2011: A Dark year for farmers in AP

The year 2011 was one of the darkest years for farmers.  Season, Technology and Policy all failed them.  This year would be recording the highest farmers suicides in the history after 2003-04.  The kind of negligence, lopsided policies by NDA at the centre, TDP at the state are repeating again.  Every political party is seen to be using the occasion to voo the voters for electoral gains, and for corporates every disaster is turned to be a big business.

  • in Andhra Pradesh for the first time large number of farmers have declared crop holiday in about 2 lakh acres in protest against the low MSPs and lack of procurement.
  • On average farmers suicides are 10/day in AP
  • Large land aquisition, land shift from agriculture, police firings on protesters against thermal power plants, petro corridors, mining…
  • Crop failed in more than 85 lakh acres (official estimations) across the state due to severe drought and power failures
  • 200 farmers died with electrical shocks and snake bites while going to field midnight to irrigate.  The irregular power and late night power led to this situation.
  • Cotton area has increased to 47 lakh acres a whooping 25% of the cultivated area more than forefolds increase in the last one decade.  this year about 34 lakh acres crop failed with an average yield of only 1 q/acre
  • pesticide poisoning cases again surfaced in several districts
  • for the first time a agriculturally important state had no agriculture minster and no vice chancellors for both the agriculture and horticulture universities
  • New draft legislation which will have long lasting impacts on farming were initiated and are pending before state and centre.  some of them include Seed Bill 2004, Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill, Pesticide Management Bill, FDI in Retail sector, Food Security Bill, Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation bill etc
  • Major scandals from Scientific organisations surfaced.  The Pigeon Pea Genome scandal and Bt Cotton Scandal from UAS Dharwar.

Wish things would change in the coming year.

 

95 farm suicides in a month in Andhra Pradesh

Author(s): M Suchitra
Issue: Dec 29, 2011
State authorities hide actual number of deaths
farm distressFarmers in Jangaon administrative block have been given no relief despite crop failures and scanty rains because of the skewed criteria used by authorities (Photo: M Suchitra)

Allam Sattenna, a 35-year-old farmer from Perkalaguda, a small hamlet near Utnoor in Andhra Pradesh’s Adilabad district, owned farms spread over 0.8 hectare (ha). He took another 1.2 ha on lease by paying Rs 6,000 per acre (0.4 ha). Motivated by the high prices last year, Sattenna planted cotton  in all of the 2 ha which is rain fed.

But he could not harvest even one quintal cotton from the entire land in the first picking. His crop failed due to scanty rains and long dry spells. Worse, cotton price fell to Rs 3,500 a quintal—half of what it fetched last year because the demand for cotton in the international market was falling. Having borrowed Rs 20,000 from a local money lender last year, and with an additional debt of Rs 50,000 this year, he found no means to tide over the crisis. He ended his life in October by consuming pesticide.

He left behind a wife and a seven-year-old son. His wife, Allam Vijayamma, struggling to survive, is not even aware that a relief package exists for the families of farmers who commit suicide. “Nobody has come to me to ask about my husband’s death,” she says. Not even the village revenue officials, who should have verified and recorded the suicide as per a government order of 2005.

Despair driven by delayed and scanty rains

Andhra Pradesh is witnessing yet another spate of farm suicides. Delayed rainfall, prolonged dry spells, subsequent crop failures and unfriendly government policies have forced many farmers to kill themselves. Even as the state government maintains there were only 66 “genuine” farm suicides in the whole state between January and November in 2011, a recent report estimates as many as 95 farmers have ended their lives within a span of just one month in six districts. Cotton farmers account for maximum farm suicides.

The report, prepared by the Alliance for Sustainable Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), a nation-wide informal network of more than 400 organisations from 20 states, was based on a fact-finding survey in Adilabad, Anantapur, Karim Nagar, Medak, Mehbubnagar and Khammam districts, and on media reports on farm suicides between October and November 2011. The driest district of Anantapur tops the list with 24 suicides. Adilabad is second with 18 (see table).

