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Karnataka agrarian crisis Pt.1: What ails the farmers?

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By Nithin Sridhar

Karnataka is storming with cases of large scale farmer-suicides on one hand and the issue of drought on the other. The problem was addressed by Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah during his Independence Day speech on 15 August. According to him, 39 farmers had died between April and June and around 182 farmer deaths happened in July, taking the total number of farmer-suicides to 221.

Is the number of farmer-deaths understated?

A Frontline report claims that a total number of around 284 farmers committed suicide, with 245 of them dying between 1 July and 10 August, which is higher than what the Chief Minister had quoted. But even these figures may have been seriously underestimated. For example, a Mint report quotes that in 2014, the state government recorded only 48 cases of farmer-deaths whereas the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported around 321 cases of farmer-deaths and 447 cases of farm labour deaths. There has been a sudden rise in number of farmers committing suicides during the month of July.

Therefore, the real number of farmers who committed suicide may be much larger than what is officially stated. A few reasons for this mismatch could be, the government’s attempts to prevent any unsavoury effect that a higher number could have on the already distressed farmers.

A more compelling reason could be the state government’s attempts to minimize the number of people be compensated. The Mint report shows how, the state government approved compensation for only 76 cases out of 197 cases of farmer-suicides till 29 July. Further, the rules for granting compensation are such that, only the families of very few farmers who killed themselves are being benefited. For example, if a woman in a farmer’s family commits suicide, she may not get compensation, even though she may have indulged in farming. The only occasion when her family can get a compensation is when the land being tilled is in her name. Similarly, if a victim had done farming on a leased land, he could only get compensation, if he has all the proper documents, which many farmers don’t have. There is also a wide spread practice of oral tenancy which is not recognized by government and hence the compensation gets cancelled in such cases.

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Yet another reason could be to minimize the political damage that it may do to the political party. Karnataka is being ruled by Congress party which came to power in 2013. During the Congress rule under S. M. Krishna between 1999 and 2004, at least 9200 farmers had committed suicide. This had not only become a huge embarrassment to the Congress then, but was also one of the factors due to which S. M. Krishna had to resign. Therefore, the concern for political implications may have driven to give an understatement of number of farmer-suicides.

Irrespective of the exact number of people who have died, the fact remains that this number is high and has once again highlighted the plight of farmers not only in Karnataka, but in India as a whole.

Farmers are dying across India

According to NCRB reports, between 1995 and 2012, around 2,84,673 farmers have committed suicide across India, with around 86.6% of them being males. Further, the number of farmers who committed suicides constitute around 13.6% of the total incidents of suicides.

The three year average of the suicide rate for male farmers from 2010 to 2012 was 15.4. This is lesser in comparison to the 2007-2009 average which was around 17.4, but higher than the 1995-97 average of 11.6. The three year average for the same period (2010-2012) for some of the states are as follows: Karnataka (37.4), Kerala (153), Andhra Pradesh (46.3), Maharashtra (41.8), Gujarat (11), West Bengal (16.2), Odisha (4), Punjab (4.7), Haryana (16.4) and Tamil Nadu (16.3).

Therefore, it is clear that the issue of farmer-deaths is not unique to Karnataka, but is widespread across India.

Sugarcane crisis in Karnataka

The recent issue of farmer-suicides in Karnataka reveals a large scale agrarian crisis that is present across India. It exposes serious challenges associated with farming: moneylenders, debt, support price, crop failure etc. to name a few.

sugar mill

One of the principal causes of the present crisis has been the failure of the sugar mills and jaggery units to pay farmers for their sugarcane produce. Sugar producing factories in Karnataka owe at least Rs 2500 crores to the farmers for the sugarcane purchased during the previous crushing season. They also owe another Rs 1000 crore from 2013-14 to the farmers. This is inspite of the Karnataka Sugarcane (Regulation) Act, 2013 stipulating the factories to pay up farmers within 14 days. Further, the rates offered by the mills to farmers were at Rs 700 per ton or less as against the state mandated minimum price of Rs 2500 per ton.

