Friday, October 10, 2014

Maharashtra Poll game over kisan deaths-Statesman

Maharashtra Poll game over kisan deaths-Statesman 
No party seems to be bothered about concrete action on the ground
Statesman News service
Mumbai, 9 October
Farmer suicides continue unabated in Maharashtra, even as political parties in the state are busy indulging in a blame-game over the issue in the run up to the Assembly polls. Seven farmers have taken their lives over the past five days in Yavatmal district alone. 
During the same time span, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has lashed out at the previous Congress-NCP government in the state, blaming it for the high incidence of farm suicides; the latter, no longer in an alliance, have hit back saying suicides had decreased in 2013, and Modi was referring to 2012 data to claim that ‘more than 10 farmers (are) committing suicide every day’.
Although the issue has become a talking point owing to the trading of charges, no party seems to be bothered about concrete action on ground. In Yavatmal ~ which is part of the Vidarbha region, also known as Maharashtra’s farm suicide capital ~ the crisis has deepened owing to the absence of the retreating monsoon. Standing crops spread around 9 lakh hectares (6 lakh hectares of soyabean and 3 lakh hectares of cotton) have dried up, and incessant load-shedding has meant that even those with access to wells have not been able to water their fields.
Most farmers in the region had to sow their fields twice or thrice owing to the late onset of monsoons, thereby spiking already high-input costs. The crisis has manifested itself in about 60 farmers in Vidarbha taking their lives since the issuance of the Assembly poll notification in mid-September, as per estimates of farmer advocacy group Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS).
Shekhar Joshi, a farmer who is also part of VJAS, says even if load shedding is halted for 15-20 days, there will be some visible improvement in the situation, as those with access to wells and tanks can water their fields. “At present, the state electricity board gives them power for two hours at around 2 in the night. Given the situation, can they not ensure proper electricity supply for a few days,” he asks.
Joshi says local politicians are busy skirting the issue, while state-level leaders are engaged in grand-standing. Vijay Jawandhia from farmers’ group Shetkari Sanghatana Paik agrees. “Look at what Narendra Modi said at his Khamgaon rally,” he urges. “He said cotton farmers would get good prices in the international market. Does he not know that international prices of cotton have slumped in 2014?”In 2011-12, when cotton was trading at 247 cents per pound in the US, cotton farmers here received between Rs 6000-6500 per quintal. In 2014-15, Jawandhia says, US rates have slumped to 70 cents per pound. “How will farmers get better prices? This is eyewash,” he notes.
Congress has been promised a slew of projects for agriculture if elected to power again. Its chief ministerial candidate Prithviraj Chavan has, over Twitter, promised to reduce distress sale ‘through arrangement of mortgaging agricultural produce’ and ensure electricity supply to farmers ‘for at least 8 hours in the daytime and 10 hours at night’.

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