Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

VJAS urged Indian Govt. to clarify it’s official stand on

Desi Bt cotton seeds of Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR)

Nagpur- Dated April 26, 2009

It is reported that the white elephant research institute of Indian council of agriculture search (ICAR) the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur after ten long years of research punctuated with technical delays, is ready with 20,000 packets of desi Bt cotton seeds for distribution to farmers starting next month in four states.

It is reported by CICR Director Keshav Kranthi. that DESI Bt,cotton seeds will be available for Rs 200 per 2 kg bag as against Rs 750 per 450 gm bag of Monsanto’s Bt,cotton seed currently sold by national and multinational companies like Mahyco, Rasi, Ankur and Nuziveedu.

CICR claimed that the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the apex body which clears GM crops, had okayed the Indian strain on May 2 last year this variety will enable farmers to replicate seeds for the next sowing and CICR’s DESI Bt.cotton variety needs very little fertiliser and pesticide, the farmer can save nearly 4,000 per acre in the first year (Rs 1,000 on seeds, Rs 2,000 on pesticides and Rs 1,000 on fertilisers) and about Rs 4,500 per acre every subsequent year since he won’t have to buy seeds. One seed of the desi Bt can produce up to 200-300 seeds which is not possible with Monsanto’s Bt,cotton seed more over Monsanto’s Bt,cotton seeds has been failed in vidarbha’s dry land cotton fields resulting more than 5000 cotton farmers suicides ,informed kishore tiwari of VJAS (Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti) since June 2005 after Indian Govt. permitted commercial trials of Monsanto’s Bt,cotton seed .

Having got very bad experience with Monsanto’s Bt,cotton seeds now Indian council of agriculture search(ICAR) non-operational and paper tiger baby the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur is claiming that Indian cotton scientists were able to introduce the Bt gene Cry 1 AC in the Rajasthan variety Bikaneri Narma three years ago with their own standardised protocol (method) called primary transgenic and it further added that CICR will also be give foundation seeds for multiplication next year to state Govt. which they failed before . Besides this CICR also claims that they are only institute after.China has succeeded in developing its own protocol called Pollen 2 Pathway which needs official verification.

CICR has informed that they will supply the bags to state seed companies which will then distribute them to farmers and this year CICR is giving it only to Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat ,VJAS has raised doubts as state seed companies are official agents of Monsanto’s Bt,cotton seed currently sold by national and multinational companies like Mahyco, Rasi, Ankur and Nuziveedu will not promote DESI Bt.cotton seed of CICR.

CICR Director Keshav Kranthi claims that DESI Bt.cotton seed of CICR is beneficial in drought-tolerant, non-irrigated areas and is also resistant to sucking pests like jassids and aphids ,VJAS has urged Indian Govt. to take official stand over this ICAR activity as Monsanto’s Bt,cotton seed has been known as killer seed in vidarbha cotton belt and now CICR should not add another killer Bt.cotton seed in the region as CICR informed that Maharashtra will get 13,000 packets, followed by Madhya Pradesh (up to 3,000), Andhra Pradesh (up to 1,000) and Gujarat (500). The CICR will retain about 3,000 packets for multiplication which clear indication that vidarbha will get majority of desi Bt.cotton seeds in addition to Monsanto’s Bt.cotton seed currently sold by national and multinational companies like Mahyco, Rasi, Ankur and Nuziveedu .

“our experience with Monsanto’s Bt,cotton seed is too bad to believe in any more Desi Bt.cotton seed as GM technology is based on gene which only available in part of America then it is must for Indian Govt. to clarify on the claims of CICR ” Kishore Tiwari further added.

“we want to stop on going farm suicides of poor debt trapped cotton farmers and to protect from , multinational companies like Monsanto but corrupt leaders ,officers and now research community will make the thing further impossible” Tiwari said.

