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Villages of Widows Saikheda village of Yavatmal district, until a few years ago, had no news to tell. Villagers were at ease with whatever yield they got. But today, every house of Saikheda, every courtyard, every lane has a tragic story to tell...

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Cover Story

CONTENTS

16-19

Policy Failure

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Χ¥ @rqÌ DÕÌ÷ @Ìs q¬ÃÏÊ §Ìq’÷

In India agriculture has special significance for low income, poor and vulnerable sections of rural society. Agriculture constitutes largest share of country's national income though...

08-11

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PM Package Failed to Stop...

23

ÎDÕ¥ÌqÈÊ ’DÕ q¬ÃÏÊ s¬×°Ì s◊D÷Õ§ The Farmers' suicide cases in India have increased significantly in the last six years. Since the first farmer suicide case which was reported from Vidarbha in 1997, "Farmers' Suicide" has turned into a calamity in India...

20-22

12-14

Odisha

Suicide Valley For Surendra Dhanua (29) life has not been the same today. The poor and marginal farmer from the village Kusumadihi of Sambalpur district had tried to commit suicide as he had lost his entire Paddy crop on four acres of land because of poor...

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29-30

¥“K÷ ≤ zÌ“K÷ w—c ∞ ÷ KÂWà {÷Ê zÌÏ... RÓRÃ’÷ ¥sq÷, @Ì¥ @ͨà B|{ÏdÈÊ s¨Ã ¥“K÷-DÕ§„ DÕÌ DլèÃ& @ÌπÌÌ≤ÌdÏ {Ìq÷ §Ìq÷ ≤Ì∞÷ w—Âd÷∞KÂWà D÷Õ ÎDÕ¥Ìq DÕÈ A¥ DÕd¨Ã ’ÈWËà Îd}Ì ÎDÕ ≤¬Ã @Ì_{¬Ã_}Ì §◊¥÷ DÕd{ BUÃÌq÷ s¨Ã {§w“¨Ã ¬ÃÈ N}Ì& ¥ÂyÌNÏ} {—J}Ì∞} ¥ÌN¨Ã DÕÏ ’¬Ã¥Ï∞ wÏqÌ D÷Õ OÌ‹Ì{ w÷¥¨ÃÌ...

Disaster Management & Development (DMD) welcomes/ invites reaction, suggestions, articles, subscription related enquries from our valued readers. Please write/ mail us at : The Editor, Disaster management & Development, 1/122, Vijay Khand, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow- 226010, U.P., INDIA e-mail : editor@disastermgmt.in

Disaster Management & Development • May 2011

For Limited Circulation Only.


Editor Speaks

Vol. 1, No. 5

May 2011

Editor-in-Chief Dr. BHANU Managing Editor AP SINGH Editorial Consultant Savita Verma Advisory Board Chaman Pincha, Tamilnadu NM Prusty, New Delhi Dr. AN Singh, Uttar Pradesh Ravindra Nath, Assam Mayank Joshi, Gujarat Vipin Pandey, USA Editorial Team Anil Prakash Arif Shafi Wani Sunita Mall Reeta Tiwari Anjana Singh SK Singh Vijay Vineet Shubhi Chanchal Editorial Office Disaster Management & Development 1/122, Vijay Khand, Gomti Nagar Lucknow- 226010, U.P., INDIA. Tele-Fax : + 91522-2304853 E-mail : editor@disastermgmt.in Website : www.disastermgmt.in

Created by Kash Media Planet Pvt. Ltd. E-mail : kashmediaplanet@gmail.com Published by Dr Bhanu on behalf of Poorvanchal Gramin Vikas Sansthan 1/122 Vijay Khand, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow- 226010 and printed at Neelam Printing Press 41/381 Narhi, Lucknow- 226001. India’s 1st Bilingual Monthly Publication on Disaster Management by

POORVANCHAL GRAMIN VIKAS SANSTHAN e-mail : pgvs.vasudeva@gmail.com

website : www.pgvsindia.org

PGVS Educates Communities & Institutions to Plan for Minimizing Disaster Risk

Dear Readers, Thank you for your overwhelming response to our magazine. This issue of DMD discuses about suicides amongst farmers in different states. We shall have few more issues to understand our Agriculture and related issues because it caters to the direct livelihoods of 70% of rural population. We all know that Indian Agriculture has never witnessed good days. My humble question to citizens, especially policy makers, administration and justice providers of India is, when are we going to take the cognigence of bad to worse progressing situation of farmers and linked population, in the country? Is it not like closing eyes and standing in front of tsunami, thinking that it will pass on and then, one shall pay attention at leisure time? Lets review the history of farming in India. The zamindari system gave rise to the class of moneylenders, traders and absentee landlords, which prevented productive investment in agriculture. Demand for raw materials in order to sustain the Industrial Revolution compelled the farmers to shift to crops that had better market value. Mr Shambhu Ghatak/ Daniel Thorner describes that prior to Independence, Indian agriculture suffered from 'built-in depressors'. Big landlords used to extract huge rents during the days of zamindari. After Independence, Pt. NehruMahalanobis Plan placed more emphasis on industrialization. However, a decisive shift in agricultural policy happened after Pt. Nehru. Now the agriculture has become the point of State intervention. The technologies of Green Revolution, with input subsidies helped the rich peasants at the expense of small and marginal farmers. The 'new' agrarian movement during the decades of 1970s and 1980s were not revolutionary but reformist in nature, since it relied more on pressuring the State for remunerative prices, loan waivers and a better rural-urban balance in resource allocation instead of land and tenancy reforms in favour of small and marginal farmers and landless labourers. Presently, agrarian interest is much more marginalized in the national policy agenda, may be because of its low contribution to GDP. But we forget that this population is 70% of the rural community and backbone for food security. Reforms of the 1990s and shift in economic priorities of the Indian government led to stagnation in agriculture and more hardships for farmers (Posani 2009). According to Patnaik (2003), the decade of 1990s not only saw a steady decline in the level of per capita food availability at the national-level, the absolute amount of per capita food availability during the year 2002-03 was even lower than during the years of the Second World War- years when the terrible Bengal famine took place. If we look at post liberalisation stage, India went probably for trade liberalization for a number of reasons, move domestic prices closer to international prices, due to comparative advantage in foodgrains production, India would gain profit, agriculture was taxed due to high effective rate of protection for the industrial sector, agricultural products export restriction, hampered exports and profitability. As per World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), three points are seen: (i) Domestic support; (ii) Market access i.e., tariffs and restrictions on imports and exports; and, (iii) Export subsidies. The agreement required reduction in trade distorting domestic support like price interventions and subsidies; reduction in export subsidies; replacing quantitative restrictions and quotas on trade with tariffs, and reduction in tariffs to encourage more and freer trade. It was predicted that trade liberalisation and implementation of AoA would result in positive gains to the developing countries like India, through improved access to the developed countries' markets, increased trade and better pricing structure for tropical and other products of interest to the developing countries (NAAS, 2006). But it didnt click for Indian farmers as it adopted high yielding varieties (HYVs), chemical fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides and irrigation without proper understanding and education to farmers. This is national and State's responsibility to prepare proper ground for any sort of technology intervention. The technology was prone to pest and insect attacks, and was too much dependent on irrigation which requires a high working capital. Its high time now, all national and global citizens should join hand and advocate to take remedial measures to end the environment conducive for suicide from loan and hunger. At the same time we must look at the faces of young widows and their children of victims for their rehabilitation. We welcome suggestion from all our readers and humanitarian agencies in this regard. Dr. Bhanu

Disaster Management & Development • May 2011 3


Inbox Kudos to DMD Team Kudos to the DMD team for bringing out better and better issues with passage of time. Each fresh issue is a better copy of its previous self. The last issue which dealt extensively with the Tsunami in Japan was a sort of reference book though which one can keep records of tsunamis in the world. The articles in that issue were an eye opener and it has reminded us that if we do not take measures right now, we will be left with no option to face Nature's fury worst than the Tsunami. I hope that DMD team will continue to alert humankind on disaster management. Nuclear Power is Vulnerable Thanks to DMD team for bringing out the magazine with comprehensive information on Japan devastation. While Japan may have been the best prepared nation to deal with a largescale earthquake, there is no way any country could prepare for and deal with an 8.9-magnitude earthquake. This earthquake should serve as a cautionary tale for us here in India. A lesson should be learned from the tragedy in Japan and the radiation leaks from the nuclear power plants. These plants should not be located near major population centres. The explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant should sober those who tout nuclear power as a solution to global warming. Nuclear power is vulnerable at many points in the fuel cycle, from the risk of reactor meltdown to the theft of radioactive materials for terrorism or proliferation. It requires safely storing nuclear waste for thousands of years. With our overpowering need for new sources of clean, sustainable energy, we should not rush headlong into building more and bigger nuclear power plants, unless we are prepared to build them to withstand the strongest devastating events Mother Nature can hurl at us. All my good wishes to the editorial team for giving such a wonderful and valuable informations. Keep up your efforts. Dr C.S.Reddy Hyderabad.

Amit Sharma Principal Correspondent, The Indian Express, Allahabad. One Picture Worth a Thousand Words I appreciate the height of seriousness with which DMD team is coming. Let me express my deepest condolence and sympathy to all those affected by the multiple earthquake following devastating Tsunami and nuclear reactor radiation in Japan. Hats off to Japan citizens who have braved the enormous calamity of a terrible earthquake. Still they were calm enough to exhibit their dignity and have given lessons to the world. There is no question that "one picture is worth a thousand words," which is USP of DMD and your front-page photo of a lone Japanese woman with her wounded child undeniably makes that point and speaks the misery. Congratulations to DMD team for its continuous efforts in bringing out the different aspects of the disaster management in such an effective manner. Ramakant Deshmukh Mumbai.

