Position a decade ago: Year saw farmers succumbing to debt-trap

Kuldeep Mann wrote in The Indian Express: Friday, January 1, 1999

CHANDIGARH, December 31: Successive crop failures, triggered by unseasonsl rains besides other factors, saw the debt having a vice-like grip on the farmers of the state forcing many of them to end their lives.

The farmers of this most advanced state in agriculture were doomed by unseasonal rains causing widespread damage to their ripe paddy and scathing attack of pests, which led to record low cotton production. The unprecedented shortage of DAP fertilizer for the sowing of wheat, during the year did not help the matter either.

According to the data collected by Movement against State Repression (MASR) and Social Research and Communication Society (SRCS), the figure of suicides in only Sangrur and Faridkot districts, touches the 200-mark, notwithstanding a couple of cases in Bathinda, Mansa and Muktsar districts.

Recent memory fails the senior citizens to recall a year in the history of Punjab when so many farmers had been driven by desperation to end their lives. “It has really proved a black year for the cotton growers, who failed to get back even the input expenses after disposing off their produce”, says Kattar Jida, president of the North India Cotton Growers’ Association.

The market trend indicates that the total cotton crop in Punjab will not cross the 5-lakh bale mark off the 6-lakh hectares. That way the per acre yield will be about 0.83 bale which is disappointing as compared to 4 bales per acre in 1992.

Punjab has been witnessing a cascading trend in the production of cotton for the past six year. But the crop this time totally shattered the dreams of farmers compelling them to virtually totally submit themselves to money-lenders.

Paddy growers never had it so bad as they moved from pillar to post for weeks together to dispose off their paddy which was largely damaged by the unseasonal rains.

Officialdom apathy further added to the woes of farmers as the former failed to impart justice to the later who had to resort to distress sale after finding all the doors of the authorities concerned shut for them.

Anxious from the fear of loosing credential among their traditional vote bank, however, the SAD-BJP government headed by Parkash Singh Badal presented their case before the Union Government. But the later paid no heed to their demand.

Though the air was filled with expectation, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee during his Bathinda visit in November did not announce any compensation for the suffering paddy growers notwithstanding the fact that the issue had been taken up by the top Akali leaders with him.

Even the cast-strapped state government cold-shouldered the demand of growers of announcing any compensation against their distress sale of paddy.

Shortage of DAP fertilizer during the time of sowing of rabi crop further added to the woes of farmers. Unable to manage the required quantum of the DAP, a number of farmers all over the state had to sow their crops without adding fertilizers to seeds which might have bearing on the final outcome.

Throughout the year, Badal openly propagated the line that the agriculture was no more a profitable profession. But he failed to suggest the way out to about 70 per cent population of the state which was dependent on agriculture.

Source Link: www.indianexpress.com