A year after death, Gujarat court certifies it as farm suicide


Written by Rohit Bhan |  NDTV Updated: May 29, 2013 1

AhmedabadLast year when marginal farmer Anirudh Jadeja of Khijdad village in Gujarat’s Saurashtra had committed suicide, a hasty local police termed it as an accidental death due to a domestic strife.

The family had contested the claims and even decided to fight a long, legal battle despite monetary restrictions.

On Monday, a local court in Jamnagar ruled in their favour terming it as a farm suicide – relief for a family which had presented a plethora of documents including a letter addressed by Anirudh to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, revealing his debt worries due to failed monsoon.

In his letter, Anirudh had even mentioned about the failed crop and a fear of bank officials knocking at his door to recover Rs. 11,000 he had taken as loan.

“There was pressure from the bank as his crop had failed due to almost negligible rains. He had a big family and was under extreme pressure… he had no option but to commit suicide, something the police refused to accept,” said his uncle Laljibhai Jadeja. In Suarashtra, it is the same story again this year.

Sheetal Bhaliya, a farmer in Amreli, is hoping this year the rains are adequate or else disaster looms large. The last six months have been a terrible struggle for farmers like him to make both ends meet.

“The crop spread in five bighas of land had got destroyed last year. I have a family of 10 to take care of. It is a struggle taking care of the family members,” said Sheetal Bhaliya.

The government seems unfazed. Last year due to failed monsoons, 62 farmers committed suicide in Gujarat. Activists claim that the number is much more as police refuse to record them as farm suicides.

Even when they are acknowledged as farm suicides, compensation is not paid to families. Right to Information (RTI) activists have been writing letters to the government, but with no results. It’s a sad state of affairs.

“Till September last year, 42 such deaths were reported and in the entire 2012, 62 farmers committed suicide. But compensation hasn’t been given even to one farmer,” said RTI activist Bharatsinh Jhala.

With government not listening to their woes, farmers are looking towards the rain gods for a little help this year.

 

Narendra Modi visits drought-affected Amreli, but no word on relief


Gujarat EDN

DNA  20APR2013

dna correspondent @dnaahmedabad

Ahmedabad: It was Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to Amreli district after the state government declared it drought-affected, but the people heard little about the government’s initiatives on relief. Instead, the CM linked unseasonal rain in Amreli on Thursday and Friday with divine intervention.
Modi was in Amreli on Friday to attend the annual function of Shantaben Haribhai Gajera Education Complex and to dedicate MCA College for Women to the society. His talks encompassed everything, including good wishes on Ram Navami, Gujarat’s progress in the last 12 years and development in education sector. He urged women to join Mission Mangalam project and take up sea-weed farming on the coast.
Protesting against the government’s alleged apathy towards farmers and scarcity of water, Congress workers staged a demonstration. They were led by former Amreli MP Virji Thumar and MLA Paresh Dhanani.
Initially, the opposition party had chosen a different venue for the protest, but opted for Nagnath Circle in the town at the last minute to avoid police and security forces. Protesters waved black flags and shouted slogans against Modi while marching for a few hundred metres, where they were detained by police. Their leaders, however, presented a memorandum to the mamlatdar on farmers’ plight, not getting relief on crop insurance, water scarcity and other issues.
“We had gone to give a memorandum to the CM about the scarcity situation in the district and request him for aid but we were detained by the police and not allowed to meet him,” said Dhanani. “Being in opposition, we are not bothered much about such practice, but it was a pity that CM didn’t utter a word about drought or announce any relief for Amreli district,” the MLA added.
“If he would have announced some relief, we would have welcomed him. But it has not happened. Today, Amreli district, which also has two MLAs from BJP, is facing acute shortage of water, fodder and financial aid to farmers,” said Dhanani.

 

Gujarat reeling under severe drought – #Narendramodi


On March 26, Revenue Minister Anandi Patel had declared water scarcity in about 4,000 villages and towns in 10 districts of Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat
Illustration: Anand NaoremIllustration: Anand Naorem

Rajkot, Apr 14 (PTI): Narendra Modi may be on a campaign selling his model of governance, but Gujarat is reeling under severe drought that has left Saurashtra and Kutch regions parched and people battling odds to get even a pot of drinking water.

An estimated 10 to 15 per cent of the cash crops may have failed because of the drought this year that has come on the back of 11 normal monsoons. The water situation in half of the state has worsened with the onset of summer as big and small water reservoirs have dried up, forcing women in rural area to travel long distances, sometimes two to three kms, everyday for water.

Modi had, in his speeches in the national capital and in Kolkata recently, made claims regarding supply of piped water for long distances, thanks to Narmada projects. But familiar scenes of people jostling to get a bucket of water when a tanker arrives once in a while in their village or urban area are common in Kutch, Saurashtra and some northern parts of the state.

