Maharashtras history of cooperative sector was the biggest force acting towards development of farmers. But in the last 20 years,the sector has been hijacked by some families and this is one of the biggest problems faced by farmers,said P Sainath,a veteran journalist who was in the University of Pune to deliver a lecture on the drought situation in India.
The cooperative sector is being privatised from within. A few individuals who own the cooperative sector are now outsourcing their work to factories owned by themselves. Hence,the jobs that earlier went to small time farmers are no longer there and privatisation is happening in a large scale, he said.
Unlike the government that keeps on saying drought is a natural phenomena,Sainath said drought in Maharashtra is man made. 21 golf courses have been added in Maharashtra in the last few years. Pune is cultivating rose. Crops like sugar cane are being grown in places without proper irrigation facilities. All this requires huge quantities of water for their upkeep. Hence,the drought is not a natural phenomena. Rather Maharashtra has worked very hard to create this drought due to its illogical policies and thoughtless privatisation, he said.
Quoting National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data,Sainath said from 1995 to 2011,over 2,71,000 farmers have committed suicide. Out of which 54,000 are from Maharashtra alone. This figure is likely to double as eight categories of suicides are still kept out of the farmer suicide figures like women suicides and suicides in nomadic tribes, he said.
Sainath also blamed the lobbies working in the state for its worst condition of farmers. There are two lobbies,sugar cane and builders. All the policies are in a way made in their favour, said Sainath. Farmers unfortunately are not able to organise and assert themselves. If this continues,farmers will remain cheated from even what is rightfully theirs as they are never taken seriously by the authorities if they approach them individually, he added.
The drive towards corporate farming is the biggest threat,he said. Overwhelmingly farmers are moving from food crops farming to cash crop farming. The production costs,risks and dangers in cash crop farming are far much higher than food crop farming. There is a predatory commercialisation of almost everything and there is a huge displacement of able bodied people to cities, he said.
What Maharashtra today faces is a convergence of all types of drought namely societal drought,good policy drought,better farming practices drought and many other droughts along with water drought. Hence,I would again say that Maharashtra has worked very hard to create this drought and with the lack of good leadership,it will be worse with every coming year, he added.