Saving Ryots from throes of suicide

By: Vanam Jwala Narasimha Rao 
[The writer is CPRO to Telangana CM]

Every day in the recent past reports on farmer’s suicides in Telangana State appear in the media often blaming the Government. Unfortunately, neither the news nor the views on suicides ever go deep into the details to analyze the overall picture that pushed the farmer to resort to the extreme decision of committing suicide. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao participating in the debate on the subject in the Assembly reminded the members of the observation made by Chief Justice of Hyderabad High Court that none of those who talk of suicides go deep in to the basics of issue for an in-depth analysis.

As pointed out by CM in the Assembly decades of ill governance in the undivided state resulting in non-completion of irrigation projects, deforestation leading to less rainfall, drying of wells and bore wells, severe power cuts, neglect of research in the Agriculture University, non-existent of Agriculture extension work, negligible attention on productivity enhancement over the years, inadequate storage systems for the produce etc caused suicides. Unless long term corrective measures, which have been already initiated by the present Government, are taken, the situation continues. Redesigning of irrigation projects, providing minor irrigation through Mission Kakatiya, adequate power supply to the farmer, ensuring of purchase of cotton by Cotton Corporation of India etc are some of these measures. Similarly a strategy has to be drawn as to what the government may do in one year, in two years as well as plan short term and long term measures.

Against this background how do we understand the agony of Telangana farmer? There are multiple reasons for suicides. It is not mere compensation or ex gratia that solves the problem but something more. It is a known fact that the agrarian crisis is not limited to Telangana or India but has become an international phenomenon. As long as human race exists there has to be agriculture because one has to eat for survival. Ideally speaking, the present farming is not in tune with advanced trends and needs overhaul. To overcome disadvantage of small holdings which do not yield profitable product to the farmer, consolidation of holdings would help in a big way. This issue is prominent particularly among Dalit Farmers. This could be done in certain framework advantageous to farmer. As announced by CM in the Assembly relief in the form of waiving of registration fee for consolidation is yet another solution.

Overall if we see issues like land related litigations, spurious seed related problems, timely fertilizer and pesticide supplies, in the absence of adequate labor force improving mechanization methods in farming, imparting required knowhow through training and extension work, productivity increasing technology and innovations, modern harvesting technology, scientific marketing strategies, credit facility at affordable interest rates, adequate and timely assured power supply, developing the irrigation sector, scientific water management technology, supportive structures including non-farming activity like dairy, fishery etc are to be addressed on a long term and short term basis. Addressing the problem by way of crop insurance and farmer insurance may also be given a thought. Whether the insurance company would be able to compensate the entire crop loss or it would also be as one of the measures of relief needs to be studied. Probably crop insurance may not be a comprehensive solution for the loss of crop but what could be the modalities to go for this has to be analyzed. As CM said in the Assembly private money lending has to be curbed.

Recording of crop pattern is another answer. Those who supply spurious seeds are to be dealt with severe punishment. Similarly the farming mechanization aspect would probably be another answer for avoiding farmer suicides. What exactly should be the farm mechanization? This includes mainly land preparation like ploughing, cultivation, irrigation, spraying etc. In rest of the activities it may not be of much use for the time being and may be given a thought later. Increasing the extension of micro irrigation is another solution.

Why should a situation arise wherein a farmer resorts to commit suicide? It is definitely cumulative contributing factors over a period that has caused this. They are not happening in one go and hence they could not be avoided in one go overnight. Had the projects said to have been conceived by the erstwhile undivided state governments been completed this situation would not have arisen. Both Agriculture University and department have been deliberately subjected to diminish it importance. As CM mentioned in the Assembly there are large number of vacancies there and in the absence of proper personnel the extension work has been abandoned systematically. There are no Agronomists. Research in the University is literally killed.

Telangana State is supposed to be the seed bowl of India and also may be for the world. Further strengthening of this area will also help the farmer to earn additional income. The domestic need of the seed and the export potential to other states and countries needs to be analyzed. Cultivable land has to be divided in to different crop colonies. A beginning in this direction should be made with a qualitative change first and later move towards quantitative change. Adequate marketing support is another solution to the problem which the government is taking care of. In addition to the routine crops farmer should be encouraged to grow vegetables. It is surprising that vegetable requirement of Hyderabad is met from imports produced in places like Sangli. Why not they are grown in the lands around Hyderabad in the nearby districts? Agriculture University should also concentrate on deciding lands that are useful for vegetable production and encourage the farmer to go for it. This would be another measure to prevent farmer suicides.

Many of the issues raised are being tackled by the state government in addition to enhancement of ex gratia to Rs. 6 lakhs to the farmer’s family who committed suicide. They include among others loan waiving to an extent of Rs. One Lakh, payment of input subsidy, keep in reserve buffer stocks in adequate quantities of fertilizers, increase the number of godowns, exemption of tax on tractors for agriculture use, provision of subsidy for sprinklers for micro irrigation, establishment of Mark fed centers, construction of warehouse, increased cotton procurement, support price for maize and red sorghum, efficient distribution of seeds etc.

It is only long-term measures that would help the farmer and would be the solution to avoid suicides. Resorting to the extreme step of committing suicide is no solution. Politicizing the issue is certainly not an answer to put an end to the problem.

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