Thursday, December 2, 2010

Church supports vidarbha farmers’ protest

Church supports farmers’ protest

Church supports farmers’ protest thumbnail
Agitating farmers in Vidarbha region burning an effigy of Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar

The Church in Maharashtra has extended its support to the debt-ridden farmers protesting against the government’s refusal to increase the minimum price of cotton.

Some farmers of Vidharbha burnt effigies of federal Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chauhan Nov. 29 and Dec. 1 at different places.

Pawar turned down their request to increase the support price of cotton from 3,000 rupees (US$67) to 4,200 rupees per quintal (100kg).

Farmers sought the minister’s intervention through their Maharashtra State Co-Operative Cotton Marketing Federation on Nov. 28. The support price is the minimum legal price a seller may charge.

“The farmers’ demand is just and the government should consider it,” said Father Jolly Puthenpura, who works among the debt-ridden farmers to rebuild their lives.

The priest told that an increase in the cost of production and loss of crops due to inclement weather has made it difficult for the farmers to repay their debts.

He went further than the farmer’s own co-op, saying that the support price of cotton should be “at least raised to 5,000 rupees,” the price at which certain private firms purchase it in the open market.

Kishor Tiwari, who is leading the protest, said the government’s refusal could cost some farmers their lives as they see no way out of debt other than suicide. At the very least it would hinder the process of rebuilding their lives.

Some 700 farmers have already committed suicide since January this year with 10 ending their lives this week alone, Tiwari said.

“Unless the governments come to the aid of cotton farmers by raising the support price, there will be more suicides, hunger death and withering of families,” Tiwari cautioned.

The Federation, in its finding, said more than 4.2 million hectares of cotton crops have been lost due to inclement weather in the region.

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