"Farmer suicides the symptom"
|It is better to be a poor person in Botswana than in India, says Sainath|
A PErSPECTIVE: Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu P. Sainath delivering a lecture on 'Farm Crisis: Why have over one lakh farmers killed themselves in the last decade' watched by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee in New Delhi on Thursday.
NEW DELHI: The crisis in the farm sector is a national one and not restricted to some States. The suicides are just the symptom not the disease, said Magsaysay awardee and Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu P. Sainath while deliverin g a lecture on 'Farm Crisis; Why have over one lakh farmers killed themselves in the last decade?' in Parliament House.
Reeling out chilling statistics which revealed how India remained a land of poverty amidst plenty, Mr. Sainath said India had the fourth highest number of dollar-billionaires in the world; behind only the United States, Germany and Russia. "But, we are 126th in human development. This means that it is better to be a poor person in Botswana or the occupied territories of Palestine, both of which show superior human development indicators than India."
Though India was an emerging tiger economy, life expectancy here was lower than in Bolivia — the poorest country of Latin America — Kazakhstan and Mongolia. India may have 100,000 dollar millionaires but 800 million in this country existed on less than Rs. 20 a day as per government data, he said, adding that "there is no such thing as Indian reality, there are Indian realities."
Another contrast he brought out pertained to foodgrains intake. The last 15 years – which saw unprecedented prosperity among the rich – witnessed a decline in foodgrains intake. Quoting from the atlas of food security of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, he said in 1997-2002, India added more newly hungry millions than the rest of the world taken together.
"Hunger grew at a time when it declined in Ethiopia. A new restaurant opens every day in some city of this country but the average rural family is consuming 100 kg less than it did 10-15 years ago because that is the food availability situation."
Mr. Sainath regretted the slow pace of tenancy reforms in the country. According to him, land reforms had been carried out properly by only a handful of States.
"It seems appalling to me that we can clear an SEZ in six months but we cannot do land reforms in 60 years across this country!"
He drew the attention of Parliamentarians to the growing expenditure on health as India now had the sixth most privatised health system in the world.
Another alarming phenomenon, he said, was the closure of as many as 3,500 banks in the rural areas — without which there would have been no Green Revolution in the first place — between 1993 and 2002. Ironically enough, while banks have systematically withdrawn from credit for the rural areas, they are increasingly wooing the upper middle classes.