THE RELATION OF STARVATION DEATHS AND SUICIDES BY FARMERS IN JHARKHAND WITH NEW ECONOMIC POLICY
In the beginning of 90s New Economic Policies were introduced in the market to improve the overall economic condition. After almost 15 years of introduction of these new economic policies it becomes imperative to ponder over the impact, which these policies had over the agriculture sector in India especially in relation with Jharkhand. Facts and figures depict that the condition of agriculture sector has deteriorated.
Table 1: Growth Rate of Agriculture Production (Cumulative Annual Rate)
Coarse Food grain
Gross Agriculture Production
1980-81 to 1990-91
1990-91 to 1997-98
From the figures of table 1, it becomes clear that with the introduction of new economic policies in the 90s the production rate of rice, wheat, pulses, coarse grain, oilseeds even cotton and sugarcane has reduced. We see a heavy reduction in their production.
The new economic policies of 90s are highly responsible for the deplorable state of agriculture sector. To reduce the deficit, subsidies were highly slashed on seeds, manure, fertilizers, irrigation etc. under the structural adjustment programme. In order to provide a favorable base for the prevalent market forces, the interference and the role of government in agriculture sector started diminishing.
Table 2: Share of agriculture sector in annual budget (in percentage)
In spite of the fact that during 90s, private investment has increased, the role of agriculture sector in Gross Capital Formation has declined and this diminishing trend could not be controlled. The main reason behind this phenomenon is that the number of well-equipped farmers, capable of making private investment is almost negligible in comparison to the ill-equipped farmers. Where it becomes important to increase public investment to improve the condition of small and ill equipped farmers, altogether an opposite trend is witnessed; as a result the condition of small farmers is deteriorating day by day. The cases of farmer’s suicides in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra and Punjab are the result of such destructive policies only. Jharkahnd is not far away from this reality.
CROP FAILURE FORCES FARMER TO COMMIT SUICIDE (1stSeptember 2004)
RATU: When Machindra Mahto, a 35 –year-old farmer in Ttigra Tiratoli vilage of Ratu block in Ranchi, had sown ginger seeding on his land little did he know that these would become the cause of his death after a couple of months
Machindra who committed suicide on Wednesday night by swallowing pesticide had a debt burden of Rs.45,000 on him and had been in a constant state of depression for past few days, brooding on how to repay the loan, according to his father Kittu mahto.
An eerie silence prevailed in the village a day after machhindra had been buried. Machindra’s wife Sheela Devi now wonders how she will feed her two sons and one daughter with the only bread winner of the family now dead.
The dead farmer actually used to be a happy man till he discovered this Monday that the ginger crop had failed. He was so shattered that he took to alcohol and used to be in an inebriated state most of the time, said Kittu adding that on the fateful night he came home drunk at 11 pm and went to sleep without taking diner. It was only when he started shouting for help that the family realized that machindra had taken poison.
The entire Ratu block about 35km from Ranchi is a vegetable belt. Most of the big and small farmers here earn their livelihood from agriculture and are neck deep in debt. While Machindra and a few others borrowed money from financially sound villagers at an interest rate of 10-12%per month, others borrowed from the Bank of India, ratu branch.” I had taken a loan of Rs 15,ooo from the bank for buying a water pump four years back but I have still not been able to repay it, even as the bank is breathing down my neck for recovery.” Said Prakash mahto.
The rains have failed for the past few years and this time too scanty and uneven rainfall has spoilt the crops, said Hindu oraon of the village where the only source of irrigation are wells. Paddy has now been sown but there is no water for irrigation.
When we relate this incident to NEP, then it is observed that in the era of NEP, the amount of loan facilities provided by the Public Sector Financial Institutes has decreased and the Private banks does not give any priority to the agriculture sector.
Another feature, which emerges under the reign of NEP, is total shift in the cropping pattern of Indian farmers. In order to attract the importers, more emphasis is given to cash crop now a day then to food grains. Inclination towards cash crop raises the problem of food security. This is clear from the statistics presented in the following tables.
TABLE 3: SHIFTS IN CROPPING PATTERN (in million per hectare)
JHARKHAND FROM FACTUAL PERSPECTIVE:
The state of Jharkhand consists of 22 districts and 32,600 villages. The entity of Jharkahnd can be related to its large tribal population. According to
Census 2001 tribal population of jharkahnd comprises of 26%. 40% of total tribal population hails just from six districts, namely Ranchi, Lohadarga, East Singhbhum, Gumla, Dumka and Pakur. Out of total 211 Blocks, 112 Blocks comes under 5th Schedule of the Constitution and they are put under 14 Integrated Tribal Development Programmes. Almost 50% of the population of Jharkhand lives under below poverty line.
