BILL BRYSON once said that there are only three things that can kill a farmer: lightning, rolling over in a tractor, and old age. He would have not mentioned only these three things, had he been to Vidarbha in Maharshtra.
Vidarbha has been in limelight for some time because of the farmer suicides in recent years ostensibly because of the falling minimum support price for cotton. The problem that Vidarbha farmers are facing is really complex and is precisely because of the lopsided policies of WTO and developed nation which has made cotton of Vidarbha uncompetitive in world markets.
India is a land where more than 60 per cent of population is into the farming but unfortunately the globalisation and better economy has failed to boost agriculture in the country. Last year, P Chidambaram in the Union budget announced Rs 72,000 crores relief package for the farmers but the recent figures clearly states the ineffectiveness of the same.
Figures available with the Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swawalamban Mission, the authority implementing the loan-waiver package, show 1,139 farmers killed themselves in Vidarbha’s six most suicide-prone districts in 2008 — a mere 107 less than in 2007, when 1,246 farmers committed suicide.
Every passing day there is news of more farmers committing suicides.
The main reasons for the failure of the loan waiver scheme are that:
Only a handful of farmers have received the money to date
Because local banks are yet to receive the bulk of funds
Even worse, many here didn’t qualify the for waiver
The average land holding is above the 2 hectare cut off
What farmers need for their survival is income, and not so much debt relief; in other words, the country needs agricultural renewal and productivity improvement.
A farmer is being neglected in his own country. There is no body which can understand or is really interested to understand the problems of a farmer. Annadaata is starving and we are looking on callously.
We haven’t bothered to stand up for the cause of our fellow country men. Why? Why is it that the voices of our farmers are being over heard by all the bodies? What are we waiting for?
As a common citizen I know that we only feel the pinch of the situation when we start to get affected by the same. Probably, we are waiting for the time when farmers will pick up guns and explode bombs to make deaf people/government hear their voices. We have discussed about cross border terrorism so much but in process we have forgotten the ‘economic terrorism’, where the victims are farmers and only farmers!