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Farmers Suicide at AAP Rally

April 24, 2015

An Intelligence Bureau (IB) report of 19 December 2014 titled ‘Spate of Cases of Suicide by Farmers’ alerted the current government about the rising trend in cases of farmers’ committing suicides in states like Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Telangana.

Farmers Suicide in AAP Rally at Jantar Mantar

The reasons cited in the IB report for the spurt in the trend of farmers’ suicides included uneven rains, drought, floods and hailstorms that affect the crop yield, along with certain man-made factors like pricing policies and poor marketing facilities that cause post-yield losses. These factors result in creating a debt trap for the farmers. A major reason that has been attributed to the farmers’ suicides, in the report, is that the government relief packages are highly inadequate and fail to check the dominance of the private moneylenders from whom the farmers are forced to borrow at interest rates that are as high as 50 percent.

Four months after the IB report’s submission, all the government efforts seem to be lost in the labyrinth of paper works, with no actual realisation of relief on the part of the farmers.

During the inauguration of the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) Bank on 8 April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the government had increased the amount of compensation by 50 percent for the farmers. The Prime Minister also relaxed the eligibility criteria for such compensation; however, in reality, the process has become more cumbersome because of lack of clarity in the disbursement process.

A circular by the Disaster Management Division of the Union Home Ministry on 8 April asked the Chief Secretaries to compensate the farmers from the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) and get it reimbursed from the National Fund. However, there was a catch as the circular stated: “In case the state faces another severe disaster during the same year, no adjustment will be made while releasing the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) assistance.”

Moreover, the stipulated conditions meant that compensation would be limited to only those farmers who have a maximum 4.9 acres of land, which meant more than half of the population of the farmers would be deprived of this compensation. Apart from that, the maximum cash relief a farmer could get under the provision was of Rs. 13,475 and Rs. 26,778 for rain-fed and assured irrigation areas, respectively.

In actuality, the report suggests that there is no adequate cover provided for the farmers’ losses. The report said that the Haryana Government of Bharatiya Janata Party recently doled out a pittance, handing out compensation cheques for as less as Rs. 200 to the farmers for their crops that were damaged due to the rains!

And, the official explanation came out as “The compensation, now being disbursed to the farmers, is for the years 2013 and 2014 and it has been calculated on the basis of the norms fixed by the previous government.”

Indeed, officialdom has its generous ways considering that in 2013, farmers were issued cheques worth Rs. 2 and Rs. 3 as compensation in Haryana as well as elsewhere!

It goes without saying that the farmers, caught in the quagmire of political expediency, are the worst sufferers. Statistics suggests that there had been a 14.41 percent fall in the farmers’ suicide rate between 2010 and 2013; however, the trend does not seem to coincide with that. The report mentions that daily about 12 farmers are committing suicides in Maharashtra. Between August and November last year, 204 farmers had committed suicides in Maharashtra and 97 more in five other states. Yet the veracity of such official figures, too, is often disputed. In Telangana, in sharp variance from the official death figure of 82, an NGO, Rythu Swarajya Vedika, has claimed that 536 farmers have committed suicide in the newly formed state since 2 June 2014.

There are many more reasons other than unseasonal rains, failed crops and debt for the farmers’ suicides in the country. One such cause is the genetically modified organism seeds. The legalization of GMO in 2002, experts say, added to the stress experienced by Indian farmers. A publicly traded American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation, Monsanto, has largely been criticised for contributing to over 2,90,000 suicides by Indian farmers over the last 20 years. What substantiates such criticism is the fact that Monsanto is involved in legal suits all over the world and faces accusations that its costly seeds and pesticides are to blame for the suicides by Indian farmers. The monopoly of GMO seeds has forced farmers to buy these seeds and since the GMO crops have become pest resistant, the farmers have no choice but to purchase Monsanto’s pesticides. The company had recently paid out $2.4 million to US farmers, settling one of many lawsuits it has been involved in worldwide.

Yet another reason attributed to the rise in cases of suicides committed by farmers is global cotton surplus that has sent prices tumbling and aggravated rural poverty in the cotton belts of the country such as Maharashtra, Gujarat and Telangana.

Given the various reasons that are causing a spurt in farmers’ suicide numbers, sloppy compensation policy, coupled with unseasonal rains in a large part of the country, has exposed the inadequacies in our government’s preparedness in tackling the grim problem of increase in the number of suicide cases by farmers.

What adds to the farmers’ misery is the inhumane approach towards their problems. It is a mordant fact that a farmer committed suicide right under the nose of the powerful politicians in New Delhi – irony being that the farmer committed suicide by hanging himself from a Neem tree just about 50 metre away from where Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was attending a ‘Kisan Rally’ at the very heart of the national capital on 22 April, and that instead of trying to make any concerted effort to get into the root of such issues, it has just begun a bitter political blame game.

The only significant fallout from the suicide committed by the farmer in question, one Gajendra Singh from Dausa in Rajasthan in full public glare, might be that it could succeed in stalling the controversial Land Acquisition Bill in the Parliament. The Bill, which holds crucial place in the government’s reforms agenda, is termed as ’Anti–Farmer’ by the Opposition.

If only suicides have to decide the fate of such bills, then no doubt farmers will have to face such a grim future ahead!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.

I am a journalist, educationist and filmmaker with over twenty years of experience in the media industry. I have worked in different capacities in all formats (print, television and web) in prestigious media organizations in India and abroad. As a journalist I have covered social issues, natural calamities, successive state assembly as well as parliament elections since 1989, government offices, Indian political parties, state legislative assemblies as well as Indian Parliament.

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