“Our children are thirsty as there is severe drinking water problem. Officials here are merely giving us hollow promises. No steps have been taken for regular supply of water by tanker to us,” said Saroj Makwana, a resident of Jetpur town in Rajkot district where water is supplied every 10 days.

“Ours is the remotest area where drinking water is being supplied once in 15 days. And despite our repeated representation to local municipal officers, the condition is unchanged,” said a frustrated Champaben Rabari of Amreli city. Protests and bandhs are order of the day in affected areas. Amreli city had observed a total bandh recently on the issue of non-supply of water. Women taking out protest marches with empty water pots has become a common scene in affected areas.

Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat had witnessed acute water scarcity in 1998 and 1999 when successive years of deficient rains had made life difficult for the people of these three regions of the state. But 11 good monsoons from 2001 to 2011 had made people forgot those years of scarcity, driving Gujarat to double digit agriculture growth.

The state government also appeared to have taken the situation lightly when the rain goods were smiling as two major projects — Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada river and Kalpsar project — conceived to solve drinking water problems of scarcity-prone regions, have not progressed as per schedule. Modi took over as the Gujarat chief minister in 2001.

Seventy-five percent of the canal network of Sardar Sarovar Project still remains to be completed by the state government, which is an impediment in taking water of big dam constructed on Narmada river to the parched lands of state, as per the data presented in the state assembly.

While the Kalpsar project was conceived to build a reservoir with dam in the Gulf of Khambhat to harness flood waters of nine rivers during the time of Keshubhai Patel government in 1998, it is still in the study stage mode even after 14 years of conceptualisation.

On March 26, Revenue Minister Anandi Patel had declared water scarcity in about 4,000 villages and towns in 10 districts of Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat. However, the opposition has said this is too little, too late.

“The state government should have anticipated the situation of scarcity last June itself as many areas of Kutch and Saurashtra had deficient rain and still it has done nothing to avert the situation,” says Leader of Opposition Shankarsinh Vaghela, whose Congress party has launched a 12-day ‘Jal Adhikar Yatra’ to highlight the water woes experienced by this region.

The government, on the other hand, has been denying the existence of the water crisis. It claims it has been supplying more water to this region for the last six months and is resolved to implement on “war footing” a contingency master plan of Rs 134 crore to provide water to Saurashtra and Kutch.

Government spokesperson and Finance Minister Nitin Patel, while brushing aside Congress claims, charges opposition leaders with ‘misleading’ the people by ‘spreading lies’ on the water situation. “We have already been providing enhanced water supply to cities like Rajkot, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Amreli,” Patel said.

Narmada water and Sardar Sarovar Dam issues have also been raised by both the state BJP and opposition parties for scoring brownie points over each other. Congress and Gujarat Parivartan Party have accused the Modi government of ‘inaction’ to complete the construction work of the Narmada canals.

“Since 2006, the height of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam has reached to 121.92 meters and that was enough for the storage of water which could have been used for irrigation in 10 lakh hectare agriculture land and provide drinking water to 11,000 villages and cities, but they have not completed the canal network,” Vaghela said.

However, state BJP has alleged that as the central government has been stalling the permission to raise the height of the dam to 138 meters and to build gates on the dam, people of Saurashtra and Kutch were facing acute water situation. Rajkot, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar are the worst-hit districts in Saurashtra where people are supplied water once in three to fifteen days in different areas. Around 500 villages and some towns in these areas have to depend on water supplied to them by tankers.

In Rajkot, water levels in 34 reservoirs and dams like Aaji, Nyaari, Bhadar, Setubandh, Alansagar, Machhu have receded to almost 3 per cent of its storage capacity. Total water storage capacity of these 34 dams and reservoirs are 28,032.69 million cubic feet (MCF) whereas at present it is only 664.63 MCF there.A similar situation exists in other districts like Amreli (8.92 per cent), Jamnagar (0.43 per cent), Junagadh (6.06 per cent), Porbandar (1.11 per cent), Bhavnagar (5.29 per cent), Surendranagar (7.15 per cent) and Kutch (14.04 per cent). Deficient rain has also created problems for farmers and agriculture production has been hit.

“Though we are yet to ascertain production loss due to deficient rain, it must be between 15 to 20 per cent in cash crops and about 20 per cent in other crops including vegetables in Saurashtra and Kutch area,” a state agriculture department official said. He said the Rabi season has witnessed 15 per cent less sowing in comparison to the last year due to less rains.

Agriculture expert and former Director of Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA) Dr Y K Alagh said “though the figure have not come out yet, if you compare the date of State Gross Domestic Product (SGDP) of previous two years, you can at least very conservatively say that because of deficient rain 15-20 per cent crop has failed in the state”.

 

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