Agriculture
Bankruptcy or debt was reported to be the major cause of suicide.
File photo: PTI

A shocking 1,358 farmers killed themselves in Telangana in 2015, according to figures released by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB).

This makes Telangana the state with the second highest number of farmer suicides in the country, after Maharashtra.

In 2014, the figure was 898, which makes this a significant increase.

The NCRB stated that a total of 8,007 farmers and cultivators had committed suicide during 2015.

'Bankruptcy or Indebtedness' and 'Farming Related Issues' were reported to be the major cause of suicide, followed by ‘Family Problems’, ‘Illness’ and ‘Drug Abuse and Alcoholic Addiction’.

46.5% or 632 out of the 1,358 farmers that killed themselves in Telangana, did so due to bankruptcy and debt.

20 farmers killed themselves due to poverty, while another 160 killed themselves due to an illness.

Activists say that the statistics released by the NCRB data on the farmer suicides are roughly correct.

"We have been collecting news reports of farmer suicides as and when they appear, and the NCRB data is more or less right. However, this has been the case for the last few years now," says Kiran Kumar Vissa, State committee member of Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV), an NGO that deals with agricultural issues.

Kiran states that even during the time of undivided Andhra Pradesh, the state was second in the number of suicides, and calls it a "continuing crisis."

"One of big rationale for the formation of a new state, was the neglect of the agricultural sector. However, that neglect continues even today." he says.

"The state seems to be taking a silver bullet approach, with its schemes like the 'Kakatiya Mission' among other things. However, that would require the farmers to wait until the entire scheme is implemented. Besides, irrigation and water is not the only problem that they face," he adds.

Kiran says that low investment measures with minimum budgetary allocations, can go a long way in improving the scenario on the ground, while compared to massive projects that cost several thousand crore rupees.

"Timeliness is very important in agriculture. We have to ensure that farmers get their loans on time. They need most of their financing in June, ahead of their ploughing and planting. If the loans are delayed till August, like they were last year, the farmers turn to private lenders," he states.

This would only add to the troubles of the farmer, as private lenders charge high rates of interest on the loans.

"Even the loan waiver that was promised to the farmers has not been implemented properly," Kiran adds.

He also faults the state for the delayed declaration of drought.

During the Kharif season in 2014, the Telangana government did not declare a drought, even though there was a 50% rainfall deficit.

In 2015, the situation was worse. 

According to reports, though there was a 21% deficit rainfall during the monsoon season, resulting in a massive drop in rice production, with only 10% of the usual rice production in the state taking place. 

Despite several hundred farmers killing themselves, the state declared 231 mandals drought-hit, only after the end of the Kharif season in November.  

"No steps were taken and it showed clear signs of neglect. Handling the drought in 2015 was a disaster," says Kiran.

The NCRB data also shows that out of 1,358 farmers, only 79 were 'Large Farmers and Cultivators’, while others were smaller farmers or tenant farmers.

"A lot of tenant farmers have been committing suicide. We have been raising the issue and even approached the state, but we got a very poor response," says Kiran.

According to him, most tenant farmers in the state are yet to receive their Loan Eligibility Cards (LEC), despite an act that was passed in the AP Assembly in 2011. 

The LEC would give the farmers access to 0% interest crop loans from banks, crop insurance and several other agricultural subsidies. 

"Most of the tenant farmers have a small plot of land spanning an acre or two, but rent out more land in order for crop. The state has done very little to help such farmers, as they struggle to even break even. Even the Minimum Support Price has not been implemented properly," Kiran says.

"The need of the hour, is for the state to give the farmers a signal, that it is there for them," he adds.