quintal. Now they are spending more – Rs 2500 per quintal but selling price has come down to Rs 1600 to 1800 per quintal. They are facing a loss of Rs 700 to 900 per quintal. The reason for this market crash is the import of cotton from USA, which has been providing subsidy of 400 crore dollars to 20,000 cotton producers. The cotton traders are selling foreign cotton to a much lower rate than the Indian counterparts and the Indian farmers are facing a distress sale.
Once honoured as Safed Sona, the cotton of the cotton city Vidarbha now seems to become the death cushion of the victims. The mahajans are continuously pressurising for meeting up their payments with interest. On the other hand, pressure is on from the government that they have to produce quality cotton and get ready for worldwide competition in producing and selling cotton. World Bank’s conditions have made their lives hell. Most unfortunate part of the whole episode is that the central government has been spending Rs 5852 crore on subsidies but is not allotting anything for cotton.
As precautionary measure, the central government has pumped in 5000 crores in the locality but all have gone into futility because the suicide rate has gone up even after the centre had arranged fund for saving the farmer families from massacre. Why? Because 36 per cent farmers of a total count of 41663 in 383 villages in Vidarbha zone were not even informed of the central fund allotted. The districts are Yavatmal, Amravati, Wardha, Akola, Buldhana and Washim. The highly distressed farmers amounting to 17. 82 lakhs were provided with short term measures without any effect because 75 per cent of them were unaware of the poor publicity campaign. Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti claimed that there was immense malpractice and the failure of the relief packages prompted 300 farmers to commit suicide.
The farmers who have crossed the limit of their tolerance of the apathy of the local administration and wrong policies, have already come out with the bare truth. The truth is that the farmers who used to sow local cotton seeds, were hard-pressed to use high-yielding cotton seeds from the multi-national companies like Monsanto and Boleguard. The seeds did not grow as promised. The pressure was created by the administration. The other factor was the lack of irrigated water. Since independence, only 13 per cent of agricultural land in the country has been brought under irrigation. Vidarbha is one of the most unfortunate non-irrigated zones of independent country.
Unfortunately, this India where 48 farmers commit suicide everyday, is giving birth to two billionaires every year. India is amongst the first five countries where crorepatis rule and their total income is at per to 31 per cent of national income. This is because the policies adopted by the centre and the states are prepared in a way, which comes to benefit for those billionaires. In 2004-05, the corporate sector was given a tax relief of Rs 57,852 crores. In the same year, all subsidies were withdrawn from loan-burdened agriculture sector. When demands for subsidies were raised, the administration advised to compete with the international market because we are living in the age of globalisation. It was never considered that the Indian farmers having the age-old technology cannot compete with the farmers of developed countries having modern technology. This is more than a conspiracy to create dependence of 112 crores of Indian population upon the developed countries. This has led the farmers of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Kerala, Karnataka and Haryana. The latest addition is Wayanad in Kerala where coffee growers are at the verge of death and cases of committing suicide have already started. The district is known as ‘Green Paradise’ for its dense forests and foliage. It has rich harvest of spices, pepper, cardamom, coffee and tea. Coffee adds to the economy of the area. But dearth of rain on one hand and lack of effective policies to save the market price on the other, are leading the farmers to accept deaths.
The Union finance minister, P Chidambaram, has announced a waiver of loans for the farmers amounting to Rs 60000 crores. For political reasons, this was a binding upon the UPA government. But the bare truth is that hence the banks will not agree to provide loans to the small and marginal farmers. The rich farmers who have changed their status to corporates, will be able to accumulate crores overnight.
The farmers of Vidarbha will perhaps face the crudest time. The list of murdas at the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti office will continue to be becoming bigger every day. And the media will continue to stress upon the entertainment because that sells high.