the much-awaited report of the Commission on Farmers' Welfare (cfw), constituted by the government to study the agrarian crisis and suicides by farmers in Andhra Pradesh, has indicted both the Union and the state governments. Presenting the report to chief minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy on December 11, 2004, in Hyderabad, commission chairperson Jayati Ghosh said the state government's liberalisation policies in the last decade have burdened small, marginal and tenant farmers and rural labourers the most.
Andhra Pradesh's farm sector public institutions have faced a complete breakdown, leaving farmers at the mercy of private profiteers. They commit suicide because they can't repay debts. The report recommends bringing all cultivators, including tenant farmers, into the ambit of institutional credit and focussing on dry land farming. It also advocates land distribution.It suggests creating a distress fund with the support of the Reserve Bank of India and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development to provide assistance to banks in drought-prone areas. "The effectiveness of these recommendations will depend essentially on the political will to translate them into government policy and action at the ground level," Ghosh, an economist, observed.
Emphasising the need for equitable distribution of water, the report asks the government to frame a water policy and restore water bodies. It also calls for setting up a market stabilisation fund to help farmers when prices crash. While the chief minister said his government will implement all "feasible" recommendations of the report, the opposition Telugu Desam Party (tdp) rejected it. It alleged that the cfw had failed to study the root cause of farmers' suicides. "Ironically, the commission...visited a few districts and even in those it covered only a couple of villages," tdp leaders Ummareddy Venkateswarlu and C Ramachandraiah charged. The report also promotes organic farming. It cites the example of Punukala village in Khammam district, where farmers managed to get a good yield through traditional pest fighting methods (seeDown To Earth, 'Inevitable tragedy', July 15, 2004, p13). The state's agriculture minister N Raghuveera Reddy also said recently that the Punukala system will be replicated in 200 villages.
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