Kisan Mehta is a well-known proponent of sustainable farming, based in Mumbai, India. He has long warned of the potentially devastating impact on India's many marginal farmers of the manipulative marketing strategies aimed at promoting GM seeds, which exacerbate cash dependency and debt. (Marketing GM: the making of poverty)
Here he responds to the latest news of farmer suicides from VIDARBHA JAN ANDOLAN SAMITI (VJAS) - an organisation which has been commendably active in drawing attention to the spiralling numbers of such suicides amongst famers who've been growing Bt cotton in Maharashtra's cotton growing belt of Vidarbha.
VJAS has pointed out how Monsanto has added fuel to Vidarbha's agrarian crisis by pushing its expensive Bt cotton seeds "with great fanfare" and how "all their promises were proved to be false as over 390 farmers who committed suicide in the cotton heartland were those who opted for Bt cotton which ultimately failed..."
According to Kisan Mehta, who has recently returned from visting the area, the havoc that Bt seeds and their cultivation has wreaked is so awful that it has to be seen to be believed.
1.Kisan Mehta on the farmer suicides in Vidarbha
Dear Kishorebhai, VJAS colleagues and concerned humans,
We are regularly receiving VJAS press statements that keep us informed on the continuing unbroken chain of farmer suicides in Vidarbha, India.
The matter is of great concern not only for the government but for the entire humanity. The man who toils on the soil to feed the entire world of living beings including humans is forced to commit suicide. It is a matter of shame that this happens and continues to happen and we all humans are sitting on the fence looking at the Tandav of death.
We have just returned after a five day Sadbhavana Yatra of some Vidarbha districts trying to meet victim families and coresidents of villages where suicide drama took place as well as discussing with concerned citizens for organising rehabilitation of the devastated families where suicide took place. In one single village of a 1000 population (about 200 households), 14 suicides is an unbelievable situation and that showed the farmers are totally forgotten as well as shunned and shunted by all sectors of the community.
We learn from your buletin that the VJAS is embarking on 'Hallabol Agitation' to obtain debt relief. While the relevance and importance of an agitation cannot be underestimated, we feel the first thing that conscientious humans including you and us have to do at the ground level is mobilise citizen support to families, understand their constraints and difficulties in standing on their own. We need to rekindle 'Swavalamban' (Selfreliance) and 'Swavishwas' (Selfconfidence) amongst people sustaining on soil and more specifically amongst victim families. We need to tell them that it is the soil only that can sustain what is required is reducing the cultivation costs by resorting to sustainable agriculture.
The havoc that Bt seeds and cultivation has brought about is something that needs to see to believe. Hectares after hectres have become barren covered with weeds. Fruit trees erstwhile providing sumptuous fruits and even hardiest of hard perennial ficus species have become dead with main stem standing as if as a merorial to the devastation that Bt has brought about. Possibly the only other place to see such devastation is Vietnam after the US invasion.
We have to provide strong local support to farmers so that they go back to the soil with swavishwas to carry on farming on the principles of swavalamban. Once this is generated amongst farmers with other coresidents and concerned citizens providing protective umbrella, then only can the humanity hope to see the breaking of now unbroken and seemingly unbreakable chain of farmer suicides.
We found the government absent but also the coresidents and citizens glaringly absent and callous ot the situaiton. We need to take 'farm to farm' and 'house to house' citizen survey in the entire Vidarbha to know the depth of malaise of
wrong crops, wrong seeds including Bt varieties, family members, land info and the extent of debt with their stark impact. This action can give a message to victim families and other farmers that citizens as such are showing care for them.
We can then go to source of every trouble including politicians, bureaucrats, government officers, business houses, banks and other lenders, wrongful change in Sat-baras resulting in usurpation of land by the money sharks. The government is not going to do this but this has to be done at people level to gauige the intensity of damage to living beings and land. After having collected this data, we shall be better qualified to demand exact and specific compliance from the government and society of what they need to and are required to do statutorily and socially as well as on societal basis.
Conditions that we found in places we visited and with the people we met are desolete beyond comprehension. The society too has shown utter disregard. Hope the VJAS would take up the most urgently required activity to regenerate 'swavalamban', 'swavishwas' and therafter 'swabhiman' (Self pride).
Continuing suicides show that farmer has lost 'swavalamban', 'swavishwas' and 'swabhiman' . It is the duty of every human being to endeavour to rekindle these essential traits in farmers to stop
Our report on the situation is being finalised and we hope to place before the society, government and all concerned in next four to five days. We would in the meantime appreciate all support that reskindles faith in life amongst the suffering humans.
