Farmers rally for jobs

By Deepa Kozhisseri
Published: Saturday 28 February 2009

Karanataka does not guarantee rural employment

OVER a thousand farmers marched into the Chikballapur district commissioner's office in Karnataka on January 29 demanding more days of employment and higher wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (nregs).

They staged a 24-hour demonstration. The next day, they took out a rally and were joined by 2,000 others. The farmers were from Bagepalli, Guddibanda and Gauribidanur talukas where groundwater is fast depleting.

Rising farm input cost has made agriculture unprofitable, said M Munivenkatappa, a groundnut farmer from Bagepalli. "Work under the scheme is important for our survival. This at least deters farmers from migrating to cities as porters," he said. They criticized the state government for not implementing nregs seriously. "Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa admitted the state has used only 40 per cent of the funds this year," said Srirama Reddy, a cpi (m) leader who led the rally.

The farmers want the government to increase the days of work under nregs from 100 to 200, and raise the wages from Rs 82 to Rs 150 which would mean a person can earn up to Rs 30,000 in a year. This is double the income limit set for qualifying as a bpl (below poverty line) family. The farmers have demanded the annual income ceiling for bpl card eligibility to be raised from Rs 15,000 to Rs 36,000 to get public distribution system (pds) benefits.

They demanded 15 essential commodities including soap, pulses and clothes under pds and more ration per member. They also demanded free electricity for pumping groundwater.

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