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Kerala's farm labourers are paying for excessive pesticide use with their health -- and lives -TA Ameerudheen

-Scroll.in Two labourers died of suspected pesticide poisoning in Kuttanad, the state’s rice bowl, in January. On the morning of January 17, KK Sanal Kumar strapped a motorised sprayer onto his back and left for a paddy field near his home in Peringara gram panchayat of Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district. The owners of the field, Unnikrishnan and Sanil, gave him several bottles of the highly hazardous pesticide Viraat to spray on their 40-day-old crop. The field forms a part of the 55,000-hectare rice-growing area in the Kuttanad region, popularly known as Kerala’s rice bowl. Kumar diluted the pesticide with water with his bare hands and sprayed it without wearing protective gear. Manufactured by the United Phosphorous Company, Viraat is a concoction of cypermethrine and quinalphos pesticides. The Kerala Agriculture University’s advisory to farmers cultivating commercial crops recommends using it on cotton and brinjal, but not rice. But Unnikrishnan and Sanil decided to spray Viraat in...

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Worst droughts, famines in India due to lack of moisture, says study -Snehal Fernandes

-Hindustan Times Previous attempts to study 18th and 19th century droughts have been limited to meteorological droughts caused by failure of rains A study that reconstructed droughts and famines across India over the last 146 years says lack of moisture in the soil for extended periods of time can be linked to some of the most devastating famines. Previous attempts to study 18th and 19th century droughts have been limited to meteorological droughts caused by failure of rains. The latest study -- by Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar (IIT-Gn), University of California, and the India Meteorological Department, Pune — for the first time links decline in soil moisture to droughts and famines. It is important because groundwater, which can improve soil moisture during drought, is being depleted rapidly. “Drought causes depletion of soil moisture and groundwater. Moreover, to replenish soil moisture, groundwater abstraction increases during drought, which further negatively impacts groundwater storage,” said Vimal...

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Policy bias against rainfed agriculture -Priscilla Jebaraj

-The Hindu Three out of five farmers in India grow their crops using rainwater, instead of irrigation. However, per hectare government investment into their lands may be 20 times lower, government procurement of their crops is a fraction of major irrigated land crops, and many of the government’s flagship agriculture schemes are not tailored to benefit them. A new rainfed agriculture atlas released this week not only maps the agro biodiversity and socio-economic conditions prevailing in such areas, but also attempts to document the policy biases that are making farming unviable for many in these areas. There has been “negligence” toward rainfed areas which is leading to lower incomes for farmers in these areas, admitted Ashok Dalwai, CEO of the National Rainfed Area Authority. He also heads the government’s Committee on Doubling of Farmers’ Income. Speaking on the sidelines of a conference on revitalising agriculture in rainfed areas, he said farmers in rainfed...

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Farm subsidy to loan waivers: A race to compensate farmers for their losses -Ashok Gulati

-Financial Express With elections approaching, every party is swearing by farmers and trying to woo them for their votes. The Modi government has already announced a package of Rs 75,000 crore for about 12.6 crore small and marginal farmers. While in absolute terms it looks sizeable, when it is divided by the number of farm families to be covered, it is miniscule—just `6,000 per family per year, which is about 6% of their annual income. This level of support, unless augmented further, may not go far to win farmers’ confidence. Majority would agree that farmers have been under stress for quite some time, and have not got justice so far. While the Modi government claims that its record of overall growth (GDP) is better than the UPA government (notwithstanding the suspicion that many have on the GDP revised series), the nature of growth matters as well. In a country where 47% of...

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Rahul asks Congress CMs to undo BJP govts' changes in land acquisition law -Nitin Sethi & Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava

-Business Standard Congress president's letters to chief ministers of Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan asks them to 'review the implementation' of the Land Acquisition Act. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has asked the party’s chief ministers in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to undo changes that previous BJP governments made to the land acquisition law and related regulations. Gandhi has written letters asking the chief ministers to ensure that the rights of tribals and forest-dwellers are fully protected under the Forest Rights Act, particularly in an ongoing case before the Supreme Court where the petitioners have asked for eviction of tribals and challenging the validity of the law. Business Standard reviewed letters written by Gandhi to Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, Madhya Pradesh’s Kamal Nath and Rajasthan's Ashok Gehlot detailing his views on these two counts.  “The Modi government tried to dilute the (land acquisition) law in 2015 by severely curtailing its provisions. It was forced...

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