'Wrong government policies force farmers to commit suicide'
Blaming official policies for the increasing number of farmer suicides across the country, farm activists have demanded immediate government intervention to support farmers.
According to a report presented at a press conference organised by the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) here on Friday, 95 farmers committed suicide in six districts in Andhra Pradesh between 7 October and 8 November. The figure is based on ASHA's compilation of local news reports after which it conducted a fact-finding mission visiting 20 affected families. ASHA found that all the suicides were connected to agriculture-related issues. "They were driven by factors like debt, crop failure and other agrarian reasons," Kiran Vissa, of Association for India Development, said.
The issues faced by families of farmers committing suicide were brought up by Sajaya Kakarla, of Andhra Pradesh-based Caring Citizens Collective, who has been working with such families for the last five years. "Often, officials deny such families the due compensation of Rs 1,50,000. In fact, they blame the wife for not stopping her husband from committing suicide," said Kakarla. Besides, there's the strange official notion that a suicide could not be genuine.
State policies on agriculture are often equally absurd forcing farmers to commit suicide. "The policies promote wrong cultivation practices in rain-fed areas such as encouraging crops dependant on rain," Kishor Tiwari, of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, pointed out. "We can't term them suicides; they're policy-driven victims of the state. We want policies which let the farmers live," he added.
However, it's the absence of proper policies which hits farmers in some cases. GV Ramanjaneyulu, of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, said that there was currently no mechanism to compensate farmers hit by drought. Kavitha Kuruganti, of ASHA, said that the domestic price system did not take farmers into consideration and non-institutional agencies didn't cover tenant farmers.
High cost of cultivation and price collapse triggers suicides as well. In fact, according to advocate Pradeep Kumar, of Haritha Sena, "Eleven farmers committed suicide in Kerala in the last 25 days alone due to the collapse in prices of ginger and banana."
In a meeting with nine members of Parliament and civil society groups on Thursday, the ASHA was promised that these issues would be discussed in the Rajya Sabha. Though a welcome measure, the ASHA does not think that a mere discussion is sufficient and has placed a list of demands, including setting up Parliamentarians Forum on Agrarian Crisis immediately to voice the distress of farmers at the highest possible level.