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Punjab used to be the most prosperous agricultural region in India Today every farmer is in debt and despair Vast stretches of land have become water-logged desert Elder town members say that even the trees have stopped bearing fruit because heavy use of pesticides have killed the pollinators - the bees and butterflies And Punjab is not alone in experiencing this ecological and social disaster Farmers who traditionally grew pulses and millets and paddy have been lured by seed companies to buy hybrid cotton seeds referred to by the seed merchants as white gold which were supposed to make them millionaires Instead they became paupers Their native seeds have been displaced with new hybrids which cannot be saved and need to be purchased every year at high cost Hybrids are also very vulnerable to pest attacks Spending on pesticides in Warangal has shot up 2000 per cent from 25 million in the 1980s to 50 million in 1997 Now farmers are consuming the same pesticides as a way of killing themselves so that they can escape permanently from unpayable debt The corporations are now trying to introduce genetically engineered seed which will further increase costs and ecological risks That is why farmers like Malla Reddy of the Andhra Pradesh Farmers Union had uprooted Monsantos genetically engineered Bollgard cotton in Warangal On March 27th 25 year old Betavati Ratan took his life because he could not pay pack debts for drilling a deep tube well on his two-acre farm The wells are now dry as are the wells in Gujarat and Rajasthan where more than 50 million people face a water famine The drought is not a natural disaster It is man-made It is the result of mining of scarce ground water in arid regions to grow thirsty cash crops for exports instead of water prudent food crops for local needs It is experiences such as these which tell me
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