Farm suicide deaths ( October 7 to November 8, 2011)
District No of Suicides
Adilabad 18
Medak 13
Karimnagar 13
Khamma 17
Mahaboobnagar 10
Ananthapur 24
Total 95
Source: Rytu Swarajya Vedika, Andhra Pradesh

“What we found is that farm suicides are no more limited to a few particular crops like cotton or to some regions, but spread across all districts and farmers growing all kinds of crops,’’ says G V Ramanjaneyalu, executive director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, a non-profit based in Hyderabad. The fact-finding study of 20 families found suicides were genuine and purely due to farm-related reasons.

Andhra Pradesh is one of the five states in the country that has been witnessing a large number of farm suicides for the past one decade. The state along with Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh contribute to 66 per cent of the total farm suicides in India. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) estimates 2,525 farmers committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh in 2010.

Crisis more severe this year

  • Severe drought and sharp increase in the seed and fertilizer prices hit the farmers very hard
  • The state, which normally receives an annual average rainfall of 624.1 mm during Kharif season, got 14 per cent less rainfall this year
  • Scanty rains in June delayed sowing of rain-fed crops like cotton, groundnut and maize by up to one month
  • This delay affected crop growth while prolonged dry spells in September led to less yields
  • More than 280,000 ha of farms were not sown during kharif in 14 of the 23 districts; crops on 2.06 million ha dried up
  • The state government declared more than three fourth of its administrative blocks (mandals)—876 out of 1,128—drought-hit
When is a farm suicide a suicide

  • Five documents have to be obtained from the local police station: a first information report, a panchnama report, a post-mortem report (which has to be paid for by the family), a forensic science laboratory report and a final report
  • Other documents required are: private loan documents and/or bank loan documents as proof that the farmer was indeed indebted, the land passbook, dependents’ certificate, ration card and three years agriculture pahani (revenue records)
  • Besides all these documents, there has to be a report from the mandal-level verification committee, which consists of the mandal revenue officer, a police sub-inspector and the agriculture officer
  • Finally, a division level verification committee report is required from the revenue divisional officer, deputy superintendent of police and assistant director of agriculture

An earlier report, which was submitted in 2004 by the Commission on Farmers’ Welfare, appointed by the government of Andhra Pradesh, to then chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, had observed that agriculture in Andhra Pradesh was in an advanced state of crisis. “Drought-affected areas in Rayalaseema and Telangana bear the brunt of the burden, though, even farmers in irrigated areas have been facing problems. In addition, the burden has fallen disproportionately on small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers and rural labourers,” the report noted.

The report had also very clearly underscored the fact that “the economic strategy of the past decade at both Central and state government levels has systematically reduced the protection afforded to farmers and exposed them to market volatility and private profiteering without adequate regulation.”

“Nothing has changed since then,” says S Malla Reddy, state president of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS). The anti-farmer policies and reforms started in 1997 by then chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are being carried forward more aggressively by the Congress chief ministers, he says.

Criteria skewed

The crisis is far more serious this year (see ‘Crisis more severe this year’). The state government declared more than three fourth of its administrative blocks (mandals)—876 out of 1,128—drought-hit.

But the present mechanism for declaring drought and providing relief—compensation of Rs 6,500 per ha for crop loss—are inadequate, say farmers and organisations working in the farm sector. At present, drought is announced only when more than 50 per cent of the cropped area dries up, yields fall short by 50 per cent and the rainfall is less than 20 mm in a month. Many mandals, like Jangaon in Warrangal district, which do not meet these criteria, are still left out even after experiencing drought, crop failure and reporting suicides.

“We’re fighting to get our mandal declared drough-hit,” says P Upendher, AIKS Jangaon mandal secretary. Hundreds of suicide deaths were reported from Warrangal and other cotton growing regions 1997 onwards.

