WHILE writing out the receipt for Pandurang Kadam's onion crop on April 19, the trader did not realise that it would be used as forensic evidence. The next day Pandurang returned to the Lasalgaon market and set himself on fire. The town watched in shock as Pandurang burned in the yard where a thousand farmers' hopes are extinguished every day. In his pocket, they recovered the receipt.

SIX months ago, 65-year-old Kashinath Ravan Kolge killed himself by drinking pesticide. His wife Venubai Kolge says mounting debt drove him to suicide. "He had taken a loan to dig a borewell. But we did not get any water. We had no money left. The crops were yielding very little. It was a hopeless situation."

Tangled web

"Kidney Sale Centre," proclaims a banner sprawled across a ramshackle bamboo tent at Shingnapur village in Amravati district of Maharashtra. The farmers here are threatening to sell their kidneys. "We have invited the Prime Minister and the President to inaugurate this kidney shop. They should allow us to sell our kidneys. We are all ruined by debt. Many farmers are killing themselves.

"WHY else do you think people who barely get enough to eat, who don't even earn Rs.50 a day, have borrowed money to come for this rally?" asked D.P. Vishe, a farmer from Shahpur in Thane district, Maharashtra. "Because this is the only hope we have left. To come together and fight the injustices against farmers."

This paper has three parts: 

• A report found that 12 months after a ban on smoking in bars in New Zealand, there were no downturn in bar sales, tourism or employment, contrary to predictions of serious economic consequences to the hospital industry following the ban.

Notwithstanding the legislative provisions to safeguard their landed interests, tribals are getting driven to circumstances in which retaining hold over the land under their possession is becoming difficult. The quality of land held by them is so poor that, in its present form, it cannot promise them any reasonable returns. The low returns leave little surplus for tribals to plough it back into agriculture to improve the quality of the land.

Punjab peasantry is in the clutches of severe indebtedness. To overcome the problem of debt trap, effective measures should be taken by the government, social organisations and farming community. The government should exercise a strong check on the activities on non-institutional credit agencies and provide institutional credit facilities to the farming community at low rates of interest with easy repayment facilities. The co-operative sector should be developed/strengthened in the state.

One of the serious and unrelenting problems faced by the Indian farmers households has been indebtedness. Despite substantial improvement in agricultural output as well as distribution of credit through institutional sources since the introduction of the new agricultural technology, indebtedness among the farmers households is found to be widespread even today.