Diwali is not a joyous affair for the cotton farmers of Maharashtra. With politics and price hike they have no way out except to accept death.
MAHARASHTRA FARMERS, who harvest cotton for a living, will have another Black Diwali due to crop failure and non-procurement from the Government. In Maharashtra alone, cotton is cultivated in over 52 lakh hectare and the lion's share of it is in the rain-fed region of Vidarbha and Marathwada where Bt.cotton crop has been failing due to long dry spells. This year also the same happened in the month of September. This severely effected the net yield of cotton by 50 percent resulting in another Black Diwali for Bt.cotton growers who are in the grip of a agrarian crisis and committing suicides since June 2005.
The rain sensitive Bt.cotton seed has increased cultivation cost by almost three times, and reduced the net average cotton production per hector. This is in addition to international market volatility and the Indian government export restrictions. Thus, all these combined have given reasons for the prevailing distress and despair in the region forcing the cotton farmers to kill themselves, which is a matter of national shame.
Complete apathy of Govt. at the Centre and state are adding fuel to this ongoing farmer’s genocide as was informed by Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti President Kishor Tiwari. Since August, party leaders who are in power are found busy in demanding MSP for cotton like public auction from Rs 5,000 or Rs 6000 per quintal and it is countered by the opposition leaders with the demand for Rs 7,000 or Rs 8,000 per quintal for the sake of political mileage.The entire situation is making a joke of the debt ridden farmers' suffering as UPA Congress-NCP government has shamelessly hiked the cotton price from Rs 3,000 to Rs 3,300 a quintal in four years. They have entirely overlooked the sky rocketing production cost, which is allowing private traders to exploit the cotton farmers hence Maharashtra farmers are demanding state procurement at minimum Rs 6000, per quintal, in order to give bailout relief to more than 5 million debt trapped cotton farmers of Maharashtra.
The facts are quite dismal as the Maharashtra State Cooperative Cotton Growers Marketing Federation chairman, Dr NP Hirani, has demanded Rs 6,000 per quintal while MPCC President Manikrao Thakre urged Congress president Sonia Gandhi to ensure Rs 5,000 MSP. This was followed by social justice minister Shivajirao Moghe, who took two MLAs along with him to New Delhi, and they urged the Party President Smt. Sonia Gandhiji to lift ban on cotton export permanently and hike the MSP to Rs 7,000 per quintal.
The ground reality remains that cotton farmers will have another Black Diwali and there are more chances of farmer suicides due on going despair and distress. Looking at prevailing situation internationally, wherein cotton prices are likely to soar to Rs 7,000 a quintal, this year too riding on the global scarcity on account of poor crops in the US, China and Pakistan, Indian cotton farmers can hedge these prices only if Central Govt. manages to raise the minimum support price to Rs 6,000 level. However, the government has not responded favourably disappointing cotton farmer.
Last year, the Centre put unnecessary restrictions on exports - denying farmers an opportunity to make it big. In the process they lost a market worth Rs 30,000 crore. At the national level Maharashtra is the main state thats cultivating Bt.cotton in around 52 lakh hector, which is around 40 percent of Indian cotton cultivation. Moreover, the agrarian economy of Maharashtra is completely based on cotton production and prices hence urgent intervention from Government is desirable at the earliest.