news Friday, July 03, 2015 - 05:30
In the last one week, Karnataka has seen an average of one farmer suicide a day, suggesting that it may still be one of the five states with the highest farmer suicides in the country.  Bogged down by debt and despair, at least nine farmers across the state killed themselves in the last eight days while four others have attempted suicide. Farmer suicides have been reported from all over the state – Mandya, Mysuru, Shivamogga, Haveri, Kalaburgi, Chikballapur districts. A farmer from Raibag taluk, Belagavi district, attempted suicide on the first day of the monsoon session of the Assembly underway at the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi. He is now recovering. It was 60-year-old Ninge Gowda’s suicide that first shook up the state government. On June 25, the sugarcane farmer from Pandavapura taluk in Mandya district, set his standing sugarcane crop on fire and jumped into it. He had suffered heavy loss due to falling sugarcane prices and thus could not repay his loan.  All these events have put pressure on the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in the state. Siddaramaiah said on the floor of the house, that 21 farmers have taken their lives since April, “owing to debt, defunct borewells, crash in prices for commodities etc”. He said that government would pay more compensation to the families of deceased farmers. But besides announcing compensation in a case or two, the state government has done little to address the grave situation. Founder of the People’s Archive of Rural India and former Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu P Sainath has extensively reported on agrarian distress in India, and has noted that overwhelmingly, it is growers of cash crops who commit suicide. A 2008 research paper titled “Farmers’ suicides in India: Magnitude, trends and spatial patterns” by economist K Nagaraj, showed that Karnataka is one of the “Big Five” states where farmer suicides are the highest – Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh (in that order). Although there have been changes in the pattern since, this held true as late as 2013, which is the latest year for which statistics are available. In 2013, Sainath points out that the Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India report of the National Crime Records Bureau shows that Karnataka recorded 472 farmer suicides. Despite several attempts to contact officials at the state Department of Agriculture for the latest figures on farmers suicides, officials remained unavailable. This year, Mandya district, which is a sugarcane belt, appears to have seen the highest number of suicides, especially in the last 10 days. Sugar factories who owe sugarcane growers nearly Rs. 1000 crore for the period 2013-2015. The News Minute had reported that a combination of factors as diverse as the state and central policies on agriculture, lack of coordination between the state government and sugar factory owners, banking policies which did not favour farmers, private money-lenders, high input costs, international factors as well as the inability of sugarcane growers to switch to another crop had caused several sugarcane farmers to take their own lives. Read: Why sugarcane farmer set his field on fire and jumped into his own pyre Another, more recent circumstance, that could have been avoided has exacerbated the situation, says President of Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha Krishne Gowda T L, a sugarcane farmer in Mandya district. “Though there enough water available in KRS dam, the water supply in the canal has been stopped as it is under repairs. Since there is no water available, the standing crop is drying up causing heavy loss. There has been unnecessary delay in completion of repairs despite many requests.” One reason that farmer suicides peak in the summer is because harvest time is when hope runs out. All through the year, farmers toil away in the fields in the hope of a good crop, but come harvest time, they know whether the crop will survive or not, and even if it does survive, whether it will fetch them enough to pay their debts and look after themselves. “It is difficult to pinpoint any certain month when farmer sucides increase. It occures round the year, but it does increase during summer because farmers wait for a year expecting good harvest. If the crop fails, or even if the yield is good, they may not be able to fetch a good price. So that's the time most farmers fate is decided,” Krishne Gowda says.