Mumbai: A farmers NGO on Saturday criticized Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' recent initiative of seeking help from Israel to help "reduce" farmland suicides in the state as an attempt to "shift focus" from the core issues of agrarian distress.
The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) said this distress is linked to mounting debts and frozen institutional credits vis-a-vis reducing rates for cotton in the global markets.
"Since 1995, Israeli companies along with the ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research), various Indian agricultural universities and the state government are already collaborating to increase drip irrigation and mechanized farming, but the ground realities are very different in Maharashtra compared to Israel," said VJAS president Kishore Tiwari.
"Israeli drip irrigation technology is available in India since four decades under the All India Coordinated Cotton Improvement Project and Integrated Cotton Development Project. But the huge investments in mechanized farming, despite heavy subsidies, has produced minimum results and cotton has become an unviable, killer crop," he added.
Another factor is that while the total farming population of Israel is barely 600,000 compared to over 10 million in Maharashtra, the farming and cultivation carried out in Israel is under protected irrigation and environment against the annual rain-dependent system here.
Moreover, Tiwari said that since 1998, when the cotton farmers' suicides drew national attention, over a dozen commissions, committees, experts panels and state-funded research groups have submitted comprehensive reports and recommendations to curb farmland suicides and address the agrarian crises.
But all that is gathering dust owing to the wrong policies of the government and the situation has gone from bad to worse now, he claimed.
Tiwari urged the government that instead of concentrating on such long term measures, it should tackle the immediate needs of the dying farmers by extending fresh bank credits, sustainable support price and a protected market economy.
Last week, during his visit to Israel, Fadnavis met senior Israeli leader Shimon Peres and others and sought their help to reduce farmland suicides in the state, particularly Yavatmal and Osmanabad districts, through the Peres Centre for Peace in Tel Aviv.
Later, officials of research groups like Jethro and Dimiter also agreed to send expert teams to Maharashtra to study the farmers issues and hammer out solutions.