ANDHRA PRADESH

Guidelines sought for ryots' package

GUNTUR, MAY 27. Fake seeds, contaminated fertilizer and pesticides clubbed with failure of rains for the past two years and lack of remunerative prices for commercial crops were identified as the major reasons for increasing number of suicides among the farmers in Guntur district.

A meeting of MLAs, leaders of all political parties and representatives of farmers' associations with the district Collector, K. Ramakrishna Rao, in the chair identified prevention of suicides as the immediate necessity along with clear-cut guidelines from the State Government on the package to be offered to the farmers calling up helpline numbers.

Participants also agreed on the need to post mortem on all the dead farmers mandatory. The Collector said zero tolerance would be shown in closing down shops selling fake pesticides and seeds and appealed to the farmers to tell revenue officials their problems so that the administration could come to their rescue.

From the analysis of the suicide cases reported so far farmers who had sown cotton and chillies were the main sufferers as prices of these high-risk crops were not remunerative.

The problem was the worst in Guntur district as it contributes to 10 per cent of the State's total agriculture production. The Collector asked farmers to prepare seeds themselves and use bio-manure and insecticide to reduce financial burden and ensure that not much damage was done to their fields. Commercialisation of agriculture after globalisation of the economy had also brought with it the risks associated with the open market, Mr. Ramakrishna Rao said.

He sought the cooperation of all political parties and farmers' associations in efforts to ensure that only genuine farmers who committed suicide due to mounting debts and crop loss since 1998 got the relief package. The Vinukonda MLA, Makkena Mallikarjuna Rao, said the Government was unable to put and end to the business of unlicensed pesticide and seeds traders.

The Chilakaluripet MLA, Marri Rajasekhar, wanted the interests of tillers who take land on lease to be protected and registration of all lease agreements made compulsory. He called for more chilli purchase centres and non-bailable warrants against those selling fake pesticides.

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