Thursday, January 28, 2010

farm trouble - Death harvests-Pradip Maitra

farm trouble - Death harvests

Pradip Maitra in Yavatmal, Vidarbha

"The suicides (in Maharashtra) that have occurred are as much due to the failure of social and economic development to reach the poor as it is due to natural calamities."


"The plight of the farmers (in Vidarbha) made a deep impact on me."


Sitting in her 11-acre farm here and gazing at the sky is now part of the daily routine for Varsha Netam. The pregnant widow of a farmer has no clue about her future.

The 21-year-old has to face the consequences of the suicide of her husband, Maruti Netam, on November 25 last year due to heavy debt and his inability to get a remunerative price for the cotton he grew.
THE DEBT-DROUGHT COMBO Most experts feel that the suicides are primarily because of crop failure, mounting debts and most farmers not getting crop loans.

Maharashtra saw a decline in farm suicides in 2005. But the year 2006 turned out to be the worst so far in this respect. And that was the year Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a Rs 3,750-crore debt relief package for six crisis-ridden districts of Vidarbha, eastern Maharashtra. This was in addition to the Maharashtra government's Rs 1,075 crore for the region. But as indebtedness to banks was a criterion in being eligible for compensation, many were left out.

Vidarbha falls in a rain-shadow area.
Following the drought in the region in 1992, 15 irrigation projects were cleared.
The Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation had once about 100 major, medium and minor irrigation projects in the pipeline. Most of them still remain on paper.

The central government in 2008 announced a Rs 71,000-crore loan waiver package (in which Maharashtra's share was about Rs 9,000 crore), to which the state government added Rs 6,200 crore. But those could not prevent farmer suicides in the region.

It is also a fact that just 15 per cent of the farmers are covered by the crop insurance scheme. However, for a farmer to be eligible for insurance, a district to which she/he belongs must be declared drought-affected.

In 2005, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences did a study of farm suicides.
It found that the phenomenon was not restricted to any category of landowners. But the concentration of suicides was greater among small farmers (who owned up to 5 acres) and middle farmers (who owned more than 5 acres but less than 15 acres). And the 2008 loan waiver applied to those farmers who owned up to 5 acres (one acre = 43,560 square feet).

An important finding was that 81 per cent of these households were literate, pointing to the fact that the families felt the need for younger people to continue education. Education meant loans, implying more indebtedness.
A LOSING PROPOSITION Rekha Chahere (27) of Hiwra village in Yavatmal lost her husband, Dilip, last year when he swallowed pesticide following crop failure.

"I was thrown out by my in-laws after the death of my husband and it is very difficult for me to feed my two daughters, Shubhangi (9) and Vaishali (7), forget providing them schooling," she said.

Rekha works as a farm labourer and earns hardly Rs 50 a day. "I get work around 15 days a month during the peak period," she pointed out.

She, however, could not get the relief compensation of Rs 1 lakh from the government because of bureaucratic hassles -- the reason given was that Dilip was not a landholder. Her mother-inlaw is the landholder, even though her husband was managing everything, being the eldest in the family.

Families want money for the weddings of girls and giving dowry, pushing them further into debt.

"Most of them borrow loans from private moneylenders, who often use muscle power to recover the loans.
There were several instances where moneylenders tried to molest wives of farmers who had failed to repay," said Srinivas Khandewale, former head of the department of economics, Nagpur University.

"The cotton price, which was Rs 2,500 a quintal in the early 1990s, rose to just Rs 2,800 this year and that won't cover a farmer's production cost, which has trebled in the past decade. While the repayment of his debt is impossible, he still requires money to feed his family and prepare for the next sowing season," Khandewale said. According to Kishore Tiwari of the Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti, while around Rs 1,800 crore was provided to farmers as crop loans in 2006, the figure was just Rs 1,240 crore in 2009 and it forced the farmers to borrow loans from moneylenders at an exorbitant rate (the rate is 50-60 per cent while the bank rate is only 6 per cent).

"Their debts soared when crops failed due to poor rain or when prices tumbled," Tiwari said, adding that this year farmers were affected by both -crop failure due to scanty rain and the farmers' inability to get fair prices for raw cotton from the market. He said that the lack of a food security for farmers had only worsened the situation.

Yavatmal District Collector Sanjay Deshmukh admitted that the government packages had not been able to stop the suicides. "There is a need for a long-term strategy on this," he said.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Vidarbha Statehood call shuts down is total-HT via IANS

Indo-Asian News Service
Nagpur, January 20, 2010

Long distance and local services were disrupted, state transport buses stoned and most private and government offices closed as the daylong shutdown for a separate state of Vidarbha, to be carved out of Maharashtra, began on Wednesday.

