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3,00,000 farmer suicides: Making sense of the impersonal stats of a suicidal Indian farmer

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By Ishan Kukreti

The Indian farmer is in limelight again, and like always, for all the unhappy reasons.

A farmer died during the rally of Aam Aadmi Party at Jantar Mantar. The Land Acquisition Bill is being widely debated and Rahul Gandhi has lent his unequivocal support for the cause of the farmers. Recently, O.P. Dhankar, Haryana Agriculture Minister, called farmers who commit suicide, ‘criminals’ and ‘cowards.’ All this has focused the national attention on the tiller, once more.

But amidst the cacophony of prime time debates, angry questions, decreasing subsidies and unseasonal rains, the Indian farmer remains at the same place, on the margin and highly suicidal. 

What’s the big deal?

Since independence around 3,00,000 farmers have committed suicide. The highest number of farmer suicides were recorded in 2004, when 18,241 farmers committed suicide, according to National Crime Records Bureau. Division tells that this means, on ever day of 2004, around 50 farmers committed suicide in India. The jet black irony of the situation is that the year of BJP’s ‘India Shinning’ was the darkest for Indian farmers.

Agriculture as an economic activity is fast becoming an option not very viable. The input costs are rising at a rate which the output price is not able to match. Apart from this a long list of problems like decreasing water table, decline in soil fertility due to using fertilizers and chemicals, emergence of pests resistant to chemicals, are killing agriculture in India, along with the agriculturist.

Minimum Support Price Scheme

To secure the position of the farmers, the government started its Minimum Support Scheme in 1966-67. It is the minimum amount at which the government buys grains from the farmers. The scheme provides a guarantee of crop sale to farmers, but as the name suggests, it is a bare minimum amount and is mostly inadequate.

“Government gives Rs. 1,450 for a quintal of wheat, but it doesn’t help us. The MSP is worse than charity, it is given just as a formality. We require a minimum of at least Rs. 2,000 per quintal to make things better,”  says a highly disgruntled Karam Singh Pajja who is a farmer in Bajpur, Uttrakhand, and has ‘sold’ a crop of sugarcane worth Rs.82,000 to Bajpur Sugar Mill over a month ago but hasn’t received the money yet.

It is true that MSP has been increased by the government over the years. But the hike, when viewed keeping in mind the reduced financial assistance of government in activities like irrigation, health and related services, employment schemes etc, turns out to be a mere joke.

Moreover, even the guaranteed MSP comes with a there’s-a-rub condition. The government doesn’t purchase wheat crop ( one of the most grown crop) with moisture content over 12%. But during the time of harvest, the crop inevitably has moisture content higher than that. To bring it down to 12%, the yield has to be dried in the sun, this also means the requirement of a storage facility and a possibility of loss because of rodents and pests.

Arahati and the hoarding

When the farmer can’t sell the produce to FCI ( Food Corporation of India) due to the glitch of moisture content or if he requires a better price, he then turns to the ‘Arhati’ the middle man who buys the produce from him and sells it in the mandi to retailers.

“The farmer has to recover his money as soon as possible because he has to repay the loans. Arahati buys the produce for a lower price, exploiting the farmers and then makes profit by selling it at a higher rate to retailers and government officials,” says Baljit Singh Randhawa, treasurer of the Kisan Union, Uttrakhand.

For a person who thrives on the simple profit and loss principle of reducing cost price and increasing selling price, it is no surprise that the Arhati takes advantage of the farmers’ condition.

“It is his business and he does everything to make it profitable. What’s it to him if a farmer lives or dies? or whether our kids go to schools or not?” says Ramesh Khartri, who owns farms in Rajasthan.

Postscript    

The apathy of government, dishonesty of officials and the greed of Arhati, all are the combined burden which the sisyphus of an Indian farmer sloughs under, generation after generation.

Karam Singh’s words in this context, help put things in clear perspective. He says, “Kisan is the only person in Hindustan who is not allowed to fix the price for his goods. The government or the private trader does it for him. He cannot say that I want this much amount for my crop. He too has to send his kids to school, get his daughters married.”

 

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Delhi Govt Issues Advisory for Spraying Pesticides to Deal With Locust Attack

Delhi government will also run awareness programmes regarding the same threat

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The threat of locusts is increasing in North India. Pixabay

To deal with the attack of locusts in the national capital, the Delhi government has issued an advisory for spraying pesticides, Cabinet Minister Gopal Rai said on Thursday.

