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Priest blames government for deaths

Paddy procurement policies causing many farmers to commit suicide, he says

Priest blames government for deaths
A rice field
Julian Das, Kolkata

February 17, 2012

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A Jesuit priest in West Bengal says a growing number of farmer suicides farmers are a direct result of inept paddy procurement procedures adopted by the state government. At least 32 farmers have taken their own lives over the past four months, most in the state’s Burdwan district. “The government is responsible for the debacle as it didn’t procure paddy direct from the farmers who harvested the crop,” Father Irudaya Jothi, director of the Jesuit-run Udayani (awakening) social center said today. The center is involved in promoting awareness campaigns on the government’s Right to Food Act in the state’s Burdwan and Hooghly districts. Father Jothi says local distributors have an arrangement with designated rice mills meaning farmers are required to take paddy to these mills at great expense to themselves. He said farmers are therefore unwilling to sell their harvest to private agencies as they buy the rice at a much lower price than the government. Farmers are subsequently not able to repay any debts as they cannot sell their crop, said the priest. The government should procure paddy from farmers directly without using middlemen, he added. Father Yesukani Soosaiappan, director of the Baruipur diocesan social center, Palli Unnayan Samity (rural development society), also accused the government of not providing seeds of a particular variety of paddy, which is easier to grow and so is in demand among farmers. “There was a very positive response from farmers to cultivate a saline-tolerant variety of paddy, but unfortunately the government is not giving out seeds of this variety,” he said. A member of the opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist) Shyamal Chakrabarty claimed that farmer suicides are increasing in the state and also urged the government today to buy paddy from the farmers directly, as was done during his party’s 34-year rule. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee denied her policies are to blame, calling the accusations baseless. Related links: More farmer deaths feared as authorities get tough  
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