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4 Disaster Management & Development • May 2011

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World

Japan's Crisis Put at Level of Chernobyl's By Hiroko Tabuchi/Keith Bradsher From Tokyo apan has decided to raise its assessment of the accident at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant from 5 to the worst rating of 7 on an international scale, putting the disaster on par with the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown, the Japanese nuclear regulatory agency said. According to the International Nuclear Event Scale, a level 7 nuclear accident involves "widespread health and environmental effects'' and the "external release of a significant fraction of the reactor core inventory.'' Japan's previous assessment of the accident put it at level 5 on the scale, the same level as the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979. The level 7 assessment had been applied only to the disaster at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union. The scale, which was developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency and countries that use nuclear energy, requires that the nuclear agency of the country where the accident occurs calculate a rating based on complicated criteria. Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said at a news conference that the rating resulted from new estimates by the Nuclear Safety Commission that suggest some 10,000 terabecquerels of radiation per

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hour were released from the plant into the environment for several hours in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (The measurement refers to how much radioactive material was emitted, not the dose absorbed by living things.) The scale of the radiation leak has since dropped to under 1 terabecquerel per hour, the Kyodo News agency said, citing the commission. Commission officials in Tokyo said they could not immediately comment. Michael Friedlander, a former senior nuclear power plant operator for 13 years in the United States, said that the biggest surprise in the Japanese reassessment was that it took a month for public confirmation that so much radiation had been released. Some in the nuclear industry have been saying for weeks that the nuclear accident released large amounts of radiation, but Japanese officials had consistently played down this possibility. The announcement came as Japan is preparing to urge more residents around a crippled nuclear power plant to evacuate, because of concerns over long-term exposure to radiation. Also on 11th April 2011 tens of thousands of people bowed their heads in silence at 2:46 p.m., exactly one month since the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami brought widespread destruction to Japan's northeast coast. (New York Times)

Effect on Health and Environment For an incident to be rated on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), it is assessed by the nuclear supervisory authorities in the nation where it occurred and is then reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Last month, the nuclear safety agency provisionally rated the Fukushima crisis at level 5. However, domestic and international experts argued the provisional level should be 6 or higher based on the facts that high levels of radiation were measured around the facility and significant amounts of radioactive material had escaped. In the Chernobyl crisis, about 5.2 million terabecquerels of radioactive material was emitted into the air in the space of 10 days. The amount of radioactive material aerially emitted from the Fukushima No. 1 plant right after the accident was about 10 percent of that of Chernobyl. But the scale of the Fukushima accident still stands out among other nuclear power accidents that have happened around the world. Also, a large volume of radioactive material has been dumped into the sea in the current incident. Since work to bring the situation under control has run into one complication after another, an end to the crisis could be months or even a year away, with the amount of nuclear leakage increasing. The assessed INES level reflects negative impacts on health and the environment. It will be important to carefully monitor the incidence of leukemia and cancer as well as soil contamination. The crisis also could strongly affect the international image of Japan. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

Disaster Management & Development • May 2011 5


World

282 Deaths Linked to Japan Aftermath mong people who survived the March 11 massive quake and tsunami but died later in the month in the disaster-stricken Tohoku region, at least 282 were believed to have succumbed to postdisasterlinked factors, such as cold temperatures and unsanitary conditions at evacuation sites that aggravated their chronic illnesses, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. The findings were made through inquiries to key hospitals designated to handle major natural disasters in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. As many of those hospitals located along the Iwate Prefecture coast that were seriously affected by the twin disasters have not responded to the Yomiuri's inquiry, meaning the number of such deaths indirectly linked to the quake and tsunami is certain to rise further. Experts warn such deaths indirectly linked to the disasters could occur at a much faster rate than those that

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occurred in the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake or the 2004 Niigata Prefecture Chuetsu Earthquake. The inquiry was made to 113 hospitals--those designated as key medical institutions at the time of major natural disasters and major secondary emergency hospitals--in the three prefectures. Of the 113 hospitals, 56 responded, with 24 hospitals confirming there were such indirect disaster-linked deaths. Of the 282 such deaths, Miyagi Prefecture accounted for 214, Fukushima Prefecture for 63 and Iwate Prefecture for five. Most of the deaths were believed to be among the elderly. The Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture--the city in which more than 5,000 people either died or are listed as missing-registered 127 such deaths; followed by 23 at Saka General Hospital in Shiogama, Miyagi Prefecture; 17 at Kashima Hospital in Iwaki, Fukushima

6 Disaster Management & Development • May 2011

Prefecture; and 10 at Fukushima Medical University Hospital in Fukushima. Regarding cause of death, hospitals reported 43 due to such respiratory illnesses as pneumonia, followed by 40 due to such circulatory diseases as heart failure and 11 cases resulting from cerebral vessel diseases as stroke. Between 30 and 50 patients were brought in for emergency treatment at the Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital each day in March following the quake. Over the 10-year period following the Hanshin quake, 919 cases were recognized as being indirectly linked to the disaster, accounting for 14 percent of those 6,402 people who died in Hyogo Prefecture alone. While the number of deaths already has topped 13,000 in the latest quake and tsunami, officially the toll does not include those believed to be indirectly linked to the disasters. Officials at the disaster-management headquarters in the three prefectures said they had yet to grasp the overall picture of such deaths that might be indirectly linked to the disasters. -The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network


Review Farmers' Suicide

Killing Staged by Policies By AP Singh n March'11 Swami Gowda (35) a farmer of cocoon and his wife Indramma (28) committed suicide in Malavalli taluk of Mandya district. It triggered speculation that the tragic turn of events was the fallout of the collapse in the cocoon price in the market. Swami had invested a lot of money and had pledged his wife's jewellery to fund farming activity. It was stated that Swami was anticipating a price of Rs. 350 a kg of cocoon which, however, collapsed and the market price was pegged around Rs.120 a kg.This is reckoned to be the first suicide of a sericulturist following the sudden crash in the prices of cocoon. Swami and Indramma are survived by three children. The Union Government's move to reduce the duty on import of raw silk from 30 per cent to 5 per cent, as announced in 2011-12 Budget has come as a rude shock for the sericulture farmers who are already agitated over the steep fall in cocoon prices. The same open market policy followed by India which has foreign investors coming into IT industry in India and benefiting Indian IT Engineers is immensely killing farmers. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) there were at least 16,196 farmers' suicides in India in 2008, bringing the total since 1997 to 199,132. According to another study by the Bureau, while the number of farmer suicides increased since 2001, the number of farmers has fallen, as thousands abandoning agriculture in distress. Further, at least 17,368 Indian farmers killed themselves in 2009, the worst figure for farmer suicides in six years, according to the data of NCRB. The government had always tried to underplay the cases of farmer deaths while intellectual supporters of the farmers preferred to inflate them. It was said, a comprehensive all-India study is still awaited. Maximum suicides occurred in states of

I

Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Punjab. The first state where suicides were reported was Maharashtra. Soon newspapers began to report similar occurrences from Andhra Pradesh. The situation was grim enough to force at least the Maharashtra government to set up a dedicated office to deal with farmers' distress. In the beginning it was believed that most of the suicides were happening among the cotton growers, especially those from Vidarbha. A look at the figures given out by the State Crime Records Bureau, however, was sufficient to indicate that it was not just the cotton farmer but farmers as a professional category were suffering, irrespective of their holding size. In 2006 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a package of Rs. 3750 crore to help farmers in six districts of Vidarbha region but it could not make any significant change in the region. The economic plight of the farmer might be illustrated with the fact that a farmer having as much as 15 acres of land, and hence considered a well-off farmer, had an income of just a little more than what he would have earned were he to merely get the legal minimum wage for all of the 365 days of the year. In the initial years when farmers distress came to attract public attention it was said that indebtedness through use of Bt Cotton were the main cause for farmers' suicide. The problem is complex and root causes include lopsided policies of the World Trade Organisation and developed nations' subsidies to their cotton farmers which make Vidarbha's cotton uncompetitive in world markets. Consequently Vidarbha is plagued by high rates of school drop outs, penniless widows left in the wake of suicides, loan sharks and exploitation of the vulnerable groups. In March 2011 Disaster Management & Development (DMD) magazine conducted a study on the farmers' suicide in Vidarbha. As per the study reports it was found that the PM package could not brought significant changes in that region because of the below reasons: The relief packages were not being designed as per the need of farmers. The relief packages were mostly amalgamations of existing schemes. Apart from the farmer helpline and the direct financial assistance, nothing new was being offered. Also the

farmer helpline did not give any substantial help to farmers. The basis for selection of beneficiaries under the assistance scheme was not well-defined. There was no proper awareness about the packages. It could not reach to the real needy people. In fact many beneficiaries were relatives and associates of Ministers and other influential leaders. To find out the truth, we travelled to the 'suicide belt' (Vidarbha region in Maharashtra ). What we found there was very tragic. Farmers are committing suicides by swallowing insecticide or hanging themselves on the trees because they are massively in debt to banks and local money-lenders, having over-borrowed to purchase GM seed. In one small village Bodh Bodhan (in Yavatmal district where more than 400 farmers committed suicide in 2010 alone) we visited, we came to know that 11 farmers had committed suicide in just 3 months in 2005 after being sucked into GM debts. Most of the farmers of Vidarbha we met told "They sell us the seeds, saying they will not need expensive pesticides but they do. We have to buy the same seeds from the same company every year. It is killing us". Although the pro-GM experts claim that it is rural poverty, alcoholism, drought and agrarian distress that are the real reasons for the horrific toll. But, as we discovered during a three day journey through the epicentre of the disaster, we found many more mind boggling facts (see survey report on Vidarbha in this issue). It is important that the government and the society evolve a farmer centric and agriculture supportive policy and approach accepting the reality that it is the farmers who have all along tended the land for the sustenance of living beings. The rural employment scheme should be made more local friendly and the people should be given employment accordingly. There is also an urgent need of ensuring food security for the distressed farmers. Further, the government shall forthwith ban production, importation, marketing and use of GM seeds to make India GM free. The religious leaders also have a major role to play in suicide prevention as all the religions discourage the act of suicide.

Disaster Management & Development • May 2011 7


National Crisis

Farmers Suicide

Policy Failure By Dr Bhanu n India agriculture has special significance for low income, poor and vulnerable sections of rural society. Agriculture constitutes largest share of country's national income though the share has declined from 55 percent in early 1950s to about 25 percent by the turn of the Century, more than half of India's workforce is employed in its agriculture sector, growth of other sectors and overall economy depends on performance of agriculture to a considerable extent. Besides, agriculture is a source of livelihood and food security for large majority of vast population of India. Because of these reasons agriculture is at the core of socio economic development and progress of Indian society, and proper policy for agriculture sector is crucial to improve living standards and to improve welfare of masses. Agriculture in India is in the hands of millions of peasant households, a bulk of which comprise tiny land holdings. Study conducted by RFSTE shows that since 1997, more than 250,000 farmers from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Punjab have committed suicide.The policy of trade liberalization and corporate globalization has placed them in a spiral of indebtedness which has ultimately forced them for committing sui-

I

cide. I feel it may yield to grave consequences. In Orissa (Odisha) about 2575 farmers have committed suicide during the year from 2000 to 2008. Agriculture Minister Damodar Rout in the house replying to a question of legislature Santosh Singh Saluja said that farmers have committed suicide mostly due to personal problems and family disputes. As per the records of the Crime about 2,575 farmers committed suicide during the year from 2000 to 2008. During the year 2009-10,64 alleged farmers suicide has been pub-

8 Disaster Management & Development • May 2011

lished in the newspapers. In Bundelkhand,Uttar Pradesh, alarming levels of hunger and malnutrition, water shortages and indebtedness, has made peoples life miserable. The condition of rural Bundelkhand is so pathetic that number of farmers and agriculture labour have no option but to migrate or commit suicides otherwise they will die with starvation. Natural hazards such as drought, flood, etc., as well as man-made hazards such as corruption, bribe, exploitation, etc., are the factors that are spoiling the life of Bundelkhand farmers and labours says Gopal Bhai of ABSS (local NGO). The most tragic part of the crisis is that farmers are taking loans from different sources and at one point of time when they find that repayment of loan is impossible from agricultural income, commit suicide. Rising cost of cultivation and falling prices of agriculture produce are two important reasons for making farming non profitable. In 1998, the World Bank's structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto and Syngenta. Now farmers can not save their farm seeds and this was replaced by corporate seeds, which needs specific fertilizer and pesticide and cannot be saved. As a result, poor farmers have to buy new seeds for every planting season and what was traditionally a free resource, available by putting aside a small portion of the crop, becomes a commodity. This new expense increases poverty and leads to viscious cycle of indebtness.