Cropping systems have significantly changed in the past few years with large tracts being brought under commercial crops like cotton, maize, groundnut and paddy. At present, these four crops cover 90 per cent of the cropped area in the state. This year, in Andhra Pradesh, 1.9 million ha (25 per cent of the total cropped area in the state) is under cotton, mostly in rain-fed areas. “Even if the crops did not fail, the situation would have been disastrous for most of these farmers because of the price fall,” says Vasudeva Reddy, Warrangal district president of AIKS.

The latest study by ASHA notes that the cost of cultivation has increased enormously. The fertilizer costs have been increasing steadily after the nutrient based subsidy scheme was introduced, and in the past one year the DAP (diammonium phosphate) fertilizer price has doubled. Further, the costs of seeds have increased by more than 100 per cent in the past five years. In rain-fed areas, farmers spend large amounts on sinking borewells, many of which fail to yield water. The cost of each borewell is about Rs 50,000.

Genuine and not genuine suicides

The report highlights the reasons for suicides. These include: increasing costs of cultivation of all crops; non-remunerative prices (both in the markets and in government procurement system); unsustainable cropping patterns and production practices; dependence of mono-cropping of cotton and other commercial crops in rain-fed areas; lack of support systems for farmers such as institutional credit; lack of recognition of tenant farmers; and no provision for access to credit, insurance and crop compensation in rain-fed farms which constitute more than 60 per cent of the crop area.

Instead of addressing the root causes of the farm crisis, the state government is trying to suppress the actual number of suicides by classifying such deaths as “genuine” and “non-genuine”, points out the report. Last year, when NCRB put the suicide figure in the state at 2,525, the state government’s data claimed there were only 158 farm suicides. Now when the media reports more than 90 suicides in one month in six districts, the government figure for the whole state for 11 months is 66.

The gap between the real number and official figures is largely because of the documents required to establish that the death of a farmer is a genuine case of suicide purely caused by farm-related reasons. The process of assessment of a farm suicide has become complicated ever since the state government introduced a system of compensation for the families in 2005. At present, 13 documents are required to establish a farm suicide (see ‘When is a farm suicide a suicide’).

“How can the farmers’ families produce all these documents?” asks Malla Reddy. “When tenant farmers, who do not own land, commit suicide, how can their families produce land document?” There are over 250,000 tenant farmers in the state. Only a minority of them, have identity cards, which enable them to avail bank loans. Others are forced to borrow from money lenders. “And when they end their lives out of desperation, it’s not considered as genuine and their names never figure in the official list of suicide deaths.”

Instead of suppressing the suicide death figures, what the government should do is to promote a model of sustainable agriculture, and also introduce a “price compensation” system, especially for all the food crops where minimum support price (MSP) is declared. “Whenever the MSP or actual market prices do not meet the target price, which is equal to cost of cultivation plus 50 per cent, the difference should  be paid to the farmer directly. The farmer should no longer be forced to bear the burden of keeping food prices low for consumers, says Ramanjaneyulu. The fact-finding survey found that in most of the cases, the three member committee which is supposed to verify the cases and report has never visited the grieving families.

As an immediate step, the report demands the state governments should identify all farmers who have suffered crop failure in the past three years at least and provide them compensation of minimum Rs 10,000 per acre, ensuring that tenant farmers are included. Government should assess crop failure immediately and disburse compensation without any delay so that farmers are reassured that they will not get into further debt. This would prevent thousands of more suicide deaths.

Farmers Suicides in AP: Death as a way out

JAYATI GHOSH

http://www.frontline.in/stories/20111230282609700.htm

It is clearly the absence of political will rather than a paucity of ideas that is responsible for the country’s agrarian crisis.

 SINGAM VENKATA RAMANA 


THE GRIEF-STRICKEN FAMILY members of T. Ramulu, a debt-ridden farmer who committed suicide at Velamakanne village in Nalgonda district, Andhra Pradesh, in January 2010.
 

