• In short

    smokescreen: Two persons were charred to death and 25 injured in a major fire at pharmaceutical giant Ranbaxy's factory in Mohali, Punjab, on June 11. The blaze was preceded by blasts at the

  • Go hunt em

    Punjab wants crop mowing boars and blue bulls dead

  • The acre feet fuss

    But Punjab and Haryana farmers depend on groundwater!

  • Housing more funds

    Housing more funds

    Warehousing Bill, a double edged sword for farmers

  • Farmers up in arms over proposed power plant

    Proposal to acquire 2300 acres for the 2000 MW plant "Government had employed all tactics to terrorise the people' CHANDIGARH: The Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, a conglomerate of Left parties, has threatened to make it a national issue in case the Punjab government failed to meet the demands of the people of the four villages of Mansa district of Punjab, who are agitating against a proposal to acquire their 2300 acres of land to set up a 2000 MW thermal power plant.

  • Most pay bribes to civic officials in Punjab: study

    A state government survey says over 76 pc people had to grease the palms of municipal bodies to get basic amenities CHANDIGARH, February 21: It's not a finding the Punjab Government would like to flaunt. A survey sponsored by it has found out that 76.5 per cent of people pay bribes to officials in the various municipal bodies of the state to get their work done. The finding was an outcome of a study conducted by the Institute for Development and Communication (IDC) for the Department of Planning, Punjab Government. The study discovered that 76.5 per cent of the respondents had paid bribe on one occasion and most of them (82.3 per cent) had paid it to one person only. Interestingly, 94.1 per cent of the repondents admitted that the persons concerned had asked for money for redressal of their problems regarding basic amenities such as water, sewerage, streetlights and roads. Besides paying bribes, 37.1 per cent of the people also felt the need to approach an influential person to get their complaints redressed. Interestingly, almost half of the respondents were not in favour of paying bribes for any work at the MC level but were forced to do so. The only exception were people at Jalandhar and Nakodar where 80 per cent and 100 per cent of the respondents, respectively, did not mind greasing palms to get their work done at the municipal corporation. However, in many cases, bribe did not prove to be the ideal solution. Nearly 44.1 per cent of the respondents complained about harassment even after paying the bribe. Only 23.5 per cent felt that their work was done immediately after they paid the bribe, said the study. A large number (37.4 per cent) of respondents felt that middle-level officials were most corrupt, and only 8.1 per cent pointed a finger at the councillors. A majority of the complaints (45.2 per cent) were related to poor water supply followed by faulty streetlights, potholed roads (11.3 per cent) and choked sewerage (8.1 per cent). In Hoshiarpur, poor or polluted water supply accounted for half the complaints, while building construction made up for one-fourth of the grouses. In Moga and Amritsar, blockage of sewerage and poor water supply were the major grouses. In a damning indictment of the municipal bodies, the survey showed that 74.9 per cent of the people were dissatisfied with their grievance redressal system. The Jalandhar municipal body fared most poorly with only 2 per cent of the respondents saying that the civic body was prompt in dealing with grievances. The reasons for corruption, according to the study, ranged from poor work culture, faulty management, lack of proper planning, absence of transparency, to ad hoc allocation of resources. The people surveyed suggested transparency and involvement of the locals in grassroots initiatives would improve the delivery system. Principal Secretary, Local Bodies, DS Bains, however, blamed the old urban infrastructure for the corrupt system. "Urban infrastructure is nearing a collapse in the state for want of investment in the last decade and half. Some unscrupulous elements take advantage of people who want better services. The answer lies in massive investment to upgrade the urban services which we are doing this year.' Show 'em the money Of the 76.5 pc people who bribed Punjab civic body officials to get their work done:

  • I understand agony of Punjab farmers: Manmohan

    A word of thanks: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi with Punjab farmers who thanked the Central government for waiving their loans, in New Delhi on Monday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday assured a gathering of farmers from Punjab that the UPA government would address their grievances. However, as the budget is to be presented on Friday, Dr. Singh said it would be inappropriate to discuss the issues raised by them at this juncture. The farmers called on him to express gratitude for waiving off their loans. They submitted a charter of demands to him. In particular, they wanted the government to announce a debt relief package for small and marginal farmers in the budget. Dr. Singh said, "I understand the agony of the people of Punjab, especially farmers,' and sought to remind them that even last year, the UPA government announced a loan waiver for Punjab. The government wanted to see Punjab prosper, he said and thanked the farmers for organising the "thanksgiving rally' as it "exposed' the Akali Dal's claim of the Centre ignoring the State's farmers. The Akali Dal had been organising rallies, saying the UPA government was not protecting the Punjab farmers. "This is absolutely wrong and by coming here in such large numbers, you have proved it. The rights and interests of the people of Punjab are safe in the hands of the UPA government.' Dr. Singh and Ms. Gandhi also met another delegation of farmers from north India at the Congress president's residence during the day. At a press conference, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said the Congress strongly supported the legitimate demands of diverse sections of the farming community. Referring to farmers' meetings with the Prime Minister and Ms. Gandhi, he said the Congress always played a "pioneering and historic' role in developing agriculture. The government had kept up this tradition since 2004 with a series of "unique' initiatives "tailored and focussed' on the agricultural sector, which has seen an increase in allocation in the past three-and-half years of a scale not seen in the preceding years. He was confident that the government would respond positively to the farmers' demands for loan waiver or significant softening of the loan burden.