This twin issue of sugar factories not paying the farmers their past dues and paying them only a paltry amount for their produce creates a huge financial scarcity that compelled many farmers to commit suicide. As a result, the Mandya district, which is the hub of sugarcane production in Karnataka has seen at least 29 farmer deaths till 29 July.

Dr. Muzaffar AssadiWhen, NewsGram asked Dr. Muzaffar Assadi (Professor and Chairman in the Department of Studies in Political Science, University of Mysore, who has written extensively on the issue of farmer suicides and the connected agrarian crisis) about the factors behind the farmer suicides in Karnataka, he listed out following immediate causes that drove farmers to commit suicide:

  1. The gut in the sugarcane production that was caused due to increased production and decreased demand.
  2. The market is already full with sugar and jaggery. Hence, no market is available to accommodate increased sugarcane produce.
  3. Sugar factories not being able to pay farmers for their produce.
  4. Increase in debts taken by farmers.

Elaborating on the gut situation in sugarcane, Dr. Assadi said that apart from the fact that more sugarcanes are being produced in spite of a lesser demand, other factors behind the gut situation include import of cheap sugar from other countries and MNC’s opting for these cheaper sugars instead of sugars from indigenously grown sugarcanes.

Further, he stated that, sugarcane farmers face a unique problem when it comes to selling their produce. They are restricted by the rules that state that they can sell their produce to only a particular sugar factory allotted to them, usually neither their agricultural land. Hence, they do not have freedom to reject one factory and sell to another at a better price.

This has allowed the sugar factory owners to thoroughly exploit the farmers. The practice of paying the farmers less than the minimum support price is continued by many factory owners, because they know that farmers are desperate to sell their produce and farmers have no other option but to sell to them.

But, the miserable condition of the farmers is not limited to sugarcane farmers alone. The next part will show how farmers, irrespective of the crops they are growing, are facing various hardships.

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Swarna Bharat Party condemns government’s healthcare policy in Karnataka

The privatisation of health policies was opposed by SBP

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Health policies of Karnataka being opposed by SBP
SBP asks government to work on government hospitals rather then privatising them. Facebook
18th November 2017:
Mr Asif Iqbal, Karnataka State coordinator of Swarna Bharat Party (SBP), today strongly opposed the communist, anti-market and anti-people policy of the Congress Karnataka government to cap healthcare charges in the private sector.
Mr Iqbal said that the Siddaramaiah government should start learning basic economics. Good intentions do not necessarily lead to good outcomes. This communist policy will shut down many hospitals and drive away thousands of health professionals. In this way, it will hurt everyone, including the poor. No communist society has ever done well, and this communist policy will badly harm Karnataka.
In a free market people voluntarily give their custom to the service provider who gives them the best service at the lowest cost. Simultaneously, the desire for profits motivates healthcare providers to provide good quality healthcare while keeping their costs down. And they can’t charge whatever they wish since they are forced by the competition among hospitals to keep prices low. Anyone who makes a profit in such a competitive environment is signalling that he has successfully and efficiently served the people. That is the best outcome for society.
Mr Iqbal said that a government’s role is to create the environment for market-led profitable investments, thereby serving the needs of the community. But instead of identifying and addressing any barriers to investment, the Congress communists are attacking the very existence of the health sector.
Mr Siddaramaiah should remember that the taxpayer does not subsidise private medical establishments, nor should there be any such subsidy. These establishments buy land at commercial rates, pay commercial taxes and get utilities like water and electricity at commercial rates. In fact, SBP understands that most private hospitals and clinics do not break even for the first 5-10 years and most earn barely enough to stay in business.
Mr Iqbal said that instead of Mr Siddaramaiah worrying about the private sector (which is already badly shackled with thousands of rules and infrastructure constraints), he should look within – at the total mismanagement of government hospitals. The private sector is the last ray of hope for the people of Karnataka. Now the anti-people Congress wants to extinguish even this last ray of hope.
SBP also opposes many other aspects of the new health laws, such as a district redressal body that comprises six members but with only one doctor member. Further, there are already several avenues for patients to complain, including consumer courts, civil courts, medical bodies. Creating another body is unnecessary and will only increase fear in doctors’ mind. SBP demands a complete repeal of the new law.

