A prom­ise can kill

Poll prom­ise to waive crop loan led farm­ers to de­fault and in­cur debt in the nascent Te­lan­gana state. About 100 of them com­mit sui­cide

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS - M SU­CHI­TRA

Mount­ing debt drives farm­ers in Te­lan­gana to sui­cide; new gov­ern­ment yet to ful­fil poll prom­ise to waive crop loan

THE KHARIF SEA­SON, which starts with the on­set of the mon­soon, is sup­posed to fill farm­ers with hope. But this year, it brought despair for Ja­dav In­dal, a 32-year-old adi­vasi farmer from Gol­la­mada vil­lage in Adi­l­abad dis­trict of Te­lan­gana. With the mon­soon be­com­ing more er­ratic, In­dal had dug 10 borewells for as­sured ir­ri­ga­tion for his cot­ton farm. While none of the borewells yielded wa­ter, he in­curred a debt of ` 5 lakh. Reel­ing from heavy debt and with no money to pre­pare land or buy seeds and fer­tiliser, he and his wife ended their lives along with their seven-year-old daugh­ter Pushpa.On June 4, they tied their legs to­gether with a rope and jumped into a deep dry well in their field. Their five-year-old son Ja­dav Shivraj sur­vived as he had re­fused to ac­com­pany them.

The in­ci­dent took place just two days after Te­lan­gana was born. Since then, more than 100 farm­ers have taken their lives in the new state. One-fourth of them are from Adi­l­abad.While the gov­ern­ment is yet to ac­knowl­edge this, cases of sui­cide are be­ing reg­u­larly lodged in po­lice sta­tions.“Not a day passes with­out news re­lated to farm­ers’ sui­cides in the state,”says S Malla Reddy, vice- pres­i­dent of the All In­dia Kisan Sabha, a farm­ers’ union. “Farm­ers usu­ally take such ex­treme step after the crop fails. So cases of farm­ers’sui­cide are re­ported around the time of har­vest­ing in Oc­to­ber-Novem­ber,” says Asha Latha, state pres­i­dent of Rythu Swara­jya Vedika, which works for sus­tain­able liveli­hood for agri­cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties in Te­lan­gana and Andhra Pradesh.“This year, such re­ports have started com­ing in from the be­gin­ning of the kharif sea­son,”says Latha.

Haz­ards of a poll prom­ise

Latha points out three fac­tors that are ail­ing the farm­ers.This year Te­lan­gana re­ceived less than av­er­age rain­fall; six of the state’s 10 dis­tricts have al­ready been cater­gorised as drought-hit (see ‘...and they swal­lowed the bait’). Ir­reg­u­lar power sup­ply pre­vents the farm­ers from draw­ing wa­ter from deep borewells and ir­ri­gate their fields.To com­pound their woes, the rul­ing Te­lan­gana Rash­tra Samithi (trs) gov­ern­ment is yet to ful­fill its poll prom­ise to waive agri­cul­tural loans.

All ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties had promised to waive agri­cul­tural loans dur­ing elec­tion cam­paigns for Assem­bly and Lok Sabha seats in April,says G V Ra­man­janeyalu of the

C Cen­tre FS For Sus­tain­able i bl A Agri­cul­ture, il a non­profit in Hy­der­abad. This led to wide­spread spec­u­la­tions. A majority of farm­ers did not re­pay last year’s farm loans by its due date in April.This has made them in­el­i­gi­ble for fresh loans, which banks dis­burse in May.“When I ap­proached the bank to re­pay ` 25,000 crop loan, the ex­ec­u­tives asked me to wait for the gov­ern­ment to launch the promised loan waiver scheme and did not give me fresh loan,” says G Ra­ja­narasimha, res­i­dent of Birkur block in Nizam­abad who grows paddy, maize and sug­ar­cane on his 2.4 hectares. Like many other farm­ers in his vil­lage, Ra­ja­narasimha turned to a moneylen­der and bor­rowed ` 25,000 at 36 per cent in­ter­est rate. Banks charge up to four per cent in­ter­est for crop loans. “Moneylen­ders are cash­ing in on this sit­u­a­tion and are charg­ing as much as 84 per cent in­ter­est,” points out Reddy.

Sop too late

The rul­ing trs gov­ern­ment un­der chief min­is­ter K Chan­drasekhar Rao did an­nounce a scheme to waive crop loans and gold loans up to ` 1 lakh for farm­ers soon after as­sum­ing charge.But the scheme was nowhere near the im­ple­men­ta­tion stage till the mag­a­zine went to print. i O On J July l 19 19, when h chief hi f sec­re­tary Ra­jiv Sharma is­sued the or­der for con­sti­tut­ing a high-level com­mit­tee that would for­mu­late modal­i­ties for loan waiver scheme, kharif sea­son was half­way through.The gov­ern­ment says waiv­ing the loans of 3.9 mil­lion farm­ers will put a bur­den of ` 18,000 crore on the state cof­fers.So it had re­quested rbi to reschedule last year’s farm loans for seven years. But the Cen­tral Bank, one of the banks that is­sue crop loans, con­tested the pro­posal. DownTo Earth has learnt that rbi has agreed to de­lay re­pay­ment of the loans for three years in Adi­l­abad, Karim­na­gar and Ma­habub­na­gar dis­tricts alone, say­ing that the other dis­tricts did not in­cur sig­nif­i­cant crop loss in last five years.

Reddy says the de­lay in waiv­ing crop loan is a dou­ble whammy for farm­ers.They have not only failed to avail fresh loans, but have also been de­prived of crop in­surance. Banks usu­ally deduct in­surance pre­mium while is­su­ing crop loans.This year a majority of the farm­ers in Te­lan­gana can­not get in­surance ben­e­fit if the crop fails.

Last year, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Crime Record Bureau, over 2,000 farm­ers com­mit­ted sui­cide in the un­di­vided Andhra P Pradesh; 1,400 were from Te­lan­gana. “The num­ber might go up this year,”Reddy warns.

The trs gov­ern­ment holds the farmer-unfriendly poli­cies of the pre­vi­ous Congress gov­ern­ment at the Cen­tre as well as the un­di­vided Andhra Pradesh re­spon­si­ble for the present cri­sis.“It is the Congress gov­ern­ment which pushed the farm­ers into this deep dis­tress,” agri­cul­ture min­is­ter Pocharam Srini­vas Reddy told the me­dia on Au­gust 4. That day, farm­ers from eight vil­lages in Medak dis­trict had blocked the Na­tional High­way 44 protest­ing er­ratic power sup­ply.

“It is sad that the trs gov­ern­ment does not own up to its con­tri­bu­tions to the farm­ers’ dis­tress,” says Ra­man­janeyalu. Most of the farm­ers who have com­mit­ted sui­cide are cot­ton grow­ers and ten­ant farm­ers.They face losses as they invest more on seeds or grow cot­ton on soil un­suit­able for the crop.In­stead of en­gag­ing in a blame game,the gov­ern­ment should pro­vide them timely and good ex­ten­sion ser­vices, drought-resistant seeds, re­vive tra­di­tional tank ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems, reg­u­larly sup­ply power, fix min­i­mum support prices tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the cost of liv­ing and ris­ing cost of cul­ti­va­tion and pro­vide good mar­ket link­age,he sug­gests.

Kon­ada­palli Padma of Ankired­dy­palli vil­lage in Medak has opened her field of failed maize crop to cat­tle

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