EXACTLY seven years ago this month, the Commission on Farmers’ Welfare, appointed by the government of Andhra Pradesh, submitted its report to the then Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. His Congress government assumed office earlier that year replacing the Telegu Desam Party regime led by N. Chandrababu Naidu, which lost the popular mandate largely because of public dissatisfaction with the economic conditions in the State. This was reflected in poor and fragile employment prospects despite much talk of development in the capital city, Hyderabad, and a growing agrarian crisis, which was evident from a high incidence of farmers’ suicides. True to its electoral promise to make agrarian rejuvenation the centrepiece of its economic strategy, the Congress government appointed this commission to make recommendations accordingly.

The report, which was submitted in 2004, began as follows: “Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh is in an advanced state of crisis…. Drought-affected areas in Rayalaseema and Telangana bear the brunt of the burden, even though even farmers in irrigated areas have been facing problems. In addition, the burden has fallen disproportionately on small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers and rural labourers. The most extreme manifestation of this crisis is in the suicides by farmers, who are typically driven to this desperate act by the inability to repay debt incurred in the process of cultivation, which has become a volatile and economically less viable activity. But this is only the tip of the iceberg of generalised rural distress which had become prevalent across the State, and has also been expressed in severe cases by kidney sales and hunger deaths in certain areas. The problems of farming are evident, ranging from frequent droughts and soil degeneration, to lack of institutional credit and insurance leading to excessive reliance on private moneylenders, problems in accessing reliable and reasonably priced inputs to problems of marketing and high volatility of crop prices. But the crisis is also reflected in other features of the rural economy: the decline in agricultural employment and stagnation of other employment, leading to reduced food consumption and forced migration of workers; the evident decline in per capita calorie consumption even among the poor.”

The commission noted: “The economic strategy of the past decade at both Central government and State government levels has systematically reduced the protection afforded to farmers and exposed them to market volatility and private profiteering without adequate regulation, has reduced critical forms of public expenditure, has destroyed important public institutions, and did not adequately generate other non-agricultural economic activities.”

Seven years later, despite this commission’s report and many other detailed policy recommendations and declarations of intent on the part of both Central and State governments, it is shocking to realise that little or nothing seems to have changed in the situation on the ground. Furthermore, farmers’ suicides, which indicate the extreme despair and desperation of the farming community, have continued and even increased in number despite a fall in the number of those who say they are engaged in farming. In 2004, around 2,000 such suicides were reported; in 2010 there were 2,525, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

It is a different matter that the State government’s own records show only 158 such deaths in 2010. This is largely because the paperwork required to establish that the death of a farmer is a suicide has become vastly more complicated ever since the State government introduced a system of compensation for the families in 2005.

Currently, no less than 13 documents are required to establish this. Five documents have to be obtained from the local police station: a first information report, a panchanama report, a post-mortem report (which has to be paid for by the family), a forensic science laboratory report and a final report. In addition, other documents are required: private loan documents and/or bank loan documents as proof that the farmer was indeed indebted, the Land Pass Book, dependents’ certificate, ration card and three years agriculture pahani. Then there has to be a report from the mandal-level verification committee, which consists of the mandal revenue officer, a police sub-inspector and the agriculture officer, and finally, a division level verification committee report from the Revenue Divisional Officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police and Assistant Director of Agriculture. Is it any wonder that only 158 cases could meet these stringent criteria?

In fact, it seems that the problem is now possibly even more acute than before. A report recently released by the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (“Farmers Suicides and Agrarian Crisis in Andhra Pradesh: A report of fact-finding visits November 2011”) found that in the month between October 7 and November 8, there were 95 farmers’ suicides in six districts, Medak, Anantapur, Mahboobnagar, Karimnagar, Adilabad and Khammam. Disturbingly, the causes the report identifies for such distress are very similar to the factors described in the 2004 commission’s report. They include changing cropping systems with more reliance on cash crops, whose prices are uncertain; delayed and unreliable rainfall; high costs of cultivation, reflecting an unsustainable model of cultivation with high-input, high-risk mono-cropping; unremunerative prices; policy neglect of rain-fed areas – all resulting in high indebtedness, which is made worse by the farmers’ inadequate access to institutional credit.