National Crisis Dr Vandana Shiva says that this shift from saved seed to corporate monopoly of the seed supply also represents a shift from biodiversity to monoculture in agriculture. Farmers in Vidarbh and Telangana area used to grow diverse crops, traditional cotton, legumes, millets, and oilseeds. Now the imposition of cotton monocultures has led to the loss of the wealth of farmer's breeding and nature's evolution. High cost corporate agriculture is having adverse impact on the livelihood of farmers. The increasing cost of production and the falling prices combined with the decline in farm credit is putting great burden on farmers, which is pushing them to desperation. Since then, RFSTE has been monitoring the impact of trade liberalization policies on Indian farmers and Indian agriculture since the new economic policy (1991) and WTO rules of the agreement on agriculture (1995) came into force. Navdanya mentions that Monocultures and uniformity in farm practices increase the risk of crop failure, as diverse seeds adapted to diverse ecosystems, are replaced by the rushed introduction of uniform and often untested seeds into the market. When Monsanto first introduced Bt Cotton in 2002, the farmers lost 1 billion rupees due to crop failure. Instead of 1,500 kilos per acre yield as promised by the company, the harvest was as low as 200 kilos per acre. Instead of incomes of 10,000 rupees an acre, farmers ran into losses of around 6,000 rupees an acre. In the state of Bihar, when farmsaved corn seed was displaced by Monsanto's hybrid corn, the entire crop failed, creating 4 billion rupees in losses and increased poverty for desperately poor farmers. Poor farmers of India cannot survive seed monopolies. The crisis of suicides shows how the survival of small farmers is incompatible with the seed monopolies of global corporations. The big pressure Indian farmers are facing is the dramatic fall in prices of farm produce as a result of the improper implementation of with promotion of positive and consultation on negetive aspects of trade policies. It appears that WTO's rules for trade in agriculture are, in essence, rules for dumping. They have allowed wealthy countries to increase agribusiness subsidies while preventing other countries from protecting their farmers from arti-

ficially cheap imported produce. Four hundred billion dollars in subsidies combined with the forced removal of import restriction is a ready-made recipe for farmer suicide (Dr Vandana Shiva). Global wheat prices have dropped from $216 a ton in 1995 to $133 a ton in 2001; cotton prices from $98.2 a ton in 1995 to $49.1 a ton in 2001; Soya bean prices from $273 a ton in 1995 to $178 a ton. This reduction is not due to change in productivity, but to an increase in subsidies and an increase in market monopolies controlled by a handful of agribusiness corporations. Small farmers can survive only on Indegenous seed The region in India with the highest level of farmer suicides is Vidarbha districts in Maharashtra where almost 3 farmers commit suicide every day. This is also the region with the highest acreage of Monsanto's GMO Bt cotton is grown. GM seeds probably create a suicide economy for small farmers by transforming seed from a renewable to a non-renewable resource input which must be bought every year at high prices. Cotton seed used to cost Rs 7/kg. Bt-cotton seeds were being sold at Rs 1700/400 Gm pack initially which has now come down to Rs 800/400 Gm pack by Monsanto. That is why it is commonly said that "Seed saving gives farmers life-Seed monopolies rob farmers of life". Indigenous cotton varieties can be

intercropped with food crops. Bt-cotton can only be grown as a monoculture. Indigenous cotton is rain fed. Btcotton needs irrigation. Indigenous varieties are pest resistant. Bt-cotton, even though promoted as resistant to the boll worm, has created new pests, and to control these new pests, farmers are using 10 times more pesticides then they were using prior to introduction of Bt-cotton. And finally, Monsanto sells its GMO seeds on fraudulent claims of yields of 1500Kg/year when farmers harvest 300-400 kg/year on an average. High costs and unreliable output make for a debt trap, and a suicide economy. While Monsanto pushes the costs of cultivation up, agribusiness subsidies drive down the price farmers get for their produce. International Politics of Subsidy Mr Pradip Maitra (A Senior Journalist of Maharashtra) says that its a politics of subsidy as Cotton producers in the US are given a subsidy of $4 billion annually. This has artificially brought down cotton prices, allowing the US to capture world markets previously accessible to poor African countries such as Burkina Faso, Benin, and Mali. This subsidy of $230 per acre in the US is untenable for the African farmers. African cotton farmers are losing $250 million every year. That is why small African countries walked out of the Cancun negotiations, leading to the collapse of the WTO ministerial.

Disaster Management & Development • May 2011 9


National Crisis Another study carried out by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) shows that due to falling farm prices, Indian peasants are losing $26 billion annually. This is a burden which their poverty does not allow them to bear. As debts increase-unpayable from farm proceeds-farmers are compelled

to sell a kidney or even commit suicide. What is the remedy to stop suicides? Navdanya (NGO) has started a Seeds of Hope campaign to stop farmers suicides. The transition from seeds of suicide to seeds of hope includes: A shift from GMO and non renew-

able seeds to organic, open pollinated seed varieties which farmers can save and share. A shift from chemical farming to organic farming. A shift from unfair trade based on false prices to fair trade based on real and just prices.

Economics of Suicide

interest and other terms and conditions associated with loans, which is availed from money lenders, lack of non-farm employment opportunities, unwillingness to adopt to scientific practices, non-availability of timely credit from formal channels, absence of proper environment/ incentive for timely repayment of bank loan, unavailability of power supply for irrigation etc. Poor health conditions, family disputes over property, domestic problems, and heavy social burden of marrying daughters coupled with alcoholism have pushed farmers towards committing suicides. Other associated factors with suicide may be absence of a safety net or any other insurance support, lack of assured irrigation systems, the presence of abusive banking systems, the wide availability of highly toxic pesti-

fits all the farmers on dry land and poor quality land who hold more than 2 hectares, even though studies show that they are among the worst affected from the agrarian crisis. This package excludes the majority of farmers who have taken debt from private sources. The Government of Kerala has established a Debt Relief Commission, to identify the pockets and categories of severe agrarian distress and provide relief accordingly. The draft policy of the National Commission on Farmers has called for developing and introducing a Livelihood Security Package for farmers by providing them technology choice according to agro-ecological conditions and market demand; soil health enhancement and water conservation; quality and affordability of inputs; credit and insurance and market tie-up, besides necessary health care facilities linked with the National Rural Health Mission. MNREGA opened the doors for right to employment so as to ensure livelihood security of the poor manual labourers by allowing for payments of unemployment compensation to the applicants in case the local panchayats fail to offer employment. L e t s p o n d e r o n t h e e p id e m id e m io lo g y o f Su i c i d e a n d p r o b a b l e s o l u t i o n ? K Nagaraj, an ex professor of economics, Chennai writes that India is in severe agrarian crisis and has largely been a consequence of a number of neoliberal policy measures that the governments - both at the Centre and in the states - have instituted as part of economic reforms since 1991. Sharp reductions in public investments in rural areas, for instance, led to stagnation in agriculture; the withdrawal of various support systems - in subsidised credit and inputs, in remunerative prices, etc - increased the cost of production and rendered the sector completely unviable for large sections of farmers. On top of this, prices received by farmers, particularly by those growing cash crops, collapsed due to trade liberalisation. Together, reductions in public expenditure in rural areas and stagnation in agricul-

Why people commit Suicide? Its believed that apart from the psychological factors, socio-economic factors play a key role behind farmers suicides. Scholars, citizens and policy-makers paid attention to farmers' suicides during the late 1990s and 2000s. The most probable cause is agrarian distress, rural indebtedness and policy failures. Many a studies were conducted in reputed institutes like the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR) etc. that looked at the possible reasons behind such suicides being committed. The top five states in terms of the number of farmer's suicides in 2001-Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradeshaccounted for nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the suicides in India. Farmers who committed suicides belonged to dry regions where agriculture is mainly rain fed. Farmers were growing cash crops in such regions e.g. cotton (particularly in Maharastra), sunflower, groundnut, and sugarcane (especially in Karnataka). Increased cost of inputs, dependence on and fluctuations in rainfall (due to the absence of irrigation), excessive supply of and reduced demand for the crops produced, level of fluctuation in market prices etc. have affected the profitability of cultivation. Due to fall in the average size of the landholdings and prevalence of marginal holdings, the profitability has drastically come down. Availability and usage of spurious inputs too has adversely affected production. There are other factors responsible for farmers' suicides that included: crop failures, shifting to more profitable but risky (in terms of output, quality and prices) cash crops like cotton/ sugarcane/ soyabean, exorbitant rate of

cides, and the potential relief after suicide, likely all contributed. Recent policy measures adopted to stop suicides According to the loan waiver proposed in Budget 2008-09, all agricultural loans disbursed by scheduled commercial banks, regional rural banks and cooperative credit institutions up to March 31, 2007 and overdue as on December 31, 2007 would be written off in the case of small and marginal farmers. For all other farmers, there will be a one-time settlement for the outstanding debt, whereby 25 per cent will be written off if the farmer repays 75 per cent. It excludes from full bene-

10 Disaster Management & Development • May 2011


National Crisis tural production resulted in a loss of gainful employment for large sections of poor farmers. In turn, the space that was vacated by the state in credit, trade, extension services and supply of inputs was taken up by commercial, often predatory, private interests - typically from nearby urban centres which led to increased exploitation of farmers. A combination of all these factors resulted in the agrarian crisis that has debilitated a large section of farmers in India. Why has this problem been so significant in the few semi-arid areas noted earlier? It is due to a combination of factors: the region is highly vulnerable due to poor soil quality, high water stress, distress-induced and forced commercialisation and diversification of crops, etc. Due to its high vulnerability, the impact of economic reforms was particularly sharp; moreover, being a very poor, backward area, there was an almost complete absence of alternative livelihoods.

If farmer suicides are related to these larger structural, social factors, it stands to reason that sporadic, disjointed, single-point policy interventions to deal with the problem would be inadequate. This is not to dismiss the role of 'package measures' - like a combination of debt relief, remunerative prices, employment-guarantee schemes, etc - which, by providing a degree of relief and hope to farmers, can bring down the number of suicides at least in the short term. (Indeed, this already seems to have happened in Kerala.) But by themselves, these measures are not a substitute for a comprehensive policy intervention to both the pre-existing vulnerability on the one hand and the agrarian crisis on the other. Instead, what is called for is a complete reorientation of India's agrarian policies. In the immediate context, this would mean giving up all measures that have precipitated the crisis. But that would not mean reverting to earlier agrarian policies that, while giving

Farmers' Suicides and Its Causes

According to the Situation Assessment Survey of Farmers Indebtedness of Farmer Households National Sample Survey (NSS) 59th Round: Out of 89.35 million farmer households, 43.42 million (48.6%) were reported to be indebted. A similar survey by the NSS relating to 1991 found indebtedness among only 26 per cent of farmers. On an average, the amount of debt per farmer household was Rs. 12,585. At all-India level, estimated number of rural households was 147.90 million, of whom 60.4% were farmer households. At all-India level, an estimated 60.4% of rural households were farmer households and of them 48.6% were reported to be indebted. The incidence of indebtedness was highest in Andhra Pradesh (82.0%), to be followed by Tamil Nadu (74.5%), Punjab (65.4%), Kerala (64.4%), Karnataka (61.6%) and Maharashtra (54.8%). Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal each had about 50% to 53% farmer households indebted. States with very low proportion of indebted farmer households were Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal. In each of these States less than 10% farmer households were indebted. Estimated number of indebted farmer households was highest in Uttar Pradesh (6.9 million), to be followed by Andhra Pradesh (4.9 million) and Maharashtra (3.6 million). More than half of the indebted farmer households belonged to the states of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh. Going by principal source of income, 57% farmer households were cultivators. Among them 48% were indebted.

rise to a number of new economic and ecological problems, had resulted only in sporadic, halting modernisation of the sector. One has to recognise that basic institutional transformations in the rural sector are a pre-condition if a socially equitable, ecologically sustainable process of modernisation is possible in the agricultural sector. Such basic changes in state policies, and in society, rarely come about without pressure from mass movements (like Anna Hazare's movement) of deprived sections of the population. India has had an enviable tradition of farmer movements, with large-scale mobilisations taking place even as late as the 1980s. But today such movements seem to have dried up: large numbers of farmers seem to be taking their lives, rather than taking the issue to the streets. Suicide is a cry of desperation, it can’t be regarded as a form of social protest. Let's make people aware of it and help them facing the challenges of agriculture in organised manner.

