#India – When Doctors are also perpetrators of Crime #Vaw


Study shows sex selection practices in doctors’ families

, TNN | May 28, 2013, 06.42 AM IST

NAGPUR: A study by a Nagpur-based institute has found the sex ratio skewed in doctors’ families, too. The child sex ratio in these families was 907 girls per 1,000 boys, lower than the national average of 914. It was indicative of a deep-rooted social malady that could pose a critical challenge in correcting the sex ratio in India, the study stated.

The skewed ratio in the doctors’ families was strongly indicative of underlying sex-selection practices even though the ratios offer only circumstantial evidence, rather than proof, the study stated. The study was published recently in the American Journal ‘Demography’ and titled ‘Skewed Sex Ratios in India: Physician Heal Thyself’.

The researchers investigated the sex ratio in 946 nuclear families with 1,624 children where either one or both parents were doctors who had studied at the Government Medical College and Hospital in Nagpur between 1980 and 1985. The medical college is a large tertiary care teaching hospital in Vidarbha region, admitting 200 students for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of SurgeryMBBS) .

Other than being more skewed than the national average, the researchers observed that the conditional sex ratios consistently decreased with increasing number of previous female births. Third, the birth of a daughter in the family was associated with a 38 % reduced likelihood of a subsequent female birth.

“Our investigation has revealed startling concerns about the potential sex selection practices among doctors of Vidarbha region. We are aware of the limitations of this study as the sample size is not very big and hence may not faithfully represent the entire physician community in India. But it definitely warrants a closer look. It will also be interesting to see whether such practices pervade others in the medical profession, such as nurses and paramedical workers,” said principal investigator Archana Patel.

Patel also works as a professor and head of the department of paediatrics. She is a director of epidemiology unit at Indira Gandhi Government Medical College, Nagpur. The others who conducted the study with Patel are Neetu Badhoniya, Manju Mamtani and Hemant Kulkarni.

“The study was conducted for three reasons. The medical profession enjoys high esteem in India, and physicians are regarded as role models in society. Second, physicians have a crucial role in the implementation of the Pre Conception and Pre-Natal and Diagnostic Techniques (prevention of sex selection) Act to prevent the misuse of ultrasound and other techniques for prenatal sex determination, which has been implicated for selective abortion of girls. Third, little is known whether this preference for boys also exists among the families of Indian physicians. Hence, we investigated the pattern of sex ratios in the immediate families of physicians,” Patel said.

General surgeon Maya Tulpule, president of the city chapter of Indian Medical Association said, “I will discuss the matter with IMA managing committee members to see whether we can take up such a survey here in Pune.”

It was an important study which reflected the mindset of the society of which doctors are a part, said senior psychiatrist Devendra Shirole, former national vice president of IMA. “However, a multi-centric study with a larger sample size is needed. We will discuss this at IMA’s national meeting soon,” he added.

Previous studies have also claimed that this son preference varies little with education or income and that selective abortion of girls is common in educated and affluent households, presumably because they can afford ultrasound and abortion services more than uneducated or poorer households.

 

Maharashtra- From Drought to dhandha #Vaw


Published:  Sunday, Mar 31, 2013, 0:27 IST
By Yogesh Pawar | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Purnima Ahire speaks haltingly in English with a pronounced Marathi accent, an attempt that draws a round of laughter from the women huddled in a lane near Ashok Talkies outside Thane station.

“Kai English madam dhandha karayla aali ka kai (An English madam has come for sex work)?” says one of them, setting off the others again.

The 21-year-old from Umerga, Osmanabad, clams up. Her mentor Renuka Varahade, 34, puts an arm around her and tells her to ignore them. “Many who come for dhandha can’t even write or speak decent Marathi. Purnima has studied till Class 11, so they are envious,” she says.

Purinima’s sister’s wedding two years ago put her father in debt. Unable to withstand pressure from the local money lender after his crop failed, he drank a bottle of pesticide in January. Besides her mother, Purnima now has to support her sister and brother, so she decided to find work.

“Renukatai knew my mother. She told her I’d find work as a domestic help in Aurangabad. Once I found out the nature of the work, I called home to tell mother. She cried, but said I must cope to help the family,” says a blank-faced Purnima, whose family thinks she works as a maid. “If I keep crying, will that feed my family? Here Tai protects me and I get to send money home,” says Purnima.

