Vidarbha’s Dying Fields And Farmer’s Suicides

By Vikram Jadav

03 May, 2011
The Verdict Weekly
While the government of India and Maharashtra, led-by Congress, which  claims itself as a party of aam aadmi and one of the world’s fastest growing economies, only images of this new prosperity have reached the impoverished rural areas where two thirds of India’s 1.1 billion people live (vår anm.). Left behind by India’s soaring economic boom is Vidarbha, a region of hilly forests in the middle of India. It used to be known as India’s cotton belt – but now captures headlines as its suicide  belt – that’s an average one suicide every eight hours. Vidarbha farmers face a grim reality of crop failures, sinking global cotton  prices and crushing debts. Farmers in default at the bank frequently resort to illegal moneylenders who charge up to 100 per cent interest. And, the government safety net – that once kept cotton prices closer  to the cost of production – has all but disappeared. Under India’s new free trade policies, Vidarbha’s 3.2 million cotton farmers – most of  them small landholders – must compete in a global market that includes  formidable, often subsidized rivals,  including American cotton farmers.
At a moment when India is enjoying record economic growth, Vidarbha’s  four million cotton farmers who have been left behind, struggling to survive on less than Rs 100 a day (vår anm.). Kishor Tiwari, former businessman  turned farmer advocate, whose tiny office in the heart of Vidarbha,  the cotton-growing region, functions as the archive and watchdog for the suicide epidemic; traveling salesmen hawking genetically modified – and costly – cotton seeds that require irrigation that few Vidarbha  farmers have; the last rites of a farmer who couldn’t pay his debts; a tour of the poison ward at the local hospital, where beds are always filled; and even Rahul Gandhi, the prime minister in waiting pays a visit during the election ‘season’ whom the farming widows beseech for help in convincing the government to forgive their debts.

Här ligger Vidarbha.
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