Maharasthra farmers, widows on hunger strike

Nagpur, Nov 4 : More than 150 widows of farmers who committed suicide went on a day's hunger strike Monday demanding compensation for losses suffered in the recent monsoon floods in Vidarbha region of eastern Maharasthra, an agriculture activist said.

The women, accompanied by other farmers and children, addressed a protest rally in Yavatmal, around 150 km from Nagpur, said NGO Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti chief Kishore Tiwari.

They recounted how the floods destroyed their homes and ravaged their farmlands and sought immediate intervention by the state government, said Tiwari.

"Over five million farm families are reeling under a severe agrarian crisis in the state's eastern region due to heavy rains, floods and subsequent total crop loss. But help from the government has come in the form of Rs.80-Rs.100 cheques whereas losses are in thousands of rupees," Tiwari told IANS.

He explained that this year's monsoon rains, which continued till late October, damaged or destroyed chief cash crops like cotton and soyabean in the region.

Tiwari accused the state government of failing to address the demands for urgent relief, which includes a debt waiver to those farmers who have suffered complete crop losses and higher minimum support price (MSP) for cotton at the rate of Rs.6,000 per quintal.

Several widows taking part in the second day of the relay hunger strike claimed that they were compelled to sell their produce of soyabean for nearly half the MSP of Rs.2,950, incurring a huge loss.

He said the central relief of Rs.922 crore announced by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar a few weeks back is too little and too late to compensate for the huge losses of crops and properties.

Citing estimates, Tiwari said that over a million acres of farmlands have been damaged or eroded, besides people's properties and infrastructure losses, in Vidarbha with the total mounting to over Rs.20,000 crore.

Adding to the farmers' woes is the continuing spate of suicides with seven more farmers taking their own lives in the past couple of days raising this year's toll to 685 so far, according to Tiwari.

--IANS (Posted on 04-11-2013)

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