The percentage share of estimated all farmer households in different social groups was 13.3% in ST, 17.5% in SC, 41.5% in OBC and 27.7% in Others. The prevalence rate of indebtedness of farmer households in different social groups was 36.3% in ST, 50.2% in SC, 51.4% in OBC and 49.4% in others. The average loan per farmer household in different social groups were 5,500 rupees for ST, 7,200 rupees for SC, 13,500 rupees for OBC and 18,100 rupees for others. The size classes of land possessed considered were: <0.01 ha, 0.01-0.40 ha, 0.41-1.00 ha, 1.01-2.00 ha, 2.014.00 ha, 4.01-10.00 ha and more than 10.00 ha. The proportions of total farmer households in these seven classes were estimated as 1.4%, 32.8%, 31.7%, 18.0%, 10.5%, 4.8% and 0.9% respectively. The prevalence rates of indebtedness in these seven classes were 45.3%, 44.4%, 45.6%, 51.0%, 58.2%, 65.1% and 66.4%, i.e. in the different size classes of land possessed, 44% to 66% farmer households were indebted. At national level, on an average, 29 out of 100 indebted households borrowed from 'agricultural/professional money lender'. Among the states the incidence of borrowing from this source was highest in Andhra Pradesh (57 out of 100 indebted households), to be followed by Tamil Nadu (52 out of 100 indebted households). Marriages and ceremonies accounted for 111 rupees per 1000 rupees of outstanding loans of farmer households. Among the states the proportion was highest in Bihar (229 rupees per 1000 rupees), to be followed by Rajasthan (176 rupees per 1000 rupees). The most important source of loan in terms of percentage of outstanding loan amount was banks (36%), to be followed by moneylenders (26%). Average outstanding loan per farmer household was highest in the state of Punjab, to be followed by Kerala, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Disaster Management & Development â&#x20AC;˘ May 2011 11


Survey Report Vidarbha

PM Package Failed to Stop Farmers' Suicide By AP Singh From Vidarbha

editorial team travelled to Vidarbha region, 'the suicide belt' in Maharashtra. What we found was deeply disturbing -Simple, rural people, they are dying slow, agonising deaths. Most swallow insecticide - a pricey substance they were promised they would not need when they were coerced into growing expensive GM crops. Many are massively in debt to banks and local money-lenders, having over-borrowed to purchase GM seed. Though, Pro-GM experts claim that it is rural poverty, alcoholism, drought and 'agrarian distress' that are the real reasons for the horrific toll. But, as we discovered during a threeday journey for conducting survey and study on the issue through the epicentre of the disaster, that is not the full story.

he Farmers' suicide cases in India have increased significantly in the last six years. Since the first farmer suicide case which was reported from Vidarbha in 1997, "Farmers' Suicide" has turned into a calamity in India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) there were at least 16,196 farmer suicides in India in 2008, bringing the total since 1997 to 199,132. Further to this at least 17,368 Indian farmers also killed themselves in 2009 as per NCRB. News of farmers' suicides comes from all over the country but situation in Vidarbha has taken the form of an epidemic where on an average more than three farmers commit suicide per day. According to local media sources only in Yavatmal district of Vidarbha region, 400 farmers committed suicide in 2010. Vidarbha is the eastern region of Maharashtra state made up of Nagpur and Amravati divisions. It occupies 31.6% of total area and holds 21.3% of total population of Maharashtra. The region is famous for growing oranges and cotton. Vidarbha's economy is primarily agriculture. The main cash crops of the region are cotton, oranges and Punji Hari Jadhav Anusuiya soya beans. Amravati is the During the survey in one and half largest orange growing district. dozen affected villages we found Traditional crops are sorghum (jowar), some mind boggling facts. When we pearl millet (bajra) and rice. Yavatmal asked about the after effects of much is the largest cotton growing district. hyped PM relief package 63% people In October 2005, Prime Minister asked said they have not been benefitted. Chairman of National Farmers Only 10% people said yes to this Commission Dr. MS Swaminathan to question whereas 27% people were visit Vidarbha and submit a report. In unaware about the said relief packview of this hush-bush exercise, age. Bombay High Court directed In July 2006 the Prime Minister Dr Government of Maharashtra to under- Manmohan Singh announced a Rs. take a comprehensive survey. Survey 3,750-crore relief package for was undertaken covering 8560 vil- Vidarbha but it has failed in changing lages and 20 lac farmer families. The the fate of Vidarbha farmers, most of report revealed that 2 million farmers the people of this area we met believe. are under strain and another 4 million Punji Hari Jadhav widow of Hari Baba are under deep distress. Jadhav of village Bodh Bodhan of To find out the truth, Disaster Yavatmal district who committed suiManagement & Development (DMD) cide in 2008 said they have not got

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12 Disaster Management & Development â&#x20AC;˘ May 2011

any relief from the government even after the visit of Rahul Gandhi to Bodh Bodhan. There was a similar reaction from Anusuiya widow of Ram Chandra Bapurao Deokar of the same village who also committed suicide in 2005. Bodh Bodhan was in the national news, because 11 farmers committed suicide after being sucked into GM debts in duration of just three months in 2005. Total 32 farmers had committed suicide in this village. Village after village, families told how they had fallen into debt after being persuaded to buy GM seeds instead of traditional cotton seeds. But GM salesmen and government officials had promised farmers that these were 'magic seeds' - with better crops that would be free from parasites and insects. The authorities had a vested interest in promoting this new biotechnology. Desperate to escape the grinding poverty of the post-independence years, the Indian government had agreed to allow new bio-tech giants, such as the U.S. market-leader Monsanto, to sell their new seed creations. In return for allowing western companies access to the second most populated country in the world, with more than one billion people, India was granted International Monetary Fund loans in the Eighties and Nineties, helping to launch an economic revolution. But while cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata have boomed, the farmers' lives have slid back into the dark ages. Having taken loans from traditional money lenders at extortionate rates, hundreds of thousands of small farmers have faced losing their land as the expensive seeds fail, while those who could struggle on faced a fresh crisis. When crops failed in the past, farmers could still save seeds and replant them the following year. But with GM seeds they cannot do this. That's because GM seeds contain so- called 'terminator technology', meaning that they have been genetically modified so that the resulting crops do not produce viable seeds of their own. As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds each year at the same punitive prices. For some, that means the difference between life and death. 'They were strangled by these magic


Survey Report seeds. The company sell us the seeds, saying they will not need expensive pesticides but they do. We have to buy the same seeds from the same company every year. It is killing us. Please tell the world what is happening here.' many farmers including Suresh Nanakchand Chhattan of Bodh Bodhan village said. The farmers in the state are living in the worst condition compared to the rest of India. There have been more than 32,000 farmer suicides in Maharashtra in a decade, of which 70% being in the 11 districts of Vidarbha region. This is mainly because of the infertility of the land, lack of ample amount of water resources, lack of new technologies and due to the negligence of the state govt. towards the farmers needs. The main crop in Vidarbha being Cotton, but the farmers growing it do not get their share from the govt., which lead to the high distress among them, leading to the massive suicides. People of the area say "farmer commits suicide due to his inability to repay his loans". Crop failure accentuates this problem. But the question is why Vidarbha farmers were not committing suicide earlier. If we go deep into this we find that Vidarbha land is most suitable for cotton farming. Earlier farmers used to earn heavily from cotton farming. Data shows that one quintal of cotton was equivalent to 15 grams of gold many years back. A Farmer used to grow food grains just for self consumption and by selling cotton he used to add to his riches. Cotton used to be called white gold. Today he gets merely Rs 4000-Rs 6000 per quintal of cotton whereas gold prices are more than Rs 33000 per 15 grams. In the last 10 years, prices of fertilizers, pesticides and other agricultural inputs have multiplied manifolds, a Wardha based social activist Avinash Kakde said. Why cotton prices didn't increase along with the cost of production? Reason is simple, international price of cotton has declined now. Government of India reduced import duty on cotton to just 10% under pressure from WTO. How come cotton has become so cheap in international market? In America farmer gets heavy subsidy from the government. Due to this heavy subsidy U.S. farmers are able to export cotton at a much lower price; this is the root cause of Vidarbha farmers' devastation Kakde said. The suicides are not restricted to

income level or landholding category. They occurred both among large landholding owners and the land less, and across all caste groups. As per DMD survey report the farmer who have a landholding of as lower as a half bigha also committed suicide and the farmers who have more than 15 acres of

Avinash Kakde land holding also did the same. The causes, however, are common: repeated crop failure, inability to meet the rising cost of cultivation, and indebtedness. In all cases, this extreme step was taken only after all avenues were exhausted. As per the report approx 70% of the total number of suicide victims grew cotton as their primary cash crop. Another 5% took up horticulture as the major occupation, while the remaining 20% cultivated tur, soybean, jowar, wheat, vegetables and sugarcane. Once again, the data suggests that cultivators of all sorts of crops are affected. Report says "There are number of interlinked reasons that put farmers in debt. Cost of cultivation of most crops has increased owing to higher input prices. Thus, the purchase of large quantities of inputs, and high cost of labour, has increased the demand for cash. The absence of a corresponding

Revta Tai Dhote increase in the prices of produce affects the viability of farming. The complete mismatch between cost of production and low minimum support price and market price creates huge losses for the farmer". According to the report, money is also

required for social needs such as marriages and education. In some of the cases studied, the debts were as low as Rs 10,000 whereas at the higher side it is Rs 2 lac. The largest group of borrowers are the small and medium landholders. As most of the time the victims have run out of credit with the banks, the only other source of funds is private moneylenders who charge exorbitant interest rates as high as 5% per month. After visiting number of families of the farmers who committed suicides, we came to know that there was no food even sufficient for 2-3 days in the houses of such farmers. These unfortunate facts of non-availability of food or money to buy food grains and medicines, resulted in the ultimate sad and unfortunate incident of suicide by the said farmers who were unable to face the agony and distress of such unfortunate plight of indirect hunger and ultimate starvation of the family members including small children and old parents. The financial Institutions mainly Nationalised Banks are not providing credit facilities to farmers as per their actual needs. The scale of finance is extremely discriminatory. In Western Maharashtra, farmers are getting up to Rs.2,00,000/- per Hectare Crop Credit, but in Vidarbha it is extremely poor, not even Rs.10,000/- per Hectare. It is mockery of Credit Policy and Govt. Control thereon. Further, the banks are also not carrying out the periodic review exercise for increasing the scale of finance, Kakde said. Inadequate and poor availability of credit facilities to the farmers is the main reason of exploitation of the farmer community at the hands of private money lenders, who all are charging exorbitant rate of interest for such short term crop loan and credit made available to farmers by such money lenders. This is ultimately resulting in the unfortunate incidents of farmers' suicide across the Vidarbha region, Revta Tai Haribhau Dhote, Ex-Chairperson, Panchayat Samiti Karanja of Wardha district said. The costly and improper BT cotton seeds which are not suitable for dry land farming is being freely propagated and sold at a very high cost of Rs. 2250/- to Rs. 2500/- Per Kg of BT cotton seeds, cost of which is virtually killing the farmers due to high input cost and low yield, Prem Singh Badu Singh Jadhav a farmer of Shivni village of Yavatmal district said.

