• Sonia hailed for relief to farmers

    Dressed in traditional attire and accompanied by musicians beating drums, a large number of senior Delhi Congress leaders met party president Sonia Gandhi at her 10 Janpath residence here on Wednesday to thank her for enhancing the compensation payable to farmers on acquisition of their land from Rs.25 lakh per acre to Rs.75 lakh per acre. Led by Outer Delhi MP Sajjan Kumar, the delegation also lauded the permission granted to farmers -- through the new Master Plan for Delhi-2021

  • Tikait-led farmers' team meets Pawar

    Addressing concerns: Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Mahendra Singh Tikait addressing a mahapanchayat of farmers at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Wednesday. Bharat Kisan Union leader Mahendra Singh Tikait on Wednesday led a high-power delegation of farmers' representatives from various States to meet Union Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar. The delegation sought relief from debts for farmers and higher minimum support price for wheat and paddy. "If the government is giving a tax holiday to Special Economic Zones, then why should there not be debt relief for farmers who are responsible for the food security of the country?' the delegation asked the Minister. Separately, an all-party delegation from Karnataka comprising, among others, Union Ministers K.H. Muniyappa, M.V. Rajashekaran, Oscar Fernandes, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha K. Rahman Khan and the former Minister, Ananth Kumar, met Mr. Pawar. They sought payment of sugarcane arrears to farmers and a higher statutory minimum price for sugarcane. Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Tikait said they had asked for a loan waiver, higher remunerative prices and MSP for commodities. "The Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices must take into account the lease amount/cost of farm land farmers own and their families' labour input while computing MSP. It should include 50 per cent profit so that the farmers have some income in hand.' Mr. Tikait said the delegation

  • Wheat farming expands in Faridpur

    FARMERS in Faridpur are getting interested in wheat cultivation due to its increasing demand, high price and favourable weather. The land for wheat farming in the district has been increased significantly over the past few years. According to the Department of Agricultural Extension in Faridpur, 25,545 hectares of land have been brought under wheat cultivation this season while the figure was 20,310 hectares in the previous year. The wheat production might be about 53 thousand tonnes this season which was about 34 thousand tonnes in the previous season. In 1999-2000 season, 12,904 hectares of land were brought under wheat cultivation in the district and the production was 24,634 tonnes, according to the regional statistical office. DAE officials said in the current season cold weather and rain made a good contribution to the expected production which could increase by 5 to 10 per cent. The officials said some 10 years back the cultivation of wheat was not on a large scale in the district. In the winter, farmers used to remain satisfied with vegetables' cultivation as well as other rabi crops. A vast tract of land remained fallow. In course of time, the scenario has been changed. Dr Sirajul Islam, scientific officer of On Firm Research Division of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute in Faridpur, said in the last few years the land under wheat cultivation had got almost double. He attributed the increase of land to rising demand of flour in the domestic market. He also added that in the past years agriculture researchers had invented some high yielding varieties of wheat, which had become very popular to the farmers. The varieties are Sonali, Akbori, Bolaka, Waghrany, Protiva, Sourav, Shotabdi, Behari Kalyan etc. Old local varieties like Sona Digha, Kanchon, Elyas etc can no longer attract farmers with their low productivity, Dr Sirajul Islam said. Oasiul Islam, deputy director of the Faridpur DAE, said his department had tried heart and soul to ensure proper supply of fertiliser, seeds and technological support. Abdul Kuddus, a farmer of village Parchar at Machchar union in the district headquarters, said he was expecting a good harvest of wheat in the current season because of favourable weather. He also added that farmers in the area got sufficient quantity of fertiliser. The farmers said they had taken to wheat farming due to its growing demand and increasing price in the market. Besides, cultivation of wheat is very easy in comparison with many seasonal crops. In the market wheat is now selling at Tk 1,100 to 1,200 per mound which was only Tk 700 to 800 in the previous year.