  • Farmers from 20 states want their pie in Union Budget

    Ahead of the Union Budget, farmers across the country have asked the government to consider agriculture as a separate entity and allocate a separate budget for it, besides interlink of all the rivers. Farmers from more than 20 states of the country had assembled under one banner and put forth their demands to MPs, Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Commerce and Industry Minister and the Planning Commission. Senior officials of the Consortium of Indian Farmers' Association (CIFA) said the farming community in the country wants a permanent solution to their problems rather than a short-term one through bonus on crops. "Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath have agreed to a long-term policy,' they told The Indian Express. CIFA secretary general Prabhakar K Reddy said they had urged the ministers to fix rates of crops based on cost of cultivation. He said they have also asked that rivers across the country should be interlinked so that input costs could be cut down. Farmer leaders from 24 states of the country had also met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, BJP president Rajnath Singh and Telgu Desham party chief Chandrababu Naidu. "A meeting of all MPs across the country has been scheduled for March 15 at Andhra Bhawan in Delhi for an open debate,' said farmers. Reddy said, "The government should have a national policy on agriculture and the report of National Farmers' Commission Chairman MS Swaminathan should be put implemented.' Punjab president of the CIFA Satnam Singh Baheru said if the MPs failed to pay heed to their plight, they would blacklist them and never vote for them.

  • Farmers in distress

    Develop rural non-farm sector by Ranjit Singh Ghuman Though the phenomenon of suicides by farmers in India has been aptly highlighted by the National Farmers' Commission (NFC) and the media, there are few studies pertaining to the socio-economic analysis of the victims and their households. According to the NFC, about 1.5 lakh farmers committed suicides in India up to 2006 in various states of India. The states with success stories of the green revolution have a high incidence of farmers' suicides. Some studies conclude that the highly capital intensive technique and over-mechanisation of farming operations have resulted in enormous increase in cost of cultivation. In fact, the entire farming operation is subject to serious diminishing returns. This means that the additional increments in the agricultural produce are coming up at a very high additional cost. As a consequence, the net return of the farmer is continuously declining and the debt burden is rising. It has been computed from the cost of cultivation data that the trend growth rate of per hectare net return, over variable costs in Punjab, from both wheat and paddy, was -2.18 per cent per annum during the decade of 1990s. It was -15.46 per cent per annum in cotton during the same period. Alongwith the declining net return, the employment opportunities in agriculture are also shrinking. According to certain estimates (Sucha Singh Gill, 2002), employment in principal crops in Punjab declined from 48 crore man days in 1983-84 to 43 crore man days in 1996-97. Given the state of technology, cropping pattern and shrinkage of land under agriculture, the availability of employment in agriculture must have declined further. In fact, per hectare employment of labour in major crops in Punjab declined by 20.31 per cent in 1996-97 compared to 1983-84. Alongwith this, the net sown area decreased from 4250 thousand hectares in 2000-01 to 4170 thousand hectares in 2005-06, in Punjab. Pressure of workforce on agriculture in India has not declined much over the period of time. At the same time, the number of marginal and small operational holdings in India have increased. A little more than 80 per cent of operational holdings in India are less than five acres. It is amply clear from the foregoing discussion that the economic distress of farmers at the lower rung is not simply because of crop failures or other such reasons, as is being projected by many economists and policy planners. The fundamental reason of their economic distress is rather their limited earnings from their very very small sized operational holdings. What can an acre of land can fetch to a farmer household in a year? The net earnings are between Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 20,000 at the maximum. About 62 per cent of the farmer-households in India fall in this category. If the average family size of such farmers is five persons, then their per day per capita income comes out to be between Rs. 8 to 11. According to a recent report on the status of workers in the unorganized sector (Govt. of India 2007), 77 per cent of the Indian population is having a per capita income of up to Rs. 12 a day. It, thus, includes the above 62 per cent of the farmer households. A recent study (2007) commissioned by the Punjab Farmers commission, on the Agricultural Labour in Punjab, also highlights that per capita daily income of 68 per cent labour households is only up to Rs. 10. This study also highlights that in 69 per cent of the total rural households and 90 per cent of the rural labour households in Punjab there is not even a single matriculation person. The meager level of earnings, non-availability of alternative employment opportunities, shrinking employment opportunities in agriculture, pressing social commitments, non-availability of adequate institutional loan, etc., are responsible for mounting debt burden on the farmers and labourers. According to a recent NSS survey (2005), 48.6 per cent farmer households are under an average debt of Rs. 12585. As regards farmers' suicides in Punjab, there are various estimates. Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan) has already enlisted 3126 suicides by farmers and agricultural labourers from 376 villages located in 10 districts of Punjab. Interestingly this data pertains to only 3 per cent of the total villages in Punjab. This necessitates a detailed census of suicides in the state. A recent study of 2008 (Gurpreet Singh, Punjabi University) highlights that out of 200 sampled suicide victims 33 were agricultural labourers. This means agricultural labourers are equally under economic distress. The study highlights that about 81 per cent farmer suicide victims own less than 5 acres of land and the remaining 19 per cent were in the range of 5 to 10 acres. The average amount of debt on the farmer victims' households was Rs. 2.7 lakh and that and the labour households was Rs. 57121. It is often said that unproductive use of loan, drug addition and shirking from work are the basic reasons behind farmers' suicides in Punjab. Various studies, however, highlight that economic distress is the root-cause behind the suicide by farmers and labourers. As regards work-shirking, not even single farmers upto 5 acres employ any attached labourer. Only 35 per cent of such farmers occasionally employ casual labour. Clearly, the solution to the problem lies in the correct diagnosis of the illness. The illness lies in the small-size of holdings and unbearable burden of workforce on agriculture. The solution would, thus be, the systematic withdrawal of work force from the agricultural sector. And that would be possible only by the development of the rural non-farm sector. This transition is inevitable. Planned and systematic efforts would, however, make it less painful. The writer is professor of economics at Punjabi University, Patiala

  • "Punjab has been bleeding itself to feed the nation'

    "Punjab has been bleeding itself in order to feed the nation. It has sacrificed both of its precious natural assets

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