Maharashtra police deployed heavy security in Nagpur and other major towns of the 11 districts where the shutdown called by 68 political parties and groups - Vidarbha Nirman Sangram Samiti (VNSS) - evoked a spontaneous and enthusiastic response, the organisers said.

"All schools, colleges, a majority of government offices and over a lakh commercial and business establishments in entire Vidarbha have taken part in the shutdown," said Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) chief Kishor Tiwari.

The Vidarbha region comprises the districts of Nagpur, Chandrapur, Gondiya, Bhandara, Gadchiroli, Wardha, Amravati, Yavatmal, Buldana, Akola and Washim, with a total population of 30 million.

As part of the shutdown, the long distance Vidarbha Express was halted briefly by the agitators, while attempts were made to stop other trains entering from north, east and south India at various points, railway officials said.

Huge traffic snarls were witnessed at the state's borders with Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh as vehicular movement on the national highways was stopped by pro-Vidarbha agitators.

Similarly, all traffic also came to a standstill on the state highways and district roads in the entire region.

Nagpur city was deserted as all public and private vehicles remained off the roads and commercial establishments downed shutters.

In Yavatmal, a group of 50 farm widows squatted outside the State Bank of India office raising slogans for a separate state and for justice to the farmers.

In several Yavatmal villages, rallies were taken out and local leaders demanded a separate state of Vidarbha for the region's development.

People also enacted farmer suicides, consuming poison or immolating them as crowds cheered and raised a chorus for a separate state.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

