Hyderabad: Despite a decrease nationwide in the number of suicides by farmers and cultivators from 2017 to 2018, these numbers registered an increase in Telangana state. While in 2017 the number of farmers who took their lives in the state was registered as 846, this number rose to 900 in 2018, according to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
The NCRB released its 2018 crime statistics report on Thursday. The number of suicides by farmers countrywide stood at 5,763 in 2017 and at 5,955 in 2018, according to the NCRB report.
The NCRB said that when suicides among all those engaged in farming sector in Telangana state is taken into account the number stood at 851 for 2017, and rose to 908 for 2018. For both years, men outnumbered women farmers in taking their lives in the state. For 2017, the number of male farmers and cultivators who committed suicide was 729 while 117 women farmers also took their lives. For the subsequent year, these figures stood at 793 and 107 respectively.
The state also retained the dubious status of being third in terms of suicides by farmers and cultivators for the two years. Maharashtra with 2,239 (2017) and 2,426 (2018) was the worst-affected followed by Karnataka with 1,365 (2017) and 1,157 (2018) suicides by farmers for the two years.
Woes of tenant farmers likely to increase further
The latest data released by National Crime Records Bureau, that showed an increase in the number of suicides by farmers in Telangana state in 2018 compared to 2017, indicates that agriculturists continue to face high levels of distress despite initiatives by the state government such as Rythu Bandhu scheme, farm rights activists said.
“Stress in the agriculture sector does not have a single solution. The government appears to be relying on its flagship schemes to eliminate the stresses faced by the sector,” said Mr Kiran Kumar Vissa, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee national group working member. “The real reason for increase in suicides by farmers is that the government is not addressing the fundamental issues that challenge the sector. It is not that the solutions are not known. The government seems to believe that one or two silver bullets like Rythu Bandhu will work,” he said.
Among the major problems faced by farmers is that of compensation for weather-induced crop damages or losses resulting from drought or excessive rain.
While the state government refused to declare drought in 2018, crop insurance is not implemented properly, Mr Vissa explained. The loan waiver did not help much as banks were reluctant to issue fresh loans until the dues were paid. “Because of the spend on Rythu Bandhu there has been little spending under other heads that assist the sector,” he said.
According to Mr Kondal Reddy, secretary, Rythu Swarajya Vedika, most of the farmers who took their lives were tenant farmers who were left out of the Rythu Bandhu input assistance scheme and had little recourse to bank loans.
However, Mr Reddy said welfare measures for women such as free deliveries at government hospitals, and welfare pensions, have kept hopes alive among some farmers who would have otherwise faced additional financial distress.
The problem of tenant farmers will only increase in the state. Even with Mission Kakatiya and the Kaleshwaram project providing increased irrigation, the result will be farmers benefiting from these schemes are likely to move to other businesses after a few seasons and lease their lands.
“This is what happened in the East and West Godavari districts in Andhra Pradesh. The government must address the tenant farmers issues if it wants to keep the number of suicides down among farmers,” he said....