'We are planning to carry dead snakes along with us. If the government does not listen to us, we will cook the snakes and eat them.'

Why is TN government silent over the alarming plight of states farmers
news Opinion Monday, January 02, 2017 - 16:17

Tamil Nadu is witnessing an alarming agrarian crisis. Several farmers in the Cauvery delta region, faced with crop failure, have lost their lives either by killing themselves or out of shock. Last week, a group of farmers got together at the Trichy Collectorate and held dead rats in their mouths, evoking a shocking reaction from people of the state. If farmers don’t get any help, they will be forced to eat rats, they said, and asked that the state be declared drought-hit.

Their dramatic protests are not novel overreactions. While the rain deficit in the state is being pegged at 70%, in the Delta districts, farmers say that it is between 80-90%. With the failure of the monsoon and reluctance from Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu, crops have failed, leaving farmers with a drought they have not witnessed in several years.

Several farmer associations have been making representations to the state and the central government asking them to pay heed to their situation, but in vain. P Ayyakannu, President of the Desiya Thennidiya Nadhigal Inaippu Sangam which led the rat-protests on Trichy, says that they are gearing up to visit Delhi soon. “At least 1000 farmers are planning to visit Delhi in March 2017. We are planning to carry dead snakes along with us. If the government does not listen to us, we will cook the snakes and eat them. If we die of the poison, it will be better than leading this life,” he says.

While announcing loan waivers and providing immediate financial relief to the farmers could help them tide over their grief, a major step towards ensuring the situation does not get as bad as this in the future is the setting up for the Cauvery Management Board, and the Tamil Nadu government has to renew its efforts to get it set up in view of the ongoing crisis.

“One basic difference between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in using water is that TN has rules. We do not get water all through the year for agriculture, only between June and January. In Karnataka, water is used all through the year, leaving us in the lurch when we need it the most. There has to be an authority which monitors the use of water,” says S Ranganathan General Secretary, Tamil Nadu Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association.

This year, with the failure of monsoon, Karnataka has refused to share water as per the Supreme Court verdict, he says. “If the CMB is not set up, then there is no neutral authority to decide how much water should be released to Tamil Nadu by Karnataka,” he says, stating that the Cauvery dispute remains one of the major reasons for the plight of the farmers.

“Because PM Modi’s party has political considerations in Karnataka, they are not bothered about farmers in Tamil Nadu. Modi government has to intervene in the matter,” adds Ayyakannu.

Meanwhile, the lack of any action from the Tamil Nadu government so far has disappointed farmers. With the death of Jayalalithaa, and the subsequent take-over by Sasikala, the ruling party AIADMK is in the throes of a political churn, and has not able to pay enough attention to the farm distress. Opposition political parties including the DMK and PMK have asked the government to declare the state drought-hit, with Stalin attacking the government for inaction on Friday. But there has been no response from the government.

While the state government is yet to make any detailed representation to the Centre seeking assistance for the farm distress, farmer associations are agitated and threatening state-wide protests on January 5.

If the AIADMK government continues to remain oblivious to the situation of the farmers, then not only will the state lose more lives, but the party could well be staring at a deep political crisis.