What has happened at the State level has been replicated – and the tragedy therefore multiplied – at the national level as highlighted by P. Sainath in a series of recent articles in The Hindu. It is striking that this problem has persisted despite a period of boom in agricultural prices. However, the perception of policymakers in Delhi is that in general farmers are doing very well.

Indeed, only two States have experienced declines in the incidence of farmers’ suicides (which, despite all protestations to the contrary, have become a kind of proxy for the state of distress of the peasantry). The two States, Kerala and West Bengal, under Left Front governments took active measures to make peasant cultivation viable. In Kerala, a debt commission was appointed to reduce the crushing burden of debt in a feasible way.

The inaction elsewhere cannot be ascribed to a lack of ideas. Seven years ago, the Andhra Pradesh commission suggested interventions in six important areas:

correcting spatial inequities in access to irrigation and work towards sustainable water management;

bringing all cultivators, including tenant farmers, into the ambit of institutional credit;

shifting policies to focus on dry-land farming through technology, extension, price and other incentives;

encouraging cheaper and more sustainable input use, with greater public provision and regulation of private input supply and strong research and extension support;

protecting farmers from high volatility in output prices;

emphasising rural economic diversification, to more value-added activities and non-agricultural activities.

The report had provided detailed proposals in each of these six areas, covering issues such as land relations, rural credit, irrigation and power, agricultural research and extension, input provision, crop prices and markets, the special problems of drought-prone areas, non-agricultural employment, and the health, nutrition and education of farmers. When the report was first submitted, it was welcomed by the State government and roundly criticised by the representatives of the previous government, now in opposition. A few years later, the tables were turned: the same opposition that had condemned the report then began demanding that its recommendations be implemented, while the State government sought to downplay it. (Incidentally, the report was never formally published by the State government although it is available online at http://www.macroscan.org/ pol/apr05/pol070405 Andhra_Pradesh.htm).

Similarly, more than five years ago, the National Farmers’ Commission submitted to the Central government an excellent and meaningful set of detailed recommendations to deal with the agrarian crisis. The government has used various means to delay or avoid implementation, including setting up yet more committees to examine ways to implement the proposals. Clearly, it is the absence of political will rather than the paucity of ideas that is to blame.

Farmer suicides hit a 15-year low: AP govt

The number of suicides by farmers in the state has fallen to an all-time low in the last 15 years despite the crisis in the agricultural sector. After a thorough enquiry, the revenue officials published the total number of suicides at 71 this year. Last year, till date, there were 181 farmer suicides. Since 1998, as many as 5,261 farmers have ended their lives in the state.

“Suicides due to genuine agriculture-related reasons this year is 71. The deaths have been confirmed as per inquiry reports. Some more deaths have been reported, which are still being inquired into by the division level officers committee. Final reports are awaited,” a senior revenue official said. With 19 suicides each, Anantapur and Guntur districts account for the highest number of farmer suicides. Kurnool follows with 12 suicides, Medak with seven, Prakasam with six, East Godavari and Krishna with two each and Mahbubnagar, YSR Kadapa, Srikakulam and Visakhapatnam with one suicide each.

Though the Opposition parties dispute the government’s claim, officials insist that the figures are accurate. The government enquired into the farm-related suicides after some bogus claims came to light. The kin of farmers who died of heart attacks, illness, snake bites and other reasons also claimed the benefits, it is alleged.

