At least 15 tenant farmers from the Amaravati capital region in Andhra Pradesh have killed themselves in the last two years after suffering heavy loss in agriculture. All the farmers belonged to the marginalised communities of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes.
The ordeal of these landless farmers started when the government began the construction of the capital in Amaravati, affecting 29 villages in the region. Land owning farmers, belonging to the upper castes, have pledged their land to the government in what is called land pooling, where the government will return a portion of their land after developing it.
As a result of the land pooling, there is a shortage of agricultural lands in the region, and a steep increase in demand for it. The demand meant that the land owners increased the lease rate of the land, thereby increasing the cost of production for tenant farmers. As banks and the government do not recognise them as farmers and so do not provide loans, the farmers were forced to borrow from moneylenders and were soon grappling with mounting debts.
Besides, by taking away the land, the government deprived them off their livelihood without providing any alternative employment. Many farmers in this region have now turned into migrant labourers, travelling 30-40 km to neighbouring places in search of manual, daily-wage jobs.
Though the government has been providing them Rs 2,500 every month as relief, the farmers say the sum is too low for a family to sustain.
Farmers in this region primarily grow cotton and chillies. However, the market price for cotton and chillies was in the decline for the last two years. Added to this, many crops suffered infestation. Unable to repay the loans, the farmers killed themselves by consuming pesticide.
The tenant farmers demand that they should be recognised as farmers, so that they can avail farming subsidies from the government. They also demand that the relief amount should be increased to Rs 10,000, and that the government should provide them alternate employment opportunities.
While the kin of farmers who committed suicide also demand compensation, the newly formed government led by Jagan Mohan Reddy has promised Rs 7 lakh ex-gratia to each of the families.
In addition, the YSRCP government has recently extended the Rythu Bharosa scheme (input subsidy for farmers) to tenant farmers as well.
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