Shift from cash crop to food crop cultivation: Magsaysay awardee P Sainath

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Mangalore, Sept 8, 2013: With the alarming number of farmers suicide cases in the country, there is a need to rethink the idea of agriculture. For the sustainability of farmers, emphasis should be shifted from cash crop cultivation to food crop cultivation and de-link from the high-cost cultivation, said eminent Journalist and Ramon Magsaysay awardee P Sainath.

He was delivering a talk on ‘Corporate Hijack of Indian agriculture,’ at B V Kakkillaya Inspired Orations – 2013, jointly organised by Hosatu monthly, M S Krishnan Trust, Samadarshi Vedike and Abhinava at Ravindra Kalabhavana at University College on Saturday. Explaining how the corporate world has held agriculture in its fists, he said nothing has now remained in the hands of farmers including the decision on choosing the seeds, fertilisers, water, cost of electricity, input cost and market value, whereas the power of decision making has been left in the hands of a few big corporate houses in India and abroad. “I have been demanding the government to have a ten days parliament session exclusively to discuss on agriculture and on bringing in a policy to improve the condition of farmers,” he said.

Farmers suicide

Analysing the farmers suicide cases in the country, which according to Crime Records Bureau stands at 2,85,000 since 1995, he said the data is fake, for it largely excludes several sections of farmers including women and Dalits who do not own ‘patta’ land. There has been a sharp fall in the number of farmers in the country in the last two decades. Approximately, 15 million main cultivators have quit the occupation, i.e., 2,000 fewer farmers in the country everyday. Even as there is a fall in the number of farmers, there has been a sharp increase in the number of agriculture labourers, suggesting that the farmers have lost their status and have declined into the position of agriculture labourers, due to cultivation loss.

“If Maharashtra stands first in the list of farmers suicide cases, Karnataka occupies the second position with 39,000 farmers committing suicide since 2005. It is significant to note that the farmers who have committed suicide, are cash crop cultivators and not food crop farmers. One of the dangers that neo-liberalism brought to our country is the shift in food crops to cash crops, which has resulted in greater domination of corporate houses on agriculture,” Sainath noted.

Refering to the case of vanilla disaster in the region, which incurred loss to a large number of agriculturists in Dakshina Kannada district, he said the same could repeat with coffee cultivation. With the coffee seeds largely exported to foreign countries, the market is controlled by a few corporate houses abroad. If they find a better variety in some other nation, the market value in India would go down, thus affecting the coffee growers in Karnataka and Kerala.

He also turned critical at the Food Security Bill and wondered why none of the MPs opposed it.

The Act if implemented would reduce the food grains offered to beneficiaries from the present 35 kg to 25 kg per month. There would  also be a drop in the number of beneficiaries under the food schemes, he pointed.

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