A success story from Maharashtra’s farm suicide land

May 19th, 2008 - 9:54 am ICT by admin  

By Shyam Pandharipande
Pandharkawda (Maharashtra), May 19 (IANS) Incredible as it may sound, Purushottam Karanna Myanewar, a farmer in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district, says he has never taken a loan to till his small land and vaguely heard of the spate of farmer suicides in the region. “What loan? I never had to take any,” says Purushottam, his head covered with a white cloth as he stands under the shadow of a mango tree in a corner of his farm, overseeing two women labourers as they plough the field for sowing wheat.

The 56-year-old farmer, who owns three acres of land and tills 10 acres of someone else’s land on contract, is blissfully unaware of what the world has seen with dismay as acute agrarian crisis in the suicide-prone Yavatmal district in Vidarbha.

Purushottam says hundreds of other farmers on the outskirts of Pandharkawda have fared more or less like him - an unbelievable statement in an area that has seen mind-boggling agrarian distress in the last three years that brought forth a Rs.10 billion relief package from the state government, followed by one from the prime minister that was nearly four times as big and finally a Rs.600 billion loan waiver this year!

His farm is hardly a kilometre outside the town from where Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) leader Kishor Tiwari sent out thousands of press releases giving daily updates of farm suicides in the last three years. Purushottam hasn’t even heard of Tiwari who held umpteen farm rallies in the town and kept the governments in Mumbai and Delhi on their toes through his relentless media blitzkrieg and public interest litigation on the issue.

His land has already yielded some 15 quintals of soybean and two quintals of tuar dal (pulses). Purushottam also hopes to harvest an assortment of vegetables alongside wheat and earn a tidy extra amount selling milk from 15 cows and seven buffaloes.

Has he not read or heard of thousands of farm suicides, including several hundred from his own Yavatmal district; of indebtedness and other aspects of the acute farm distress and of the movement run by VJAS from Pandharkawda on whose outskirts he lives?

Purushottam has only a vague idea of all this. He knows that quite a few farmers have committed suicide. “Tyahile jamla nasan, ana kamjor manache asan”(they might not have been able to manage it -their land - properly and they might be weak-minded), he said when prodded about it.

Not articulate enough to explain the “secret of his success”, which for him is no more than a routine life of hard work, Purushottam only gives out a broad picture of his humble agricultural methods in answer to a volley of questions.

What emerges is that he has been wise and diligent.

The farmer with two married sons, who live elsewhere and are not into farming, grows, jowar, wheat and tuar on the land besides the region’s favourite cash crops of cotton and soybean. His net income from the 10 acres of land he tills on contract (at the rate of an annual rent of Rs.4,000 per acre) is Rs.20,000 per year. His net profit from selling vegetables that he grows on his three-acre farm and selling milk is another Rs.200,000 annually. After paying off wages and power bills, Purushottam makes an annual profit of Rs.220,000. He has two big wells to irrigate most of his land.

Living happily with his wife and two occasional guests - his grandsons - and with no loan of any sort on his head, Purushottam believes his labourers, who get daily-wage employment almost round the year, are equally happy.

“I pay the women labourers Rs.50 a day for six hours of work. The four male workers I have employed on yearly contract get Rs.25,000 each annually besides 50 kg of jowar per month,” Purushottam told IANS.

Purushottam’s is undoubtedly an exceptional case from the thousands of woebegone farmers caught in the vicious web of high costs and low returns, crop failures and unpaid debts. But an exception, and such ones were not very uncommon even in the three phenomenally bad years, which is worth emulating.

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Business |