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Survey Report Vijay Bansod, a social activist of Wardha district said "There must be the blanket ban on BT cotton seeds in the dry land farming and rain fed areas. This has to be done immediately in order to save the farmers from undue exploitation and cheating. There must be ban on sale and misleading advertisement of BT cotton seeds in the dry land areas of Maharashtra where such seeds are not useful for cultivation of cotton due to the high cost of input as compared to the yield. The so called upgrade technology is killing the farmers. So there is imperative need to take immediate steps to stop free trials and sales of GM and BT seeds to protect the

farmer community at large". The Interest Remission Scheme under Packages has not been implemented properly by the State Government. The benefit of concessional rate of interest and also of interest remission has not reached to the thousands of farmers. Only banks have been benefited, Bansod said. Farmers in the extreme distress categories may please be provided with free education facility to their wards. Farmers in extreme illness categories should be provided with Special Health Card in order to facilitate them with the concessional medicine and health care". This will directly help to

reduce the distress and depression level and save the farmers from committing suicides, many farmers said. "The massive corruption in which minister are directly involved are mainly responsible for the the failure of these relief packages. The relief package money has not reached to distressed farmers and touts and agents have been benefited along with ministers, leaders, bureaucrats and their relatives" Vinod Singh, National President of Kisan Manch said. "The farmers need support of the price as well as guaranteed purchase scheme otherwise market players will exploit them" Singh said.

AGRARIAN CRISIS OF VIDARBHA

tion next year without the need for procuring the seed from outside, however the same is not possible with BT cotton seed and most of other hybrids. It was the assured by the inventors of BT Cotton technology namely Monsanto Company of US that the cotton yield would increase substantially and the cotton plant would be resistant to ball worms thereby decreasing the consumption of insecticides and pesticides. This they said would bring more income to the farmers. However, neither the Monsanto Company nor the Government warned the farmers that adequate irrigation facility is necessary for getting high yield of cotton which is not possible in a rain fed area. Vidarbha agriculture is rain fed with less than 10 percent irrigated land. This huge backlog in irrigation has occurred because the dominant Politicians of Western Maharashtra have deprived Vidarbha from getting adequate Government funds for creating irrigation infrastructure. On one hand Western Maharashtra enjoys 70% to 110% irrigation in various Districts and on the other hand Vidarbha's irrigated land is less than 10%. This regional imbalance has caused tremendous misery and hardship to the farmers of Vidarbha. The average yield of BT Cotton in rain fed areas of Vidarbha is approximately 2 quintals per acre and the average expenditure for cultivating one acre of BT cotton farm is Rs 10,000/-. Till last year (2009-10), the price of raw cotton was varying between Rs 2,400/- to Rs3,000/- per quintal. This year (201011), the purchase of cotton started at Rs4,000/- per quintal and has reached a peak of Rs7,000/- since February 2011 owing to failure of cotton crop abroad. However, by the time cotton

prices shot up the farmers had already sold their produce. It is clear that cotton farming using BT cottonseeds is unviable. After various Agreements on Agriculture under the WTO regime, the developed countries including the US were required to cut down farm subsidies in their countries so that the farmers of the developing countries get a level playing field. However, the developed countries and the US in particular never took this WTO directive of cutting farm subsidies seriously. With 50% to 110% subsidy available to cotton growing farmers of the developed countries, the price of cotton bales in the International market has been way below the cost of production for the past several years. This situation has not only affected the rain fed cotton growing farmers of India but also the farmers of South America and Africa. In the year 2002, Brazil filed a petition in the Dispute Settlement Body of the WTO seeking ban on cotton subsidies in US and other developed countries. Brazil was joined by three more countries of Africa but India chose not to join the petition despite thousands of farmers committing suicide here. It is obvious that the Government as well as the multinational companies selling the BT cottonseeds have cheated the rain fed cotton-growing farmers of India. Unless the Government of India provides the subsidies equivalent to those provided by the US Government to its cotton-growing farmers, there is no way this crisis can end. It is high time that the Government does some serious introspection and eliminates the root cause of the agrarian crisis in Vidarbha by taking remedial action on war footing.

By Pratap Goswami From Nagpur Vidarbha region of Maharashtra State is located in the center of India comprising of eleven Districts, out of these six Districts namely - Wardha, Yeotmal, Washim, Akola, Amravati and Buldhana are facing severe agrarian crisis for the last 16 years. The affected farmers in this region grow cotton and it is a major cottongrowing belt of India. Cotton is grown here traditionally for hundreds of years. Prior to 1992, the cotton-growing farmers of this region were well off and had more monetary power than farmers of other Districts of Maharashtra. We all know that the spate of farmer suicides has not stopped in Vidarbha inspite of the Prime Minister's package, the Chief Minister's package and loan waiver to farmers. Nobody has bothered to find and eliminate the root cause of agrarian crisis in Vidarbha. After India became a signatory to Agreement on Agriculture under the WTO, the Government of India gave permission for introduction of BT Cotton seed. Initially the royalty on the BT Cotton seed was exorbitant and is still high as compared to what China is paying for the same seed. One packet of 400gms was priced at Rs1,600/- to Rs1,800/- initially and is presently being sold at Rs900/- to Rs1000/-. In case of indigenous local seed the farmer could collect the seeds from his own produce and use it for germina-

14 Disaster Management & Development â&#x20AC;˘ May 2011


Tragedy

No Takers For Vidarbha Farmers By Ambrish Kumar

From Amrawati/Wardha

armers in the Vidarbha region of Maharasthra are forced to commit suicide because of a host of reasons which also involve apathy on part of the government. The shocking trend is continued for last several years but no workable plan has been put into practice which explains why the number of households without the earning member are on increase in the area which once was known as a granary of cotton.

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members of which are then forced to beg because the bread winner has gone. As many as 1400 farmers have committed suicide every year in eleven districts of the Vidarbha region. Nearly 700 farmers have committed suicide since January 2011 .The issue of large scale suicide may raise some eyebrows among those concerned but none is their to wipe tears of widows who are left behind without any source of earning,," said Aruna Chaple, con-

There had been a number of studies on the issue but nothing has worked out so far. One such study states that in Vidarbha, it is too risky to adopt expensive technologies. Small farmers who take loans for cultivation have no capacity to meet the calamity of crop failure. The funds allotted under the Prime Minister's package for seed replacement should be used to promote jowar and legumes. The Prime Minister's rehabilitation package which was announbced and launched with much fanfare has failed miserably thanks to a collusion of political leaders ,government officials and money lenders. Its shameful that the Supreme Court has held the former Maharashtra Chief Minister, Vilas Rao Deshmukh as guilty for trying to save a legislator, Dilip Sananda . He is the person who lends out money to farmers at a very high interst rate.The Apex Court had slapped a fine of Rs ten lakh on Deshmukh in this connection and the money was paid by the Maharashtra government. This incident underlines the nexus among money landers, government officials and political leaders. As per an observation by the Poorvanchal Gramin Vikas Sansthan (PGVS) there has been a suicide in every eight hours for last many months. PGVS has carried out a massive survey on plight of farmers and widows in Vidarbha region. "Nothing is gained out of these suicides. The farmer who commits suicide leaves his family behind the

Aruna Chaple venor of the women cell of the Kisan Manch. She also pointed out that the Kisan Manch has persuaded the widows of the region to observe a "no hearth" movement in which there will be no cooking for one day every week in eleven villages of Karanja Tehsil in the Vidarbha region. The survey taken out recently has revealed that the situation is grim in the region. "We have also visited several villages during our survey and we also had gone to the kanamvaar village where a farmer had committed suicide on March 2. This village was named after the second Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Dada Saheb Marot Rao Kanamvaar. Such grim is the situation that the government is not ready to pay heed to plight of farmers who are leaving in the village which has been named after the second CM of Maharashtra, the survey team said. The dead farmer, Ramesh Rao Somkunwar owed a sum of Rs 50,000

out of which he had to pay Rs 20,000 to the Co Operative Bank and remaining to a local money lender. And now no compensation is being paid to the farmer even after suicide as technically he is not a farmer. The farming field through which he used to earn livelihood was in the name of his late father and he did not change the ownership for lack of knowledge.The local officials have refused to treat him as a farmer because he did not own a farming field.," survey team observed. He also pointed out that a point-wise report ion this connection will soon be released to ensure that the farming community can get possible help which at present seems a distant reality. Meetings were organized with farmers during which they have come out their plight .One farmer of Taroda village, Vinayak Vishwanath Mohad had shaken everyone present in the meeting by stating that he would end his life in four days if the makeshift canal which has been dug up in the middle of his farming field be made a permanent structure so that the orange crop could be saved."I have contacted a number of officials in this connection but none has come to my resuce and now I have reached to a point where suicide seems to be the only option left for me," said a sobbing Mohad. Women who were also present during the meeting came out with blood curdling realities. "My Son, Vilas Prabhakar had committed suicide just four days before he was supposed to marry. He was under debt burden because of which he took the extreme step and now there is no end to our hardships. We have no idea where to go from this point, said the 50-year-old Mukta Prabhakar. "We will have to make a consolidated attempt to help find out a solution to problems being faced by farmers in Vidarbha. At present, neither the government is ready to pay a hearing to these farmers nor any political party is interested in their cause.The suicides are not being done by farmers who grow cotton but the malaise has spread to growers of Soyabean and oranges .The farmers here are sunk in debts and they are not getting relief in any of the debt waiving schemes of the central government and also the state government.," pointed out many farmers of the region.