Rai said in view of the increasing threat of locusts in north India, the Agriculture Department of the Delhi government will run awareness programmes to make the people and farmers of Delhi aware of this new threat.

“Also, the Delhi Government has issued advisory on spraying pesticides and its quantity,” Rai tweeted.

The circular was issued in order to prevent a probable attack in Delhi by a swarm of locusts, which are reportedly present in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

“All concerned authorities are hereby advised to take preventive measures to control and eradicate the locusts to avoid devastating effect on standing agricultural and horticultural crops, vegetation, plants, gardens, orchard etc. in Delhi,” the circular said.

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“Also, the Delhi Government has issued advisory on spraying pesticides and its quantity,” Cabinet Minister Gopal Rai tweeted. Wikimedia Commons

It directed that awareness programmes be organised for the public and farmers to prevent and control any such invasion by locusts in Delhi.

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“As the swarm usually fly in day time, and rest during night time therefore the locusts should not be allowed to rest especially during night,” it said.

The circular added that the authorities may carry out spraying of insecticides or pesticides during the night.

The chemicals suggested for spraying were Malathion 50% EC; Malathion 25% WP; Chlorpyrifos 20 % EC; and Chlorpyrifos 50 % EC. (IANS)

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New Reforms and Alternative Markets Likely To Benefit Farmers

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New reforms will benefit farmers who are reeling under the Covid-19 crisis. Pixabay

The Modi government in order to double the income of farmers by 2022 announced a slew of measures last week, and it is widely expected that these reforms will benefit farmers who are reeling under the Covid-19 crisis. Post Coronavirus as state reopens farmers might benefit.

IANS spoke to Ashok Dalwai, chairman of the Committee for Doubling Farmers’ Income, on the issue of strategic reforms initiated by the government and their importance to the farm sector.

He said the alternative market provided to the farmers will give them more earning power. The reforms will unshackle the agriculture value chains by deregulating the essential commodity trade and introducing a Central law to ease inter-state farm trade, effectively overriding the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis that have shown resistance to change in the past.

“We are not ending the APMC, but reforming it. Till now APMC was regulated by the state governments, now the private sector can establish its own APMC which will give an alternative market to farmers,” Dalwai said.

He said the way the telecom sector provided options to the consumers to choose the operators of their choice, in the same way the private AMPC will give farmers the choice to sell their produce at a better price anywhere in India. “The proposed amendment to the Essential Commodities Act of 1955 will ensure seamless movement of farm produce not only inter-state, but also within the state. Anyone having a central license can buy and sell anywhere,” Dalwai said.

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Ashok Dalwai says Alternative markets might help corona struck farmers. Pixabay

Dalwai said many states have already adopted the reforms and more will join in the future. “The new law related to APMC will be definitely adopted by the state governments and the Centre will provide the framework for inter-state trade of agricultural produce. If a farmer in UP wants to sell his produce to a market in Karnataka, he does not need to go there. He can do so online. The way e-NAM works for APMC mandis, e-platform will work for such farmers.”

He said the amendment to the Essential Commodities Act has been initiated with the sole purpose to provide better prices to the farmers. The government has also decided to free certain categories of agricultural products such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onions, and potatoes from the government’s control and lend more predictability to even export policies.

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On the question of challenges due to Covid-19 with regard to doubling farmers’ income, Dalwai said, “The farmers have not been impacted due to the pandemic. There will be no problem in achieving the target of doubling farmers’ income by the year 2022.” (IANS)

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Rs 4,000 Crore Plan for Herbal Cultivation Includes Ganga River Banks, Informs Finance Minister

NMPB will identify 800 hectare of land near the river for the same

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on atomic energy research reactor
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the government will provide level playing field for private companies in satellite launches and space-based services. Wikimedia Commons

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday informed that a corridor of medicinal plants would be created on the banks of the Ganga and for this National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) would identify 800 hectare of land near the river.

It forms an important part of a slew of initiatives announced by the minister towards development of agricultural infrastructure, capacity building, logistics and legislative reforms.

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s decision to create a corridor of medicinal plants on the banks of the Ganga is part of the Rs 4,000 crore programme launched for the promotion of herbal cultivation. Wikimedia Commons

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The NMPB has supported 2.25 lakh hectare area under cultivation of medicinal plants. Now, 10,00,000 hectares will be covered under herbal cultivation in next two years with the outlay of Rs 4,000 crore.

The move is expected to lead to Rs 5,000 crore income generation for farmers. It will also develop a network of regional Mandis for medicinal plants. (IANS)