Brothel-keeper Pushpa Malepu admits that new arrivals from drought-hit parts of Maharashtra have increased: “Earlier they came from poor families, but now even educated girls from families who have lost everything to crop failure in the last 2-3 years are taking to the sex trade.”

The profile of Mumbai’s sex workers is changing. At one time, 75% of sex workers in the city were from Nepal. Traffickers then shifted focus to Bangladesh where regular floods and poverty ensured new recruits. There came a point when one in every three sex workers in Mumbai was Bangladeshi.

Activists in Mumbai, Pune and Nashik admit that more educated Marathi-speaking girls are being pushed into the sex trade. This is like the situation following the drought of 1972, when 70% girls in the trade were from Maharashtra (Marathwada), Karnataka (Raichur-Gulbarga), and Andhra Pradesh (Rayalseema) — areas worst hit by drought.

“Now, there are more Marathi-speaking girls being pushed into the trade,” says Pravin Patkar, founder-chairman of Prerana, an organisation working with sex workers since 1986.

Patkar says the first signs of distress were seen last during Diwali, when sex workers started migrating to Mumbai from the drought-hit belts of Vidarbha and Marathwada: “With the overall drop in purchasing power, work became scarce, forcing them here. This shows the levels of distress. Unless interventions are put in place, the number of new recruits from these regions could rise rapidly.”

Indu Bhalerao, 36, is one such sex worker. She left Latur for Mumbai last September because of the lack of clients. “Here I can at least have food. In Latur, I didn’t have enough to provide for my family in my village, and was going hungry myself.”

Bharti Lad is a 23-year-old from Jalna district of Maharashtra. “Our family owned a sugarcane field which was divided after a family dispute. My father lost his share as he ran up huge debts paying off lawyers two years ago. We started working as labourers. Now, since there’s no water, there’s no work. We even had to sell the cow to the butchers,” she says in chaste Marathi. Bharti lives in a flat in Malad. “Regular customers mean I have enough to send at least Rs5,000 back home every month.”

The women waiting outside closed shop-fronts near Ashok Talkies are hungry and settle for a quick meal of bhurji-pao. “After 11pm, the police come… To avoid lafda (trouble), many of us head home,” says Purnima, who cannot resist checking herself in a broken mirror on the bhurji pao cart.

Renukatai hails an auto to take them to their hovel at the base of Parsik Hill at Kalwa (East), where two more girls stay. It’s past 11.30pm and the autowallah tries to get fresh. “Same place?” he leers in the rear-view mirror, eliciting a quick retort from the feisty Renuka, who spits out gutka and asks him: “Where else? Do you want to take us home to meet your mother?”

p_yogesh@dnaindia.net

@powerofyogesh

#India-Bt failure to hit cotton yield by 40%: Govt


Published: Monday, Nov 26, 2012, 5:48 IST
By Yogesh Pawar | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

For the first time, Maharashtra has officially admitted that cotton yield is likely to reduce by nearly 40%. Bt cotton failure in more than 4 million hectares of land has reduced cotton yieldfrom 3.5 million quintal to 2.2 million quintal.

A report sent by the state agricultural department to the Centre states that the estimate of the net direct economic loss to cotton farmers in the state will be nearly Rs6,000 crore, whereas accumulated losses are likely to cross more than Rs20,000 crore due to a steep rise in cultivation costs.

Farmers and activists in the state’s cotton belt say the rise in the prices of Bt cotton seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and labour since last year has had a huge impact. “The agrarian crisis sweeping through the state due to Bt cotton failure has only widened. Unlike when cotton crop failure was reported only from Vidarbha and Marathawada, reports of such crop failure are now coming in from Khandesh in north Maharashtra, too,” said Kishore Tiwari of farm advocacy group Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti.

National Crime Records Bureau reveals that the number of farmer suicides in Maharashtra are likely to cross 5,000 this year in comparison to the 3,500 last year. The figures last year were, in fact, the highest among all states in India.

This is the third year in a row that Bt cotton failure is being reported in Mahahrashtra. Last year, the state paid Rs2,000 crore to 4 million cotton farmers as compensation. Unlike earlier when dry land farmers were affected, even areas with adequate irrigation are facing a crop loss this year.

