News Wrap


The Mahanadi Water dispute between Odisha and Chattisgarh aggravated since June 2016, as Chattisgarh unilaterally shut all gates of Kalma barrage, causing distress to downstream areas of Odisha. The downstream areas of Jharsuguda district are the worst affected. Sambalpur and Bargarh districts are also affected. The Kalma barrage is one of the six barrages, across the inter-state Mahanadi river. As per the 1945 understanding when the Hirakund dam was planned, the stoppage of free flow of water is contrary to the riparian rights, under Section 3 of the Inter-State River Waters Disputes Act (1956). The Chattisgarh state government’s view is that Chattisgarh is using only 4% of the water in Mahanadi, and almost the entire catchment area is in Chattisgarh. Odisha is using more than 80% of the water. An original suit in the Supreme Court has been filed by the Odisha state government demanding to restrain the Chattisgarh state government from proceeding with the construction of six barrages, including Kalma barrage, across the Mahanadi River.

Farmers’ Suicides
Despite a two-and-half fold increase in India’s population since 1947, chronic food scarcity in the country has been transformed to self sufficiency in grains. Agriculture in India is cereal centric and regionally biased. Demand for land, water and fertiliser has increased by the input-intensive method. There has been a sharp decline in cultivable land per person. Institutional support to the farmers, in terms of marketing agricultural produce could not cope up with industrilisation and climate change. By 2013-14, India’s wheat output is 60% higher than USA’s, and milk output is 50% higher. India’s average yield of wheat and rice is 46% and 39% below that of China. The average wheat yield of India in 2016 was about 3100 kg/hector (ha), which is lower than the world average of 3257 kg/ha. Punjab and Haryana have much higher yields amounting to 4500 kg/ha. Most other Indian states have yields lower than that of Bangladesh. In case of paddy, in all Indian states the yield is lower than that of China, and most states have yields below Bangladesh. The total number of operational land holdings in India is 138.55 million, with an average size of 1.5 hectares. Of the total holdings, 85% are marginal and small farm categories, of less than 2 hectares. Small and marginal holdings have higher productivity in comparison with large sized holdings, but they have low marketable surplus and profit.

Around 270,000 farmers have committed suicide in the past fifteen years. Shame arising out of inability to repay loans taken from relatives and acquaintances, faulty crop choices, rising input costs and aspirational consumption patterns are major factors driving farmers to suicides. Formal credit to farmers has grown tenfold, since 2001, but loans are more accessible to farmers with large holdings. Credit from non-institutional sources still predominate. Families bereaved by suicides have outstanding debts over Rs 2 lacs, per family. As of March 2017, the total farm loans in Punjab are over Rs 72,000 crore. Rs 36,000 crore loans have been taken by small and marginal farmers, who are expecting farm loan waiver from the government. There is a drop of 50% farm loan recoveries in Punjab. End May 2017, the Punjab state government abolished Section 67A of Punjab Co-operative Societies Act, 1961, which provides for ‘Kurki’ (attachment) to recover loans from co-operative banks, as arrears of land revenue.

Agriculture’s share in India’s gross domestic product is about 18.2%. For about two-thirds of India’s population, agriculture and allied activities remain the major source of livelihood. Public expenditure on agriculture is less than 1% of India’s GDP.

In most districts of Madhya Pradesh, enraged farmers in June 2017, blocked entry of produce into vegetable markets and ‘mandis’. Farmers are complaining of their debts not being waived off, and not getting fair price for their produce from the state government. Dairy owners spilt litres of milk on the roads in protests. At least six farmers were killed and about half a dozen injured when police opened fire on agitating farmers in Mandsaur district on 06 June 2017.

Confederacy Monuments
Since June 2017, monuments to the confederacy in the southern states of USA are being torn down. This is a joy for race campaigners and a dismay for heritage groups. Jackhammers have ripped into confederate monuments in St Louis Missouri. Many of those who died in the civil war between Union and Confederate forces do not have gravestones, but the Confederacy monuments represent history. Removal of the St Louis monument is the latest chapter in a debate that has been disturbing the American south, in recent months, exposing old divisions. Most politics in USA is local. ‘‘Black Lives Matter’’ activists are defacing monuments in the southern states, while many descedents of Civil War veterans would like to preserve history. The 38 feet monument in Forest Park, dedicated to Confederate veterans from Missouri who lost their lives in the war, was taken down by workers, after a long and bitter struggle. After a campaign to save the monument by Missouri Civil War Museum and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who paid for its upkeep, the monument will be restored and relocated outside the city. ‘‘Black Lives Matter’’, ‘‘End Racism’’, and other new civil rights movements are demanding the removal of Confederate symbols across the south of America. The 2015 murder of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, led to the Confederate flag being hauled down, from the city’s state house.

Vol. 50, No.18, Nov 5 - 11, 2017