TNN | Jun 30, 2013, 12.33 AM IST
MAHBUBNAGAR: Excessive use of chemical pesticides, erratic rainfall, heavy debt burden, and spurious seeds are taking a heavy toll on farmers in the perennially drought-hit Mahbubnagar district.
As many as 20 farmers have committed suicide in the district in the last three months. They have taken the desperate step unable to bear the losses due to frequent crop failures or clear the mounting agricultural debts. Insufficient loan advances by banks and high interest rates collected by private moneylenders too have played their part in the sucides.
District officials refuse to admit the increasing instances of farm suicides, but don’t’ deny that Mahbubnagar district is “vulnerable” thanks to a combination of factors ranging from high consumption of pesticides and fertilisers to unpredictable climatic conditions. The authorities wait the post-mortem reports for disbursal of compensation.
On Saturday a tenant farmer, Venkataiah, 35, from Pervetipally of Upunuthala mandal committed suicide by consuming pesticide. Only a day before, a tribal-farmer, Shankar Naik (50) of Badrigani thanda of Veldhanda mandal, ended his life following crop loss. Last week, P Srisailam of Manganoor village of Bijinapally mandal took the same extreme path.
Srisailam borrowed Rs 4 lakh to cultivate his five acres of land but could not repay the loan as the crop failed.
Mahbubnagar agriculture join director KV Rama Raju blames farm suicides on the indiscriminate use of pesticides. “Farmers here spray pesticides in quantities more than required. They thus not only spend more money on pesticides, but end up in losses or get low yield as excessive spraying of chemicals change the texture of the soil”.
Rama Raju said farmers sowing cotton crop are the most vulnerable of the lot. They invest big amounts on things not needed. “Many farmers do not follow the advice of agricultural extension officers on the optimum use of fertilisers and pesticides,” he added.
The rate of suicide is relatively higher among farmers who grow non-assured crops like cotton than those who go in for crops like paddy and maize. Some crops bring in minimum profits, but the returns are guaranteed.
“Farmers in Mahbubnagar district are vulnerable,” admits district collector M Girija Shankar, though he evades a reply on the exact number of farmers committing suicide in the district.
The district administration has so far distributed Rs 25 lakh as compensation to the families of about 70 farmers who committed suicide, “The situation is grim in case of SC/ST farmers,” he said adding that distribution of compensation is often delayed for technical reasons.
Clinical psychologists point out that farm suicides are mainly a psychological problem. “Such deaths can be prevented or at least minimized if we counsel farmers at frequent intervals,” said Dr M Radha Krishna Rao, senior clinical psychologist.
Last year about 120 farmers committed suicide in the district. Many farmers could not take up cultivation last season as the monsoon played truant in the district even as the groundwater levels plummeted.
“The crop in our five acres dried due to lack of water. We incurred heavy losses. This forced my husband to commit suicide,” said G Yadamma of Govonipally village in Nawapet mandal. Her husband G Pentaiah (43) consumed a pesticide on June 30 finding no means to pay Rs 80,000 he borrowed from a private moneylender.
Half a dozen tribal-farmers committed suicide so far this season. Eraguntla thanda of Bijinapally mandal recorded four suicides. Govind (38), Deshya (30), Mnya (28) and Madhya (35) committed suicide in the last two months in the mandal. Ironically, these farmers could not procure loans from banks and had to approach private moneylenders to raise crops. “Private moneylenders are responsible for the death of my husband,” says Madavath Devli, the widow of Govind.
Farmers, who took up cotton cultivation are the worst hit in the district, said Balu Naik of Kalwakurthy. Many tribals have migrated to other parts of the country leaving their agricultural fields behind. K Krishna Reddy, district president of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, alleged that banks had stopped issuing fresh loans unless farmers clear the old dues. He said the crop insurance compensation for the year 2011 is yet to reach farmers.
National Crime Records Bureau Report-2012 shows increasing agrarian crisis in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra
The latest report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that the total farmers suicides recorded during the year 2012 were 2,84,694 in the last eighteen years. NCRB started documenting the ‘Farmers Suicides’ as a separate category under self employed from 1995 onwards.
Four states Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh which are predominantly growing cotton in rainfed conditions records 68% of the farmers’ suicides. The two major states Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have shown increase of 13% and 17% respectively compared over last year and together account for 46% of the total farmers’ suicides.
Coalition for GM free India Congratulates Indian Govt for stopping the approval of GM crop Field Trials.
Urges it to keep our food and farming free of GMOs
The Coalition for a GM Free India today congratulated the Central govt on responding to the growing scientific evidence and opposition fromstate governments against Genetically Modified (GM) crops and putting a hold on all open field trials approved in March, 2013. According tomedia reports the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to reverse the permissions given by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) in March, 2013, given that there is a case in the Supreme Court on the matter and there is a need for widespread deliberations on a matter of such significance.
Reacting to the this new development Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Convenor, Coalition for a GM free India said, “It is heartening to see that theMinistry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) and the Union Government are finally being responsible to science and responsive to the citizensin the matter of open air experiments of risky GM crops.” He further stated, “One hopes that the government will not be arm twisted to permitopen environmental releases/field trials of GM crops by the powerful biotech seed industry and their promoters within the government”.
