Hyderabad —The Human Rights Forum (HRF) calls upon the government to bring about a comprehensive ‘Drought Relief Code’. It should encompass measures that must be implemented towards effective drought relief and mitigation. The duties of the State to the people affected by drought and the rights and entitlements of those who suffer from drought must be codified in this law. Such a code is imperative because governments continue to exhibit adhocism and tokenism in the matter of relief towards the drought-hit.
Over the past several weeks HRF teams visited 47 villages in 9 drought-hit districts of the State where farmers have committed suicide. While exact figures are difficult to obtain, it is our estimate that not less than 290 farmers have ended their lives in AP over the past three months, over 90 per cent of them from the rain-fed districts of Telangana and Rayalseema.
Most are small, marginal farmers and tenant farmers. Cotton farmers in Telangana and groundnut farmers in Rayalseema account for the maximum farm suicides. Farmers are taking their own lives principally because of the appalling state of institutional credit leading to excessive reliance on private moneylenders resulting in high indebtedness.
The drying up of public credit because of the ‘banking reforms’ is the single most important contributing cause of farmers’ suicides. Farmers also lack access to reliable and reasonably priced inputs and a remunerative price for their output. It is clear that the government has failed in its obligations on all these fronts thereby rendering farmers helpless when the rains were either delayed or failed like in 2011. Though the government knew of the impending crisis given subsequent crop failures, it did virtually nothing to avert it.
Apart from notching up the number of drought-hit mandals at periodic intervals, the government is doing precious little by way of concrete relief. Measures taken up so far are extremely inadequate. Even implementation of G.O 421, which provides for an economic and rehabilitation package to the family members of farmers who have ended their lives, is pathetic. The RDO-headed verification and certification committee is barely visiting the villages where suicides have taken place and going about its job. It must be remembered that for every farmer who has committed suicide, there are many others facing extreme despair. The present onslaught on the lives of the peasantry has come about because the government has jettisoned its responsibility to the farmers.
The government must at least now stop underplaying the extent of the agrarian crisis and initiate concrete steps to alleviate the situation. All cultivators, including tenant farmers, must be brought into the ambit of institutional credit. If these and other such concrete pro-small farmer measures are not forthcoming, there might be a suicide epidemic in the coming year. VS Krishna Md. Anwar (HRF State general secretary) (HRF State secretary)