May 23, 2012
The Honourable Minister for Agriculture
Shri Sharad Pawar
(1) REQUEST YOUR URGENT INTERVENTION TO ENSURE JUSTICE FOR THE RUINED POMEGRENATE FARMERS OF HANUMANGARH DISTRICT, RAJASTHAN, WHO ARE THREATENING MASS SUICIDE AFTER FAILING TO GUEST JUSTICE SO FAR
(2) REQUEST THAT YOU KINDLY GRANT A MEETING WITH A DELEGATION OF AFFECTED FARMERS OF HANUMANGARH DISTRICT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
This is to draw your attention to the terrible plight of pomegranate farmers in Hanumangarh, Rajasthan.
Hundreds of farmers of Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan who planted pomegranate saplings in their farms since 2005-2006 have gone bankrupt. For the past 4 years, they have been demanding that the concerned agricultural and horticultural departments of the Central and State governments fulfill their promises to the farmers. However, the requests of the farmers have fallen on deaf years. As the farmers say, there has been a lot of paper action and passing of the buck between different ministries, but no relief on the ground.
It may be noted that in 2005-2006, as part of the plan of the National Horticultural Board (Rashtriya Bagvani Board) to promote Horticulture farming, the representatives of this Board came to encourage the farmers of Hanumangarh to take up Pomegranate farming. They did a massive promotional campaign including seminars, and offered all kinds of incentives, as well as created a rosy picture of how much monies the farmers would make from switching from traditional crops to Pomegranate farming. They organized training camps. They distributed literature in which it was explicitly mentioned that Hanumangarh district was in every way extremely
suitable for growing Anars. The officials announced that 20% of the capital required for the plantations would be provided as grant by the NHB. The officials prepared a project report. The officials of the NHB directed which companies the farmers should buy the inputs necessary. They organized meetings between specialists working in these companies and the farmers. The NHB officials also declared that that only those farmers would get the grant who followed strictly the flowing norms — the farmers must construct diggis in their farms, they must adopt drip irrigation, (boond boond padvati), protect the farms with barbed wire fencing , take loans from banks, and then plant anar saplings. They were also asked to construct housing for agricultural workers working on their farms as per the instructions of the NHB. Trusting the NHB officials and the government, many farmers of the district began converting their farms to Anar farms in the period 2005 to 2008.
For this, they created infrastructure including diggi construction, drip irrigation, electric motors or diesel pump sets, storage house, and residential quarters for workers in their farms. To be eligible for the grant, they had to take loan from the banks reccomended by the NHB which all farmers did.
Anar trees flower after three years. When the farmers looked hopefully for a good crop in 2008, they were in for complete disappointment. The Anars were spotted, diseased and broke up on their own.
The farmers contacted the department officials, but there was no assistance from them. After the farmers went to the media and complained to all possible officials, only in September 2009 did teams from the department care to visit the farms. These included people from the agricultural university as well as from the agricultural department. A month later, a team from the National Anar Research Center from Solapur (Maharashtra) surveyed the farms. This team clearly stated in its report that there was bacterial blight in the crops. The team blamed the farmers themselves for using infected saplings. They alleged that the farmers had on their bought the anar saplings from Malegaon, Maharashtra. Whereas the truth is that the farmers simply followed the instructions of the officials of the department.
After this, the concerned departments declared that a maximum of 50% of the cost of using herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers etc. necessary to get rid of the bacterial blight, or 25,000 Rupees per hectare would be provided as grant under provisions of the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana. This too was provided only to those farmers who had planted anar saplings before September 2007. In fact, the farmers spent Rs 51,000 per hectare in this manner and got back Rs 25,000 per hectare. However, all this expenditure did not result in improvement of crops. After this, the farmers lost all hope. They wrote letters to the Chief Minister and to all concerned officials. No action has been taken on the ground to provide them relief. Instead, the banks are hounding the farmers for repayment of the loans and interest. The farmers have not only lost the regular income they would have got if they had stuck to traditional crops, they are saddled with massive debt to the banks, and no income for several years.
According to a reply to a RTI question raised by a concerned farmer, the Horticultural department has distributed nearly 3 lakh anar saplings in Hanumangarh district alone in the period 2005-2006 to 2009-2010.
As you would no doubt be aware, there is a provision by which if 50% of crop gets damaged, the state government is supposed to provide adequate compensation. The farmers are claiming that 100% of their crops are destroyed. Even the reports of the government departments admit that 95% crop
damage has taken place. The farmers have been driven to complete ruin because they implemented the agricultural policy of the central and state governments and followed strictly the instructions of the National Horticulture Board.
The farmers are demanding compensation for the crops that have failed and the waiver of the mounting debts to the banks. Their plight is desperate and they are threatening mass suicide if your government does not intervene in their favour.
We appeal to you to kindly order an urgent investigation into the matter and ensure that those responsible for this crisis facing the farmers are held accountable for this. We demand that the government immediately compensate the farmers for the losses they have suffered because of following the directive of the NHB and ensure that the banks waive the loans provided to the farmers.
We are enclosing the following documents for your reference:
1. Letter from the affected farmers to the Vice President of Lok Raj Sangathan, Shri Hanuman Prasad Sharma
2. Letter to the district collector and district magistrate, Hanumangarh
3. Letter to the Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Jaipur
4. Letter to the Chief Minister of Rajasthan
5. Letter to the Honourable Agriculture Minister from the youth Congress General Secretary, Nohar
6. Letter to the Director of Plantations, Jaipur
7. Letters to various officials in the Department of Plantations, Hanumagarh district
8. Letter to the director of the National Horticulture Board
9. Letter to the President, All India Council, Lok Raj Sangathan
10. Statement issued by the affected farmers to highlight their condition
11. Newspaper reports of the conditions of the farmers, their repeated appeals to the authorities and their agitation
President, Lok Raj Sangathan