Uttar Pradesh farmer suicides evoke concern


Lucknow : Were anti-poverty programmes ill-suited to prevent suicides by farmers in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh?

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The question was raised by Actionaid, an international anti-poverty agency, in the wake of three farmer suicides on three successive days in the region last month.

Addressing a press conference here Thursday, Actionaid regional manager Sugipta Kumar expressed deep concern over what he termed as "unsuitable" experiments being tried in the poverty-ridden Bundelkhand region of southern Uttar Pradesh.

Terming government response to the grave problem as "far from adequate", he felt "much stronger intervention by the administration is needed to protect farmers and landless workers and to ensure food security".

Kumar's associate and journalist Bharat Dogra, who was also a researcher with Actionaid's Hunger Monitoring Project said: "The government has failed to wake up to changing ground realities – be it the climatic changes or other economic factors – that were compelling poor farmers to end their lives."

Blaming the government for not caring to build programmes to suit the typical problems of a particular area, Dogra felt, "It was clearly lack of application of mind; the government machinery was simply trying to replicate a model that might have been successful in a particular state, but did not go with the prevailing conditions in another state."

He said: "Why anti-poverty programmes had failed in Bundelkhand was because officials sought to superimpose the Punjab, Haryana or the western UP model, that was least suited in this part of the country."

Apart from suspecting large-scale pilferage and rampant corruption in the state bureaucracy, Actionaid also discovered major loopholes in the implementation of the government's ambitious rural employment guarantee programme.

"Even if the guaranteed employment of at least 100 days in a year could be insured at the prescribed daily wage of Rs.58, the total amount of Rs.5,800 would suffice to at least buy minimum food to keep them alive," pointed out Dogra.

"It was therefore high time something drastic was done to ensure implementation of such basic anti-poverty programmes," he emphasised.

Embarking on the larger issue of changing climatic conditions, Dogra said: "The last four to five years have seen an accentuation of adverse weather conditions with farmers being affected by prolonged drought, floods, untimely rain and hailstorms, besides decrease in annual rainfall."

He therefore called for "a change in the government's entire approach towards poverty and hunger".