Farmers Suicide Due To Bankruptcy or Indebtedness?
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.