Thursday, February 25, 2010

Vidarbha farmers petition minister for more funds-want state to deal with corruption-Gulf News Reports

World | India
  • Gulf News

Vidarbha farmers petition minister for more funds

They also want state to deal with corruption

  • By Pamela Raghunath, Correspondent
  • Published: 00:00 February 26, 2010

Mumbai: Farmers in Vidarbha, Maharashtra, are asking Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to provide more funds to restore their rural system and also control the massive corruption that is prevalent in this region.

The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), a non-government outfit representing farmers, has demanded a special economic package of Rs300 billion (Dh23.7 billion) in the new budget to save more than three million cotton farmers facing an agrarian crisis. In a letter to Mukherjee, VJAS president Kishor Tiwari has drawn the minister's attention to the pathetic conditions in Vidarbha, "which is now known as the farmers' suicide capital of India".

The Maharashtra government has spent over Rs30 billion towards the irrigation backlog in the last three years and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had announced a Vidarbha relief package of Rs37.5 billion followed by loan waivers. Yet farmers continue to commit suicide because the "state has failed to address the basic issues of food security and health care", Tiwari told Gulf News on telephone from Nagpur.

"The last budget in 2009 was hailed as pro-poor and pro-farmer with an emphasis on food security. Big promises of providing wheat at Rs3 per kg and rice at Rs2 per kg were made but remained unfulfilled. We now want the government to implement the Right to Food Act with immediate effect."

Massive backwardness, lack of infrastructure and industrialisation coupled with regular power cuts and load shedding, tribal starvation, malnutrition and the complete failure of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the National Rural Health Mission has made Vidarbha "slaves of western Maharashtra and Mumbai", said a frustrated Tiwari.

Vagaries of nature

He hoped the finance minister had studied the problems of dry-land farmers facing the vagaries of nature as well as market forces.

Tiwari also pointed out that despite the Maharashtra government declaring 140,000 villages as drought-hit after the last "anewari" (crop yield estimate) and the administration's report showing villages were facing problems related to food, water, fodder and employment, "till date not a single person from the district administration has started relief work. Already, thousands of farmers are migrating and the situation is worse than June 2006," he said.

Tiwari also wanted the central government to monitor the funds being allocated to this region "as money is siphoned off on a massive scale.

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