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Thursday, March 20, 2014

farmers' suicide .... this time the villain is hailstorm.. !!

India is an agrarian country with around 60% of its people depending directly or indirectly upon agriculture. Agriculture in India  is beset with trouble as it is dependent on monsoon, the failure of which leads to series of droughts, exploitation by middlemen and more……..  sadly, crop failure, indebtedness and lenders confiscating land all have lead to loss of precious life of farmer.   

I have made a couple of posts on ‘hailstorm’ damages … hailstorm is a storm during which hail falls ….. in common parlance ‘hailstorm’ is ice shower … when ice falls from sky … the particles would be big and generally the downpour  would not last for a longer duration.

When it falls with great force and in sizes as big as a golf ball, it can cause damage to property ~ roofing of buildings, factories are often affected. There could be some injuries too…… for Insurers this might pose another serious threat……. Automobiles – cars parked in open would face the brunt of hail….  There have been cases of cars sustaining dimple dent damages (minute dents)  all over the bonnet, hood, rear trunk and side as well and few windscreen glasses could be broken too ~ this is no insurance related post and this side of devastation of ‘hailstorm’ is unthought of !!!

There are reports that two farmers in Baglan taluka, about 90 km from Nashik, have allegedly committed suicide after rain and hail in the region destroyed their crop. "In the past 24 hours, two farmers have, unfortunately, committed suicide. Officers visited the homes of both farmers to ensure the families get all government help," Baglan tehsildar Ashwanikumar Potdar said.  Bapu Ramchandra Pawar (65), a Bilpuri village resident, allegedly committed suicide by consuming insecticide. His 3.5-acre pomegranate orchard was hit by bacterial blight last year and he spent a fortune to retrieve the plants this year. Then hailstorms and unseasonal rain damaged plantation. The distraught farmer could not bear the shock of damage and killed himself.  Pawar's death comes within 24 hours of the death of 45-year-old Atmaram Sitaram Pawar of Daregaon in the same taluka. Atmaram, too, consumed insecticide.

The calamity has affected 2.9 lakh hectares in the region with losses hitting an estimated Rs 240 crore. The crop failure coupled with spiralling prices has pushed the farmers to extreme despair. Sometime back in the Nation where Professor of Economics is at the helm as PM, and Harvard educated Finance Minister, a  Minister with unlimited gaffe went on record stating  ‘Govt is happy about high inflation as it helps farmers’ !  - golden words of Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma – who is quoted as saying “We are happy with the inflation, it will help farmers… Dal, grain and vegetables are more expensive. The rising prices is a benefit. We are happy”. He said the media was making a hue and cry of increasing prices. “Media kehti hai ki khane ki thali mehngi ho gayi hai…Isse fayada kisano ka hai, aur sarkar kisano ke fayda ki pachdhar hai” (Media says that cost of food plate has increased but it is benefiting farmers…and the government is in favour of farmers profit),” he said.

Jolted by reports of 22 farmer suicides in three weeks driven by massive crop failure, the Maharashtra government has now  appealed to farmers "not to take emotional steps" and wait for relief measures. Newspaper reports quote Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who has faced political attacks for not doing enough for farmers devastated by crop loss as saying - "I assure all my farmer brethren that we stand solidly behind you. I request that please don't be carried away by emotions or helplessness. We are doing our best to help you,". He further said he had spoken to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Election Commission, amid questions about whether a relief package just ahead of the national election would be considered a violation of the code of conduct.

The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, a farmers' advocacy group, has said in a report that 22 farmers have ended their lives in the Vidarbha and Marathawada regions, in the past three weeks. Nine of these deaths took place in just the past three days, after a prolonged and unusual hailstorm destroyed acres of crops, the group says. The Maharashtra government has not confirmed these grim statistics, but has asked for Rs. 5,000 crore from the Centre. Activists say the process of receiving any relief involves is too long and eventually may not be good enough to compensate the losses.

The opposition Shiv Sena has alleged that the Congress and NCP, which co-govern Maharashtra and are allies at the Centre, are using the election code of conduct as an excuse for inaction. Very pathetic plight indeed ~ Maharashtra's Vidarbha region is often described as 'suicide country' with reports of a farmer suicide every eight hours even till two years ago and the tragic deaths have fueled a political blame-game.

With grief  – S. Sampathkumar

19th Mar 2o14.

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