Please release this pres note

Thanking you,





Thursday, April 23, 2009



Monday, April 6, 2009

Package deals — with credibility discounts -P. Sainath

Date:07/04/2009 URL:


Package deals — with credibility discounts

P. Sainath
Candidates complain of media extortion, with publications offering ’coverage packages’

It’s a development that sets apart the 2009 polls from earlier ones in Vidarbha (and some other regions, too). And it’s not a happy one. Candidates complain of “media extortion.” Some (not all) publications and a channel or two appear to be making poll contenders offers they can’t refuse.

The offer: “coverage packages.” The low-end package seems worth around Rs. 15–20 lakh, the high-end ones a lot more. Buy into one and you get a set number of column centimetres, photos and reports, or footage of your campaign and rallies.

“They know we have an election budget and they pressurise us,” says one candidate, who has been an MP more than once. He says he has never seen it this blatant.

To some in the industry, it seems simple enough, even harmless: an advertising package. What’s wrong with that — it’s been there in the past, too, they argue. The problem, says another candidate, is that in practice, “refusal to bite means you can get blacked out of their coverage. That is, unless they do negative stories about you.”

Since no one has actually filed a complaint, there has been no official comment or response. The word “package,” though, has gained notoriety here and is now used in a mostly sarcastic or pejorative sense.

It has also put some journalists in a spot as managements get them to make the pitch for the package. They have access to the political world, after all. It also completely marginalises smaller candidates who simply do not have the resources.

The problem is that no one knows quite what to do about it. Both the everyday and the dodgy can exist side by side when it comes to advertising, says another candidate.

A political veteran of this region, he says he has been avoiding such calls. Another politician says the “package problems” are more ethical than legal. At the same time those boundaries are blurred when such “ads” are packaged as editorial matter. A couple of aspirants say they have decided not to part with any money for such deals. What happens “if I win?” mocks one. “Will I have to buy a package for my victory to be reported?”

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Vidarbha farmers look set to say 'Jai Ho'

