Mar 18, 2010

Maize crop failure leads to farmer suicides in Bihar

I have often been asked as to why only farmers in Vidharba region of Maharashtra are committing suicide. My reply has been that it is not so. Farmers all over the country are in crisis and many are committing suicide. It is only that the NGOs working on agricultural issues in that particular region have not been keeping a count of the spate of farm suicides. In the absence of any compilation of the data about suicides that is locally available, the national media does not get to focus on the farm tragedy.

It was therefore quite surprising to see a news report about the deepening agrarian crisis along the Kosi river in Bihar, and how the loan waiver and the supply of sub-standard seed led a farmer to take his own life. This news report did not appear in any of the local newspapers in Bihar, but was carried by Deccan Herald, a major daily published from Bangalore. I am sure there must be numerous other stories like this, which have failed to draw media attention.

This news report will however come in handy for the seed industry to seek government support for marketing its so-called improved seeds. What will never be acknowledged is that it was the sale of spurious seed of an improved variety that led the farmer to take the fatal route. Instead of being penalised and prosecuted for selling fake seeds, the industry will actually seek more benefits in the name of making improved seed available to farmers.

I hope the Bihar government prosecutes the erring seed company, handing out a deterring punishment that becomes a lesson for the other seed suppliers. Meanwhile, here is the report:

Loans, substandard seeds lets farmers down in Bihar

Abhay Kumar
DH News Service

Patna, Mar 15:

All those UPA leaders, who are basking in the glory of multi-crore loan waiver scheme for farmers, should take a look at this story.

Forty-year-old Jagdish Sharma, a small-marginal farmer of Katihar in the Kosi belt, had borrowed Rs 15,000 from a money lender. Having seen deluge in 2008 and drought in 2009, Sharma was quite cautious this time. Instead of paddy and jute, he opted for maize cultivation because of the high yield the crop ensured.

Sharma had thought that he would repay the borrowed amount once the crop was farmed. That’s why he accepted the money lender’s condition for a 7 per cent (84 per cent annually) loan. But the crop failed. The maize that he had farmed was without kernels, hollow from inside.

Distressed and dejected, Sharma committed suicide by consuming poison. “The maize killed my husband,” said his wailing wife Champa Devi.

In a similar incident, Purnia-based Md Nazim and his wife consumed an insecticide after the couple found that their maize crop had failed, and they had thousands of rupees to repay the money lender.

As soon as they started vomiting, alert villagers rushed them to hospital, and saved their lives. “The maize that I had raised after borrowing money failed me. The kernels were hollow from inside. The crop won’t fetch me a single penny,” lamented Nazim, recuperating from the extreme step he had resorted to.

But then, Nazim and Sharma are not the only farmers who are ruing their fate. Yadavendra Choudhary of Purnia, too, found to his dismay that the maize crop had failed. “I had sowed maize seeds at the right time, and followed all the suggestions made by the agriculture officers. Still, what I have on my 15 acres are stalks,” said Choudhary, who has appealed to the government to book all those companies which were selling poor quality of seeds. Purnia District Magistrate N Sharavan Kumar, who was aware of the problem, said the report submitted by the agriculture officer confirmed that poor quality of seeds had led to the crop failure.

Third time in a row

Purnia, which was one of the badly hit districts during the Kosi floods in 2008, has 12,225 hectares under maize cultivation this year. But the crop failure for the third consecutive year is likely to break the backbone of farmers.

"I will raise this issue in Parliament. Besides, I will also talk to the Bihar government for the speedy redressal of the problem of poor quality of seeds,” said BJP Lok Sabha member from Kaithar Nikhil Choudhary.


Radha Gopalan said...

In the name of food security the Government, scientists and others are so obsessed with justifying the need for biotechnology that the singular issue responsible for food insecurity is never taken up on a war-footing. I am referring to the corrupt PDS. What does the government propose to do with the very damning Wadhwa Report? Why is the Government not able to see that alternative PDS systems that are community based and universal is the only sustainable solution?

janya said...

i came across same line of thoughts in an agri portal , , focussing on bihar agriculture. I wish the voices raised are loud enough to be heard.