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Rainspotting in Bangalore

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Death by fax? [Jul. 2nd, 2009|09:30 pm]
Rainspotting in Bangalore


India is a passionate country, but two thousand men reduced to requesting death in a fax to the president cannot be notched down to mere dramatics. Impoverished by their thirsty, barren lands, this is the path of action that has been chosen by desperate farmers - and not for the first time.

The Palamau district in the eastern state of Jharkhand is experiencing its fourth year of drought, and the ten thousand farmers that live from the land are getting desperate. Having already lost their yearly crop due to drought, the farmers are now watching their cattle die, as they have no fodder or water to sustain them. More than 100 cattle have died so far.

Two thousand of these men have signed four-page letter, which will be faxed to the Indian President and Prime Minister. Filled with the signatures and thumb-prints of farmers in a dramatic protest to bring attention to their plight, the letter stated:

"In the 2006 drought, farmers sold their bullock cart, goats and other things. In 2007, we sold our piece of land. In the 2008 drought, we were forced to sell the jewellery of our wives. Now what should we sell in the 2009 drought. Should we sell ourselves?

"We may have been deprived to lead a respectable life but we should be allowed a respectable death."

The request for mercy killing is not one that is new to India, nor is it a de facto request for euthanasic drugs. It is used to make the point that these people feel they are dying a little bit every day, robbed of income, identity, food. A similar request in 2006, again faxed to the President, explained "we would like to end our lives instead of suffering crop losses every year", and this is the severity of this situation for these people.

For now, the ten thousand Palamau farmers are being placated by government handouts, promises of high-breeding paddy seeds, adaptation methods. But is this the future for these people relegated to dependency? Quite aside from the issues of self-respect, the government must soon groan under the strain. The
annual economic survey of India was published today, with the sobering calculation that climate change is already costing India 2.6% of its gross domestic product - a figure sadly likely to increase.

As stated in the
Stern Review, climate change could create major social and economic disruption on a scale similar to that experienced during the World Wars and in the Great Depression.  Economic growth for both developing and developed countries need not necessarily be capped, but it will only be achieved with the rapid implementation of policy for long-term sustainable development.  

You can sign the Greenpeace petition requesting a renewable energy law for India here.