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Lingayats in Karnataka to form Forum, Demand Separate Religion Status

The squabble between the two seers has witnessed several turns past few days

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Lingayats against Veerashaivas
An important center of pilgrimage for people of the Lingayat faith in India. Wikimedia
  • The Lingayat community leaders are planning to form a forum to up the ante on their demand for separate religion status
  • The leaders hold that Lingayats and Veerashaivas are different 
  • Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha meeting is scheduled on August 10 to reach a final decision 

New Delhi, August 9, 2017: The Lingayat community leaders in Karnataka are planning to float an all India front, which will be an umbrella body for all Lingayat outfits in the country. It is an attempt to further up the ante on their demand for a separate religion status.

According to The Hindu report, Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha meeting has been scheduled on August 10, in Bengaluru, where further discussion will take place to evolve a consensus and reach a conclusive decision.

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The leaders, at a press conference in Kalaburgi stated, that contrary to the opinion of the Mahasabha, they do not consider Lingayats and Veerashaivas as the same. “We hold that Veerashaiva and Lingayat are different and hence demand independent status for the Lingayat community. A meeting of leaders representing both will be convened in Bengaluru on August 10. If the Veerashaiva Mahasabha continues to adhere to its stand, we will begin to float an Akhila Bharata Linghayat Mahasabha bringing all Lingayat organisations and religious institutions together,” said Sanjay Makal, a Lingayat leader, during the press conference.

“Veerashaiva upholds and practises the principles advocated by the vedas, aagamas, shastras, puranas and other texts that are part of Hindu religion. Based on this, earlier applications for religion tag to Veerashaiva/Lingayat were rejected outright. If we demand independent religion status to Lingayat alone, we will be successful as the demand has solid material base,” he added.

Also read: First Hindi and now English, the Language War in Karnataka Continues

The squabble between the two seers has witnessed several turns past few days. Recently, Lingayat Mahasabha filed a defamation complaint against the Rambhapuri Jagadguru Prasannarenuka Veera Someshwara Rajadeshikendra Shivacharya Mahaswamiji, the head of the Veerashaiva math based out of Chikamagaluru. He had taken a stand that Veershaivas and Lingayats are the same.

On August 2, Sharana Chandramouli, Lingayat Mahasabha State President, filed a complaint against the Rambhapuri Pontiff for allegedly making defamatory statements against Mate Mahadevi, the head of the Lingayat mutt Basava Dharma Peetha.

According to Chandramouli, the Rambhapuri pontiff had issued a statement stating that Mate Mahadevi had, in 1962, written a love letter to Lingananda Swami, the religious head who initiated Mate Mahadevi into the mutt.

The Rambhapuri seer’s statement was followed by protests, with the followers of Mate Mahadevi shouting slogans against the Rambhapuri seer demanding him to tender an apology to the woman seer.

An effigy of the Rambhapuri pontiff was also burnt during the protests.

In reaction to this, on August 1, an effigy of Mate Mahadevi was also burnt, by thousands of followers of the Rambhapuri seer from Gadag, Dharwad and Bidar, who staged a protest in Hubballi.

-prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha

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In last 3 Years, there is a Significant Rise in Chamundeshwari Temple’s Income

The income rise is seen as there have been donations by devotees collected in the temple hundi and from various sources also.