Vidarbha farmers look set to say 'Jai Ho'
2 Apr 2009, 2347 hrs IST, Ramu Bhagwat, TNN
NAGPUR: An unprecedented level of relief measures extended by the Congress-led UPA government in the agriculture sector over the past three years may help the party reap a rich harvest in the Lok Sabha elections in the Vidarbha and Marathwada regions.Farmers of Vidarbha were in the national headlines for much of the last five years because of the suicide spree driven by their economic distress. In 2004, the Congress incurred wrath of farmers of the region, leading to a near total wipe-out in general elections. Of the 11 Lok Sabha seats that year, it managed to win only one - the urban centre of Nagpur - in Vidarbha, which was once its impregnable fort. In neighbouring Marathwada, to which the cotton belt extends, the Congress fared worse drawing a naught. The BJP-Shiv Sena made a clean sweep in these areas riding on the farmers' woes.The situation is in stark contrast this time. Farmers' activists are veering round the view that if the Congress manages to convert the goodwill generated by the largesse given to farmers into votes, the 2004 results could be reversed helping the party regain its lost ground.Three crore people, comprising farmers and families, farm labourers and allied businesses depend on the main cash crop of cotton. For them, an unprecedented loan waiver of Rs 71,000 crore announced by the Centre in 2008 budget has come as a big respite. Along with another sop of Rs 6200 crore loan waiver provided by the state government, the two waivers together benefited 90% of Vidarbha's cotton growers."Farmers will certainly remember that in June of 2006, when the farmer suicides were at peak, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, along with NCP chief and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, was here to express their sympathies with the distressed farmers. The PM had then announced a Rs 3,075 crore special relief plan for six worst-hit Vidarbha districts,'' said Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti president Kishore Tiwari. Prior to that the state government had announced a similar Rs 1075 crore interest waiver plan.Shetkari Sanghatana leader Vijay Jawandhiya also agreed that the Congress may benefit in a big way in Vidarbha this time and along with ally NCP win at least five of the ten Lok Sabha seats which go to poll in the first phase on April 16. "Besides the loan waiver, what bailed out cotton farmers is the big jump in minimum support price__from less than Rs 2,000 last year to Rs 3,000 a quintal this year. That really got the farmers out of the desperate situation,'' said Jawandhiya. The 2004 Congress-NCP manifesto had promised a price of Rs 2,700 but the state DF government tactfully waited for the election year and finally rewarded the farmers with higher price at the fag end of its term. "But the farmers have not much to complain now and reciprocate with their support," felt Jawandhiya."Moreover, the Congress election manifesto is totally in favour of farmers promising food security and health insurance. It has promised wheat at Rs 3 and rice at Rs 2 a kg and to widen the BPL net by increasing the eligible income level. The Congress has won over the farmers. It will not be a surprise if they go out whole-heatedly for the Congress-NCP," remarked Tiwari."In contrast, the BJP has indicated that it would provide mobile phones and cheap laptops, the gadgets that may hardly reach the radar of distressed farmers driven to suicide,'' Tiwari said ==================================
Maharashtra: the dull days of White Gold
P. Sainath
In Maharashtra, cotton has never received the support sugarcane has. It is grown in poor regions by dryland farmers with far less political clout than the Pawars of western Maharashtra.
They called it White Gold. In 1972, you could buy 15 grams of gold with what you earned from producing one quintal of cotton. In Vidarbha, for instance, you made Rs.340 for that quintal (long staple). And gold went at Rs.220 for 10 grams (Rs.330 for 15). True, the cotton growers were even then subsidising rich textile barons in Mumbai. They still do — a lot more, in fact. But ‘back then’ seems a lot better right now, relatively speaking.
By the 1990s, that trend had been reversed. From the 1970s to mid-1985, cotton was, as Vijay Jawandia calls it, “the poor man’s cloth.” Man-made fabric was all the rage. By the end of the 1980s, however, a growing bias towards natural fibre saw cotton emerge as the rich man’s cloth. All the big brand names were cashing in on cotton. Yet, cotton farmers in the poorer nations were doing worse. Corporations and traders were doing better. By the mid to late 1990s, obscene subsidies to cotton growers from the United States and the European Union were already pulling the prices downwards.
By 2005, you needed to sell five quintals of cotton to buy 15 grams of gold. By early 2008, gold was at Rs.12,125 for 10 grams, cotton at Rs. 2000 a quintal. You now needed to sell nine quintals of cotton to buy 15 grams of gold. The living standards of farmers in cotton-growing regions like Vidarbha had fallen sharply. Cotton prices and incomes were crashing, debt and cultivation costs soaring. The 2004 Lok Sabha polls saw a wave of farmer anger — and the BSP’s rise — bludgeon the Congress. The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance won 10 of the then 11 seats in Vidarbha.
But in the Maharashtra Assembly polls just months later, the Congress did better. It took 30 of the 66 seats from the region. True, Sonia Gandhi’s visit had a huge impact in this traditionally pro-Congress cotton belt. Turning down prime ministership further enhanced the respect she enjoyed there. But the Congress campaign captured voters with a single promise. It would raise the cotton prices — then Rs.2200 a quintal — to Rs.2700. That promise was to be betrayed just months after the polls – with terrible consequences.
