BANGALORE: The number of reported cases of farmer suicides in the State touched 185 in the first half of this financial year (2008-09).
The State’s agricultural sector has been facing a plethora of problems. Apart from the erratic monsoon this year, the shortage of fertilizers disrupted kharif sowing, leading to a delay in sowing operations in several districts.
The global economic slowdown is likely to depress the prices of cotton, while sugarcane growers are threatening an agitation seeking higher support price for their produce.
Sugarcane growers are unhappy with the procurement price (Rs. 811 a tonne) offered by the Government.
The State has not been able meet the sowing target set for the kharif season (2008). Sowing took place on 65.36 lakh hectares of land against the target of 74.4 lakh hectares, achieving 87 per cent of the target.
As on September 30, the highest number of suicide cases was reported from Hassan district (23).
A large tract of potato crop was destroyed in Hassan district owing to incessant rain during the kharif season. The loss has been estimated at over Rs. 300 crore. Hassan topped the list in the number of suicides by farmers in 2003-04 (69) and 2004-05 (37).
In Bidar district, 20 farmers committed suicide followed by 15 in Belgaum, 13 in Chikmagalur, 12 in Mandya, and 10 each in Bijapur and Chitradurga.
The number of cases reported from other districts are: Haveri – 2; Uttara Kannada – 6; Dharwad – 8; Koppal, Ramanagaram and Raichur – 3 each; Tumkur, Gulbarga, Gadag and Mysore – 7 each; Shimoga – 8; Kodagu – 4; Davangere – 6; and Dakshina Kannada – 1, according to sources in the Government.
Not a single case of suicide by farmers has been reported from six districts. The two drought-prone districts of Kolar and Chikkaballapur, and Bangalore Rural, Bangalore Urban, Chamarajnagar and Udupi districts reported no suicide cases between April and September 2008.
The number of farmers committing suicide has seen a decline from 2000-01, when 2,360 farmers ended their lives.
As many as 708 suicide cases were reported in 2003-04, 271 in 2004-05, 163 in 2005-06, 343 cases in 2006-07, and 340 in 2007-08.
Of the 185 cases reported so far this year, 136 cases have been placed before a committee set up to sanction compensation to the next of kin.
The committee rejected the claims in 62 cases and awarded compensation of Rs. 1 lakh to the families concerned in 23 cases.
The panel recommended compensation in 26 cases while the remaining cases are pending before the committee, according to official sources.
Officials said that investigation of the deaths by the police and the district administration revealed discrepancies between statements made to the police by the relatives immediately after the death and later.
Some natural deaths had been reported as suicide cases to get compensation from the Government, they said.
It is well known that “undue pressure” by moneylenders and some recovery agents of banks forced farmers to commit suicides in most cases.
The volume of business in private lending has increased four-fold during the past decade in the State.
The Technical Group to Review Legislation on Money Lending (headed by retired banker S.C. Gupta), which submitted its report to the Reserve Bank of India, stated that the money lent by moneylenders in the State increased to Rs. 87.70 crore in March 2006 from Rs. 19.22 crore in March 1995.