Priya Salvi Prakruti
620 Jame Jamshed Road, Dadar East, Mumbai 400014
Tel: 00 91 22 2414 9688
Kisan: 00 91 92234 48857
Priya: 00 91 93240 27494
2.3 FARMERS SUICIDES REPORTED ON 15TH JULY
VIDARBHA JAN ANDOLAN SAMITI
VIDARBHA AGRARIAN CRISIS HAS FURTHER WORSEN TODAY WHEN NEWS OF 3 MORE SUICIDES REPORTED ON 15TH JULY IN THE DIFFERENT PART OF VIDARBHA TAKING TOLL TO 658 SINCE JUNE 2005. AS RELIEF AID IS NOT COMING AND ALL RELIEF PACKAGES ANNOUNCED BY PRIME MINISTER AND CHIEF MINISTER ARE ONLY ON PAPERS, VJAS HAS CALLED FOR "HALLABOL AGITATION" FOR ITS MAJOR DEMAND TO HAVE COMPLETE LOAN WAIVER TO ALL COTTON GROWERS OF THE REGION AS MORE THAN 90% ARE TAKING CROP-LOAN FROM PRIVATE MONEY LENDERS AS THEY DEFAULTER OF BANK DUE TO VERY OLD DUES HENCE CENTRAL GOVT. SHOULD GIVE RS.5000/- CRORE FOR FARMERS' OLD DEBT ADJUSTMENTS AND FOR FRESH CROP LOAN TO EVERY FARMER IN ORDER TO STOP THEIR EXPLOITATION.
COTTON GROWERS ARE ALSO DEMANDING CENTRAL GOVT. SHOULD GIVE AT LEAST RS.3000/- CAPITAL MOBILIZATION FUND TO MAHARASHTRA GOVT. AND DIRECT THEM TO PROCURE RAW COTTON @ RS.3000/- PER QUINTAL UNDER MONOPOLY PROCUREMENT SCHEME.
IN ORDER TO MAKE COTTON FARMING PROFITABLE ,THE LONG PENDING DEMAND OF COTTON GROWERS OF INDIA IS TO HIKE IN IMPORT DUTY OF COTTON UP TO 60% WITH LISTING OF COTTON UNDER NON-OGL ITEM.
AS FARMING OF FOOD GARIN HAS BEEN DROPED DAWN TO MARELY 3% FROM 30% IN WEST VIDARBHA,DEMAND OF SPECIAL SUBSIDY TO ALL FOOD GRAIN CROP FARMING @ RS.5000/-PER ACRES SHOULD BE FULLFILLED WITHOUT DELAY.
VJAS HAS INFORMED PRIME MINISTER THAT GOVT. OF MAHARASHTRA HAS BEEN COMPLETELY FAILED TO CONTROL THESE ON GOING SUICIDES IN WEST VIDARBHA AS STATE GOVT DECLARED ITS RS.1070 CRORE PACKAGE FOR THE FARMERS OF VIDARBHA DURING ITS WINTER SESSION AT NAGPUR ON 9TH OF DECEMBER 2005 BUT IT HAS FAILED TO SERVE IT'S PURPOSE AS MANY AS 510 SUICIDES HAVE BEEN REPORTED AFTER THIS RELIEF PACKAGE, KISHORE TIWARI ADDED.
HE FURTHER SAID THAT THEY DEMAND FOR RS. 3000 PER QUINTAL SUPPORT PRICE FOR COTTON, FRESH CROP LOAN TO THE FARMERS EVEN IF THEY ARE DEFAULTERS OF THEIR EARLIER LOAN, IS THE ONLY SOLUTION TO STOP THE GOING SUICIDES. WITHDRAWAL PROTECTED PRICE OF COTTON IN MAHARASHTRA AND POOR BANK CREDIT NETWORK ALONGWITH AMERICAN BASE MULTI NATIONAL MONSANTO HAS ADDED FUEL IN VIDARBHA AGRARIAN CRISIS THE BT COTTON SEEDS WITH GREAT FANFARE AND ALL THEIR PROMISES WERE PROVED TO BE FALSE AS OVER 390 FARMERS WHO COMMITTED SUICIDE IN THE COTTON HEART LAND WERE THOSE WHO OPTED FOR BT COTTON WHICH ULTIMATELY FAILED TO PRODUCE THE ASSURED CROPS, KISHOR TIWARI INFORMED.
VJAS URGED INDIAN PRIME MINISTER DR. MANMOHAN SINGH TO PROVIDE URGENT RELIEF AID TO VIDARBHA FARMERS IN ORDER TO STOP THESE SUICIDES.