Ravindra Shinde, a farmer from Dhamane village in Dhule, had taken a loan like several others, and is now worried about repaying it. “I spent Rs50,000 per hectare this year but Rs30,000 last year. Now with crops failing, I don’t know what to do?” he said.

According to state records, Maharashtra grows Bt cotton in 4.2 million hectares of land. This is the largest among all cotton-producing states. Even thenit has been reporting lowest cotton yield of about 5 quintal per hectare since 2006. The latest official estimate says this is likely to fall to 3 quintal per hectare. “This means a net loss of more than Rs38,000 per hectare!” points out Tiwari, who plans to lead debt-trapped farmers in march to the legislative council on December 11 during the winter session at Nagpur.

“We demand a compensation of Rs20,000 per hectare and fresh crop loans for every farmer for the ensuing kharif season. We also want food security and free health education, along with the implementation ofland development, soil enrichment and watershed development under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,” he said.

He appealed to the government not to mock the farmers. “We hope the state relief packages actually help farmers this time instead of just benefiting contractors, politicians and multinational agro majors like it has in the past.”

 

Vidarbha -Every 4th house in this village has a mentally ill person shackled in chains #Indiashame #Wtfnews


In Vidarbha, a village of the damned

Sukhada Tatke TNN, Nov 4, 2012

Unmindful of the scorching heat and the iron chains around his legs and hands, Raju alias Rajendra Dhere crouches on the ground, tracing his name in the mud with a finger. Ask him his age and what he does in life and he is quick to respond with One and Class One respectively. Then he begins rambling incoherently.
The 40-year-old’s plight is, bizarrely enough, reflected in almost every fourth house in Vadura, this village of 1,800 people in the Nandgaon-Khandeshwar block in the heart of Amravati district. Elsewhere in Vidarbha, the issue of poverty-stricken farmers committing suicide has taken precedence over all else. But in Vadura, or “paagalon ka Vadura” as it has come to be called, villagers have a greater concern: the silent demon of mental illness that has been afflicting people over the years and is now begging for government intervention.
The villagers are unaware of the draft Mental Health Care Bill of 2010 which prohibits chaining persons with mental illness. Raju’s family says that chaining Raju is the only way to keep him in “control”. “He tends to get violent. We admitted him to the Nagpur mental hospital thrice, but it has not helped,” says his brother’s wife, under whose care Raju has been since his farmer father committed suicide three years ago. Known as an intelligent boy and swimming expert in his teen years, Raju today bears no resemblance at all to his younger self.

No govt intervention as yet 
Fifty-two year old Laxman Satange, better known as ‘Tiger’ in the village, does not reflect the picture of his youth either. He sits in a corner or roams around his house, engrossed in whatever catches his fancy. If it is a piece of paper, he folds it relentlessly for hours; if a pen, he doodles endlessly. His brother Prabhakar is in the same boat. Until two months ago, he would wander around the village and take his clothes off. Now he talks to himself and spends most of his time sleeping.
Despite the enormity of the problem, it was only last year, after worried villagers saw children behaving oddly in school, that they decided to do something. “The teachers noticed that several kids were not paying attention or looked disturbed,” says resident Purushottam Dhere. “They happened to come from families with mental disorders.
That’s when we approached the Apeksha Homeo Society for help, which co-ordinated with the Amravati health department and organised a medical camp. Psychiatrists and psychologists from private groups were also present.”
The camp was an eye-opener—of the 100-odd people who showed up there, 14 were diagnosed with acute mental illness and 26 others with milder variants. A doctor told TOI that most of the villagers suffered from psychosis and schizophrenia;
mental retardation was also prevalent.
Dr C L Sunkusre, district programme officer of the National Rural Health Mission, admits that the problem in the village is grave. “The prevalence of mental illness in this village is far greater than any other village in Amravati,” he says. “We need to give it special importance. The causes may be genetic, rooted in pregnancy problems or stress-related. We need to get to the root of it and think of solutions.”
According to Dr Pankaj Wasadkar, a clinical psychologist associated with the Manas trust in Vidarbha, Vadura is symptomatic of alarger disquietthat governs rural India: an acutelackof awarenessof mental health issues and treatment. Wasadkar had attended the camp and found that there was no reason that could be pinpointed for certain. “The problem is that there is no epidemiological base to the problem in the villageor even in rural India,” he says. “In this particular village, there has been no disaster or trauma. Some patients have been rendereduntreatablebecause treatment has never been provided to them. Some have chronic illness which came to the fore. Therefore, there needstobe governmentintervention where psychiatric treatmentis made available.Buteven after the health camp, the medicines were not distributed properly.”
Villagers too complain that there has been no follow-up by the health department. “The government is not doing anything,” says Dhere. “All we want is for experts to carry out a survey to examine the reasonssothat moresuchcases don’t occur. What scares us the most is that little children might develop the same problems.
“The signs in school are worrying enough,withkidsimitating the mentally ill they see around. It’s high time the government helped us.”

