Ignoring farmers, suicides led to BRS' downfall, say farmer bodies

Update: 2023-12-09 18:47 GMT
S.K. Safia on her land in Indurthi village in Chigurumamidi mandal of Karimnagar district where she had a house. The dilapidated bathroom is all that remains. G. Ram Mohan

Hyderabad: Farmers’ bodies in the state blamed the BRS’ alleged failure in curbing farmer suicides and deaths as the reason for its poor electoral performance, citing the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) report for 2022 that pegged farmer deaths in the state at 178.

They claimed that the report underplayed farmer suicides in the state for 2022, estimating farmer suicides at 420, as accessed from the district crime records bureau and newspaper reports that specifically quoted the reason for suicide as farm distress. They said that the “low number of 178” in the report “hid the stark reality” in rural areas and “the undercurrent of discontent in rural areas”, claiming it was the undoing of the outgoing BRS government.

“Despite launching Rythu Bandhu, a flagship scheme of the BRS, which was copied by the Centre as PM Kisam Samman Nidhi, it lost novelty by 2023. The improving power situation in the state that the party showcased as an achievement failed to cut the ice, giving way for the Congress to secure higher vote share in rural hinterlands,” said Sarampally Malla Reddy, the vice-president of All India Kisan Sangh (AIKS).

Since the formation of Telangana, the number of farmer deaths were logged at 1,400, 645, 851 and 908 in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively by the NCRB.

The deaths in 2019, 2020 and 2021 were 499, 471 and 440, respectively, with unions saying that the process for enumerating farmers’ deaths and verification to settle family debts mandated under G.O. 194 was practically stopped since the launch of the Rythu Bima scheme on August 15, 2018.

Malla Reddy said, “The NCRB has been trying to reduce the number of farmer’s deaths by including them under deaths owing to domestic violence. The principal cause for discord in the families being monetary issues should be recognised. The failure to implement the farm loan waiver properly in Telangana denied institutional loans to farmers from banks, forcing them to take private loans at 24 to 36 per cent interest. This also gave impetus to suicides. Failure to even disburse the amount given by the Central Finance Commission to farmers facing natural calamities also added to the distress.”

“The process of settling debts officially under GO 194 helped families move ahead in their lives, not being bogged down by piled-up debt,” Malla Reddy said.

Farmer activists rued the halt of the process after the Rythu Bima launch, blaming it for burying the data on farmers' deaths.

“To avail of the scheme, having land in his or her name is a prerequisite. This led to complete lack of enumeration of farmer’s deaths. The established process until then involved the verification of the reasons and recording the veracity of the farmer’s death at two levels, the mandal and district. This process was abandoned,” Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV) activist G. Kondal Reddy said.

He said that of the 420 who died, 151 were tenant farmers, while the rest were landowning farmers.

Activists said that the change dissuaded tenant farmers and farm labourers from filing police cases to avail of compensation under GO 194.

“In this milieu, it is no surprise that the latest NCRB data cites the number of tenant farmers deaths at zero. The CM KCR had on record, on the floor of the Assembly, refused to recognise tenant farmers as farmers,” Kondal Reddy said.

Members of the RSV said that even the process under GO 194 wasn’t foolproof, with many families denied compensation due to official apathy, due to which they approached the court to ensure payments.

They said that the trend of increasing tenancy in Telangana has been recorded by bodies like the NITI Aayog, dating as far back as 2015, when a committee had pegged the tenancy in the state at 13.56 per cent.

Even the 77th NSSO report cites the increase in tenancy from 4.7 per cent in 2002-03 to 17.5 per cent in 2018-19. It added that the total land under tenancy also rose from 3.1 per cent in 2002-03 to 11.9 per cent in 2018-19. A field study by RSV in 2022 concluded that one-third of the farmers in the state were tenant farmers.

A typical example of tenant farmers who had to suffer the official apathy towards them is starkly enunciated by the fate of 50-year-old S.K. Safia of Indurthi village in Chigurumamidi mandal of Karimnagar district, the lone surviving member of her family.

Her husband and son, who were landless tenant farmers, died by suicide due to debt burden.

She said, “I did not get a penny from the Rythu Bima scheme. All I have is this piece of land with a collapsed house and I live on rent in an adjacent house and survive doing farm labour along with the '2,000 pension I get. I am repaying a '2 lakh loan.”

RSV members said the government recognised only 1,800 of 7,000 farmer deaths as suicides since the formation of Telangana, with only 1,800 families receiving aid.

“Under the Rythu Bima scheme, the BRS government paid '5 lakh to nearly a lakh of farmers’ families. The Telangana High Court, taking cognisance of farmers left out, had given a directive and ordered completion of the process in the next four months and ordered the state government to do the needful,” a second RSV member said.

While the BRS government needs to be lauded for giving Rythu Bima, leaving out tenant farmers was a dampener, said Kondal Reddy.


Similar News