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Cover Story

V illa g es of W id

By Yemon Ganguly From Yavatmal aikheda village of Yavatmal district, until a few years ago, had no news to tell. Villagers were at ease with whatever yield they got. But today, every house of Saikheda, every courtyard, every lane has a tragic story to tell. Soon, this village may turn into a 'village of widows'. It's been nearly a decade that this region is facing an acute agrarian crisis. Huge failure of crops, soaked in heavy debt and

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inability to come out of vicious death trap, most farmers are demoralised and are have no other option left than to commit suicide. Saikheda, where only about 140 families live, has been an eyewitness to seven farmers' suicides. Bayabai Lengule, a 62-year-old widow, tried to end her life too, when she was informed about her husband Dadarao's suicide on January 20, 2011. Her youngest son Raju said "She doused herself with kerosene and tried to set self afire. However, vil-

16 Disaster Management & Development â&#x20AC;˘ May 2011

lagers stopped her." Raju was the first to find his father's body hanging to a neem tree at their field. Dadarao Lengule had borrowed Rs 45,000 from the District Central Cooperative Bank and Rs 60,000 from a private moneylender. In the last kharif season, he could get only three quintal raw cotton on his 7-acre land because of scanty rains. Moreover, the rate of raw cotton was Rs 2,800 per quintal that year. After being a defaulter on repaying his earlier loans, Dadarao anticipated that he won't get any fresh


Cover Story

do ws

loans either from the bank or the money lender and this added to his sufferings. There are more 23 such cases in the Saikheda and Bodh Bodhan villages of Yavatmal district. No wonder why these villages are identified as being 'villages of widows'. More or less, 390 families living in the villages are buried under debt and this fact runs parallel to the mounting menace of suicides in the region. Even the discourses by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar could not minimise suicide vulnerabili-

ty. Since 2005, more than 18 farmers have ended their life in Bodh Bodhan village (12 kms from the district headquarters of Yavatmal). Five farmers in Saikheda and Wagda, three in Sunna, four in Kosara village (all in Yavtamal district), and the toll continues. The list seems endless. There was a time when this part of Central India well-known for its rich black cotton soil. Gradually the picture has changed and now one may perceive only poverty, parched land and moreover, widows. Poor rainfall, expensive healthcare, and rise in agro-input costs to the lure latest consumer durables etc have led to the financial misery of the people. The situation is so severe that at least two farmers commit suicide in the region every day. With a mentally- disabled father-inlaw, unwell mother-in-law and two children to look after, Saikheda's Bharati Pawar, at the age of 31, found it tough after her better half - Pradipconsumed pesticide in November, 2010. "Three consecutive years of failed crops left my husband dejected. He failed to get financial help from any source, including the private money lender," she said with tears in her eyes. "I work as a casual farm labourer on a wage of Rs 40-50 per day. But I hardly get work three times a week and this amount is not enough to feed my family," she said. On similar notes, other widows of the village, too, have the same story to tell. Maya Vaidya's (38) husband Rajesh consumed poison on February 2 last year, Chandrakala Meshram (35) whose husband Gangaram, committed suicide on October 2, 2008, and Sheela Mandhavgade's (26) husband Santosh killed himself on May 23 last year, and so many others. Sheela Mandhavgade faced another shock after her father Dinkarrao Thakre of Dhakori village, too, ended his life by swallowing pesticide in August last year. "There is no work under Maharashtra Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MREGS). The scheme promised us that at least one adult member of every rural family will get a maximum of 100 days employment every year. MREGS, too, failed," Sheela said. The Deputy Collector (MREGS works) R D Siddhabhatti claimed that a fund of Rs 1.25 lakh was allotted for Bodh Bodhan and Rs 2 lakh for Saikheda,

under the Rural Employment Scheme. But the amount was not used as the local panchayat did not send the requisition. However, R D Siddhabhatti statements were opposed by Sindhutai Wankhede, sarpanch of Saikheda. "We have always stressed on works for the distressed farmers, but no one turns up," she alleged. Nevertheless, Siddhabhatti confessed that despite a provision of Rs 34 crore in last budget under MREGS, only Rs 18 crore was released. On the other side of the picture, private money lenders, who kept themselves in low profile to play safe from the clutches of the Government, have sprung up again to victimise the poor farmers. These unscrupulous moneylenders have gained support from several politicians and few people's representatives and are jointly making matters worse for the farmers and lawenforcement agencies. Several cases have been registered against the moneylenders for abetting the farmers to suicides, land-grabbing, but farmers never got justice. "It is very difficult to punish the moneylender or return the land to the original landholder. Moneylenders bring illiterate farmers to sign land documents before lending money and these documents are used against the farmers or to grab his land when the farmers become defaulters," says a bureaucrat, putting forth the legal wrangle. Every person in this region has a separate story to tell, of mental harassment, molestation and suicides. The latest victim of a loan shark was Balkrishna Ashtakar (55) of Sakhra village, bordering Andhra Pradesh in Yavatmal district. Ashtakar ended his life on January 24, despite repaying the loan to moneylender Vijay Adgulwar, who did not return his 9.5acre land documents. Ashtakar was facing crop failure for four consecutive years. He borrowed Rs 60,000 from Adgulwar and paid Rs 65,000 including interest. But Adgulwar had set his evil eyes on poor farmer's land and wanted to go to any extent to grab it. Money lender Vijay Adgulwar moved the court and brought a decree against Ashtakar. He tried to plead before Adgulwar but in vain. Then the things went unbearable and the wretched farmer swallowed pesticide to end life. Ashtakar's widow Indutai and two children, including a daughter of mar-

Disaster Management & Development â&#x20AC;˘ May 2011 17


Cover Story

riageable age, are devastated and are clueless about their life. The case with Ashtakar and several others are an alarming reminder of the crisis facing farmers of the region. "I have no means to live now, my life is ruined," says Indutai with rage seething within. She had lodged a complaint with the local police against Adgulwar but the no action has been taken against him. The Pandharkawda police in-charge, Bais, however, found that Ashtakar's death was not due to harassment by Adgulwar. A case of abetment to suicide was registered against a moneylender after Malubai Magar of Sawangi village in Nagpur district committed suicide but the moneylender could not be convicted. Similarly, senior Congress leader and chairman of Pandharkawda Sales-

Purchase Co-operative Society, Chandrasekhar Poladiwar (Patil), a known moneylender of Pandharkawda, Yavatmal district, refused to hand over several acres land forcibly taken from poor farmers. The Congress legislator from Buldhana Dilip Sananda and his famiA sizeable amount of Prime Minister Relief Package (Rs 3750-crore) for poor farmers was drained off by ruling politicians in the region. It was alleged that leaders of ruling Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress in Yavatmal district recommended names of their cohorts as beneficiaries of the package. The BJP National President Nitin Gadkari pointed out that where the farmers were deprived from the package benefits, leaders and politicians got undue advantage of it. The entire fraudulent activities of the district administration were uncovered when the Yavatmal-based journalist Vilas Wankhede sought information under the RTI Act. Wankhede informed that the Government provided funds for distressed farmers to purchase cattle to supplement business of milk production under the economic bailout packages of the Prime Minister and State Government. Prime Minister had announced an economic package of Rs 3,750 crore while the State had provided a relief package of Rs 1050 crore to benefit the crisis-ridden farmers of suicide-prone districts of Vidarbha region. 4,675 cattle heads were distributed in Yavatmal district alone. The administration had also provided funds for purchase of fodder. But this again was distributed to the political leaders and their supporters. Wankhede mentioned that the former Lok Sabha member from Yavatmal, Uttamrao Patil, his wife and family purchased 10 dairy cattle; relatives of Maharashtra Minister Shivajirao Moghe purchased eight cattle; Congress legislator Sanjay Deshmukh's mother and close relatives purchased two cattle; Congress MLA Wamanrao Kasawar family purchased eight cattle; and the Congress leader Suresh Lonkar's relatives purchased six cattle. Weren't these benefits only for those farmers who were under below poverty line (BPL)? Then, how were the norms and guidelines issued by the PMO violated to this extent?

18 Disaster Management & Development â&#x20AC;˘ May 2011

ly are known moneylenders. His family and relatives are facing about 40 criminal cases in this regard. His cousin, Anil Sananda of Khamgaon, who is now in jail, even murdered a farmer, Dasrath Kshirsagar, in 2008 for failing to repay loan. Declaring all allegations as a political The Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti took a strong exception to the issue and urged Congress President Sonia Gandhi to remove these politicians from the party immediate to avoid further embarrassment. "If the State and the party fail to take action against these leaders, we will be compelled to move to the court for justice," Kishore Tiwari, President of the samiti warned. According to Tiwari, relatives of some BJP and Sena leaders also among the other beneficiaries and urged for a detailed inquiry in all suicide-prone districts. Tiwari said that despite the pumping of huge economic packages of over Rs 5,000crore, farmers continue to kill themselves. "The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India had also exposed the State machinery," he further pointed out. A report titled Performance Audit of farmers packages by the CAG of India, had concluded that the package has failed in its basic purpose that of reducing the agrarian crisis in the six affected districts -- Yavatmal, Akola, Washim, Buldhana, Wardha and Amravati -- of Vidarbha region. A survey, covering 41,663 farmers in 383 villages of these six districts was part of the CAG audit of the farmers packages, announced by the PM and the state in 2006. The audit had slammed the government for weak monitoring, delays in payments of compensation and lack of coordination in implementing the packages. The audit team found that 36 per cent of farmers even were not aware of the state and the union government packages. "A door-to-door survey by the State in 2006 showed that there were 13.48 lakh distressed and 4.34 lakh very distressed farmers in these six districts. But they were not considered when benefits were handed out while wealthy politicians were given benefits," Tiwari rued and demanded stern action against the involved government officials and politicians in this regard.


Cover Story

conspiracy against him and his father, Dilip Sananda admitted that six cases were registered against his father Gokulchand for money lending. "My father was falsely implicated by the then district police superintendent, Krishna Prakash," he claimed. Around one lakh private moneylenders in the State are registered; and over two lakh are running the money

lending business illegally. Their modus operandi is simple --- provide loans at inflated rates, then, when the farmer fails to repay the amount, buy his agriculture produce at low prices, and as a final point jerk grab the land. Locals feel that the prime reason for the farmers' desperation is the inhuman debt noose tied around them by moneylenders to recover loans.

Even Relief Packages Worth Rs 5075 Crore Could Not Help The special relief packages of Rs 5,075-crore announced by the Prime Minister and the state government for distressed farmers have flopped. The CAG's performance audit of farmers' package fished out that not only was the packages delayed in implementation, but also senseless in conceptualization and "incoherent with local requirements." As a result, the money did not help mitigate the gargantuan agrarian crisis or even reduce farmers' suicides. On the contrary, the claims of State Government that the packages were highly successful in mitigating the agrarian crisis were trashed. Moreover, there were leap holes in it. The report was tabled in State Legislature in April, 2008. In CAG's evaluation, "The possibility that agrarian distress essentially caused by un-remunerative agricul-

ture would start rising again in the closing years of the package (200809), Farmers' suicides shot up dramatically even when the two packages were in vogue," the report acknowledges. CAG states, one of the essential deficiencies of the packages was the fact that the funds spent did not improve agricultural support prices. Importantly, the CAG says that farmers did not benefit from interest waiver. For, their incomes did not enhance in any way. The report also mentions that the Government's ban on illegal money lending did not stand before the HC in October 2006. The State neither appealed against these orders in the apex court. Consequently, the affected farmers, who had lost their lands to the money lenders, did not get any benefit.

But, there is a village where these nasty moneylenders think twice to step in. Dadham village in Akola district presents a different picture of the scenario. None of the moneylenders dares to visit this village either for lending or recovery of money. This change was seen after an angry village mob attacked and killed a moneylender Bandu Wakhare in 2006. Sanjay Khodke, who was arrested in the case, said that now no moneylender dares to come to the village. "Though we are facing hardships, the terror of moneylenders is not there," said Sanjay, managing a mild smile. Country in progressing in all aspects, except for this. Though the official figure states that around 7,500 farmers have ended lives since 2001, but the facts differ. Over 14,000 debt-ridden farmers were compelled to commit suicide, perhaps due to the lost struggle for survival, no feel good factor and acres of crop failure. Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti that has been documenting the farm suicide since 2001 claimed that an average two farmers commit suicide in Vidarbha every day because of agrarian crisis. "It is a case of genocide. The state is allowing the distressed farmers to end their lives," he alleged and demanded that the government should immediately provide food security to them for preventing further suicide.

