As many as 41 farmers committed suicide in the last one week in Telangana, forcing the TRS government to increase the compensation for the kin of the deceased four-fold from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 6 lakh. In the 10 districts of the state, 16 farmers committed suicide on Wednesday alone, while seven ended their lives on Tuesday. Five killed themselves on Monday, six on Sunday, three others on Saturday, while two farmers committed suicide each on Friday and Thursday. As per the official records, around 225 farmers have committed suicide since July this year. However, the experts and opposition parties differ with the figures. K. Sajaya, convener of the Concerned Citizens’ Collective (CCC) which has done extensive work on the issue in the last two years, told The Sunday Guardian that as many as 500 farmers have killed themselves due to farm crisis. Meanwhile, Telegu Desam Party legislative party leader E. Dayakar Rao wrote a letter to Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) on Wednesday listing around 1,200 farmers who had committed suicide since 2 June 2014, when Telangana was formed. Congress Leader K. Jana Reddy too told this paper that the actual number of farmers who committed suicide would be more than 1,000. The Telangana Assembly would be debating the farmers’ suicide issue for two days from 29 September. Senior officials in the agriculture, revenue and finance departments have said that efforts to tone up rural credit and supply of farm inputs like seeds, fertilizers and pesticides were on with a view to check the farmers’ crisis. “We are urging bankers to pump up rural credit and not to force farmers to repay their loans,” Agriculture Principal Secretary Parthasarathi said. However, independent experts like Sajaya feel otherwise. “Only 20% of the farmers’ debt is taken from the public sector banks, while the rest is supplied by private money lenders and informal sources. These loan givers are also suppliers of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides and they are locals,” said Sajaya.
Most farmers take loans from informal money lenders because they are more easily available. “If a farmer goes to a bank for a loan of Rs 2 lakh, it takes at least a month’s time to complete the formalities. A private dealer, on the other hand, gives instant loans,” she said. “Every farmer wants to grow cotton or mirchi, cost intensive cash crops, though their soil may not be suitable,” said G.V. Ramanjaneyulu of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, a Hyderabad research group that supports organic farming. Experts from the Acharya Jayashankar Agriculture University in Hyderabad felt that farming is becoming less profitable. “Entire agriculture in small land holdings of less than five acres has become unremunerated,” P Siddhaiah, a senior professor of the varsity said. The amount of debt of 16 farmers who committed suicide on Wednesday ranged between Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 7 lakh. M. Krishna Reddy (37) of Choullaramaram village in Nalgonda district had lost Rs 7 lakh due to a failed cotton crop on 14 acres. He consumed pesticide.
Sara Sankar Goud (42) of Rajpalli village in Medak district who lost his paddy crop worth Rs 3 lakh and defaulted on another Rs 4 lakh loan taken for his daughter’s marriage, ended his life by catching a live electric wire in his fields. Jangity Pentaiah (56) of Annaram village of the same district hanged himself as he failed to repay a debt of Rs 2 lakh, as crop failed on his two acre land. “The condition of these farmers is deplorable even though their debt is not huge and debtors haven’t forced them to repay either. Leaders need to support the distressed farmers,” said G. Haragopal, an activist.