K. V. Kurmanath
Two of every three farm suicides in the country seem to be taking place in four States where cotton is cultivated, mainly dryland areas.
Last year, 68 per cent of all the 13,754 farm suicides took place in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, indicating that perhaps financial stress was the reason.
About 70 per cent of cotton farming in these four States is done on dry-land. Agricultural scientists say that dryland is not suitable for water-intensive crops such as cotton. Farmers in Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana grow cotton in irrigated areas.
“Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have shown a rise in suicides of farmers by 13 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively, over the previous year. They account for 46 per cent of the 13,754 suicides in 2012,” G.V. Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, told Business Line.
“We can directly attribute the numbers to cotton farming in these States. You are growing it where you are not supposed to,” he said.
The CSA and Rythu Swarjya Vedika have released two reports on the stress in the dryland farming and in Andhra Pradesh. The reports are largely based on the numbers in the National Crime Records Bureau.
As many as 3,786 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra, 2,572 (19 per cent) in Andhra Pradesh, 1,875 in Karnataka (14 per cent), 1,172 (8 per cent) in Madhya Pradesh and 4,349 (32 per cent) in other parts of the country. The NCRB, attached to the Union Home Ministry, has been collecting crime data from across the country for the last two decades. In a span of 18 years (1995- 2012), it recorded suicides of 2.84 lakh farmers, including 35,898 in Andhra Pradesh. “Sharp increase in acreage of commercial crops, input costs and overall cost of production too have caused burden on the farm sector. The cost of production of cotton is very high in dry land areas, resulting in the financial stress. This has been proved time and again in the Vidarbha region and in Andhra Pradesh,” said Ramanjaneyulu.
He said the Governments should evolve a comprehensive relief and rehabilitation package to address immediate debt needs, release of land from mortgage, livelihood support, education of the children and healthcare needs of the family.
“We also need to revise the minimum support price to give them remunerative income. Timely procurement directly from farmers by government agencies too is important.”