Earlier this week GEAC had put out the minutes of March 22nd meeting in the public domain after a delay of almost 2 months . The minutesshowed that the 16 member GEAC has given approvals for almost all the applications that they had received on field trials of GM crops. Thisincludes GM varieties of rice, wheat, maize, cotton and castor. There were 25 applications which included majority of which were forextension of the approvals given last year, and which couldn’t be conducted due to State governments denying permission or refusing to giveNOC for field trials in the respective states. One of the permissions pertained to RoundUp Ready Wheat by Mahyco, with the American seedgiant Monsanto’s proprietary technology.
RR wheat and Monsanto has been embroiled in the latest GM contamination scandal in USA, where RR wheat from field trials done yearsago was found in a farmer’s field in Oregon State. While Monsanto and USDA, which gave permissions for these trials, are still unable to findthe reasons for this contamination, American farmers have been severely impacted with Japan, South Korea, Philippines and the EuropeanUnion banning or restricting imports of wheat owing to threat of GM contamination. A similar contamination had rocked the US in 2006 whenfield trials of herbicide tolerant GM rice, LL rice, of Bayer, had ended up contaminating the rice supply chain. Bayer Crop Science had tofinally settle a class action suit filed by affected farmers for 750 million US dollars. Interestingly the LL rice of Bayer has also been approvedfor field trials by GEAC in the last meeting.
“It is shocking that even after repeated lessons on how field trials can lead to contamination of our food and seed supply GEAC is mindlesslygiving approvals for field trials left right and centre. This, despite published evidence on the impacts of GM crops on human health, ourbiodiversity and farmers livelihoods and repeated statements by state governments denying permission for such open field trials” said ArunaRodrigues, one of the petitioners of the PIL on stopping all environmental releases/field trials of GM crops. The Union of India is therespondent in the case. She further stated that “GEAC seems to be in a hurry to permit field trials disregarding the fact that the SupremeCourt is slated to hear on the final report by the Technical Expert Committee (TEC) it has set up to look into this matter”.
The Technical Expert Committee (TEC) comprising of experts from the fields of molecular biology, toxicology, biodiversity, nutrition scienceetc was set up by Supreme Court., In October 2012, it submitted its interim report highlighting the potential impacts of GM crops and theinadequacy of the existing regulatory system to assess the impacts of GM crops to human health, environment and socio-economic aspectsand to safely conduct field trials. It has recommended a total revamping of the system, pointing to the potential impacts to agro biodiversity,which is critical for further development of crops. It has also recommended against genetic modification of crops like rice for which India is acentre of origin. Besides this, it has also reccomended a 10 year moratorium on any open release/field trials of Bt crops and a moratorium onherbicide tolerant HT crops until an independent assessment is done on its impacts on human health, environment and farm livelihoods.
Hundreds of scientists, atleast 20 farmer Unions and more than 500 public-interest organisations had sent letters to the Supreme Courtendorsing the recommendations of the TEC’s interim report.
The Coalition for a GM free India hails this decision by the MoEF to withhold the permissions for field trials across the country. It further requested that the MoEF should inform respective state govt. about its decision. The State Governments should stop giving permissions in the state & if permitted, they should inform project proponents to stop field trials with immediate effect.
The Coalition for a GM free India also urges the Union government not to bow to pressures from multinational seed corporations and stand bythe interests of the citizens of the country. Reiterating the demand to keep our food and farming free from GM crops, it also urged thegovernment to drop the BRAI Bill and instead bring in a regulatory system that would safeguard biosafety from the introduction of riskytechnologies like GM crops.
For more information
Sridhar Radhakrishnan (09995358205)
Kavitha Kuruganthi (09393001550)
Coalition for a GM-Free India is a broad national network of organizations, scientists, farmer unions, consumer groups and individuals committed to keep the food andfarms in India free of Genetically Modified Organisms and to protecting India’s food security and sovereignty.
Coalition for a GM-free India
A-124/6, First Floor, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi 110 016, Phone/Fax: 011-26517814
Website: www.indiagminfo.org, email : firstname.lastname@example.org, Follow us on Facebook page – GM Watch India
BHUBANESWAR, India, Jun 21 2013 (IPS) – Shooing off a quartet of hens that come pecking, 24-year-old Kamala Batra sits guard over a sack of coarse rice spread out on the courtyard. After small black insects slowly crawl away in the sun’s heat, she gathers it to cook for the day’s free midday meal – a pan-India government food security scheme for students.
Batra, a member of the women’s collective that cooks school meals in Kosagumuda village, in the tribal Nabrangpur district of the eastern state Odisha, says government supplies of old and almost inedible food grains under the subsidised public distribution system are not uncommon.
A recent report from the national auditor, tabled in parliament, found that India did not have space to store 33 million tonnes of foodgrain worth 12 billion dollars, which it had bought from farmers for various government food security schemes.
