EXCERPTS: Given that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has evinced interest in the rural distress that has led to farmers' suicides, the [Prime Minister's] panel has asked the Centre [the central government of India] to send "advisories against Bt cotton" in unirrigated areas.
The [Prime Minister's] panel has recommended that suitable seeds, which are appropriately priced, should be made available to stop farmers from falling in the Bt cotton trap.
Plan panel lends Vidarbha an ear
Times of India, July 2 2006
NEW DELHI: While Bt cotton's prohibitively exorbitant costs were a key reason behind farmers' distress in Vidarbha, the Centre is waking up to an inverse scenario: post-SC's intervention in the Monsanto case, where low prices of Bt cotton may cause crop failure.
The fears stem from the apex court's refusal to stay the MRTPC directive to Monsanto which will bring down seed prices. Bt cotton, expert studies have found, is not suitable for rain-fed areas like Vidarbha but only suitable for irrigated regions.
With the Planning Commission estimating that the apex court order will bring down Bt cotton prices by half, it is felt that poorly informed farmers may fall to the lure of cheap seeds and be crushed by another crop failure.
Given that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has evinced interest in the rural distress that has led to farmers' suicides, the Plan panel has asked the Centre to send "advisories against Bt cotton" in unirrigated areas.
A fact-finding PM's panel, led by principal adviser Adarsh Mishra, gave a report on the curse of Vidarbha. Among other things, it has recommended distribution of free seeds to 15 lakh farmers.
The plan panel has recommended that suitable seeds, which are appropriately priced, should be made available to stop farmers from falling in the Bt cotton trap.
Probing crop failures, the PM's panel found that farmers were not advised on Bt cotton as the latter was sold across Vidarbha with seed packets bearing in small letters "best when used in irrigated areas". The villagers complained they had noticed the manufacturer's warning too late as it was "in very small letters".
Indebtedness being at the heart of rural distress, the issue of credit too has come up for fresh roadmap. The Centre has been advised to provide loans on low interest rate.
As a remedy, the focus is on making Vidarbha farmers take to non-cotton crops too. The Plan panel wants Maharashtra government to provide incentives to those who grow food crops.
In focus is jowar which is cultivated on 5% of the land, a sharp fall from 30% not long ago. The panel feels monetary incentive per acre of jowar cultivation would serve the purpose.
Jowar will not only bring back a food crop but also revive fodder and thus animal husbandry.
The Plan panel wants the state to promote end-to-end cotton production. It wants the state to bring in textile mills and spinning mills for production of cotton goods.
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