Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vidharbha cotton growers up in arms-Hindustan Times

Pradip Kumar Maitra, Hindustan Times
Pandharkawda (Maharashtra), October 28, 2010

The cotton growers of Vidarbha region here are up in arms against the meager guarantee price of raw cotton and decided to stage an indefinite dharna before the CM’s house in Nagpur to press a minimum support price of Rs 4500 per quintal, during the ensuing Assembly session, beginning in Nagpur from December 1.

A large number of cotton growers in the region met here on Tuesday, along with thousands of farm widows and adopted a resolution in a day-long cotton conclave, in this regard. The resolution was initiated by Bharati Pawar (35), a farm widow from Saikheda village in Yavatmal district that was unanimously adopted in the conclave.

Speaking on the occasion on the issue Bharati pointed out that when the private traders are buying the produce at Rs 4, 500 a quintal, the cotton growers of the region are insisting that the government too pays the same amount, otherwise they would intensify agitation against the government.

The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) has announced a guarantee price of Rs 3,000 per quintal and said that the procurement of raw cotton would begin in the region from November 9.

Addressing the gathering, Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti and convenor of the cotton conclave, said that meagre guarantee price has triggered widespread discontentment among the farmers. “The procurement rate was not enhanced since 1994 while the cost of agro-inputs, like fertilizers and seeds, were increased drastically and so is the inflation,” he pointed out.

He demanded that the cotton growers should get a compensation of Rs 10,000 for every acre following the recent crop damages due to untimely rains and the government should lift the ban on cotton export. "There is a need to address the issue sensibly. But the government seems to be lacking seriousness," Tiwari alleged and informed that around 700 farmers, mostly cotton growers, have killed themselves in the region this year since January.

Former Shetkari Sanghatana leader Vijay Jawandhia pointed out that when the market rate was over Rs 4,500 per quintal, the union government had announced a meagre guarantee price that would only benefit private traders to exploit the farmers of the region. "We will not sell our produce at Rs 3,000 per quintal. The rate should be not less than Rs 4, 500," he vowed.

"It was also at a time when agrarian crisis is driving distressed farmers of cotton belt to commit suicide despite of two relief packages released by the government," he added. When the meeting was on, one cotton grower, Mahadeo Mahalle (70) of Korpi village in the district committed suicide because of crippling debts and crop failure.

Cotton is the biggest cash crop grown of Vidarbha and parts of Marathwada and Khandesh. The crop’s price virtually decides the fate of three million families in Maharashtra, the highest cotton producing state. The Centre and the state governments have indicated that they would not be in a position to pay over Rs 3,000 per quintal as the minimum procurement price fixed two years ago.

Tiwari said that the farmers were not interested about relief packages. "They need a better remunerative price for their produce that is missing on part of the government," he said.

The meagre Rs 3000 as guarantee price only add to the farmers’ distress and adversely affect the agro-economy of the region. Despite heavy demand in international market where cotton is commanding a premium, the farmers of Vidarbha were being deprived by the government. "We have demanded a guarantee price of Rs 4, 500 per quintal of raw cotton in view of the drastic increase in the cost of agro-inputs, like fertilizers, seeds and pesticides. But the farmers got a raw deal," he pointed out and informed that thousands of cotton growers would participate in the proposed indefinite dharna at the CM House on the issue.

The pro-Telangana leader and noted lawyer, Nurup Reddy, who was the chief guest on the occasion stressed for a separate state of Vidarbha that could bail out the crisis-ridden farmers of the region. The open market prices are already ruling over Rs 4,000 a quintal. While there are clear indications that prices may firm up in international market mainly since Pakistan and China have been ruined by floods, the farmers could take advantage of the situation and export it to the countries like China, Bangladesh, where there is high demand for short staple cotton that we produce," Reddy said. Demanding that MSP be hiked to Rs 4,500, he said such a step could improve the state's economy too as it depends a lot on cotton, he added.

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