Saturday, November 6, 2010

Widows of farmers protest Obama visit-Times of India

Printed from
NAGPUR: The cotton growers of Vidarbha, who are suffering immensely due to the prevailing agrarian crisis, staged candlelight protests ahead of US President Barack Obama's India visit on Friday.

The protests, held under the banner of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti — a pressure group which has been documenting distressed farmers' suicides — sought to draw his attention to the plight of the region's agriculture sector caused by 'American policies'.

The main event was organised at Hiwara village in Yavatmal district where a rally was taken out demanding a ban on Bt Cotton — dubbed as American seed — and withdrawal of subsidies given to US cotton growers. Vidarbha Farm Widows Association (VFWA) president Babytai Bais and a large number of farm widows and debt-ridden farmers from Vidarbha participated in the march who raised slogans holding placards stating 'Barack Obama Go Back'.

"When the country is celebrating Diwali, we are sitting on hunger strike, mourning deaths of our husbands so that this mass genocide is stopped and the prevailing starvation and despair of Vidarbha agrarian community ends," said Bharati Pawar, a farm widow and secretary of VFWA.

According to the VJAS president Kishore Tiwari, "American cotton and Bt Cotton have ruined rural economy of the cotton-growing Vidarbha region. A majority of over 10,000 farmers in Vidarbha, who opted for Bt Cotton seed, committed suicide."

The protesters offered prayers to all 2,16,000 cotton farmers who committed suicide since 1999 — after the introduction of WTO regime in India. In a press release, Tiwari claimed that VJAS had sought a meeting with Obama to hand over to him a memorandum during his Mumbai visit but were declined permission by the administration.

Tiwari said the memorandum listed out how 'American' Bt Cotton — that promised a bumper yield — turned a once lush green Vidarbha into dying fields of farmers. Over 10,000 farmers opted for this seed variety and eventually brought immense financial distress and spelt misery to over three-fourths of the farmers. Terming the tall claims of Bt Cotton being a commercially viable proposition as a hoax, Tiwari said BT seed has driven the farmers to the brink, so much so that one farmer commits suicide every eight hours on an average every day in Vidarbha.

"We'll stage a protest at Delhi when Obama addresses the joint session of the Parliament on November 8. We will be joined by farmers from Punjab and elsewhere," Tiwari said.

No comments: