Benefit of doubt
Author: Mamta Sen Date: 06 Mar 2008
The new Union Budget does not really help the farmers in Vidarbha; they need more than just a loan waiver
BARELY a week after Finance Minister P Chidambaram announced Rs 60,000 crore-loan waiver package, five farmers committed suicide in Vidharba.Kishore Tiwari, president of the Vidharbha Jan Andolan Samiti believes that both the State and Central governments are trying to give relief packages and ignore the real issue. According to him, there are 13 lakh farmers spread across the six districts of Vidharbha Amravati, Akolka, Buldhana, Yavatmal, Washim and Wardha, who need relief and not relief packages.Failed packages"They are in dire need of relief instead of relief packages. Neither the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana nor the National Food Security programme is mentioned in the budget. The Yojana is supposed to provide irrigation to irrigated as well as non-irrigated lands of all farmers," he said. He added that the earlier two packages announced by the State and Centre in 2005 and 2006 had failed to materialise. No money"From the 60,000 farmers identified for the package then only 32,000 were able to get relief, out of which 80 per cent were given cows, bullock carts and pumps instead of the promised money."Tiwari says that there should be introduction of a processing scheme for the cotton from Vidharbha. "Presently, the Chinese economy is booming on the cotton from Yavatmal, which is processed into cloth. Why can't we have similar processing units in the barren lands of Vidharbha?" he asked. Widow Ranjana Chavan though says that more than loan waivers, they want to do away with the cotton crop and opt for jowar or wheat. "We want new seeds and also want to learn new skills, so that we are not dependent on agriculture alone for our survival," she said.
Relief tough to availMohan Madedvar, of Pandharkawada village, cites that relief packages hardly reach the family due to lack of infrastructure and corrupt officials. "One has to travel to the nearest city or town in private vehicles to get to the bank to avail the sum. Then they have to bribe the babus, for which the sum is borrowed from private money lenders," he says.Madevar believes that the new package benefits 70 per cent of the farmers from western Maharashtra and only 10 per cent from Vidharbha, as most farmers in the latter region have farm holdings over 5 acres. "It would help tremendously if the loan waiver is applied to over five hectares, as most farmers here own lands that range between 12 to 19 acres," he adds.