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Farm policy




The posts of the last few days did help me understand a little bit of the
philosophy of this group, at least that of Sanjeev. But theoritical talk
can only help so much. It would be lot more helpful if I can get a feel
for how this group would solve a specific problem, a real one. So let me
give an example from today's list of problems, and I would appreciate your
comments.  

All the material below is from newspapers of the last 3 months. A good
source for numbers etc, if you don't believe me, is Vaartha, a daily
newspaper available on line. 

During the last 3-6 months nearly 300 cotton farmers committed suicide in
the northern districts of AP. The background is this: Each farmer
owned 2-20 acres of land. Vast majority of them owned 2-4 acres. In
addition to their own land they leased 1-3 acres from others and planted
cotton. It is expected that by the time the cotton is picked and sold
the expenses would come to about 12,000 rupees per acre. Most of this
would go to the purchase of pesticides. Cotton plants attract an unusual
array of pests and need to be sprayed every other or third day. 

Since the govt was not giving loans, the farmers borrowed money from
private sources at the rate of 30-40%. No, that was not a typo. Most
farmers do not have anything to put up as a collateral for borrowing
48,000 rupees (needed for 4 acres, for example). The collateral most often
used was the land itself, and jewellery from the wife and daughters. 

Two major reasons why the farmers were driven to suicides were given as
follows: (1) the pesticides which were used were ineffective. It is said
that there was no control on the quality of the sold pesticides. Anybody
with a white powder in a sac could sell it as pesticide. (2) the price of
cotton, which was at 2300 rupees per bale, dropped to nearly 1600-1700.
The average acre of crop was said to bring about 9 bales of cotton
fetching about 20,000 rupees, and bringing a profit of about 8000 Rs per
acre. But the dual problems (reduction in yield because of ineffective
pesticides and lower price for cotton) inflicted losses on nearly ever
farmer. 

For a person who lives off the land the ambitions in life are rather
simple: to pass the land on to the kids, and to keep the family fed. Now,
the cotton farmer can't look into the eyes of his kids. He lost what he
was hoping to give them. He can't look into his wife's eyes either. He
just lost the jewellery her parents gave her. Suicide is not such a bad
alternative for this guy now.

The guys who gave the loans at 36% are very often the same folks who sold
pesticides. I don't know for sure but I would not be surprized if they
were also the cotton merchants who bought the crop. It would not be a
surprise to find patriotic capitalist NRIs in this bunch.

Now this is not a story told to gain your sympathy for the farmers. 
Please tell me what you think is wrong with the system. What would you do
to solve the problem. One of the lessons I learnt from my argument with
Sanjeev is that the farmers would have to wait till prosperity tickles
down from above. Please don't waste my time and yours with that. There
will be no farmers left by that time. 

Sitaramayya Ari.