This constituted a 40-percent shortage in storage space, for a total stock of 82 million tonnes that was held by the Food Corporation Of India (FCI) in June last year.
A 1964-born monolith under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, FCI procures, disburses and maintains buffer food grains, mainly rice, wheat and coarse grains, countrywide.
FCI has recently resorted to wheat export to ease the storage problem.
“How will it handle additional quantities that will have to be mandatorily procured when India formalises the National Food Security Bill (NFSB)”, asked food security activist Badal Tah from tribal populated Rayagada distric, which in 2002 saw a national uproar over deaths due to starvation.
Malnourishment and inequitable access to food are unwieldy issues India is currently grappling with as the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) reach closure in 2015.
The NFSB will provide legal entitlement to subsidised food grains to around 67 percent of India’s over-two-billion population. It is likely to cost the exchequer about 21 billion dollars.
Tah is joined by a strong section that says India may well be comfortably placed in regard to the availability of food grains, but its present infrastructure and approach to crop management need structural changes before it can implement the food security law. The bill has been debated in parliament since December 2011.
Assessing a five-year period from 2007 to 2012, a recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) tabled in parliament in May of this year, severely indicts the FCI for colossal mismanagement in food procurement, storage and evacuation.
While a volley of recent studies reiterates colossal food wastage owing to inadequate and unscientific storage infrastructure, up to 20 percent of India’s population live on 1.25 dollars a day.
A 2013 report from the London-based Institution of Mechanical Researchers, “Global food: waste not, want not”, finds India wastes a quantity of wheat equivalent to the entire production of Australia every year, of which 21 million tonnes perishes every year due to a lack of inadequate storage and distribution.
FCI itself admits India lost 79 million tonnes, or nine percent of total wheat produced over a four-year period from 2009 to 2013.
“Thirteen percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) is wasted every year due to wastage of food grains in the supply chain,” said Dinesh Rai, a senior official of the federal government’s Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority.
Aside from food grains, India loses 12 million tonnes of fruits and 21 million tonnes of vegetables every year due to a lack of cold storage facility, according to a 2009 study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
In India’s remote areas, in a bumper harvest year, fast perishable vegetables like tomatoes are sold at dump prices for two rupees, or 25 cents, per kilogramme.
Lack of storage is a major tool in the middleman’s hands to exploit the small farmers.
“We wait for government procurement officials to get the minimum support price (MSP), but they have delayed these last two years,” Raju Jani told IPS from Odisha’s Koraput district.
They are heavily in debt, he said, for things like seeds and fertilisers, “So we give our harvest to the rice miller’s agent for whatever price he offers”.
With storage space shortfall and a go-slow government procurement, farmers are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea – the loan shark and the middleman.
The CAG report has questioned the basis for high a MSP, which is being viewed increasingly as a political sop to voters. According to current rules, if farmers come forth to sell at MSP, the government cannot decline to buy or set a cut-off procurement quantity.
This is yet another reason for excessive procurement of food grains over the last few years. It however benefits the large landholders more, say a section of political observers.
In 2012, it cost the federal government 16 billion dollars to overall handle the grain it bought at MSP, including transportation, storage and other overheads; its subsidised disbursement, in turn, fetched 4.7 billion dollars.
With the food security law, the government would procure much larger quantities for distribution, at subsidised prices of one to three rupees (about 0.02 to 0.05 dollars).
Amid the losses, many NGOs are calling for the reinstitution of village level grain banks.
“Farmers lost their self reliance, all because of the centralized food production of wheat and paddy. Multi-cropping should be brought back,” Thooran Nambi, of the Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, told IPS from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu State.
He’s in favour of abolishing subsidised food for rural people, saying it should be given during emergencies only, he added.
In its study, the Institute of Mechanical Researchers recommends developed nations transfer their engineering knowledge, technology and design know-how to developing countries.
Meanwhile, “The storage and warehousing sector should get infrastructure status,” Suman Jyoti Khaitan, who heads a policy advocacy group, told IPS. “So that finances are availabe and the private sector can get in, too.”
Small-scale farmers in China in the face of modernisation and globalisation
Jikun Huang, Xiaobing Wang and Huanguang Qiu
This report focuses on the risks of climate change to development in Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and South Asia. Building on the 2012 report, Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided, this new scientific analysis examines the likely impacts of present day, 2°C and 4°C warming on agricultural production, water resources, and coastal vulnerability for affected populations. It finds many significant climate and development impacts are already being felt in some regions, and in some cases multiple threats of increasing extreme heat waves, sea level rise, more severe storms, droughts and floods are expected to have further severe negative implications for the poorest. Climate related extreme events could push households below the poverty trap threshold. High temperature extremes appear likely to affect yields of rice, wheat, maize and other important crops, adversely affecting food security. Promoting economic growth and the eradication of poverty and inequality will thus be an increasingly challenging task under future climate change. Immediate steps are needed to help countries adapt to the risks already locked in at current levels of 0.8°C warming, but with ambitious global action to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, many of the worst projected climate impacts could still be avoided by holding warming below 2°C.