Kerala: Church anguished over farmers suicides

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Published Date: November 11, 2011

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Church people in Kerala say suicides by debt-ridden farmers are still occurring despite the introduction of several Church welfare schemes to help them.

“It’s so sad people are taking their lives because of financial difficulties,” said Mananthavady diocese spokesman Father Thomas Therakam, adding that three farmers in Wayanad district committed suicide last week.

The district had reported over 300 farmer suicides between 2001 and 2007 as a result of crop failures. Most of them had taken out loans from banks or money lenders.

According to Fr Therakam, many projects the Church started in association with Caritas India helped reduce the number of suicides in the last few years.

“But unfortunately, they are still occurring. We will step up our counseling and other campaigns to support the farmers,” the priest said.

The latest cases were farmers who incurred debts after the prices of ginger and bananas plummeted this season.

Fr John Choorapuzhayil, who directs the Wayanad Social Service Society, wants the government to fix a minimum price on produces.

As for the Church, its people should reach out more to all villagers, he said.

Others say simply talking to people will not be enough.

Raju Chovattukunnel, a layman, wants each parish to set up an emergency fund to provide financial aid to farmers.

“Counseling alone will not bring solace to farmers heavily in debt,” he warned.

Farmer suicides becomes a burning issue again in Kerala districts

KOCHI: After a long time, farmers’ suicides have become a burning issue in Kerala with three incidents being reported from Wayanad district in a week.

Falling prices, crop failure and mounting debts have been identified as reasons behind these incidents. Varghese (48), Asokan (45) and Sasidharan (35) have ended their lives due to a steep fall in the prices of ginger and plantain.

Wayanad district collector K Gopalakrishna Bhat has convened a meeting to take stock of the situation. He told ET that of the three farmers, one had taken loans mostly from private moneylenders. The other two had taken credit from commercials banks. Wayanad turned out to be Kerala’s Vidarbha when more than 500 farmers ended lives between 2001 and 2006.

The hill regions of Wayanad are known for the long-gestation plantation crops like tea, coffee and pepper. Fluctuations in prices, climatic changes and disease-related problems have prompted many farmers to shift to annual crops like ginger and plantain. Lured by the good prices of these crops, many farmers started cultivation on leased land in Karnataka.

“Farmers go for intensive cultivation by investing heavily on land, fertilisers and pesticides. When crops fail or prices fall, they suffer huge losses,” said Narayanankutty, head of agriculture station, Wayanad, under the Kerala Agriculture University.

Wayanad-based social worker and farmer Jose Sebastian said: “Farming in Wayanad has become a gamble”.

The demand for land in Karnataka has gone up so much that the lease rentals, which were in the range of Rs 2,000 per acre 10 years ago have touched Rs 70,000 per acre, he said. High ginger prices, triggered by a shortfall in output last year, could have attracted more farmers to the spice.

Dry ginger prices had zoomed to Rs 200 per kg last year, prompting several farmers to go outside the state to cultivate the crop. As a result, production has gone up this year and the prices have fallen to half the rates prevalent last year.

A senior official of the Spices Board said this often happens when the prices go up. Kerala and Karnataka are the main producers of dry ginger with a total production of around 50,000 tonne.

Similarly, in the case of plantains, the farmers are negotiating a price fall of nearly 40% in this season. The prices that ruled at around Rs 25 per kg have dropped to Rs 15 in the last three months. Heavy rains have caused widespread damage to the crop during the past few weeks.

Narayanankutty added that a national agricultural innovation project is being implemented in Wayanad to train farmers in multi-mode farming instead of focusing on one activity. The farmers are introduced to new varieties of paddy and vegetables and trained in poultry and goat rearing.

Third farmer suicide in a week in Wayanad district

Posted on: 08 Nov 2011

 Thiruvananthapuram: A day after another farmer, suspected to be under debt, committed suicide in Kerala, the government Tuesday said it would look into all aspects of the problem. This was the third farmer suicide in Wayanad district in the last one week.

Vergheese committed suicide Monday. According to his relatives, he was under a debt of Rs.5 lakh after his crop failed.

Agriculture Minister K.P. Mohanan said: ‘I have already asked the authorities to provide me full details of loans availed from banks by farmers in Wayanad.’

‘We will seriously look into all the issues and act accordingly. The government will also look into what can be done to provide some solace to the families of those farmers who have taken their lives,’ he said.

‘It appears the dreaded scenario of the past is returning to Wayanad and this is because of the fall in prices of ginger and banana. It appears the schemes of the government are not reaching people. Something has to be done immediately,’ said social activist A.L. Prabakaran.

Between 2001-06 Wayanad district saw close to 249 farmer suicides. At that time, the Congress was in power and the Left opposition blamed the government’s flawed policies for the suicides.