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Chamundeshwari Temple
Chamundeshwari Temple. Wikimedia commons
  • The income of Chamundeshwari Temple has registered a notable increase over a period of three years
  • During the Ashada Shukravaras, private vehicles are prohibited on the road to Chamundi Hills by the administration
  • This temple is around 1,000 years old

Karnataka, July 31, 2017: On top of Chamundi Hills in Karnataka, there lies the famous Sri Chamundeshwari Temple. The hills are about 13 km from Mysore, Karnataka and globally famous for its beauty. The temple is named Chamudeshwari as in it resides goddess Durga, the word Chamundi means Durga itself. She is the fierce form of Shakti (power). She is known as the slayer of demons- Chanda, Munda and also Mahishasura, (buffalo-headed monster).

This temple is around 1,000 years old and, what was a small shrine initially, gained importance over the centuries and today it has become a big temple. The temple saw its first share of significance after the Maharajas of Mysore known as Wodeyars came to power in 1399 A.D., they were known to be great devotees and worshippers of the Devi Chamundeshwari. She became their home deity and thus assumed religious prominence at that time and it has only seen rise since then.

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The income of Chamundeshwari Temple has registered a notable increase over a period of three years. According to a statement issued by Deputy Commissioner D. Randeep, the temple’s total income between April to July when Ashada Shukravara’s (Fridays) are observed was: in 2015- ₹5.98 crore, in 2016- ₹7.86 crore and reached a height of ₹11.08 crore in 2017.

The total income came from various sources such as pujas and offerings and also the donations collected in the temple hundi. The hundi collection between April and July 2015 was ₹1.63 crore and during the corresponding period in 2016, it was ₹3.51. It increased to ₹3.86 crore in the following year.

The temple income though marginally dipped from ₹4, 35, 29,205 during 2015 (April to July) to ₹4, 35, 08,507 during 2016, it went up significantly to ₹7.22 crore during 2017.As per a statement from the Deputy Commissioner, the Ashada hundi collection alone during 2017 was a surprising ₹1.74 crore and he added that the hundi counting was carried out on July 26 and 27.

A noteworthy point is that there’s a large volume of traffic on the road to Chamundi Hills especially during the auspicious occasions and on weekends.

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During the Ashada Shukravaras, private vehicles are prohibited on the road to Chamundi Hills by the administration. As a solution, alternative arrangements are made for the transport by KSRTC buses. Such is the popularity of this big temple filled with devotees.

As traffic on the road to the hilltop grows dense on weekends and auspicious days, there is big chaos at the last stretch of the road leading to the area around Mahisasura statue owing to haphazard parking.

Whenever the flow of traffic increases, the traffic police halt vehicles near the Mysore City viewing point in order to prevent congestion at the hilltop. The halted vehicles are allowed to proceed only after sufficient parking space is created at the hilltop when the parked vehicles leave the area.

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Apart from Chamundeshwari Temple, there are some other wealthy temples in India- Sai Baba Temple of Shirdi and Tirumala Tirupati.

The renowned Sai Baba Temple of Shirdi, managed by Shree Saibaba Sansthan Trust is one of the wealthiest temples in the country. As per official records, from January to December 2016, the revered Sai Baba temple managed to accumulate a received income of ₹403.75 crore. When compared to the previous year’s income (₹393.72 crore), it’s a massive gain. Of the total income gained in the year 2016 ₹258.42 crore was in the form of donations. The temple earned a whopping cash donation of ₹258.42 crore. To make things more golden, it fetched ₹6.74 crore and ₹1.10 crore from 28 kg gold ornaments and silver jewellery, respectively.

When we speak of wealthy temples, how can we not mention Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam? Fondly known as Tirumala, the temple of Lord Venkateswara attained a massive wealth of ₹1,018 in 2016. Adding to the ever-increasing wealth, approximately 10 crore pieces of the iconic Tirupati Laddoo prasadam was sold. Not only this, ₹201 crore was generated by the online business. Each year the temple sells the online-ticket for darshan. In the said year too, more than 67 lakh Hindu devotees bought the online darshan tickets.

prepared by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08

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