India

Vidarbha weeping

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Vidarbha region of Maharashtra was known for its rich diversity of crops and good black cotton soil. But for the last few years this region is known for farmers’ suicides which is the reflection of low agricultural production and lack of proper irrigation facilities. In the past 15 years Vidarbha has been recognized as a farmer’s suicide prone area in India. As per the news in Times of India, 1841 farmers committed suicide.

The Focus Group Discussion (FGD) conducted by Caritas India team on 24.02.2016 in Malkapur revealed the following reasons for this issue of Vidarbha:

1.Mismatch of Cost of cultivation and Minimum support prices The cost benefit analysis done on cotton crop shows that farmers are getting very narrow margin from the cultivation of cotton due to heavy expenditure (High input cost and low income).. It was told that 70% of the total area under cropping is BT Cotton.

2.Crop failure due to drought, heavy and untimely rainfall, heavy indebtedness due to private money lending ( High interest rate of loan)

3.Excessive use of Chemical Fertilizers and pesticides and use of GM (Genetically Modified) seeds, especially Bacillus Thuringiencis (BT) cotton lead to the infertility of the soil as well as high external dependency.

4.Increase in number of small farmers (land holding problem)

5.Unavailability of loan and collapse of micro credit system 6.Rainfed Agriculture 7.Social and psychological trends 8.Lack of irrigation source and irregularities electricity supply.

Vidarbha area comes under semi arid climatic zone where agriculture is mainly dependent on rain-fed farming (93 % of the net cultivable land). Farmers of the area have average land holding of 5 to 6 acres land in which they take mono cropping in monsoon season. Cotton is grown as one of the major crop with Soybean as the second major crop in terms of area. In the past 15 years due to advancement in technology new varieties are being introduced by large seed companies. One of the varieties promoted was Bt- Cotton (Bacillus thurogenesis) which requires large quantities of inputs in the form of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and growth hormones. Due to this reason there is high investment cost involved and there is less production, productivity and poor basic price. Hence, as there is no alternative way of farming techniques farmers are compelled to follow the conventional farming. There is also no agro based and non agro based industries which do not support the farmers for other livelihood source of income.

Why farmers’ distress and suicides in spite of the presence of so many NGOs and several protective legislations by the government? There is lack of coordination among various government departments. There are many schemes of various departments which are not able to reach needy farmers. Due to the fact that previous experience of farmers not paying back loan taken from the banks and co-operatives, this has led to irregularities and inadequate govt / cooperatives micro credit availability. There is heavy fluctuation of price. The price is determined by the APMC- Mandi’s of the states, which is due to insufficient knowledge sharing among farmers. There are no prospects for value addition in the village or they are held by rich businessmen/ merchants. Also there is problem with NGOs as they are working in limited area and clusters which is not able to reach maximum number of farmers. The project approach of NGOs and no proper coordination among NGOs is another reason for this situation. Hence it is needed to have a proper coordination among likeminded organisations to help the weeping vidharbha to recover from the pathetic situation. The mounting suicides is not a good sign and the time has come for all the agencies to come together and work together for saving Vidharba.