In Maharashtra, cotton never received the support that sugarcane did. It was grown in poor regions by dryland farmers with far less political clout than the Pawars of western Maharashtra. As India embraced neo-liberal globalism, that clout waned further. On the one hand, cotton-growers were locked into the volatility of global prices. On the other, input costs were exploding. Local seed cost around Rs.9 a kilogram in 1991. By 2004, commercial seed had taken over and could cost as much as Rs.1,650 to Rs.1,800 for just 450 grams, thanks to Monsanto’s Bt cotton. State intervention later brought the price down to half that. But the damage had been done. And even today’s price of Rs.650-850 for less than half a kg is still many times higher than Rs.9 a kg. In Maharashtra, the State actively promoted the costly Bt seed, its own agency being a distributor. Huge sums also went to promoting it by using film stars as “brand ambassadors.”
Other inputs, fertilizer, pesticide, utilities like water and electricity, all saw a big rise in costs from the mid to late 1990s. Cotton covers about 5 per cent of cultivable area in India, but accounts for 55 per cent of all pesticides used. (That is in itself a huge problem with alarming long-term consequences for agriculture, environment and health as a whole.) With the massive spread of these, it is no surprise that most farmers taking their lives swallowed chemical pesticides to do so. They are so easy to access, perhaps far more so in this sector.
Successive Indian governments did nothing to stop the dumping of subsidised U.S. cotton in this country. There are no duties on import of cotton today. India is the second biggest producer of what is one of the world’s most widely traded commodities. Yet between 1997-98 and 2004-05, we imported 115 lakh bales. That is, over three times the number we did in the preceding 25 years. This cheap imported cotton further devastated growers here. At the same time, like millions of other small farmers, they found bank loans harder and harder to access as rural credit shrank — by policy. Credit was increasingly diverted towards urban-metro consumption. Many farmers turned to moneylenders, ending up mired in debt.
While poor cotton farmers never developed much political and electoral clout, traders and textile barons did. Even if the barons were to pay a slightly better price — say an additional Rs.2 per metre of raw material went to the farmer — it would make a difference. It never happened.
By 2005, cotton prices collapsed. That’s when the Maharashtra government withdrew the Rs.500 per quintal “advance bonus” normally tagged on to the minimum support price (MSP) in the State. This saw the price plunging to Rs.1,700 a quintal. (Gold was at Rs.6,180 for ten grams.) Suicides in Vidarbha, already rising, shot up massively.
By September 2006, farmers in that region were killing themselves at the rate of one every six hours on average. The Vilasrao Deshmukh government had withdrawn the advance bonus in 2005 despite appeals from cotton growers, the National Commission for Farmers and many others. The next year, Vidarbha, indeed all of Maharashtra, recorded its worst rise in farm suicides ever. If the Deshmukh government could get away with that, it was because cotton had no strong lobby. Its electoral clout was feeble.
Across India, cotton growers make up the largest group of the over 180,000 farmers who committed suicide between 1997 and 2007. The cumulative impact of all these processes was crushing farmers locked into this model of production and into neo-liberal economics. In Vidarbha, for the first time ever, farmers grew more soybean than cotton as losses on the latter were killing them, literally.
There’s nothing like an election to spur policy change, though. In the run-up year to the polls, the Union government came through with its Rs.71,000 crore loan waiver for indebted farmers. In Maharashtra, the lion’s share of that waiver’s benefits went to just seven of the State’s 35 districts, none of them in the poor cotton-growing regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada. Most of them within the power base of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. And all this was about bank debt. Moneylender debt was not touched. Still, there was some relief.
The main loan waiver excluded those owning more than five acres. This penalised some of the poorest farmers. In unirrigated regions, even poor farmers tend to own more acres as productivity is so low. The government did respond to demands that dryland cultivators not be penalised for having more than five acres. After all, polls were now months away. The write-off that followed of Rs.20,000 for such farmers did help a significant group of growers in Vidarbha. And there was also some money that trickled down from even the awfully flawed packages.
Then came a healthy rise in cotton prices. The shifting of huge swathes of land in the U.S. to bio-fuel production pushed up prices last year. And a nearly 50 per cent rise in the MSP for cotton took the price to Rs.3,000 per quintal. In Vidarbha, it meant that about seven months of 2008 were the best period the region had seen in years. No basic problem had been resolved, but it brought some relief and reduced the stifling pressure. A pity it took so many deaths — and election year — for that to happen.
The rise in MSP to Rs.3,000 was also an admission of how disastrous the Deshmukh government’s torpedoing the price to Rs.1700 a quintal had been. And the removal of that Chief Minister also won the region’s approval.
To what extent this helps the Congress in these Lok Sabha polls is hard to gauge. There is the BSP factor that is very real and could mess up all bets. (It played a big role in 2004, too. In four seats, the BSP polled far more votes than the margin of defeat of Congress-NCP candidates.) But the Congress faces less hostility than it did three years ago. Whether it can play that to its advantage is another question. And the long-term future of White Gold here is an even bigger one.
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