The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dubious credit: largest slum
- 15 % rural population migrating to city every year, experts see a ghetto

Jamshedpur, Jan. 31: Jharkhand will become the largest urban slum in the country by 2015, warned experts here today. As many as 15 per cent of the state's rural population, they pointed out, are being driven every year to the urban centres in search of a livelihood.

Decline in agriculture and the flawed policies of the state, they said, were responsible for the looming crisis.

Like middle-eastern countries, they said, the government of Jharkhand should also pay royalty to villagers for mining activities. In the Middle-east, they pointed out, people are being paid royalty if oil is struck. By the same logic, villagers in Jharkhand should get royalty on a continuing basis rather than compensation for displacement. The royalty would help them plough back the money into agriculture.

The situation, they said, will worsen next year when foodgrain, especially rice, start being imported into the country. Imported rice, heavily subsidised by the exporting countries, will be sold at a cheaper rate than domestic rice, driving the marginal farmer in Jharkhand up the wall. Calcutta port being so close to Jharkhand, the experts maintained, there is a high probability of imported rice being made available in Jharkhand. Around 50 experts on 'international food and trade policy' have gathered here for a two-day national workshop on 'food sovereignty' organised jointly by the Centre for World Solidarity and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at Vikas Bharati in Sundarnagar.

Devinder Sharma, a trade analyst, said Jharkhand was primarily a rice-producing state and required water and irrigation. In the absence of adequate water supply, crop failures keep recurring here. V. Rukmini Rao, a senior member of the South Asian Alliance for Poverty Alleviation, also felt that Jharkhand will be among the state hit the hardest by the import of foodgrains.

Both the experts warned the state against allowing 'contract farming' under which corporate houses take over plots for a fixed period. It has been seen in UP and Andhra Pradesh, they said that while initial returns to the farmers are attractive, they tend to lose in the long run. Corporate houses invariably tend to return the land when the yield tapers off and the fertility of the soil declines, they claimed. In many cases, the farmers are unable to produce any crop over a long period thereafter.

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