Disaster Management & Development â&#x20AC;˘ May 2011 19


Special Report

Suicide Valley 2 , 6 3 9 f a r m e r s c o m m it t e d s u ic id e d u r in g t h e p a s t 1 0 y e a r s in O d is h a By Tapan Moharana From Bhubaneswar e says it is his second life, the first he had tried to end before one and half years, but 'unfortunately' failed in his attempt.

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For Surendra Dhanua (29) life has not been the same today. The poor and marginal farmer from the village Kusumadihi of Sambalpur district had tried to commit suicide as he had lost his entire Paddy crop on four acres of land because of poor monsoon and pest attack. Of the four acres of land he owned only 1 acre the rest 3 acres he had taken for 'contract farming'. He had taken a loan of Rs.10,000 from a private source and another 3,000 from a local Self Help Group (SHG) to buy fertilizer and Pesticide as it is very difficult for these 'contract farmers' to get an institutional farm loan from the Banks and other Govt institutions. But the fortune was not in his side. "First

the Monsoon ditched us. Then the pests wiped out everything. The loan drove me mad. I wondered what would happen if the Mahajan (the village moneylender) and the SHG demanded repayment? There was no way but to end my life". says depressed Surendra. The pesticide he had brought to kill the pests would have killed Surendra, except his family reached him to the nearest hospital in time which is 7 KM away from his village. Surendra was quite fortunate to survive from the suicide attempt, but not all the other 44 farmers who killed themselves in 2009-10. Janma Behera(40) of Goela village in Sundargarh district is another farmer to join this shocking club who committed suicide in March 28 last year by consuming pesticide for alleged failure to repay a crop loan taken by him According to his wife, Jharana, Janma had taken Rs30,000 loan from the local co-operative and invested it for farming his four acre land. But due to scarcity of

Surendra Dhanua

20 Disaster Management & Development â&#x20AC;˘ May 2011

rainfall, the entire kharif crop had been damaged, causing him mental agony. In February state government admitted in the Assembly that as many as 2,639 farmers had committed suicide during the past 10 years. The State Crime Record Bureau report revealed that 2,575 persons, engaged in farming and allied activities, had committed suicide during 2000-2008. Another 64 farmers were reported to have committed suicide in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Maximum cases of farmer suicide have reported in the districts like Sambalpur,Sundargarh, Kalahandi and Bolangir. All these small and poor farmers had something in common-They were all landless farmers or had meager amount of land due to this they choose contract farming i.e. to farm in others land with a production sharing condition. Since there is no provision with the Government to provide loan support to the shared farmers, they forced to take loans from the local moneylenders and Microfinance institutions with a very high rate. "But when the monsoon failed and the pest attack wiped out everything, they had no way to repay the costly loan, then suicide becomes the easiest way for them" says Ranjan Panda, a local human rights and water conservation activist. The UPA waived massive farm loan of more than Rs 1 lakh crore. Also banks have directed to disburse agricultural loan on a priority basis, but the majority small and landless farmers have no access to these institutional credit. They have to borrow loan from the local money lenders, Microfinance NGOs at a very costly rate. Many experts and even some government officials suspect the role of this exploitive loan network and their recovery agents. "A poor and landless farmer in Odisha does not have the access to the government agricultural loan, water linkage and insurance cover. What he can easily get is a loan from a local Microfinance NGO, sometimes operate through a local SHG at an incredibly high rate of 24 percent. In most of the times it becomes impossible to repay the loan and life become difficult thanks to the local recovery agents, sometimes in the SHG members. This drives them to suicide" says Laxmikanta Sandha, Ex-Sarpanch of the Gulamal Prdhanpalli Village which had seen the first farmer suicide in 2009 in Sambalpur district and second in the State.


Special Report In rural Odisha today, Microfinance NGOs operate through Self Help Groups and local fertiliser and pesticide dealers - people who are most likely to know which farmer needs a loan. Banks give loans at 5 per cent interest, but unable to provide documents, small farmers end up going to these NGOs where loan disbursal is quick, but the interest charged could be anywhere between 24 per cent and 50 per cent. "Majority of Farmers fall under the landless category and they usually become contract Farmers for which bankers are reluctant to pay loan. This loophole in the law suits the local moneylenders and Microfinance NGOs"Says Durgaprasad Nayak a local senior citizen who has been observing the problem for decades. As per the expectation Microfinance NGOs have denied this allegation. " Microfinance NGOs have no role in these farmer suicides. These institutions are working towards the upliftment of the rural poor and farmers'' claimed Khirod Mallick who is heading a well-known Microfinance NGO 'BISWA'. "Under our Agri-based programmes we are providing farm loans with a flat rate of 11.5% and reducing rate of 20%. Around 6.28 lakh households in the state have benefited from our programmmes including 82 thousand beneficiaries in Sambalpur District alone", he added. The real cause However, Odisha agriculture minister Dr Damodar Rout differed with the State Crime Record Bureau's figure on farmer suicide. "None of the farmers has com-

Chabbi Raul of Kamakhya Nagar Sub-division of Dhenkanal District is the latest one to be included in the shocking list. On the second week of March 2011 Chabbi committed suicide by consuming pesticide. According to his widowed wife Malti, he had taken a loan of Rs.70 thou sand from two microfinance institutions through a local self help group (SHG). Unable to repay the loan and s u b s e q u e n t ly b e a r t h e r e p e a t e d threatening of the recovery agents, he chose the final way. mitted suicide for crop failure or loan burden, as is often alleged. The farmers

have committed suicides for other reasons," Rout said. He added that farmers and people, who were engaged in farming and related activities, had been "under stress". Domestic problems have remained the prime reason behind most of the suicide cases. "Loans, family conflicts, and many more such reasons will be found to shelve state responsibility for the suicides. This has been the way always. However, one thing that the government can no more deny is that farm failure is a concern and more so in a changing climate regime." says Ranjan. "And time has come for the government to really realize that its own projections and preparation mechanisms to cope with the change are fast becoming obsolete. To realize that the agriculture department needs to understand that it has become a failure all out. It has not been able to make farming a profitable affair and at the same time ecologically sustainable." Almost all these suicides have happened in the non-irrigated belts and among the tribal, poor and marginalized farmers and share croppers. The cost of production in these areas is not as much as that in the irrigated belts and hence serial suicides was not expected. Reports by government officials and other independent fact finding teams

have found 'weather' to be the culprit. However, what most of these reports have failed to establish is that 2010 had been an unusual year( the state had to face both drought , flood and unseasonal rain) and may well emerge as one of the most important year for the state in so far as devastating impacts of climate change is concerned. What the people and government find as 'damage by pests' may actually have been climate's final warning bell for the state which is already reeling under so many disasters that experts have started to term it as 'climate's favorite playfield'. Investigating into each death of this year would indicate this For Sankirtan, Balaram Bhoi's seventyfive year old father, things are much more difficult to bear today. While he will never be able to recover from the huge loss of his son's death who had committed suicide due to crop failure, the fact that swarming caterpillars ate up almost all standing crops of the village is not less difficult to grasp either. "I have seen many drought years in my life but this year is completely different. The hirni pok (swarming caterpillars) multiplied by thousands in just two to three days and damaged all the crops, before even we could wake up to the menace", recalls he. Ex-Sarpanch Laxmikant

Disaster Management & Development â&#x20AC;˘ May 2011 21


Special Report Sandha finds this to be the most difficult year for the area in decades. "Caterpillars and other pests invade the fields but die for flee with the onset of monsoon. This year the monsoon never arrived and temperature also remained much above than we normally experience during this period. So, the pests multiplied by thousands and damaged our crop fields", informs Sandha who has taken the lead in organizing the farmers in demanding insurance and other benefits for the farmers against the crop loss. The situation is same in most of the monsoon fed villages of the districts like Kalahandi, Sambalpur, Bolangir and Koraput. Reports indicate that out of 194,000 ha cultivable land in the Sambalpur district, paddy had been sown in more than 60,000 ha. While lack of rainfall had turned the paddy fields dry, swarming caterpillars had swarmed over thousands of hectares (ha) of land, completely eating away the green paddy leaves. "Farmers dread swarming caterpillars because the pests have the capacity to turn them paupers overnight. The pests multiply themselves rapidly and can completely damage crop in a hectare of land in one single day", says Prof. Arttabandhhu Mishra, an environmentalist. Climate Change - the culprit "The increasing caterpillar menace in crop fields can be clearly attributed to climate change", says Mishra. In general, food crops are sensitive to climate change. Such change, which affects soil temperature and moisture levels, also determines the vitality of both beneficial organisms and pests. Due to the enormous uncertainties surrounding global climate change, estimates of cropland reductions vary widely--from 10 to 50 percent. According to various reports food production will be affected by changing seasonal patterns and temperatures. In India, a temperature rise of 2ÂşC could lower yields of staple crops, wheat and rice by 10% and reduce farm revenues by up to 25%. But this much is clear: global warming is likely to alter production of rice, wheat, corn, soybeans, and potatoes--staples for billions of people and major food crops in several countries of the world. In addition to the magnitude and pace of change, the stage of growth during which a crop is exposed to drought or heat is important. When a crop is flowering or fruiting, it is extremely sensitive to changes in temperature and moisture;

during other stages of the growth cycle, plants are more tolerant. Moreover, temperature and seasonal rainfall patterns

Dr Damodar Rout Agriculture Minister

vary from year-to-year and region-toregion, regardless of long-term trends in climate. Temperature and rainfall changes induced by climate change likely will interact with atmospheric gases, fertilizers, insects, plant pathogens, weeds, and the soil's organic matter to produce unanticipated responses. Despite these uncertainties, an average global temperature rise of slightly more than one-half degree What Odisha needs is to recognize 'climate change' as a major threat to its progress. This state is already one of the poorest states of India and rural poverty here is the highest. Climate change manifested in crop damage would push the state and its people to further poverty. Blind industrialization and rampant tree felling has to be seen as two of the factors that cause local climate change. Centigrade would lengthen the frost-free growing season in the Corn Belt by two weeks. However, if temperatures continue to increase beyond a specific threshold, a crop's productive summer growing season could become shorter, thus reducing the yield. Further, rainfall is the major limiting factor in the growth and production of crops worldwide. Adequate moisture is critical for plants, especially during germination and fruit development. Many nations have constructed irrigation systems to pump water from rivers, lakes, and aquifers. To understand in a simple way, temperature rise and extended period of heat will have devastating impact on crop

22 Disaster Management & Development â&#x20AC;˘ May 2011

production. According to a study, if global warming raises the temperature 2 degrees Centigrade in the United States and slightly less in Africa, insects will multiply and prosper. During a growing season, some insects produce 500 offspring per female every two weeks. Rising temperatures will lengthen the breeding season and increase the reproductive rate. That, in turn, will raise the total number of insects attacking a crop and subsequently increase crop losses. In addition, some insects, such as the Southwestern corn borer, will be able to extend their range northward as a result of the warming trend. The government of Odisha, under pressure from farmers organizations and opposition political parties, has been declaring several measures. But the real problem still remains unaddressed. As such the measures announced also do not suffice as is being alleged by leading farmer's organizations. Neglecting the real cause that is 'climate change' would spell further disaster. "The measures like loan waiver, subsidies in pesticides, in pump sets, etc. are just eye wash measures and won't help the poor and marginal farmers of non-irrigated areas", alleges Ashok Pradhan of the Sambalpur Zilla Krushak Surakshya Sangathan. "We have been demanding for inclusion of most of the rain fed Blocks in the 'drought affected' category and complete compensation but the government is yet to pay any heed to that", says he. What Odisha needs is to recognize 'climate change' as a major threat to its progress. This state is already one of the poorest states of India and rural poverty here is the highest. Climate change manifested in crop damage would push the state and its people to further poverty. Blind industrialization and rampant tree felling has to be seen as two of the factors that cause local climate change. Rengali block, from where most of the suicides have been reported, was once one of the most forested belts of the state and is now known for having concentration of sponge iron, power and steel industries. "A study by the "Water Initiatives Odisha" has established that local temperature in industrial areas has increased by several degrees during the last four to five years and this coupled with deforestation has made the place conducive for pests to multiply and do damage like this year", says Prof. Mishra.