Kerala: Three farmers’ suicides in one week

Three debt-ridden farmers in Kerala’s Wayanad district have committed suicide in the last one week, triggering panic in the region where scores of farmers ended their lives in the early years of the last decade.

According to the police, the three farmers who committed suicide had incurred financial liability from ginger and banana cultivations. Wayanad farmers tend to take huge tracts of land on lease in Kodagu and cultivate ginger, while banana cultivation is prevalent mainly in the home district.

While both crops commanded high prices in the market until a year ago, the prices have plunged this season, forcing the farmers to go in for distress sales. The dead farmers had financial liability up to Rs 4 lakh.

Wayanad had reported 321 cases of farmers’ suicides from 2001 to 2007 due to failed crops, particularly pepper. Since then, hundreds of farmers turned to ginger farming. The price of ginger dropped to Rs 110-115 per kg in the market from a high of Rs 240 per kg during the last season.

Kerala: Burdened by debts, three Wayanad farmers end life

T K Devasia

9 November 2011

TRIVANDRUM – The specter of farmer suicides that rocked Kerala in the early 2000 has returned to haunt the southern Indian state with three farmers from Wayanad, a tiny hill district known for its spices and coffee plantations, ending their life in the last one week. 

The latest incident has been that of Varghese alias Raju (48), who committed suicide by consuming poison at his house on Monday night. The farmer, who hailed from Trikkaipatta village, took the extreme step unable to bear the debt burden.

The family members of the deceased said that he had availed Rs300,000 from banks for cultivating ginger and plantain. He could not repay the loan as the crops failed.

The family members said Raju had tried in vain many sources to raise funds for repaying the loan.

Earlier on November 4, another farmer Asokan (46) committed suicide under similar circumstances. Asokan ended his life by consuming poison after coming under debt burden.

Asokan had cultivated ginger in a leased land in the neighbouring Karnataka state by raising Rs200,000 as loan from various sources.

The suicide spree started with C P Sasidharan (56), a small scale farmer hailing from Mothakkara Mallisserikkunnil. Sasidharan, who has been undertaking farming by taking land under lease, ended his life after his debt mounted to Rs200,000.

In his suicide note Sasidharan stated that he could not repay the loan as he had suffered huge loss from farming this year. His family members said that he was tense due to his inability to repay the loans.

Political leaders in Wayand see the suicides the result of a crash in the prices of ginger in the market and diseases afflicting the crop.

The price of fresh ginger in markets in the district, which is the largest ginger cultivating area in the state, was Rs400 a bag (60kg) in September this year as against Rs1,200 a bag in the corresponding period last year.

The price of old ginger crashed from Rs3,000 a bag in September 2010 to Rs800 a bag. The sharp fall in prices put the farmers in extreme hardship.

Communist Party of India farmer leader Satyan Mokeri said that the district would witness a repeat of the suicide spree in 2004 if the government did not intervene to provide relief to the farmers.

As many as 186 farmers ended their life after being trapped in vicious cycles of mounting loan liabilities in the district from 2001 to 2004. The suicide spree came to an end after the government waived the loans of the debt-ridden farmers.

The leaders have called for a similar waiver of the loans of ginger farmers this time to relieve them from unbearable burden.

news@khaleejtimes.com

Third Farmer Suicide in a Week in Kerala District

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 8 (IANS): A day after another farmer, suspected to be under debt, committed suicide in Kerala, the government Tuesday said it would look into all aspects of the problem. This was the third farmer suicide in Wayanad district in the last one week.

Vergheese committed suicide Monday. According to his relatives, he was under a debt of Rs.5 lakh after his crop failed.

Agriculture Minister K.P. Mohanan said: “I have already asked the authorities to provide me full details of loans availed from banks by farmers in Wayanad.”

“We will seriously look into all the issues and act accordingly. The government will also look into what can be done to provide some solace to the families of those farmers who have taken their lives,” he said.

“It appears the dreaded scenario of the past is returning to Wayanad and this is because of the fall in prices of ginger and banana. It appears the schemes of the government are not reaching people. Something has to be done immediately,” said social activist A.L. Prabakaran.

Between 2001-06 Wayanad district saw close to 249 farmer suicides. At that time, the Congress was in power and the Left opposition blamed the government’s flawed policies for the suicides.

Kerala Cabinet to discuss farmers’ suicides

http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/kerala/article2609309.ece

Kerala Cabinet, meeting on Wednesday, will discuss the farmers’ suicides in Wayanad district of Kerala.

In a short span of a few weeks, three farmers had committed suicide in the district reportedly because of indebtedness.

