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Vilasrao turns down peasants' plea

The Maharashtra chief minister refuses to to hike the rate of raw cotton, reports Pradip Kumar Maitra.

india Updated: Nov 11, 2006 18:23 IST

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had turned down proposals made by different peasants organisations to hike the rate of raw cotton while claiming that the incidence of farmers' suicides has phenomenally reduced ever since the economic packages were announced.

He also reiterated that debts were not the sole reasons for the on-going farmers' suicide.

The chief minister claimed that the economic packages of PM (Rs 3750-crore) and the state package (Rs 1500-crore) were giving dividends. Both the packages are being implanted in full swing all the affected districts of Vidarbha.

Deshmukh said that he would arrange a meeting with the prime minister to discuss problems in the irrigation sector of Vidarbha region. He said that a large number of posts are lying vacant in the agriculture department due to a court ruling that is hampering the implementation to some extent.

The chief minister, who reviewed the state and PM packages in Nagpur on Friday, made it clear that it was not possible to hike the rates of raw cotton in view of the present financial crunch faced by the state government. The Shetkari Sanghatana and other peasantsorganisations have demanded at least a support price of Rs 2,200.

But considering the overall market rates, the government announced a meager price of Rs 1900 per quintal. The chief minister, however, said that the government would ensure full and final payment to the cotton growers. "The government is aware of the condition of the farmers and we are trying to provide the best possible help to them," he said.

"I don't think that by hiking the rate of raw cotton, the spate of suicides would be checked. When we gave the maximum rate of cotton, Rs 2300 per quintal two years back, the Vidarbha witnessed the highest numbers of suicides," he pointed out. He continued, "I accept that the Congress had made an election promise to give a rate of Rs 2,700 per quintal. However, it is not possible at the moment to provide such a rate in view of the state's financial condition."

The cotton issue is not confined to Maharashtra. It is unfortunate that when the rates of other agriculture produces are increasing, farmers are not getting good prices on raw cotton worldwide, he added.

Deshmukh appealed to the former union minister Mohan Dharia to refrain from going on a hunger strike from November 14 to press the demand of total writing off of farmers' loans. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already set up an expert committee on the issue.

He should wait for the final reports of the expert groups, which are due shortly and the action, which the government would take subsequently, before embarking on such a course of action.

Meanwhile, five more farmers have ended their lives in the region in the last 24 hours when the chief minister was holding a review meeting of both the packages at Nagpur.

It seems despite the announcement of over Rs 4250-crore packages from both the governments little has changed at the ground level.

Two farmers from Amravati district while one each from Yavatmal, Washim and Wardha ended their lives in the region in the last 24 hours. They were: Gopal Ulle of Sonegaon, Dyaneshwar Lambat, Deogaon (both in Amravati), Gunjaram Kamble of Kali (Yavatmal), Bhagwan Chavan, Vasantwadi (Washim) and Gangubai Irkhede of Botona in Wardha district.

The death toll has reached 38 this month while it touched 1083 in the region since June last year. As many as 112 farmers have committed suicide in October while the figure was 125 in September, 111 in August and 90 in July this year.

First Published: Nov 11, 2006 18:23 IST