TABLE 5: PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE LIVING BELOW POVERT LINE 1999-2000:
Tamil Nadu 21.1
West Bengal 27.0
THE STATE OF agriculture sector in Jharkhand strengthens the facts behind prevailing poverty.
In comparison to the total sown area of India, which is 47%, Jhakhand’s total sown area stands only at 22% out of which only 30% land is irrigated whereas, at national level the percentage of irrigated land is 39%. This disparity is revealed when we compare per hectare production of Jharkhand with overall per hectare production of India (based on study by Prof. G.S. Bhalla during 1992-95 of 50 sown farms)
SUB SECTORS: when we talk about the primary sector, then it is observed that the portion of agricultural and allied activities of Jharkhand state is only is 12.32% GDP, which is very low when, compared with National rate (23.16%).
In between 1994 to 2000, one can see important changes in Jharkhand - the contribution of agriculture and allied activities in GDP saw decline by 7. 24%
Analysis of Sector Wise Production (based on per person)
Primary sector: the performance of primary sector was worst as the per person production stood at Rs.10538.
Secondary sector: The performance in this sector was fair enough as the per person production stood at Rs. 42575.
Third sector: this sector produced the best result, where per person production stood at Rs. 52767.
TABLE: Structural Indicators of Development (Jharkhand)
Change (in %)
TABLE: Structural Indicators of Development (India)
Change (in %)
IRRIGATION AND FARMING PATTERN OF JHARKHAND
Irrigation facilities in Jharkhand is not appropriate, the main sources of irrigation in this area mainly of wells, tube wells man made ponds, and rivers, rivulets etc. is inappropriate.
Statistics reveals that in the districts of Palamu, Deoghar, Godda and Hazaribagh the land under irrigation is 24.12%, 14.22%, 14.21% and 10.51% respectively. In the rest of the State less than 10% of land is suitable for cultivation.
This gives an idea about the deplorable and degrading state of agriculture in Jharkhand. 2.57% lakh hectare land is suitable for horticulture and floriculture, which makes only 3.25% land.
The district of Palamu is considered Kalahandi of Jharkhand. The cases of starvation deaths are on increase since the decade of 90s. Besides Palamu District there are other districts as well where starvation deaths are growing.
GLANCE AT STARVATION DETAHS
Koeli Bibi, Jashi Kajar
Kaguni Manjhi, Rambirich
Bihari Singh, Bhagrit Singh
46 (see report PUCL) #
When we analyze the agriculture sector on the basis of the available data, we figure out that along with marginalized and small farmers the number of agricultural laborer has increased.
On one hand we see that the investment made by the farmers has doubled up with the usage of diesel, electricity, chemicals and fertilizers etc. whereas on the other hand in spite of increasing the investment they are not getting appropriate price for their production. Since past few years there is decline in production prices by 25 to 30%.
India being a member of WTO succumbed under its pressure and signed an agreement in 1999-2000 under which it has to remove quantitative control over the import of 1429 products. The entire process of removing quantitative control was completed in 2001.
Under this new policy adopted by the government, the farmers cultivating coconut, soybeans, oilseeds were the one, which suffered the most and reached the state of extreme poverty.
Today in India per person availability of food grain has declined in comparison to the scenario, which was before 50 or 15 years.
TABLE 6: PER PERSON AVAILIBILITY OF FOODGRAIN IN VARIOUS YEARS:
FOODGRAIN (in Grams)
Along with this it is also seen that the purchasing power has also declined.
STATE OF FARMERS IN PRESENT SCENARIO:
On one hand we see exemption of tax up to 60 thousand crore made to capitalists whereas on the other hand poor peasants who are under debt of 2 –5 thousands are forced to commit suicide, their lands and houses are corked and they are often imprisoned.
In midst of starvation deaths and farmer’s suicides, Government announced its New Agriculture policy, the main aim of this new policy is to bring Indian agriculture sector within the ambit of WTO and corporatisation.
Corporatisation of agriculture means, farming on large scale or capital-intensive farming.
In such pattern of agriculture there will be no role of small farmers. In this process, initially the big farmers will become tenants of small and marginalized farmers and later claim entitlement on their land. Beside this the budget, which is being presented the government since 91-92, carries a shade of New Economic Policy and liberalization. The budget portion on agriculture is declining since past few years.
The starvation deaths and farmer’s suicides mainly due to crop failure has become trend of Indian agricultural scenario. After almost 6 decades of independence, there is no facility of crop insurance in India. The process of insurance has been initiated on some crops but in the annual budget this amount is almost negligible, for e.g. in the budget of 2001-02 only 261 crores was spent on crop insurance. Every year, droughts or floods affect one or the other area of India, in such a situation such meager amount spent on insurance is a mockery of Indian farmer. If the policies related to agriculture are not made pro people soon, the deplorable condition of Indian farmers will become worse.
 Economic Survey 1997-98
 Alternative economic survey 1991-98