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24 Disaster Management & Development • May 2011

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Disaster Management & Development • May 2011 25


IYUS ÀMFZSe ΨÃ}Ì}’Ï Î°ÎDÕ_¥Ì DÕÏ ¥—Î≤oÌ Î{∞ ¥D÷Õ& A¥¥÷ ¥ÂDÕRà @ͨà @≤¥Ìd D÷Õ µ’¨Ã DÕÈ DÕ{ DÕ¨Ãq÷ @ͨà @Ì_{¬Ã_}Ì ¥÷ ÎDÕ¥ÌqÈÊ DÕÈ w°Ìq÷ {÷Ê {dd Î{∞÷NÏ& K—cD—ÕπÌÏ DÕ¨Ãq÷ ≤Ì∞÷ ÎDÕ¥Ìq sΨÃ≤̨à DÕÏ wc¬ÃÌ∞Ï c÷KDըà DÕÌ÷A„ zÌÏ ¬◊èÃÌq ¬ÃÌ÷ ¥DÕ’Ì ¬◊Ã& ≤oÌ„ {÷Ê ¬Ã{ @ÌN÷ w\ÃË÷ ’Ì÷ CDÕ ÎDÕ¥Ìq DÕÌ P̨à ¥Ì{q÷ aÌ& }¬Ã P̨à aÌ Î°°Í∞Ï NÌÂ≤ D÷Õ qÂd¨ÃÌ{ DÕÌ Î§¥q÷ CDÕ ¥Ì∞ s¬Ã∞÷ K—dD—ÕπÌÏ Dըà ∞Ï aÏ& D—Õ∞ DÕÁ§Ì„ aÌ ¥¸Ì¨Ã ¬Ã§Ì¨Ã Χ¥q÷ K—dD—ÕπÌÏ s¨Ã {§w“¨Ã ÎDÕ}Ì& DÕ{¨÷à {÷Ê CDÕ ’¨ÃuÕ @o§∞÷ °“±¬Ã÷ s¨Ã @∞{—Îq}{ D÷Õ ®ÃÈR÷à ¥÷ s’Ï∞÷ s¨Ã °Ì≤∞ sDÕ Dըà ’◊}̨à aÌ& sëÏ ¥—∞È°qÌ @ͨà dÈ w÷ÎRÃ}ÈÊ DÕÌ }¬ÃÏ s“¨ÃÌ KÌqÌ aÌ& BqD÷Õ Î¬Ãµ¥÷ DÕÏ §È ¥¨ÃDǪ̃ÃÏ {dd aÏ B¥÷ ’È ¥¸ÌÌØÕ\Ëà d∞ D÷Õ ®ÃÈR÷à wWÃË÷ q÷’Ì s¬Ã∞÷ ¬ÃÏ KÌ °—D÷Õ a÷& @ͨà }¬Ã CDÕ q¬ÃÏ Î≤dy„ D÷Õ ¥◊DÕWËÈÊ ÎDÕ¥Ìq sΨÃ≤̨à DÕÏ DÕ¬ÃÌqÏ ¬Ã◊ ΧqD÷Õ P̨à D÷Õ {—ÎK}Ì DÕsÌ¥ DÕÏ K÷’Ï DըÒ÷ DըÒ÷ §Ìq d÷ °—D÷Õ ¬Ã◊& Î≤dy„ {÷Ê Î¥u„Õ DÕsÌ¥ ÎDÕ¥Ìq ¬ÃÏ q¬ÃÏ ¥Â’¨÷à D÷Õ ÎDÕ¥Ìq yÏ wd¬ÃÌ∞ ¬ÃÈ’÷ §Ì ¨Ã¬Ã÷ ¬Ã◊& qÌNs—¨Ã D÷Õ ¬Ã≤ÌA„ @WÃflW÷à DÕÌ Î≤µ’̨à ¥Â’¨÷à D÷Õ K÷’ÈÊ ’DÕ ¬ÃÈ ¨Ã¬ÃÌ ¬Ã◊ @ͨà ¥Â’¨ÃÌ

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26 Disaster Management & Development • May 2011

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28 Disaster Management & Development • May 2011

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Disaster Management & Development • May 2011 29


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¬ÃNÌA„ w\ÃËq÷ @Ì◊¨Ã @ÌÎa„DÕ @¥{Ìq’Ì DÕÏ ≤§¬Ã ¥÷ ∞Ì÷N zÌ“K ¥÷ {¨Ã ¨Ã¬÷à ¬◊Êà ’Ì÷ DÕ¬ÃÏÊ {Ì◊’ DÕÌ÷ N∞÷ ∞NÌ ¨Ã¬÷à ¬◊ÊÃ& @̧ DÕ÷ ¥{} {÷ }Îc DÕÌ÷A„ ≥}ÎE’ zÌ“K ¥÷ {¨Ã’Ì ¬◊à ’Ì÷ }¬Ã πÌÌ¥q ≤ s‹πÌÌ¥q cÌ÷qÌ÷ DÕ÷ Î∞C w÷¬Ãc ¬ÃÏ πÌ{qÌ„DÕ wÌ’ ¬◊Ã& ≤Ω„ 2011 {÷Ê cÌ÷ w÷¬Ãc NÂzÌϨà PÌRÃqÌC ¬—A„ Χ¥¥÷ πÌÌ¥q-s‹πÌÌ¥q DÕ÷ ¨ÃÌ÷NÂR÷à KWË÷ ¬ÃÌ÷ NC& @ÌUà §q≤¨ÃÏ 2011 DÕÌ÷ πÌÌÂÎ’qN¨Ã Îq≤Ì¥Ï {ÂRÃÌ÷∞÷ @άèÃ≤̨à DÕÏ {Ì◊’ (zÌ“K) @ÌÎa„DÕ ’ÂNÏ ¥÷ ¬—A„ ≤¬ÃÏÊ qÌ◊ uÕ¨Ã≤¨ÃÏ 2011 DÕÌ÷ §◊¥Ì¨ÃÏ DÕ∞Ì NÌÂ≤ DÕ÷ qÿs’ Υ¬à q÷ w◊ÊDÕ ¥÷ zÌ÷§÷ NC ΨÃDÕ≤¨ÃÏ qÌ÷ÎRÃ¥ ¥÷ PÌw¨ÃÌ Dըà R‡÷q ¥÷ DÕRÃDըà @Ì_{¬Ã_}Ì Dըà ∞Ï& π̬èà DÕ÷ {—¬Ã±∞Ì πÌÌÂÎ’qN¨Ã Îq≤Ì¥Ï 65 ¥Ì∞ DÕ÷ {ÂRÃÌ÷∞÷ @άèÃ≤̨à DÕÏ {Ì◊’ @ÌUà §q≤¨ÃÏ 2011 DÕÌ÷ ¬—A„& Χ¥ ≤E’ BÃ¥DÕÏ {Ì◊’ ¬—A„ aÏ, BÃ¥ ≤E’ BÃ¥DÕ÷ P̨à {÷ @q̧ DÕÌ CDÕ cÌqÌ zÌÏ q¬ÃÏ aÌ& 11 ∞Ì÷NÌ÷Ê DÕ÷ sΨÃ≤̨à {÷ DÕ{ÌA„ DÕÌ DÕÌ÷A„ UÃÌ÷¥ §Î¨Ã}Ì q¬ÃÏ aÌ& {ÂRÃÌ÷∞÷ DÕ÷ cÌ÷ s—`Ì ¬◊à zÌN≤’ @Ì◊¨Ã DÕÌ∞Ï°¨Ã^Ì& DÕÌ∞Ï°¨Ã^Ì W‡ÃÌA≤¨ÃÏ DÕ¨Ã’Ì aÌ ∞÷ÎDÕq Îs’Ì DÕÏ {ÿ_}— DÕ÷ ®Ã¬Ã¥Ì’ {¬ÃÏq÷ s¬Ã∞÷ ¥÷ ≤¬Ã w÷¨ÃÌ÷§N̨à aÌ& DÕÌ{ DÕÏ ’∞ÌπÌ {÷ Ao¨Ã-BÃo¨Ã zÌRÃDÕ ¨Ã¬ÃÌ aÌ& ≤¬ÃÏÊ zÌÌN≤’ {§c“¨ÃÏ DÕ¨Ã’Ì aÌ& ¥cÏ„ DÕ÷ {Ì◊¥{ {÷ ∞N̨̒à {§c“¨ÃÏ q Î{∞ sÌq÷ ¥÷ KÌq÷ DÕ÷ ∞Ì∞÷ sWË NC @Ì◊¨Ã zÌ“K ¥÷ {ÂRÃÌ÷∞÷ DÕÏ {Ì◊’ ¬ÃÌ÷ NA„& Îs’Ì DÕÏ {Ì◊’ DÕ÷ wÌc BÃ¥DÕÌ wWËÌ w÷RÃÌ zÌÌN≤’ ¨ÃÌ÷§Ï-¨ÃÌ÷RÃÏ DÕÏ §—NÌWË {÷Ê }¬ÃÌ ¥÷ s∞Ì}q Dըà N}Ì ¬◊Ã& ≤Ω„ 2008 {÷Ê {ÂRÃÌ÷∞÷ DÕÏ wc¸Ì¨Ã εaÎ’ DÕÏ ≤§¬Ã ¥÷ BÃ¥DÕÏ s_qÏ NÂzÌÏ¨Ã Ø s ¥÷ wÏ{̨à ¬ÃÌ÷ NA„& @sqÏ s_qÏ DÕ÷ BÃs°Ì¨Ã DÕ÷ Î∞C BÃ¥q÷ @sqÏ cÌ÷ wÏPÌÌ §{Ïq ≤ P̨à w÷° Îc}Ì& BÃ¥DÕÌ P̨à ≤ §{Ïq BèÃNÌÂ≤ {÷ a÷& §{Ïq ≤ P̨à w÷° Dըà BÃ¥q÷ @sqÏ s_qÏ DÕÏ 30 Disaster Management & Development • May 2011

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Disaster Management and Development Online Edition  

First magazine based on Disaster Management and Development

Disaster Management and Development Online Edition  

First magazine based on Disaster Management and Development

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