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Sweet Paradox: India’s Drought-Stricken Farmers plant the Thirstiest Crop ‘Sugarcane’

What makes the sugar cane plantation lucrative is its hardiness and the higher returns ensured by the state policies

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Sugarcane
Weighing of Sugarcanes in Sugar Mills. Wikimedia commons.
  • The plantation of sugarcane poses a threat to the usually arid zone and might plunge it back into drought
  • The increasing gap in income between the regular crop growers and the cane producers might lead to social unrest – warn experts
  • Indian government expects that a rise in subsidies for crops like oilseeds and common pulses will bring a change in the patterns of farming

Aurangabad, India, October 21, 2016: On the arrival of the very first nourishing monsoon showers in the drought-stricken zones of central India, farmers like Santosh Wagh hurried back to the plantations of sugarcane, the thirstiest crop; despite frequent appeals from the Indian government not to do so!

What makes the sugar cane plantation lucrative is its hardiness and the higher returns ensured by the state policies. These reasons lead the farmers to sow the crop despite the extreme water-demand of the cane relative to other crops. The plantation of sugarcane poses a threat to the usually arid zone and might plunge it back into drought, mentioned Reuters.

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Wagh, 31, hails from Marathwada and plants 1.5 acres (0.6 hectares) of sugar cane and she says “It is the only reliable crop. Earlier this year I cultivated onions and incurred a 50,000 rupees loss as prices crashed.”

According to Reuters, the largest sugar producing state in India, Maharashtra, suffered the most horrific drought 4 months ago as it damaged livestock devastating the crops and emptied reservoirs while slowing down the hydroelectric power output.

thirstiest crop
Sugarcane. Wikimedia

Compared to a commonly grown crop, chickpeas, consuming only 4 million litres of waters in its growing cycle; the cane consumes nearly 22.5 million litres and therefore the environmentalists and the government blamed the cane production for water scarcity.

According to Reuters, the increasing gap in income between the regular crop growers and the cane producers might lead to social unrest and the water scarcity will keep growing without the intervention of the government- warn experts.

Pradeep Purandare, a former professor at Maharashtra Water and Land Management Institute, said “The government asks farmers to shift to less water consuming crops, but it does little to support those crops. It failed to solve the problems of oilseed and pulses growers.”

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“Returns from other crops are unpredictable. This year it allowed 5 tonnes of onions to rot. Prices were so low that my losses would have increased by transporting onions to the market,” said an Aurangabad farmer, Suresh Kothawale.

“We are creating oilseeds and pulses as an alternative for sugar cane by raising their minimum support prices,” said a senior official at India’s Agriculture Ministry who declined to be named.

But the industry critics claim that pulse and oilseed MSP exists on paper only.

In Marathwada the sugar mill build-up was primarily initiated by the politicians in order to gain prosperity in multiple areas of Maharashtra, focusing on regions with plentiful water.

“But later politicians opened mills everywhere, even in areas where drinking water is not available, to build a constituency rather than making farmers rich,” said a political analyst, Jaidev Dole to Reuters.

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Cane can withstand dry spells, heavy rainfall, diseases and less vulnerable to pests; and thus attracts farmers to sow it more. “I had taken crop insurance for pulses last year, but didn’t get compensation despite losing an entire crop,” said Sharad Mate, a farmer from Sillod, Aurangabad.

Indian government expects that a rise in subsidies for crops like oilseeds and common pulses will bring a change in the patterns of farming.

– prepared by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Government Prepares Comprehensive Plan For Revival of BSNL

It also noted that a Coordination Committee comprising senior officers of the DoT, BSNL management, and representatives of AUAB is already working in this regard

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BSNL is providing mobile services in Kashmir. Image Source: www.freejobsinfo.in

The government is making all efforts to make state-run BSNL robust and financially viable again and has prepared a comprehensive plan for its revival, an official said on Sunday, on the eve of a nationwide strike called by the employees unions over their demands.

BSNL employees and officers have given a three-day country-wide strike call from February 18 to highlight their long-pending issues, including allotment of 4G spectrum to the telecom major and wage revision for the workforce.

“All efforts are being made, and will continue to be made, to make BSNL robust and financially viable,” a Communications Ministry statement said.

“The main demands of the All India Unions and Associations of Bharat Sanchar Nigam (AUAB) include benefits to executives under the 3rd Pay Revision Committee (PRC) with 15 per cent fitment and to non-executives as per the 8th wage negotiations w.e.f. 1.1.2017, allotment of 4G spectrum to BSNL, revision of pension for BSNL retirees w.e.f. 1.1.2017 and delinking of same with pay revision for PRC implementation, and deduction of payment of pension contribution by BSNL on actual basic pay instead of on the highest level of the pay scale.

“Government wishes to re-emphasize that it will continue to engage with the BSNL management and representatives of the unions and associations, to support their reasonable demands, and to guide the organization towards a revival,” it said.

The SIM will now be available for employees of Patanjali only.
Comprehensive plan prepared for BSNL’s revival: Government.

Noting that the Department of Telecommunications (DOT) is taking “positive steps” regarding each of these demands, the ministry said the issue of alloting 4G spectrum to BSNL is being referred to telecom regulator TRAI “to recommend on the issue of administrative allocation, quantum, price and appropriate frequency band”.

“Further action will be taken on receipt of the said recommendation. In parallel, a comprehensive proposal for revival of BSNL has been prepared, which will be taken up for consideration by competent authorities very soon.”

It also noted that a Coordination Committee comprising senior officers of the DoT, BSNL management, and representatives of AUAB is already working in this regard.

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“Representatives of AUAB have also held meetings with the DOT Additional Secretary in which they have been duly apprised of the progress being made in relation to their demands,” the statement said.

It pointed out that the BSNL management has appealed to its employees not to resort to any agitation at this critical juncture when the organization is engaged in “sincere and serious efforts” to protect and enhance the company’s market share, “and when any disruption in services can only adversely impact the interests of BSNL and its customers, employees and other stakeholders.” (IANS)