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'Forced privatisation' of cotton
Disputes over output do not hide the trouble Maharashtra's cotton economy is in. Small farmers face another year of huge losses. The role of nature is very minor compared to conscious policy measures that have undermined the farmer and world cotton prices.
A scenario of post-mortems 24x7
Post-mortem registers at some centres in Vidarbha show poisoning cases outnumber all other cases put together. Meanwhile, farm suicides are up sharply after November and spreading to the paddy belt. In some districts, the suicide mortality rate for male farmers in 2004 was 10 times the national average for all males.
The swelling 'register of deaths'
Maharashtra began by telling the NHRC there had been 140 suicides Statewide since 2001. It ended 2005 conceding a figure of 1,041. That is the fourth figure the same State has put out within months. For Vidarbha, it is decidedly not a happy new year.
Cry, the beloved countryside
The agrarian crisis in Vidarbha has spun almost out of control. Appeals for swift measures by many have fallen on deaf ears. The farm suicides are the tip of the huge crisis raging here, not its whole. They are, though, its most powerful symbol.
|P Sainath's earlier series on crises in Wayanad and in Andhra Pradesh are also archived on India Together. To access these, click here for Wayanad and here for Andhra.|
The riots and wrongs of caste
The Bhagwan Datta mandir in Belkhed, Akola, was built by Dalits when they were still Hindus. It was ostensibly the focus of the fiery violence there earlier this month. The real reasons? Caste, the decline of organised Dalit politics, the crisis in agriculture, and wage conflicts - all played a role.
Mortgages are out, land grab is in
Farmers weighed down by debt are now falling prey to land grab by an array of predators that includes talatis and school teachers. A "proper" deed of sale is the preferred method. P Sainath continues his series on Vidharbha's crisis.
Chor Bt aur Bt chor
Fake and costly inputs have placed lakhs of farmers in grave danger. Further, despair has led many to embrace costly Bt cotton as some kind of magic bullet. Meanwhile, Bt cotton has not only been attacked by other pests, it's been struck by the bollworm itself. For many, the results could be deadly.
Of chit funds and loan lotteries
Many farmers deep in debt are trying to find a way out through playing bhishi (chit funds). Denied bank loans and desperate for credit to run their farms and for other needs, they take huge risks. The results are usually tragic.
The farmer and his festival lights
The Ganesh festival is the most important event in Maharashtra. This season, farm distress has hit the utsav badly in Vidharbha. Very few have money to spend. Meanwhile, farmers' suicides there are going up. There has been one almost every 36 hours this year.
As you sow, so shall you weep
With the rains finally here, spurious seeds and other fake inputs introduce a deadly new element in the survival struggle of the Vidharbha farmer. Fake seeds from Andhra Pradesh have come in on a large scale.
Suicides: The price of power?
Despite a strongly held belief to the contrary, Maharashtra's farmers have never demanded free power. And the suicides in Vidharbha were certainly not linked to this issue. P Sainath finds that the region is really paying the price of political power.
Russian roulette in Vidharbha
Should farmers sow early? Or wait to be sure that the first rains aren't just temporary? Should they borrow early, or wait until they are absolutely ready to sow, even if it means higher risks later? In Vidharbha, farming itself is a great gamble, with many victims.
No rain, but 'snow' and waterparks
Water-starved Vidharbha has a growing number of water parks and amusement centres. The iron laws of rural life don't apply in the entertainment complexes built right next to the poor. In a region that scarcely receives adequate water to meet people's drinking needs, there is plenty of water for the playgrounds of the rich.
Whose suicide is it, anyway?
In Yavatmal district alone, there's been an eight-fold increase in farmers' suicides in just four years. Yet, thanks to a flawed counting process, even that is a huge under-estimate. P Sainath continues his series on the agrarian crisis in Vidharbha.
The World Bank and the big bang
The World Bank continues to push its agenda on water privatisation even though its much-heralded examples from recent years turned out to be such dismal failures. The result will destroy countless small farmers and hand over agriculture to the rich and corporations.
How the deal was done
Why were more than a dozen bills introduced late on the last day of the session, giving legislators no time to even read them? Why was there no debate? Questions are now being asked about how the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Bill was passed.
Maharashtra's coming water wars
A new law could put irrigation beyond the reach of most farmers in Vidharbha. Huge hikes in water charges, penalties against farmers with more than two children, and prison terms and large fines for non-payment, all signal the transfer of agriculture to a few rich farmers.