Data of farmer suicides compiled by the revenue department from 1998 till date is as follows: 1998 (104 suicides), 1999 (180 suicides), 2000 (191 suicides), 2001 (256 suicides), 2002 (323 suicides), 2003 (304 suicides), 2004 (145 suicides), 2004 (1,036 suicides), 2005 (655 suicides), 2006 (556 suicides), 2007 (493 suicides), 2008 (469 suicides), 2009 (297 suicides), 2010 (181 suicides) and 2011 (71 suicides).

“In spite of financial support, the government has given admission of children in social welfare schools and hostels, allotted houses under the IAY scheme, economic support under various schemes, allotted houses under the IAY scheme, economic support under various schemes, pensions etc,” the official said.

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/cities/hyderabad/farmer-suicides-hit-15-year-low-493

Andhra Pradesh is now the top producer of paddy in India

Ludhiana, November 22
Andhra Pradesh has pipped Punjab to become the country’s top paddy producer, as per the data gathered by the Union Ministry of Food for the year 2010-11. While Andhra Pradesh procured 96.02 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of paddy, Punjab’s count stood at 86.35 lakh MT. Except for the year 2008-09, Punjab had for long been dominating the paddy production tally in the country.

In all, 339.89 lakh MT of paddy was procured across the country in 2010-11 (the market year ends in September). Andhra Pradesh and Punjab were followed by Chhattisgarh (37.38 lakh MT), Orissa (24.72 lakh MT) and Uttar Pradesh (24.66 lakh MT). Haryana stood next with the procurement of 16.87 lakh MT, followed by Tamil Nadu (15.83 lakh MT), West Bengal (12.34 lakh MT), Bihar 8.83 (lakh MT) and Madhya Pradesh (4.8 lakh MT).

Dr MS Sidhu, Head, Department of Economics and Sociology, Punjab Agriculture University, said Punjab remained at the number one position in terms of paddy production for the past several decades. “But, Punjab is still at the top in terms of wheat production,” he said.

Dr Pritam Singh Rangi, Consultant, Punjab State Farmer Commission, Mohali, said the main reason behind the loss in production was that a large number of Punjab farmers had of late taken to basmati production, the crop giving them good returns.

Secondly, the area under cultivation in Andhra Pradesh (43.9 lakh hectares) was much higher as compared to Punjab (27 lakh hectares).

 

Farming between two lines

By Uma Sudhir

All through his growing up years and later, my father has enjoyed the reputation of being an ace at mathematics and logic in family circles, and would love to throw little `puzzle’ challenges to us. One that came back to me suddenly the other day was: How will you make a long line small without erasing it? I was taxing my brain for a mathematical solution, when my father simply drew a longer line by its side and showed how the first one became small. It was about relativity.
Last week, I was going on a field visit to the districts after a small gap. Just recently having been swindled of everything I and Sudhir had earned and saved over 20 years had set me back in every sense. Coping with suddenly losing the comforting thought of a financial backup, coming to terms with it and trying to explore if there is any possibility, howsoever bleak, of a recovery, was quite exhausting. But I needed to move on.
I was visiting Medak district, going to villages within about a hundred kilometres radius of Hyderabad. My first stop was Chebarthi village in Jagdevpur mandal. Gurrala Sreenivas had hanged himself to death in the tree adjacent to where he lived in a one-room home with his young wife and three children, right next to the one room where his old parents lived. Only the tree stump stood where there was once a tree. Chopped perhaps because the image of young man, hardly 30, hanging from it must be haunting his family every single second.
Lakshmi’s voice was choking when she told me her son had died wearing the new clothes that she had insisted he buy for Dasara. She had given him money that she had saved over years in the women’s self-help group.
“Sreenu, sreenu, sreenu, my life revolved around Sreenu. I loved him so much. I would be partial and give him whatever I could, always gave him a little more than my daughter or my younger son. And he also always said he would always be there to take care of me. He married off his sisters. When his father fell in the field, he carried him all the way to the hospital. When I fell ill, he wouldn’t let me be without going to the doctor and eating medicines. Now who is going to take care of us?”
“I don’t want to live. What is there to live for now,” she says. “He has left me with only tears. Should I cry for him, for the debts he has left me with or for the three children he has left behind, for me to carry their burden?” she asks completely breaking down.


