And the farmer suicide continues….

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!

Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Investment Vs Justice

VictimBHOPAL, THE capital city of Madhya Pradesh, is also known as the centre of the ’biggest industrial disaster’ or the ‘Hiroshima of chemical industry’. On December 3, 1984, a union carbide pesticide producing plant leaked highly toxic cloud of methyl isocyanate into the air of a densely populated region of Bhopal. Of the 800,000 people living in Bhopal at that time, 2,000 died immediately, 300,000 were injured and as many as 8,000 have died since.Due to the accident, many people suffered from various diseases and disorders even till many years later. The worst part is that people living near the premises of the site still continue to suffer. People living around the Union Carbide plant site have two options when it comes to drinking water. Either they are forced to drink the contaminated groundwater, which continues to be affected by toxic wastes dumped in the plant premises, or the municipal water is supplied from the nearby Raslakhedi village, known for a huge sewer. The water from both sources has been officially declared unfit for drinking.

The Bhopal gas tragedy is a catastrophe that has no parallel in industrial history. Yet the people who have suffered are still awaiting justice, even after more than 23 years. On Wednesday, victims of the tragedy protested against the inaction on the part of the government to nail the culprits. The fight that the survivors of the tragedy are leading is now not restricted to them only. In 2001, Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide for $9.3 billion, despite this, Dow has refused to accept moral responsibility and does not take accountability for the Bhopal gas tragedy. Even our Commerce Minister has also commented that ’Dow cannot be held accountable for Union Carbide’s liabilities’.

Union Carbide and its former chairperson, Warren Anderson, both of whom face charges of culpable homicide and grievous assault, are absconding from Indian courts since 1992. By virtue of its acquisition of Union Carbide, Dow Chemical has inherited Carbide’s civil liabilities – of clean-up and compensation for water to the affected people. Also, in acquiring Union Carbide, Dow was well aware that it was inheriting an absconder.

The government went a step ahead and in the year 2006, it approved the collaboration between Reliance and Dow for the transfer of Union Carbide-owned patented technology. But according to the activists, this is illegal as Union Carbide’s assets in India are subject to confiscation as per the 1992 order of the Bhopal magistrate.

Instead of showing some sympathy and the will to fight for the victims, the government is worried about loosing the investment in the country. They feel any overtures to hold Dow liable for Bhopal-related issues will scare away Dow’s promised $1 billion investment in India and also discourage other American investors. Dow even admitted paying $22,000 (Rs 88 lakhs) as bribe to agriculture ministry officials to expedite registration of the three pesticides namely Dursban, Nurelle and Pride.

The company had to pay a fine of $ 325,000 (Rs 1.43 crores) to the Securities Exchange Commission for violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act last year. Dow tried to wash its hands off the controversy but there was substantial evidence against them. Dursban pesticide is banned in the US, as it is a neuro-toxin that can cause permanent damage to children’s brains but we are registering such pesticides so that we don’t loose investment. After all, who cares about the people when we have the population of over 1.1 billion.

In May 2007, Sharad Pawar said that the enquiry in this matter was going on by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The probe is concluded. But the report is gathering dust. Meanwhile, the pesticides and the culprits are roaming free and poisoning the children. Dow Chemicals should not be allowed to expand its operation in India until justice is meted out to the victims. Indian state’s unwillingness to discourage foreign private investment has been a crucial factor in the continuing injustice in Bhopal!

If you want to extend support to the cause please visit:

http://www.studentsforbhopal.org/

Unique Protest in Supreme Court by YFE

A report of what happened when students gathered at the SC lawns to appeal against the way 27% reservation for OBCs is being implemented.

Wondering why the youth brigade didn’t come up with strong reactions immediately after the Supreme Court ruling that gave way to 27 per cent reservation to the OBCs? Well, this could be safely attributed to the proverbial silence before the storm.
On April 25, students did something nobody has ever done before. It was an appeal alright! Yes, again! But the venue wasn’t Jantar Mantar or the India Gate lawns but the main garden of the Supreme Court of India. Yes, this was the first-ever appeal to be held inside the Supreme Court premises in Indian history. Two hundred students had gathered to convey a message to the government – not to dilly-dally on the SC’s terms and to respect the judgment and clear the concept of the ‘creamy layer’.
Are you wondering how did 200 students get inside the SC gate? This was a strategy. Said a student present, “We walked in one after one and started pouring in since early morning. It was easy to walk in and engross ourselves in cups of chai before starting our appeal around 11 am. We had wanted this to be a silent affair but it didn’t turn out to be just that. We were literally plucked from the ground and dragged into police vehicles and then sent off to the Tilak Marg police station.”
The students offered resistance, held hands and sat close in a huddle and the police wasn’t very kind to them. While some students were tugged, others were pulled and dragged, some were lifted off the ground and some were slapped. It wasn’t the best way to deal with them and, as a result, around ten students were hurt, taken to RML and some lost their phones. Once the authorities realised that this was a strategy, Section 144 was applied that barred anybody from entering the SC.
There was a twist in the tale too! After students were sent to the Tilak Marg police station and released a while later, the entire crowd came running back to the Supreme Court. But this time they couldn’t enter the premises and slogans started at the gate. They were again put in police vehicles and taken to the police station a second time. “We are here to make a point,” said another student, adding, “We aren’t here to go back.” And what exactly is that point? “Implement SC’s judgment, please. Make the new list of OBC beneficiaries, keep to the SC’s take on the creamy layer and provide no reservations at the PG levels,” answered Jiten of YFE. Students from JNU, DU, IP University, AIIMS and MAMC were a part of this movement. And what did the students do post being released a second time? “We went to get some clothes. Our clothes were ruined with the amount of manhandling we were subjected to,” informed a student.