Mentally-ill Rajendra Dhere, 40, in shackles bears little resemblance to the intelligent boy he once was. In Vadura village of Amravati, almost every fourth house has somebody who has lost his/her mental balance
It was only last year, after worried villagers saw children behaving oddly in school, that the health department decided to take some action

 

Bombay High Court comes to the rescue of malnourished children


Malnourished child

Malnourished child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MEENA MENON, The Hindu

Activate MIS-based tracking, Maharashtra Government told

Soon children under six and mothers in Maharashtra’s Melghat region, which is facing malnutrition will be tracked using management information system (MIS) following a directive from the Bombay High Court in August.

“Steps should be taken by the State Government under the auspices of the Collector, Amravati, to activate the MIS-based tracking of children and mothers,” the Court said in its order in an ongoing case on malnutrition.

The Court directed that implementation begin on September 17, 2012. The Government should formulate short and long-term plans to tackle malnutrition, and devise a suitable plan setting out targets to be achieved expeditiously, the Court said.

The Melghat region, part of Vidarbha comprises Dharni and Chikhaldhara tehsils. On average, 400-500 children below six die every year in Melghat of various causes linked to malnutrition.

On an application made by petitioner Purnima Upadhyay on July 20, the Court noted that there was no information on any government website on the status of undernourished children and on infant and child mortality.

Statistics submitted to the Court show that as of June 2012 the number of children in the Moderately Acute Malnutrition (MAM) and Severely Acute Malnutrition (SAM) categories were 3,431 and 561, while children who are Moderately Under Weight (MUW) and Severely Under Weight (SUW) numbered 10,047 and 3,798.

Between April and June 2012 there were 81 child deaths (35 in Chikhaldhara and 46 in Dharni), 42 stillbirths and four cases of maternal mortality. Ms Upadhyay submitted that the figures for malnourished children seemed to remain at 14, 000 over the last two years and the number of SAM and MAM children did not show any remarkable decline.

The Court had to intervene also in providing emergency services in the Melghat region. The 22 emergency flying squads there had no vehicles this year until it ordered quick action in mid August. Even after that, Ms Upadhyay told The Hindu on Saturday, some primary health centres hired vehicles for a month and for the rest tenders had been invited.

The flying squads operate from May to October every year to cater to remote villages. This year, she said, over 100 villages were cut off due to heavy rain and there was no help for them in any form.

Since May the squads did not have vehicles, as a result of which the villagers in remote areas were placed at high risk especially in a medical emergency, the Court said.

The Court was informed that earlier tenders had been invited from private bidders for supply of vehicles at Rs.14,000 per vehicle per month. But no bids were available at that rate. The Collector chaired a meeting in June of the Navsanjivani Yojna and a decision was taken to invite fresh tenders. The government counsel told the Court that fresh tenders were invited, and 10 days allowed for submission of bids.

Maharashtra sits on multiple irrigation acts, doesn’t bother to frame rules


 

 

Published: Saturday, Sep 1, 2012, 9:45 IST
By Sandeep Pai | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Farmer suicides in Maharashtra are more a routine than an exception. Everyone knows drought is to blame, but the state government, too, cannot shirk its responsibility.

While successive governments have created several irrigation acts, none bothered to frame rules. Absence of proper framework and foundation for water management precipitates drought conditions as irrigation projects suffer.

“If act is the soul, rules are the body,” Rajan Ksirsagar, a Communist Party of India (CPI) trade union leader, said. “It is impossible to implement an Act without rules. Strangely, governments have ignored this problem.”