formation of separate Vidarbha-Kishor Rithe

Though the thermometer indicating sudden drop in the temperature at Nagpur as low as 6 degree, politically the “orange city” was hot this week. However the citizens who see the same old political faces in the protests, with the usual mad ideas of “development”, have still skeptic about the demand. But the drama has already set a serious tone this time among the general masses and that is why lets have the “WILD TALK” on this topic.Its worth consuming “some energy” on it.(we wont afford to consume more as presently the Vidarbha is using thermal power)
Let me tell you, at the beginning, that I support the move of formation of separate Vidarbha state but not on political ground. There should be purely “Development plan” based demand.
While supporting the move ,let me put my dream plan of Vidarbha. I would like my Vidarbha state (with 11 districts on board) with grid interactive Solar power driven state. I would like this state to follow stream based irrigation and small irrigation projects as an option due to its hilly and forested terrain. I would also like to protect its 37% forest intact for my next generation (along with minerals) and explore the beauty of this forest to attract tourism which can bring money for my local communities (like Kenya) to live happily at the places where they live. There should not be any migration for jobs in my Vidarbha state. My leaders should “earn 30% commission” (Less if possible. That is an essential part of our corrupt system. Let us not try to eliminate this at this moment) by promoting agro-based industries like cotton, orange, rice and dairy. Hey, and the most important, I would like to keep the identity of my Nagpur city as a “Tiger Capital of India”, by protecting 3 Tiger Reserves (Melghat Pench and Tadoba ) and their corridors which actually help provide us ecological services like climate, water, wildlife to pollinate in our agriculture to increase the food grain production.
“Jay Vidarbha! Jay Vidarbha!!”, ….hey, who is there? Stop….He has gone to participate in the protest. However I must tell you what he told me.
“If Vidarbha becomes the separate state it will have more than 33% forest cover and so we will be able to cut the “surplus” forest and build the mega irrigation projects”. However I had asked him to read “Times of India” story under caption “Statehood no green signal for tree felling” published on January 13, 2010.
My comment was published in TOI regarding the wrong notion of politicians about the forest cover. I said ”Vidarbha will still be the part of India like other forested states like Arunachal Pradesh and Chattisgarh and it will have to follow the Forest Conservation Act 1980 while considering any developmental project like dam, mine and highway on forest land”. That is not at least what my generation would want in a separate Vidarbha state.
Let me explain to readers of “WILD TALK” that Mr. Banwarilal Purohit, former MP sent a clarification to “Times of India” on this green concern expressed in the news item.
Mr. Purohit has called it an “erroneous impression” and he further gave a totally wrong and false historic background while trying to remove this impression, advocating for curtailing the forest lands.
However let me first appreciate what he has stated that “Protagonists of Vidarbha statehood are not anti-forests, nor do they want development at the cost of forests and ecology”.Thanks Mr.Purohit for expressing this understanding as its good for our grandsons and grand-daughters.
But I am worried on what he wrote further. He said that “Vidarbha which was part of Madhya Pradesh became part of Maharashtra in 1956(?). At this time, a very large area known as gaothan (grazing grounds) was handed over to forest department whereas in MP it was with the Revenue Department. And these grazing grounds were recorded as “Zudupi jungle”. As Forest Conservation Act 1980 applies to all forests including "zudupi jungle", we could not use this area for developmental projects” (So he supports bringing down present “surplus” forest cover by supporting big developmental projects on these lands)
This is totally wrong explanation which he gave to TOI and he needs to verify this from the lawyer or expert forest officer, whom he trust.
Let me tell him that the Vidarbha Region which was part of Madhya Pradesh till 1959 basically formed from two erstwhile different land administrative entities, viz. Central Province and Berar. The Berar Region (Varhad) was assigned to the British by the Nawab of Hydrabad in 1853 and was controlled by a Resident stationed at Hydrabad. By the turn of the century, there were six districts in Berar, viz. Amraoti, Ellichpur, Akola, Washim, Wani and Buldhana. When Vidarbha joined the Maharashtra, these districts came to Maharashtra with the following land classification-
Hydrabad Residency Notification No. 184, dated 6 June, 1892, notified the following classes of State Forests -
Class A : Forests for the production of timber and firewood
Class B : High Grasslands or Ramnas
Class C : Grazing lands
C (i) : Grazing lands not ordered to be reverted during settlement
C (ii) : Grazing lands ordered not to be reverted during settlement.
Class D : Other forest areas which may eventually be included in one of the above classes of forests or to be reverted to the ordinary control of Revenue Department.
The Forest administration had already got separated from the Revenue Department in 1901, forest areas of Classes A, B and C ( i ), which were directly controlled by the forest officers, remained with the Forest department. Other State forests including class C(ii),D,E,F,G,H and I were retained by the Revenue department.
Mr.Purohit is talking about the “gaothans”, he wrote, (grazing lands).Lets see where these words are in the classification-
Class E : Survey numbers assigned for free grazing not included in the forest area
Class F : Survey numbers assigned for village purposes other than free
grazing, such as gaothan, Khalwadi, burial ground, playing fields, assessed grazing fields, land set apart for purpose of Nature etc.
Class G : Uncultivable fields not included in any of the following:
Class H : Assessed fields available for cultivation
Class I: Areas such as village sites, tanks, rivers etc. not included in any survey number.
This clearly states that Mr. Purohit has put up the issue of “Zudupi jungle” and development of Vidarbha wrongly. “Gaothans” and “grazing lands” are two different land entities under "F" class and "E" class respectively. However both were not with the forest department when Vidarbha came in Maharashtra.
(In 1954, The M. P. Land Revenue Code was promulgated and the Berar as well as Central Provinces Land Revenue Code were repealed. The M. P. Code extended to lands other than those classified as reserved forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927.The M. P. Code was not implemented till 1959, and in 1960, the State of Maharashtra came into existence with effect from 1 May, 1960.)
I will go further and state that the interim order passed by the Supreme Court on 12 December 1996, in Civil Writ Petition Nos. 171/96 and 202 / 95, has, actually put the issue of “Zudupi jungle” in the proper perspective. As per this order, all lands recorded as “forest” in any government record, irrespective of their ownership, are covered by the provisions of the Act. Further, while deciding the status of "forest" in respect of any land, the dictionary meaning of the word "forest" is to be taken into account. The Supreme Court order goes beyond the official status accorded to these lands and directs that provisions of the Act be made applicable to all such areas as are traditionally recognized as forest by the common man, “irrespective of its ownership”.
I think, the readers of “WILD TALK” who want separate Vidarbha just on the “development basis” would understand this. The political leadership of new Vidarbha state should be more studied and should actually discuss the “development agenda” rather than simply making sentimental appeals.
Jay Vidarbha!! Jay Vidarbha!...Hey...who is there?Let me listen and argue with this protagonist now.We will talk later.......
Kishor Rithe
1st Floor, "Pratishtha" ,
Bharat Nagar,
Akoli Road, Near Sainagar,
Amravati Pin-444607
Maharashtra State.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Vidarbha, Telengana ’states’ welcome motorists at border (With Images)-IANS

Vidarbha, Telengana ’states’ welcome motorists at border (With Images)

January 16th, 2010 - 9:37 pm ICT by IANS -

Nagpur, Jan 16 (IANS) Hundreds of motorists entering or leaving Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh were surprised to find new colourful hoardings welcoming them to new “states” of Vidarbha and Telangana Saturday.
A group of slogan-shouting pro-Vidarbha and pro-Telangana activists erected the hoardings at the Kanyakumari-Varanasi National Highway 7, on the Maharashtra-Andhra Pradesh borders, around 180 km from here.