  • Farmers in distress

    Develop rural non-farm sector by Ranjit Singh Ghuman Though the phenomenon of suicides by farmers in India has been aptly highlighted by the National Farmers' Commission (NFC) and the media, there are few studies pertaining to the socio-economic analysis of the victims and their households. According to the NFC, about 1.5 lakh farmers committed suicides in India up to 2006 in various states of India. The states with success stories of the green revolution have a high incidence of farmers' suicides. Some studies conclude that the highly capital intensive technique and over-mechanisation of farming operations have resulted in enormous increase in cost of cultivation. In fact, the entire farming operation is subject to serious diminishing returns. This means that the additional increments in the agricultural produce are coming up at a very high additional cost. As a consequence, the net return of the farmer is continuously declining and the debt burden is rising. It has been computed from the cost of cultivation data that the trend growth rate of per hectare net return, over variable costs in Punjab, from both wheat and paddy, was -2.18 per cent per annum during the decade of 1990s. It was -15.46 per cent per annum in cotton during the same period. Alongwith the declining net return, the employment opportunities in agriculture are also shrinking. According to certain estimates (Sucha Singh Gill, 2002), employment in principal crops in Punjab declined from 48 crore man days in 1983-84 to 43 crore man days in 1996-97. Given the state of technology, cropping pattern and shrinkage of land under agriculture, the availability of employment in agriculture must have declined further. In fact, per hectare employment of labour in major crops in Punjab declined by 20.31 per cent in 1996-97 compared to 1983-84. Alongwith this, the net sown area decreased from 4250 thousand hectares in 2000-01 to 4170 thousand hectares in 2005-06, in Punjab. Pressure of workforce on agriculture in India has not declined much over the period of time. At the same time, the number of marginal and small operational holdings in India have increased. A little more than 80 per cent of operational holdings in India are less than five acres. It is amply clear from the foregoing discussion that the economic distress of farmers at the lower rung is not simply because of crop failures or other such reasons, as is being projected by many economists and policy planners. The fundamental reason of their economic distress is rather their limited earnings from their very very small sized operational holdings. What can an acre of land can fetch to a farmer household in a year? The net earnings are between Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 20,000 at the maximum. About 62 per cent of the farmer-households in India fall in this category. If the average family size of such farmers is five persons, then their per day per capita income comes out to be between Rs. 8 to 11. According to a recent report on the status of workers in the unorganized sector (Govt. of India 2007), 77 per cent of the Indian population is having a per capita income of up to Rs. 12 a day. It, thus, includes the above 62 per cent of the farmer households. A recent study (2007) commissioned by the Punjab Farmers commission, on the Agricultural Labour in Punjab, also highlights that per capita daily income of 68 per cent labour households is only up to Rs. 10. This study also highlights that in 69 per cent of the total rural households and 90 per cent of the rural labour households in Punjab there is not even a single matriculation person. The meager level of earnings, non-availability of alternative employment opportunities, shrinking employment opportunities in agriculture, pressing social commitments, non-availability of adequate institutional loan, etc., are responsible for mounting debt burden on the farmers and labourers. According to a recent NSS survey (2005), 48.6 per cent farmer households are under an average debt of Rs. 12585. As regards farmers' suicides in Punjab, there are various estimates. Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan) has already enlisted 3126 suicides by farmers and agricultural labourers from 376 villages located in 10 districts of Punjab. Interestingly this data pertains to only 3 per cent of the total villages in Punjab. This necessitates a detailed census of suicides in the state. A recent study of 2008 (Gurpreet Singh, Punjabi University) highlights that out of 200 sampled suicide victims 33 were agricultural labourers. This means agricultural labourers are equally under economic distress. The study highlights that about 81 per cent farmer suicide victims own less than 5 acres of land and the remaining 19 per cent were in the range of 5 to 10 acres. The average amount of debt on the farmer victims' households was Rs. 2.7 lakh and that and the labour households was Rs. 57121. It is often said that unproductive use of loan, drug addition and shirking from work are the basic reasons behind farmers' suicides in Punjab. Various studies, however, highlight that economic distress is the root-cause behind the suicide by farmers and labourers. As regards work-shirking, not even single farmers upto 5 acres employ any attached labourer. Only 35 per cent of such farmers occasionally employ casual labour. Clearly, the solution to the problem lies in the correct diagnosis of the illness. The illness lies in the small-size of holdings and unbearable burden of workforce on agriculture. The solution would, thus be, the systematic withdrawal of work force from the agricultural sector. And that would be possible only by the development of the rural non-farm sector. This transition is inevitable. Planned and systematic efforts would, however, make it less painful. The writer is professor of economics at Punjabi University, Patiala

  • A good scheme, but not good enough'

    The two major farmers' organisations in the State, the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) and the Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha (KPRS), have welcomed the loan waiver scheme for small and medium farmers announced in the Union Budget, but have made it clear that it falls far short of addressing the serious agricultural crisis that they say the State is in. "A positive step, but incomplete,' is how G.C. Byya Reddy, General Secretary of the KPRS, described Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram's scheme that offers to waive the crop loans taken from commercial banks, regional rural banks and cooperative credit institutions by small and marginal farmers up to March 31, 2007; and for other farmers offers a one time settlement scheme on loans overdue on December 31, 2007 with a 25 per cent rebate if the remaining 75 per cent is paid. "The loan waiver should have been extended to all sections of farmers other than big landlords as it is only a very small section of small and medium farmers who get loans from banks. A majority of them borrow from informal sources as banks do not consider them creditworthy,' Mr. Reddy told The Hindu. Only 26 per cent of the total farming community is covered by institutional credit, he said. Input costs "Not bad but not good either,' KRRS president K.S. Puttanaiah told The Hindu. "The Budget will not stop farmers from committing suicide as it does not address the problem of increasing cost of inputs, labour and other expenses that are pushing up the cost of cultivation and of living for the farmers. There is no talk of an agricultural policy,' he said. ] According to him, an estimated 10 lakh to 15 lakh agricultural families would be benefited by a crop loan waiver of about Rs. 15,000 crore. "However, this is only a temporary solution, not a permanent one,' he said.

