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State should opt for organic farming (10/8/2007)

1.State should opt for organic farming
2.They lived life on credit and died in instalments

EXTRACTS: He also expressed concern that India was shy of using its native farm technologies unlike other countries. Citing an example, Mr. Sharma said that the watershed model of Tamil Nadu had been adopted by Texas university while Brazil had become a leading exporter of three Indian cow breeds.

"While other countries are looking towards us, India is witnessing an effort to sell tractors, pesticides and genetically modified crops in the name of new farm technologies," he said. (item 1)

That year, he went for Bt cotton - it was the first year of genetic seed for the region. The cultivation cost spiralled manifold, due to the exorbitant seed price... "He couldn’t overcome the tension of repayment of debts and ended his life," said Jyoti. (item 2)

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1.'State should opt for organic farming'
The Hindu, August 9 2007
http://www.hindu.com/2007/08/09/stories/2007080955460500.htm

Stop using chemical fertilizers and pesticides that increase cultivation cost: expert

Observations

*Karnataka accounts for 40 per cent of farmers' suicides in the country *India is not putting to use native farm technology

BANGALORE: Food and trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma has advised Karnataka to reduce cost of cultivation by switching over to organic farming in a bid to put an end to the disturbing trend of farmers' suicides.

He was delivering a lecture on "The plight of Indian farmers in the globalised era" at a function organised jointly by the Institution of Agricultural Technologists, non-governmental organisation Sahaja Samrudha and other organisations, here on Wednesday.

Mr. Sharma expressed concern over Karnataka topping the list of farmers' suicides in the country. The State had accounted for 40 per cent of the farmers’ suicides in the country, he said.

It was ironical that the State was growing as a knowledge economy and hub of new technologies, but its farmers were in dire straits and resorting to suicides. The average income of Karnataka’s farmers was much below the national average of Rs. 2,115 a month, he said.

This showed that the existing agricultural model had failed. Hence, the State should try a new farming and socio-engineering model by putting an end to the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that would increase the cost of cultivation, he said.

Naxal menace

Mr. Sharma said that failure to change the agricultural model would deepen the agricultural crisis and lead to further complications such as increase in naxal menace.

Already, seven districts in the State were affected by naxalism, he said.

Referring to the State’s proposal to promote contract farming and future trading of commodities, he said that despite adopting such models, the average income of farmers in the U.S. was decreasing and a large number of them were quitting farming.

Mr. Sharma also expressed fear that contract farming would render fertile farm lands barren due to indiscriminate use of fertilizers and pesticides.

It was believed that contract farming and future trading would eliminate the menace of middlemen. But in reality, this system would throw up a new class of middlemen in the form of quality control, certification and standards verification agencies. More the number of such sophisticated middlemen, lesser would be the income of farmers, he said.

Welcoming the decision to disburse farm loans at 4 per cent interest, Mr. Sharma urged the Government to reduce interest rates for loans of self-help groups also.

Mr. Sharma sought to disprove the argument that Indian farmers should increase productivity to compete at the global level. It was a wrong notion that those in western countries had achieved high productivity.

If they had really achieved it, there was no need for countries such as the U.S. to provide huge subsidies for their farmers. The farming economy of the U.S. would collapse if the subsidy was withdrawn, he said.

Citing a study, Mr Sharma said that nearly 400 million people were expected to migrate from villages to cities in the country by 2015.

Terming this as the biggest-ever displacement in the world, he urged the country to make agriculture a sustainable activity so that people would not quit farming.

He also expressed concern that India was shy of using its native farm technologies unlike other countries. Citing an example, Mr. Sharma said that the watershed model of Tamil Nadu had been adopted by Texas university while Brazil had become a leading exporter of three Indian cow breeds.

"While other countries are looking towards us, India is witnessing an effort to sell tractors, pesticides and genetically modified crops in the name of new farm technologies," he said.

Theatre personality Prasanna and journalist Nagesh Hegde spoke on the occasion.

Pay panel

Talking to presspersons here on Wednesday, Mr. Sharma said that farmers should also be brought under the pay commission.Such a system would prevent suicides by farmers, he said.

"If we can spend one lakh crore for increasing the salaries of government servants, why should we not spend Rs. 50,000 crore for farmers who provide food security?" he asked.

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2.They lived life on credit and died in instalments
Jaideep Hardikar August 7 2007
http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1114018&pageid=2

AKOLA: It all began with Purushottam Manikrao Deshmukh in 2003. The following year, it was his younger son, Sunil. And barely a month back, his elder son, Santosh committed suicide.

They all lived on credit, and when death came, it came in instalments.

In four years, the Deshmukh family in Katyar - a cotton-producing village of about 3000 people 35 km east of Akola - lost all its men to a crisis that has been the bane of the entire Vidarbha region over the last few years.

A sip of pesticide was the tonic of death for each of the Deshmukhs. The white crop undid each of the Deshmukh family’s male member, burdened by mounting loans over the last four years, in spite of various experiments with the business model. The Deshmukhs owned 22 acres of land.

"When my father-in-law committed suicide, we did not inform the administration. He had debts that he couldn’t repay after suffering huge crop losses for three consecutive years due to calamities," said Santosh’s widow, Jyoti.

That year, he went for Bt cotton - it was the first year of genetic seed for the region. The cultivation cost spiralled manifold, due to the exorbitant seed price.

Despite good prices offered by the government-run scheme to cotton that year, the crop damage owing to excessive rains left him in near penury. "He couldn't overcome the tension of repayment of debts and ended his life," said Jyoti.

After Purushottam's suicide, the two sons got 11 acres each, as also an equal share of the outstanding bank loan of Rs 2 lakh.

Sunil decided to "diversify" into allied business in 2003-04 farm season. The previous season's competitive prices lured him to give a try at being a small-time cotton trader as well.

But little did he know that he was venturing into the world of highly volatile global markets.

He was presumably prompted by the discontinuation of the Monopoly Cotton Procurement Scheme by the government that year, allowing private buyers to buy cotton directly from the farmers.

Sunil bought cotton from farmers in his village at a price ranging between Rs2,500 and Rs2,700, thinking that even if cotton clings on to the previous year’s base index of Rs 3,000 a quintal, it would mean an earning of Rs 300 a quintal. For a total procurement of 500 quintal, that would have fetched him Rs1,50,000.

That, alas, was a far-fetched dream. The prices crashed to Rs 1,800. Over and above the loss of over Rs 3 lakh, Sunil had borrowed at 10 per cent per month to buy the cotton.

Concurrently, their own farm income too dipped sharply. Sunil could not withstand the pressure from his borrowers and the 34-year-old committed suicide on March 10, 2004, leaving behind his wife and his three-year-old daughter.

"After Sunil’s suicide, moneylenders started harassing my husband. I could sense his growing tension," said Jyoti. Santosh mortgaged his land and sold two of the three pairs of bullocks to bail himself out. But he could not break the vicious cycle.

So, when heavy rains swept away the first sowing and destroyed his land earlier in June, Santosh followed in his father’s and brother’s footsteps and ended his life.

Jyoti is determined to keep the farming occupation running and repay the loans. She hopes for helping hands from both her children, who are studying for a diploma course in agriculture.

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