Agriculture Minister K. P. Mohanan told The Hindu that he had directed the district Collector to hold a meeting of bankers, agriculture officers and others and collect data on indebtedness of farmers.

The Minister, who had assured the just concluded session of the Assembly that farmers’ suicides would not recur in the State, said that the problem was that none could predict who was going to commit suicide. Now, the effort would be to assess the financial position of farmers and collect information about their farming activities inside and outside the State.

Mr. Mohanan said that the government was wiling to help farmers facing problems if they approached the government. It was even willing to take over their farming activities and bear the losses, if the relief offered by the State Farmers’ Debt Relief Commission was inadequate.

(It may be recalled that the farmers’ suicides which had peaked about ten years ago had come down in recent years.)

He said that little could be done about problems happening in the farming sector because of climate change and deterioration of the soil, especially in the case of paddy. As to problems faced by Keralites undertaking cultivation in neighbouring States, it was the responsibility of the respective States to help them.

He said that the agencies under the Agriculture Department were now buying vegetables at market price from farmers. They sold it through their outlets at a subsidised price in view of the spiralling prices of vegetables in the open market. The average subsidy being offered was Rs. 6 a kg.

Maharashtra tops the list of farmers’ suicides

New Delhi (PTI): Fourty-six farmers commit suicide every day in this country even as packages were rolled out in a bid to bailout the debt-ridden community from crisis.

A whopping 16,632 cases of suicides by farmers, including 2,369 women were reported across the country last year with Maharashtra retaining the dubious distinction of having the largest number of such incidents despite a slump in figures.

Farmers’ suicide constituted 14.4 per cent of the total 1,22,637 suicides in the country in 2007, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) said in its latest report, Accidental Deaths and Suicide Report — 2007′.

In 2006, the figures were 17,060 and since 1997 there were 1,82,936 cases of farmers’ suicide in the country.

In a grim reminder of the appalling conditions of the farmers in this agriculture dominated country, the NCRB said besides Maharashtra, six other states have recorded over 1,000 cases of farmers’ suicides each in 2007.

Maharashtra, where the Central Government pitched in with a special package, reported 4,238 suicides last year, a decline of 215 from 2006, it said.

Karnataka (2,135), Andhra Pradesh (1,797), Chhattisgarh (1,593), Madhya Pradesh (1,263), Kerala (1,263) and West Bengal (1,102) followed Maharashtra in the list.

These states were in the top-seven list in 2006 too. While Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh showed a decline in the number of farmers’ suicide last year compared to 2006, such cases witnessed an increase in Karnataka, Kerala and West Bengal.

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Govt modifies rehab package for suicide-prone districts

CABINET DECIDES

BS Reporter / New Delhi October 09, 2008, 1:25 IST

The government today modified the rehabilitation package for the farmers in suicide prone districts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra.

The government had earlier announced a rehabilitation package on September 29, 2006 for 31 identified districts in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra, involving a total amount of Rs 16,978 crore.

After the feedback from implementing agencies, the Union Cabinet today decided to extend the period for implementation of the non-credit component of the package by two more years or up to September 30, 2011.

It has also given in-principle approval for provision of need-based additional financial support to the concerned ministries and departments of the Government of India for implementation of the programmes.

The rehabilitation package aims at establishing a sustainable and viable farming and livelihood support system through debt relief to farmers, complete institutional credit coverage, crop-centric approach to agriculture and assured irrigation facilities.

Other modifications in the scheme include increase in per farmer area limit under the Seed Replacement Programme from 1 hectare to 2 hectares, adoption of ‘Cafeteria Approach’ for participatory Watershed Development Programmes, and inclusion of ‘Women Farmers’ Empowerment Programme’ under extension services.

The Union Cabinet today also approved new legislation that seeks to set up a National Judicial Council (NJC) to conduct inquiries into allegations of incapacity or misbehaviour by judges of the High Court and Supreme Court. “The provisions of the new Bill would bring in transparency in the functioning of the judiciary and would also enhance its prestige,’’ an official handout said.

The proposed Bill would incorporate recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee that had looked into an earlier Bill — Judges (Inquiry) Bill, 2006.

101 farmers commit suicide in kerala in last 10 months

http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IEO200…

Tuesday March 27 2007 01:47 IST

PTI

T’PURAM: A total of 101 farmers have committed suicide in Kerala after the Left Democratic Front government came to power 10 months back, Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran told the assembly on Monday.
Wayanad district top the list with 46 suicides followed by Kozhikode 11 and Thiruvananthapuram 10, Ratnakaran said in a written reply during question hour.
Government had given compensation to 549 farmers families who committed suicide in the last few years, he said. The government paid Rs 50,000 each to the families, he added.