Only cowards commit suicide, they say. Those who give up easily, without a fight. Those who can’t cope or refuse to cope when life gets tough. Lest I conclude so, the mother quickly collects herself and wipes her tears to explain to me that her son had done everything he could. He would not give up easily. Realising that cultivating on the half acre his father owned could not sustain the family nor help repay accumulated debts nor keep his children in school, he had taken six acres on lease. He had bought seeds, fertilisers, chemicals, running around for everywhere to get it done on time. The rains had looked good and he was hoping he could pull it off this year.
The rains failed, so did the crop. So did Sreenivas’s spirit. All his hardwork and running around had come to nought. For someone who had always insisted the children should go to a private school, learn English and must not drop out under any circumstance, the prospect of the children see their father a broken man must have been a nightmare. He could not answer debtors or stop them from taking away the lone cattle from the cattleshed.
Sreenu’s young widow, Balamma, hardly 25, had been standing leaning on the wall by the door, downcast, mournful eyes. Suddenly she was falling at my feet. The hopelessness of the future that faces her and her children obvioulsly making her so desperate as to fall at a stranger’s feet in the remote hope, that may be, just may be, they can get some help.
Sreenivas had married his uncle’s daughter when he was hardly 18, so his mother would have help around the house after his sisters were married off. At 30, when he died, Sreenivas was father of three, Mounika in class VIII, Akhila in class III and Anil in class I. “How proud he was of his children and so hopeful that they would lead a better life,” Lakshmi tells me.
How thrilled the children had been when Sreenivas bought a black and white television set so his children didn’t have to go to a neighbour’s home. For a monthly EMI of 700 rupees.
After Sreenivas died, the formality of a post-mortem report, police inquiry, visits by revenue and agriculture department officers took place and yet the family did not get any help. Nor has there been any promise of help. The statistics of farmer-suicide families considered for getting a compensation of one lakh rupees and receiving them is quite abysmal. Hardly 30 per cent, says Kondal Reddy, an activist working in the area.
Balamma had been asked by officials who came visiting if she wanted to put her children in a hostel, so they can continue in school. The children were terrified of being separated from their mother and family. Balamma had refused. She had already lost her husband, she did not want separation from her children.
The debtors had waited till all this was over and have set a deadline of Sivaratri in February. That is what is giving both Lakshmi and Balamma even worse nightmares. What should they do when they don’t even have enough to eat?
All through the day I was visiting families with similar heart-breaking stories. In earlier years, I had to travel at least a few villages from one bereaved family to another. This time, this year, this season, every few kilometres, I was coming across a farmer-suicide death. The names and some detail change, the helpless, hopeless family is a constant. Where even with hardwork, all you end up with is debt and hopelessness. Both the rains and the government had failed them. There was no one to turn to.
Even otherwise, 2525 farmer suicide deaths were reported in 2010 by the State Crime Records Bureau. The government figure for `genuine’ farm crisis-related suicide deaths is 158 for the same year. Would make anyone wonder why farmers seem more inclined to kill themselves than any other segment of society, if it was not for the hopelessness that surrounds agriculture.
“They don’t stand a chance,” explains agriculture scientist G V Ramanjaneyulu. “Just for instance, the government’s expert committee has estimated that the cost of producing one quintal of rice is Rs 1800 whereas the Minimum Support Price declared by the government is Rs 1120 and often, the farmers don’t even get that much. The farmer is subsidising food for the nation and it is his sweat and blood that is feeding the nation.”
When I was driving back home, my burdens and personal loss certainly seemed small. Smaller of the two lines. But the weight of the helplessness and hopelessness of so many families made me feel much, much worse.
(Uma Sudhir is Resident Editor with NDTV and a documentary filmmaker. Please click here to read her earlier blogs on TSR)