The major irrigation acts are: Maharashtra Irrigation Act, 1976 (MIA), five Irrigation Development Corporation Acts (one each for five Irrigation Development Corporations, enacted between 1996 and 1998), Maharashtra Management of Irrigation Systems by Farmers Act, 2005 (MMISF) and Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act, 2005 (MWRRA).

Except MMISF, none of the others has any rules. MIA is the parent act because it is supposed to provide the state with a water management structure. “And implementing the other acts, IDC, MMISF, and MWRRA, depends on how MIA is implemented,” Pradeep Purandare, former associate professor, faculty of engineering, Water and Land Management Institute in Aurangabad, said.

Thirty-six years have passed since MIA was passed. None of the governments to date has formed rules pertaining to the act.If there are no rules for any of the acts, what does the government follow? Ancient rules framed in the British era, mainly Bombay Canal Rules, 1934, and Central Provinces & Berar [CP&B.]Rules are followed even today. These old rules are, expectedly, based on old acts like the Bombay Irrigation Act of 1879.

These old rules are incompatible with MIA since ground reality and water management practices have changed with time. In some cases, MIA has even repealed certain rules. l Turn to p3

An act is the intention of law describing the applicability, defining governing provisions, explaining fines and penalties and how it should be applied.

And rules are the prescribed methods and procedures in relation to any provision contained in the act. “Without any legally prescribed method, water management has become a big headache,” Purandare said.

It is well known that extensive areas in the Vidarbha belt and other areas are prone to drought. Since MIA has no rules, there is rampant water theft. Anybody can get away by stealing water because there is nothing “prescribed as per rules made under this act”. So, if someone is caught stealing, he/she cannot be prosecuted while farmers do not get any water.

What this means is MIA, a parent act, cannot be implemented. And this has a cascading effect on the other acts — IDC, MMISF & MWRRA. None can be implemented. “An unprecedented legal crisis would crop up if someone were to move court,” Purandare said.

The MWRRA Act has provisions to resolve disputes. But it is not in force because there are no rules pertaining to the act. “With no rules in place, guidelines to classify crime and punishment or how appeals should be processed are unclear,” Mandar V Sathe of the Resources and Livelihoods Group, Prayas,said.

Also, compensation to farmers in case of water scarcity is arbitrarily fixed because there isn’t any prescribed procedure for day to day functioning.

Ideally, if rules were in place then the quantity of water based on what crop is cultivated would be fixed. “Several instances have come to the fore, where farmers have lost out on compensation because there is no proper,” said CPI trade union leader Ksirsagar.

The absence of proper rules leads to confusion over responsibility and accountability. Canals maintenance is irregular because the powers and duties of a canal officer are not fixed. The MIA says a canal officer’s duties must be specified once rules are framed.

 

Bar GM food crops, says parliamentary panels #BTbrinjal #Goodnews


basudeb

The committee found that the present regulatory system in our country which comprises of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is inadequate and the regulatory system needs to be more robust, ensuring severe scrutiny.Basudeb Acharia
Chairperson, parliamentary committee on agriculture

A parliamentary committee has recommended halting all field trials of genetically modified (GM) seeds and sought an independent probe into how the government had accorded approval to Bt brinjal, a seed that was developed by Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co. Ltd (Mahyco).

Though it’s not mandatory for the government to accept the parliamentary standing committee’s recommendations, the suggestions of several such panels have significantly influenced government policy. Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh in 2010 imposed a moratorium on the sale of Bt brinjal seeds in India.

The recommendations of the panel comes a day after the Maharashtra government cancelled Mahyco’s licence to sell Bt cotton seed in the state. This was after allegations that the company had misinformed state agricultural officials on the availability of Bt cotton seeds for farmers.

Mahyco said in a statement that it will wait to hear from the government before addressing issues around the ban.

“In India, where 82% of the agriculture industry is of small farmers and where there is huge biodiversity, we should not go for GM foods. Even if we take the argument that we have to increase our food production according to the demands, we should look into indigenous ways to enhance it,” said Basudeb Acharya, chairman of the standing committee on agriculture and a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Pointing out that the introduction of Bt cotton was not discussed in Parliament before it was introduced in the country, Acharya said there was neither a study on its impact on cattlefeed made out of the cotton seeds, nor was any specific regulatory body to ensure food safety and standards.

The parliamentary panel, which met around 1,500 farmers in Goregaon in Maharashtra, also found they were left with no other alternatives to Bt cotton seeds in the market.

