Farm­ers Sui­cide Due To Bankruptcy or In­debt­ed­ness?

Alive - - Editoral -

In a land­mark judg­ment with far reach­ing con­se­quences by which poor farm­ers will gain a lot, the Ut­tarak­hand High Court in the land­mark case of Dr Ganesh Upad­hyay v Union of In­dia & oth­ers in Writ Pe­ti­tion (PIL) no. 105 of 2017 has cat­e­gor­i­cally asked the state gov­ern­ment to pre­pare a scheme for pay­ment of com­pen­sa­tion to the be­reaved fam­i­lies, cre­ate a cor­pus for waiv­ing off their loans while also pass­ing a se­ries of di­rec­tions for the state gov­ern­ment and the Cen­tre to en­sure that farm­ers get good re­turns for their labour and are in­sured against any losses due to rea­sons beyond their con­trol. The court was com­pletely aghast to see the grim sce­nario in which farm­ers in the state are com­mit­ting sui­cide due to bankruptcy and in­debt­ed­ness. Very rightly so!

A Bench of Jus­tice Sharad Ku­mar Sharma and Jus­tice Ra­jiv Sharma asked the Cen­tre and the state gov­ern­ment to pro­vide le­gal sta­tus to Min­i­mum Sup­port Price. The Court was hear­ing a public in­ter­est lit­i­ga­tion (PIL) moved by Dr Ganesh Upad­hyay high­light­ing the in­ci­dents of sui­cide com­mit­ted by the farm­ers in the State of Ut­tarak­hand. This is un­doubt­edly a very se­ri­ous is­sue.

Truth be told, it has been rightly pointed out in para 1 of the land­mark judg­ment that the PIL has been in­sti­tuted for the re­dres­sal of griev­ance of farm­ers. The pe­ti­tioner has high­lighted the in­ci­dents of sui­cide com­mit­ted by the farm­ers in the State of Ut­tarak­hand. Ac­cord­ing to the aver­ments made in the pe­ti­tion, there is ab­ject poverty, high lev­els of in­debt­ed­ness and crop fail­ures lead­ing to sui­cide. Four farm­ers in the state of Ut­tarak­hand have com­mit­ted sui­cide. They have a right to live with dig­nity. Since the farm­ers are not able to re­pay the bank loans, they bor­row money from lo­cal money lenders at an ex­or­bi­tant rate of in­ter­est. There is de­lay on the part of gov­ern­ment agen­cies for mak­ing pay­ment to the farm­ers. Af­ter com­ing into ex­is­tence of State of Ut­tarak­hand, more than 2.26 lakh fam­i­lies of farm­ers have mi­grated from the hill dis­tricts of the State. It is fur­ther averred that 36401 farm­ers were mi­grated from Almora fol­lowed by Pauri (35,654), Tehri (33,689), Pithor­a­garh (22,936), Dehradun (20,625), Chamoli (18,536), Nainital (15,075), Ut­tarkashi (11,710), Cham­pawat (11,281), Ru­draprayag (10,970) and Bagesh­war (10,073).

Need­less to say, in para 2 of the judg­ment it is re­vealed that ac­cord­ing to the data com­piled by the Akhil Bhar­tiya Kisan Ma­hasabha, in 2016-17, only 20% agri­cul­tural land ex­ists in the hilly ar­eas for cul­ti­va­tion and re­main­ing 80% is ei­ther ly­ing bar­ren or has been sold for com­mer­cial pur­poses. A large size of crops is also dam­aged by wild an­i­mals. The to­tal cul­ti­vated area in the State is about 7,84,117 hectares. About 90% of pop­u­la­tion of the State de­pends on agri­cul­ture for its liveli­hood. The ir­ri­gated land is only 12% and 64% is fed by rain. The pe­ti­tioner has also high­lighted that the rate of in­ter­est changed by the banker is on the higher side. The farm­ers who have com­mit­ted sui­cide are be­low 40 years of age.

Go­ing for­ward, it is fur­ther re­vealed in para 3 that in State of Ut­tarak­hand, as no­ticed here­in­above, four (04) farm­ers have com­mit­ted sui­cide for ‘bankruptcy or in­debt­ed­ness’. There is a large scale prob­lem of mi­gra­tion of farm­ers. The farm­ers are not get­ting proper price for their crops. The farm­ers have not been told about the im­por­tance of Min­i­mum Sup­port Price (MSP). The only frac­tion of land is un­der ir­ri­ga­tion.

The ma­jor­ity of land in hills is ly­ing bar­ren. The in­ter­est charged by the banks is ex­or­bi­tantly high. The banks and money lenders use co­er­cive steps forc­ing the farm­ers to com­mit sui­cides.

Six farmer deaths re­ported in a month from Ut­tarak­hand.

In In­dia, 80% farmer sui­cides due to debt andloans from banks.

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