  • India bails out small farmers in pre-election budget

    India's Congress-led government announced on Friday a 15 billion dollars loan bailout for small farmers in a populist pre-election budget targeting the party's traditional poor rural supporters. Finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, releasing the budget for the year starting April 1 as India's blistering economic growth has begun to slow, announced a 600 billion rupees ($15.05b) relief plan. Some 30 million indebted farmers' loans would be fully waived and another 10 million would receive aid, said Chidambaram, who presented the budget ahead of nine state elections slated this year followed by national polls in early 2009. He pledged to wrestle down the fiscal deficit and tame inflation. But the lack of any big corporate incentives along with the debt giveaway dismayed the stock market which tumbled nearly 1.4 per cent.

  • Farm distress gets Rs 60,000 cr breather

    DEBT WAIVER The loan waiver will benefit about 30 million small and marginal farmers. In an apparent move to appease the huge rural vote bank, the government today announced the biggest-ever agricultural loan waiver package that will cost the exchequer a whopping Rs 60,000 crore. The move will benefit about 30 million small and marginal farmers, whose debts worth Rs 50,000 crore will be completely waived, and about 10 million other farmers. Under this package, while all the outstanding unpaid loans of small and marginal farmers will be totally waived, the other farmers will have to repay only 75 per cent of the borrowed amount under one-time settlement arrangement. Announcing the largesse in his budget speech, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the agricultural loans, which were restructured or rescheduled in 2004 and 2006, would also be eligible for loan waiver and concessional repayment through one-time settlement arrangement. All agricultural loans disbursed by the scheduled commercial banks, regional rural banks and cooperative credit institutions up to March 31, 2007, and overdue as on December 31, 2007, but not repaid till today, would be covered under this debt waiver-cum-relief scheme. The tillers of up to one hectare of land would be considered marginal farmers and those having one to two hectares of land would be deemed small farmers. The finance minister announced that the implementation of the scheme would be completed by June 30, 2008. The farmers would become entitled for fresh agricultural loans from the banks after the debt waiver or signing an agreement for repayment of 75 per cent amount under the one-time settlement arrangement. He, however, did not elaborate on how the banks would be compensated for the waived loans. Referring to the indebtedness of the farmers, Chidambaram pointed out that the government had appointed a committee under the chairmanship of R Radhakarishna to examine all aspect of this issue. "The committee had made a number of recommendations but stopped short of recommending waiver of agricultural loans.' The finance minister, however, sought to justify this populist move, maintaining that the government was conscious of the dimensions of the problem and was sensitive to the difficulties of the farming community. He also asserted that the government had carefully weighed the pros and cons of debt waiver and had also taken into account the resource position while taking this decision. Chidambaram told Parliament that notwithstanding some shortcomings, the growth of agricultural credit had been impressive. "We will exceed the target set for 2007-08. For 2008-09, I propose to set a target of Rs 2,80,000 crore.' he said. He thanked the commercial banks and regional rural banks which, together, accounted for between 75 and 79 per cent of agricultural credit disbursed during the year. Chidambaram said short-term crop loans would continue to be disbursed at an annual interest rate of 7 per cent, adding that an initial provision of Rs 1,600 crore had been made for interest subvention in 2008-09.

  • Vidarbha may not gain from loan waiver

    RS 60,000-CRORE BONANZA: The waiver won't help indebted farmers in Chhattisgarh either as most of them hold four and five hectares. The mammoth farm loan waiver of Rs 60,000 crore is unlikely to benefit cotton farmers in Vidarbha and elsewhere as it does not address the fact that dry-land farming attracts far lower loans per acre as irrigated farming. An acre of unirrigated land is entitled to loans of up to Rs 4,000. The same land which is irrigated attracts loans of up to Rs 50,000. In other words, the waiver of loans taken for farmers with two hectares (or 5 acres) would not add up to much for a cotton grower who does dry-land farming, since they have to look at other informal means to meet their borrowing needs In contrast, the per acre loans available for growers of sugarcane, grapes and horticulture crops will benefit hugely. This difference had been pointed out by the Congress party president from Vidarbha Prabha Tai Rao when she had appealed for a waiver of up to Rs 30,000 for farm loans to Finance Minister P Chidambaram recently. "While grape and sugarcane growers will get lakhs of rupees waived in one stroke, the cotton and dry-land farmers will barely get Rs 30,000 waived,' Vijay Jaywanthia, a farmer-turned-activist and a leading voice from the farm distress zone of Vidarbha. The waiver won't help indebted farmers in Chhattisgarh which has been reporting farmer suicides because most of them hold four and five hectares (10 to 12.5 acres). Jaywanthia said the only way this waiver can work in favour of farmers is to waive up to a certain amount, say Rs 50,000 per farmer, or have different waiver limits for dry land and irrigated land farmers. The farmers of Vidarbha are even demanding that the finance minister should come out with a white paper on the money that will go to different tehsils in each district under the waiver. This will expose the anomaly that the waiver intentionally or unintentionally is going to benefit the sugarcane belt besides those growing horticultural crops, Jaywanthia added.

  • Eight lakh farmers to benefit in Haryana

    A historic Budget for the

  • "Punjab has been bleeding itself to feed the nation'

    "Punjab has been bleeding itself in order to feed the nation. It has sacrificed both of its precious natural assets

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