“The production cost, which was reduced due to less usage of pesticides, has been increasing,” Acharya said. “And we found largest number of suicides were reported from the areas where Bt Cotton is grown.”

The committee also pointed out that Ayurvedic medical practitioners have complained it had an adverse impact on the medicinal plants grown in the area.

The panel’s study on Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops—Prospects and Effects is among the most extensive studies conducted by a parliamentary standing committee. The panel received 467 memorandums, 14,862 documents and reviewed evidences given by 50 organizations during its 27 sittings on the subject.

While Bt cotton is the only GM plant that’s allowed to be cultivated, several private companies have been looking at introducing different kinds of GM seeds, including rice, tomato and wheat.

Following protests from civil society groups and farmers, several state government’s have banned trials of GM crops.

To bring greater transparency in the way crops are tested, the government has proposed an independent regulator, called the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India. Legislation to set up the authority has been pending for two years.

Earlier this year, the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution ruled that all packaged food that was sourced from GM ingredients had to be labelled so.

The “report vindicates the concerns and positions taken by many state governments in India, such as Bihar, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, etc., which have disallowed GM crops, including field trials. It also vindicates the larger public demand not to allow GM crops into our food and farming systems” Sridhar Radhakrishnan, convener of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, a group that is opposed to the introduction of GM crops, said in a statement.

jacob.k@livem

 

Ban on Mahyco seed sale
Maharashtra Government has cancelled the licence of agriculture seed major Mahyco, to sell Bt cotton seeds in the state, following complaints.

Minister for Agriculture Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said the state government was left with no option but to cancel the company’s licence, given the serious nature of the complaints. “The government has cancelled the licence of Mahyco to sell with immediate effect,” Pune-based state Agriculture Commissioner Umakant Dangat told PTI over phone. “We were hearing several complaints against them from last 2-3 years. They did advance booking but did not supply seeds. Last year, there was an acute seed shortage in the state,” Dangat said.

Mahyco did not give us its seed distribution programme for this year. There were complaints that seeds were sold in Beed and Jalna districts at inflated prices, he said.

Rs 20,000 crore swindled in Maharashtra irrigation scam #Indiashining


, TNN | Aug 6, 2012, 04.52AM IST

Rs 20,000 crore swindled in Maharashtra irrigation scam
In another explosive revelation, TOI has learned that costs of 38 irrigation projects in Vidarbha were increased from Rs 6,672 crore to Rs 26,722 crore by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC).
MUMBAI: Maharashtra‘s mega irrigation scam, which strained relations between Congress and its alliance partner, Nationalist Congress Party ( NCP), is getting murkier.In another explosive revelation, TOI has learned that costs of 38 irrigation projects in Vidarbha were increased from Rs 6,672 crore to Rs 26,722 crore by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC). More shockingly, this mind-numbing 300% cost escalation of over Rs 20,000 crore was approved in a short span of three months between June and August 2009. (TOI, in recent months, has carried a series of reports exposing the contractor-minister-bureaucrat nexus that has led to criminal cost escalations in minor and big irrigation projects in the state.)The VIDC reasoned that the costs were revised because of the change in price levels, higher quotes by contractors, increase in the cost of land acquisition, engineering changes and other reasons. But the rush to revise costs and give bulk approvals to 38 projects in just three months has raised eyebrows in government circles.

In one unusual case, revised administrative approval for the Lower Wardha project was granted on Independence Day (August 15), a national holiday. The project cost was revised by VIDC’s then executive director from Rs 950 crore to Rs 2,356 crore on that day. Sources point out another case of the Upper Wardha project in Amravati, where the cost was revised from Rs 661 crore to Rs 1,376 crore in July.

Another case is that of the Bembala river project in Yavatmals district of Vidarbha. Official documents show that its cost was revised from Rs 1,278 crore to Rs 2,176 crore on August 14, 2009. Bembala was one of the 10 projects given revised administrative approvals hurriedly on that day.

On another day (June 24, 2009), VIDC issued 10 revised administrative approvals for Vaisawali, Lonwadi, Dagadparwa and Dava minor irrigation schemes, and larger projects such as Human Nadi, Kharbadi K T Weir, Jigaon, Khadak Purna, Pentakali and Chandrabhaga. Once these revised administrative approvals were granted, the VIDC hurriedly invited tenders for all the 38 projects.