“Let the government take its own time over the long-pending issue of Vidarbha. As far as we are concerned, we have symbolically created the new Vidarbha ’state’ here today,” Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) president Kishor Tiwari told IANS over phone from the border area Saturday evening.

The hoardings can be seen in Marathi and English with a map of Vidarbha region and in Telugu and English on the Telangana side, on the bridge of the Pen-Ganga river crisscrossing the state border here.

“Our agitation secured spontaneous and very enthusiastic support from the local villagers on both sides of the borders - 180 km from Nagpur and 325 km from Hyderabad,” Tiwari claimed. Over two dozen activists of the proposed separate Telangana state were also present when the hoardings were put up.

Bouyed by the response, the VJAS now plans to erect 50 similar “Welcome to Vidarbha” signboards at all the border points of Maharashtra with Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka in the next couple of days.

Besides this, it will put up similar hoardings at all important towns, villages, district borders and other prominent places in the region, Tiwari said.

He said that Saturday’s action was in preparation of the proposed Vidarbha shutdown called by Vidarbha Nirman Sangram Samiti - an umbrella organisation of 68 political parties and pro-Vidarbha groups - next Wednesday, followed by the 180-km long, two-day march of over 250 farmers for a separate state.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Vidarbha widows on ‘Jagran yatra’ for separate statehood-IANS

Vidarbha widows on ‘Jagran yatra’ for separate statehood

January 11th, 2010 - 3:51 pm ICT by IANS -

Nagpur, Jan 11 (IANS) Nearly 300 farmers’ widows will set upon a two-day Jagran Yatra (awakening procession) in eastern Maharashtra to press for their demand of separate statehood for Vidarbha.
Vidarbha Farm Widows Assocation (VFWA) president Bebitai Bais Monday said that the 180-km march will start Jan 20 from Maoist-hit Kosara village in Yavatmal district and end the next day at Both-Bodan village in the same district, which has the highest number of farm widows.

The region is the epicentre of suicides by indebted farmers.

The agitation will be part of the Jan 20 shutdown call in the entire Vidarbha region called by 68 political parties and social groups.

“During the procession, our convoy will halt in different villages and drum up support for the cause of Vidarbha, draw people’s attention towards the apathy of the Maharashtra government and the plight of the 7,300-plus farmland widows and other urgent socio-economic issues plaguing the region,” Bais said in a statement.

The widows will also present gifts of bangles to the opponents of a separate Vidarbha state, particularly the Shiv Sena.

“Our focus will be on the long-pending demands of the dying Vidarbha, which has been exploited for over six decades by different political parties,” Bais said.

She pointed out that the state government has failed to keep its promises even on basic issues like food, education, healthcare and security of the over two million farmers reeling under severe debts in the region.

Read more:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

No need to extend statutory board term,saysVJAS president-Times of India

No need to extend statutory board term,saysVJAS president

  • Statutory board was formed 15 years ago to bring development to the region.

  • The special funds were not utilized and end up in development of its members’ electoral constituencies.

  • The board needs to be liquidated and a separate state Vidarbha formed, only this will help the region.

Times of India –Dated 31st December 2009

The term of Vidabha Statutory Development Board formed in 1994 is expiring on april 30,2010.The Maharashtra government, in its recently concluded winter session of the legislature, has expressed its resolve to move the Centre seeking an extension for the development board.

However,Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti,a farmers’ rights group which has also lent its support to a separate state demand, has said the Maharashtra government should instead agree to create a separate state.” The statutory board was formed 15 years ago with a view to bring the region on par with other developed regions of the state. But all these years it has miserably failed in this endeavor as Vidarbha region continues to languish as one of the most underdeveloped regions,” said VJAS president Kishor Tiwari.

“For the first five years, the board was nothing more than a white elephant. Later, under the special powers bestowed on him as chairman of constitutional board, the governor gave directives for targeted budgetary allocation to remove Vidarbha’s developmental backlog in the sectors like irrigation, health care and tribal development.

“The board created its own problems as for some years the special funds were not utilized and ended up in development of its members’ electoral constituencies. The Maharashtra government most often diverted the special funds to other regions. Lapses were removed in later years but the sad fact remains that till date Vidarbha has not caught up with more influential regions of western Maharashtra,” remarked Tiwari.” So time has come for Maharashtra government to admit its miserable failure, liquidate the board and create separate Vidarbha state. Only that can help Vidarbha development,” he added.

Tiwari has also come out strongly against a move to create a separate planning board. He claimed a meeting of top officials was recently called by governor’s secretary Shrikant deshpande to discuss the proposal.