South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (SICCFM)
November 18th, 2011
Kalpetta, Wayanad, Kerala
Interim Report of the South Indian farmers’ inquiry committee into farmers’ suicides in Wayanad district, Kerala.
The committee recognizes the Kerala government’s initiative in inquiring into the deaths of farmers in Wayanad district. Against the backdrop of the wave of farmers’ suicides, a committee was formed, as defining the causes of these suicides is of critical importance. This committee members are S. Kannaiyan from the South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (SICCFM); Mr Ravindranath president, and Mr Davidson State secretary of Kerala Coconut Farmers Association; B Manjunath and Pacce Nanjundaswamy from Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and CK Janu, President of Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha. The committee spent time with four affected families in Wayanad. The homes of Ashokan of Palpally, Jose of Nallur Nadu, Sasidharan of Mallisserikkunnil and Raju Vargeesh of Meppady, Nathankunni were visited.
The reoccurring theme between these four families is ginger. Some had undertaken cultivation in Kerela, others in Karnataka. The cost of ginger production is very high, involving costs of chemical fertilizers, seeds and pesticides. In addition, one land-lease in Karnataka reached up to Rs 40, 000 per acre. The families explained that the current market price of ginger Rs. 500 / 60kg barely covers the labour-costs of ginger-harvesting, at the labour cost is RS 350 per day in Kerala.
Until last year the ginger price could reach up to Rs. 2000-3500/ 60 kg. The farmers took out loans ranging from RS 120 000 to close to 4 lakhs. The major loans were from Nationalised Banks, Scheduled Banks, Grameen Banks, and Cooperative Banks. The Kudumba Shree (Self-Help-Group) also played a major role in advancing money. From Self-Help-Groups, loans availed in different members’ names and were pooled together for agriculture activities in one family. Gold of the family members was mortgaged in different banks, including Muthoot Finance. As well as agricultural costs, the borrowings were also spent on essential purposes such as education of the children and medical emergencies.
Landless farmers or very small land holders (30 cents to 1.70 acres), all four men ended their lives by consuming pesticides. Speaking to the families of the deceased, none of these men were prone to depression: it is the drastic economical pressures which have led them to take such extreme measures. The agrarian crisis directly affects women, as the widows now bear the burden of these loans.
1. All the institutional loans including bank loans, self-help groups loans and gold loans, to be waived by the state and central governments. Private loans should be settled by the government of Kerala up to RS 2 lakh per affected family as debt relief support.
2. Widow pension of RS 5000 per month should be provided.
3. Kerala government to cover the costs of children’s education until higher education.
4. As an immediate measure, state government should procure ginger crops and should announce Minimum Support Price for ginger and banana.
5. In the case of landless farmers, government should provide at least 25 cents of cultivable land and a house.
6. As a preventative measure, the implementation of a Helpline so that distressed farmers can call to share their concerns and grief.
7. Provide disease free planting material through a systematic government program.
8. Farmer specific crop insurance should be developed by the state and central governments to address crop losses.
9. Kerala government should start a ginger processing factory to add value to the produce and to ensure price stability to ginger.
As far as banana is concerned, the price for consumers is always high and stable. The selling price for farmers fluctuates hugely, thus demonstrating the role of the middle-man. State governments should take immediate steps for direct marketing by farmers.
As the SICCFM, we appeal to farmers to diversify their crops rather than practicing mono cropping to reduce the risk over crop failure and price collapsing. We also request farmers to be weary of the dependence on costly chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Even though ginger and bananas are essential in the Indian diet, the sudden collapse of the price of the ginger to 500rupees/ 60kg, combined with the heavy monsoon and fungal disease, is darkening the lives of farmers.
We foresee a wave of suicides of ginger farmers if the Kerela government doesn’t take immediate action to address the root cause of the action.
Contact: S Kannaiyan