These approvals were given by then executive director Devendra Shirke.

Documentary ‘Cotton For My Shroud’ on Vidarbha farmers bags National award


NAGPUR: “If a quarter million farmers kill themselves over a span of 16 years, then it is genocide and not suicide. The globalization of economies has given rise to a new form of agrarian warfare where seeds are the new weapons.” This observation formed the basis of the documentary ‘Cotton For My Shroud’ made by Nandan Saxena and his wife Kavita Bahl.

The 90 minute film, shot in the hinterlands of Vidarbha, which have earned the infamous sobriquet of farmer’s graveyard, has won a Rajat Kamal for the best investigative film at the 59th National awards announced in New Delhi on Wednesday. The film has been winning accolades since it was first released at Mumbai Film Festival in April last year, and has also received the Gold for best script at the IDPA in Mumbai in October 2011.

In a telephonic chat with TOI from New Delhi, Saxena says that he has been screening the docu-film at various forums and people have been stunned by its content. “The film is meant for both, victims as well as those who can change this dismal scenario. It is easy to blame the simple farmer for not managing his resources.”

“The cotton farmer is torn between aggressive marketing of supposedly ‘better varieties’ of transgenic crops by the state, and his traditional wisdom of low-cost and eco-friendly agriculture. He thus falls prey to the honey trap of Bt. The result is in an unending cycle of debt and misery.”

Narrated in the first person, the film looks at the macro picture while following the lives of three families. Saxena says that he learnt about the plight of the farmers in Vidarbha while researching water linked projects they were handling in Rajasthan. “It was so horrible that we began looking for more information. When we called up Kishor Tiwari, president of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, which has been drawing attention to these tragedies, he told us to check it out first hand. My wife and me arrived and began moving around in Yavatmal, Raipodh, Pandharkawda and Kolijhari, which were worst hit by these tragedies.” It was not easy for the couple to win the confidence of farmers. Saxena says that the families of victims were weary of media spotlight.

“We came without booking our return tickets.We had all the time and were willing to wait. Gradually, they began to open up,” he says. The research and first hand conversations helped them put together a narrative.

“There were two triggers for the suicides. The first at the time of sowing, when the cash strapped farmer is pushed to buy seeds he can ill afford, so he takes credit. The next is at the time of harvest, when he arrives in the market and realizes that he will not get the price that will enable him to repay the loan. That’s when the desolate fellow has no option but to consume pesticide.” Saxena,who admits to leftist leanings, says that once they had put together the film it was difficult to edit it, as they had to relive these heart wrenching stories once again. “But we overcame our emotions and released it in 2011.” Awards aside, the duo feels that true recognition would be when farmers stop taking their lives and sustainable agriculture becomes a policy.

Times of india, march 9,2012

DNA investigations: Marathwada region beats Vidarbha in farmer deaths


Mar 3, 2012, By Sandeep Pai & Sudhir Suryavanshi | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

In 2011, the highest number of farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra was not in Vidarbha, but unexpectedly, in Marathwada.

This region and Khandesh, where farmers suffered crop failure and massive debt, have emerged as the new epicentres for suicides in the state.

The numbers: Marathwada had 435 farmers’ suicides, Vidarbha 276 and Khandesh 133. Overall, 860 farmers killed themselves in 2011, the highest figure in the last four years, according to Maharashtra’s law and order department. (In 2008, there were 771 farmers’ suicides, in 2009 535 and just 363 in 2010). Within Marathwada, Beed district (represented by a BJP stalwart) had the highest number of farmer suicide deaths.

The reason for this desperation was the failure of the BT cotton crop due to lack of irrigation, scanty rainfall, and massive debt. (These will be detailed in subsequent stories in this series.)“These are the reasons for the suicides but the government remains ignorant,” says Dr RP Kurulkar, retired economics professor and chairman of the Marathwada Statuary Development Board (MSDB) in Aurangabad.

Marathwada comprises Aurangabad, Nanded, Latur, Jalna, Beed, Parbhani, Osmanabad and Hingoli. Khandesh comprises Jalgaon, Dhule, and Nandurbar. DNA visited several districts in both Marathwada and Khandesh and heard several poignant stories.

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