Nagpur-bench of Mumbai HC takes serious view of unabated suicides of Vidarbha farmers

By Pervez Bari,

Bhopal : Taking serious cognizance of the unabated suicides by farmers in the Vidarbha region of western Indian state of Maharashtra and failure of various packages announced for these crisis-ridden farmers, the Division Bench of Mumbai High Court at Nagpur today expressed great concern about the matter and came down heavily on the style and approach of the Maharashtra Government in tackling the issue.

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The High Court asked to furnish every details on the Farm Loan / Credit Policy, Agriculture Loan Recovery Policy and interest waiver scheme and its implementation for farmers in crisis within 10 days, according to a Press release issued by Santosh Netam, Media Incharge of Nagpur-based Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, (VJAS).

While hearing the Public Interest Litigation, (PIL), filed by VJAS president Kishore Tiwari, the Division Bench headed by Justice Dilip Sinha and Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari at Nagpur Bench of Mumbai High Court expressed its great concern and displeasure on the entire crisis and observed that the farmers suicides are matter of serious concern to the society and the Court but the State seems to be little serious about the issue.

The Division Bench is hearing the PIL. pertaining to continued suicides of the farmers in the cotton cultivating western Vidarbha region toll of which has now crossed 1875 in last two years. Though the writ petition was filed by the petitioner way back in the month of February 2006, the respondents State Officials have failed to obey the orders passed by the High Court from time to time. The plight of the farmers is going from bad to worse as farmers’ suicides are reported from every crisis-ridden districts of Vidarbha region. The bouncing of cheque of Rs. 10,000/- issued from PMO Relief Fund to farm widow is the classic example of how casually the Maharashtra State Government is functioning.

Today when the matter came up for further hearing before the High Court, the petitioners’ counsel pointed out various short comings in the schemes implemented and failure of the packages under implementation. The High Court Division Bench was shocked to take the note of the same and finally passed orders seeking every details of various farm credit policies.

The petitioner has made party respondents to Chief Secretary of the State and other top officials including Principal Secretary-Home Affairs, Principal Secretary Agriculture, Principal Secretary Marketing, Secretary Co-operation, Commissioner of Agriculture at Pune, Director General of Police, Divisional Commissioners of Revenue Divisions at Amravati & Nagpur,
Director General of Specially Formed Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swawlamban Mission having office at Amravati & National Commission for Farmers, appointed by Ministry of Agriculture headed by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

The PIL with the wide ranging prayers in the interest of cotton cultivating farmers community at large. The prayers are as under: –

i) the High Court to take cognizance of the plight of poor farmers who were compelled to commit suicide due to wrong policies of the State; ii) to order necessary probe / enquiry in the role of State Officers in promoting BT. Cotton which resulted in the failure of crop; iii) to direct investigation through CBI, Vigilance Commission, CID or any other independent agency in the matter of sale of bogus and duplicate BT. Cotton seeds by the companies and involvement of the officials of the State in inducing the poor farmers for cultivating the BT. Cotton; iv) to order prosecution of the guilty officials for the offences punishable under Section 306, 409, 420 & 120 (B) of Indian Penal Code and their overacts causing series of suicides of farmers; v) to direct the State to compensate the families of the farmers who were compelled to commit suicide by the negligence of the State by providing Rs. 5,00,000/- each without any disparity or choose & pick policy; vi) to direct the State to take immediate
measures for granting financial assistance to the Cotton Growing Farmers & to take further steps to protect the farmers from the coercive recovery at the hands of banks & private money-lenders; vii) to direct the State to place Action Taken Report on the recommendations of Swaminathan Committee; viii) to direct the State to take appropriate action against the BT. Cotton Seeds companies for compensating the poor farmers who committed suicides & ix) other relief which the High Court may find suitable in the facts and circumstances.

The High Court has fixed the next date of hearing on August 16 in the case after 10 days. Advocate Firdos Mirza & Advocate Vinod Tiwari appeared for the petitioner and the Maharashtra State Government was represented by Asstt. Govt. Pleader Mrs. Bharati Dangre.

Meanwhile, Now in the background of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee also submitted its report to the Prime Minister and the Congress president Mrs. Sonia Gandhi highlighting the gross failure of the State Govt. to tackle the continued farmers suicides in the Vidarbha region and failure to implement the various packages announced by the PMO & State Govt. It is felt that today’s High Court order has come as a blow to the Congress-ruled Vilasrao Deshmukh Government. ([email protected])