Farmers put up village for mortgage

With debts mounting, Shivni-Risalpur farmers are selling land at dirt-cheap rates, writes Pradip Kumar Maitra.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2006 19:26 IST

Driven to sheer desperation due to dropping yields, high input costs and spiraling crippling debts, the 1000-odd cotton and soyabean cultivators of Shivni-Risalpur, a sleepy outpost in Amravati district, are putting up their village for mortgage.They have fixed the price at Rs 50 crore.

"With crops failing and debts mounting, the farmers have no other option but to sell their land at dirt-cheap rates," said villager Pradip Bansod.

This is a classic example of the state of affairs of beleagured farmers in Vidarbha’s farm sector where over 450 farmers have already committed suicide due to burden of debts and crop failure in the current kharif season.

"Raising money through mortgage is now the only practical and feasible alternative to suicide", said Marotrao, another villager.

"We are serious about mortgaging the village. It is a consensus decision. We really want to do this as we don’t want any more suicides," he added.

As many as seven farmers of this village have committed suicide over the past two years.

According to him, the villagers were not able to pay the electricity bill of over Rs 8.40 lakhs for the last four years. Moreover, institutional loans taken by the farmers had crossed Rs 3 crore.

"We could not repay the amount as we have been facing drought and crop failure for eight consecutive years," he informed.

The economic downslide began in 1998, when a hailstorm ruined the cotton crop. Yields fell steadily in the drought years that followed. Meanwhile, while the cost of production kept rising with rising prices of inputs.

Loans kept piling up, and even the occasional good crop did not fetch a price proportionate to the cost of production.

To make matters worse, the state government has slashed the procurement price of raw cotton from Rs 2,500 to Rs 1,850 per quintal, in stead of increasing them.

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s much-publicised Rs 1075 crore package for Vidarbha farmers, which promised free electricity, loan waiver and Rs 2,700 per quintal support price for cotton, amounted only to a Rs 25,000 waiver on loan interest, the villagers complained.

The villagers plan to leave for the city take up some small trade for livelihood.

Agro-economist Professor Arvind Bondre observed that this the entire move of the villagers might be a gimmick. "But by doing so they are highlighting their plights," he pointed out.

The district administration has reacted to the village’s predicament with typical apathy.

Neither senior bureaucrat nor any politicians of the district have reached the village to take stock of the situation. The village drew media attention only when some villagers raised a banner during the Samata Parishad convention, held on February 12.

First Published: Feb 17, 2006 18:36 IST