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Left Parties ask for better deal for farmers

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, June 29: Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit tomorrow to farmers suicide-prone Vidharba region in Maharashtra to announce a relief package, the Left parties today made out a strong case for" proper diagnosis" of the disease as the poor farm labourers were also ending their lives in the region.

They asserted that despite several suggestions including the need for implementing the Dr M S Swaminathan Agriculture commission's recommendations to mitigate the sufferings of farmers put forward by them, the Manmohan Singh government had not displayed "any sense of compassion and appreciation of the grave agrarian crisis." The Prime Minister will visit the region tomorrow to share the concerns of the farmers affected by drought, floods, and crop failure which led to as many as 300 farmers taking their own lives during the last few years. Dr Singh is expected to make a relief package announcment.

Talking to UNI, CPI leaders- A B Bardhan and Shamim Faizi- said, "the proposed package will not be sufficient as the proper disease has yet not been diagnosed on the national basis.The reports indicate that the suicides are taking place in the Vidharba mainly beause of failure of the monsoon and other factors including credit and default in payments, private lending system, and low quality seeds." But viewed in totality, they said, the farmers suicides including in Punjab, were due to indebtness. The reason lay in the failure of the FCI to intervene in time in the market to ensure the Minimum Support Price.

The CPI leaders argued that the distress sale of their produce at throwaway prices for consecutive three years had pushed them to the "debt trap. Unfortunately the government is shutting its eyes to the stark reality as it is committed under the WTO accord to import and export foodgrains." Ironically, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has proposed that the government stop direct intervention in the sugar sector, including doing away with the practice of lifting levy sugar at controlled prices.

Besides, the government has decided to levy a concessional tariff of 5 per cent against the scheduled rate of 50 per cent on wheat imports by the private sector.

Mr Bardhan, a veteran Communist and freedom fighter, held that the malaise with the agriculture sector was basically due to continuous decline of private and public funding in agriculture." Even the nationalised banks give credit to the farmers on a much higher interest than they charge to the agriculture sector.'' Mr Faizi, the party weekly New Age editor, said the CMP had promised to effect an increase in the public investment in agriculture, but the government had not done much.

CPI(M) senior leader Nilotpal Basu said several measures would have to be taken to mitigate the misery of the farming community.

"Till now the government has not displayed any sense of compassion and apppreciation of the gravity of the crisis that has overtaken large sections of our peasantry." Referring to the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, Mr Basu, a former Rajya Sabha MP, said these included 4 per cent interest rate, re-vamping of the cooperative sector, writing off the existing loans of farmers and re- starting distribution of free seeds to farmers.

He said "the WTO conditions do not suit our food security.

Besides strengthening the PDS, which the government is not doing, it will also have to revamp the procurement system to ensure that the farmers are not left to the mercy of private parties."


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