Ever since the Telangana government introduced Rythu Bima in 2018, none of the families whose names were not registered as landowners have been able to receive the rehabilitation package of Rs 6 lakh.

Manjula, wife of Raveender, holding a photo of her dead husband
news Farmer suicide Friday, December 17, 2021 - 13:49

On January 3 this year, 33-year-old K Raveender, a farmer from Thondupally village, Parigi mandal of Telangana’s Vikarabad district, died by suicide after his crops failed. Raveender had grown maize and cotton in his four acres of land. But his wife Manjula is yet to get the ex-gratia from the government. Visits to the Mandal Revenue Officer’s office have proven futile, according to Manjula, as the official clearly told her that since the land was not in Raveender’s name, they cannot grant compensation.

“The official said that if my husband had at least one cent of land registered in his name, he could have provided help in granting ex-gratia,” a dejected Manjula recalls. Manjula is among the hundreds of farmers’ families in Telangana who have not received any compensation, purely because the land was not registered in the name of the suicide victim, according to farmers’ welfare organisation Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV). Ironically, the reason for this is the Telangana government’s newly introduced life insurance scheme Rythu Bima, aimed at providing social security to farmers. Under this scheme, which was introduced in 2018, farmers who own land pattas and have enrolled for the scheme will get an insurance amount of Rs 5 lakh.

On Thursday, December 16, over 200 women, kin of farmers who had died by suicide due to crop failure, gathered at Dharna Chowk in Hyderabad’s Indira Park demanding that the government provide them their entitled compensation and fully implement Government Order 173, which enhanced the ex-gratia for families of suicide victims from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. GO 173 was introduced in 2015.

Rajatha, wife of Ramesh, who died by suicide in 2016

As per the data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau for 2020, Telangana stands fourth in the country in farmers suicides after Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. A total of 466 farmers died by suicide in Telangana. This includes tenant farmers too.

According to RSV, none of the families of farmers who died in the state owing to agriculture-related distress after 2018 have received any compensation from the government. “The government has completely sidelined Government Order 173, which provides Rs 5 lakh towards rehabilitation of the family and a loan of Rs 1 lakh (as one-time settlement) to clear debts. But ever since Rythu Bima was introduced, none of the families whose names were not registered as landowners could receive this rehabilitation package,” said Naveen Ramisetty, co-convenor of RSV.

As part of the package, children of the suicide victims also get admission in social welfare schools, a house under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, besides economic support and pension from the government. However, none of the victims have gotten these benefits since Rythu Bima was introduced, according to RSV.

“Earlier, as per the guidelines, a three-member committee consisting of Mandal Revenue Officer, agriculture officer and a police officer would conduct a fact-finding inquiry to determine whether the death of a farmer was suicide or not. But this practice has completely stopped, thereby making it impossible to find the data about suicide victims in the state,” Naveen says. Earlier, Telangana congress president Revanth Reddy had also alleged that the KCR-led government was not implementing GO 173 so that they could conceal figures of farmer suicides in the state.

According to RSV, since the formation of the state of Telangana in 2014, 7,409 farmers had died by suicide, out of which the government only recognised 1,598. Among the 1,598 families, only around 1,300 got the full compensation, while others are yet to receive it. “Our demand is that the government should immediately release the compensation to the recognised farmers, and also provide social security to the other farmers who have been denied ex-gratia citing several legalities,” Kondal Rao, a member of RSV, said.

At the Thursday protest, the farmers also highlighted the problems of tenant farmers. “The government does not recognise them as farmers and provide any input subsidy under Rythu Bandhu. Neither do banks provide them loans as they do not have any collateral,” said Venkatamma, a farmer from Rangareddy district.

In Rythu Bandhu, an agriculture investment support scheme which was also launched in 2018, the government provides Rs 5,000 per acre per season to the farmers. However, tenant farmers cannot avail this scheme. Only persons who have pattas are entitled to this subsidy. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had earlier rejected the demand from tenant farmers saying that it is impossible to identify tenant farmers and extend help to them. He said that there was no record of tenant farmers and no landowner had formally recognised them.

Speaking at the protest, Kavitha Kuruganti, a jury member who was hearing the grievances of the women, pointed out the irony of the Telangana Chief Minister announcing ex-gratia to the 700 farmers from Punjab and Haryana who had died protesting the controversial laws brought in by the BJP-led Union government.

If you are aware of anyone facing mental health issues or feeling suicidal, please provide help. Here are some helpline numbers of suicide-prevention organisations that can offer emotional support to individuals and families.   

Tamil Nadu

State health department's suicide helpline: 104

Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050 (listed as the sole suicide prevention helpline in Tamil Nadu)

Andhra Pradesh

Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930

Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584

Karnataka

Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222

Kerala

Maithri: 0484 2540530

Chaithram: 0484 2361161

Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.

Telangana

State government's suicide prevention (tollfree): 104

Roshni: 040 66202000, 6620200

SEVA: 09441778290, 040 27504682 (between 9 am and 7 pm)

Aasara offers support to individuals and families during an emotional crisis, for those dealing with mental health issues and suicidal ideation, and to those undergoing trauma after the suicide of a loved one.    

24x7 Helpline: 9820466726

Click here for working helplines across India.

 
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