Date:23/02/2010 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2010/02/23/stories/2010022353440300.htm
Andhra Pradesh - Hyderabad
The interest rate on private loans ranges between 24 and 36 per cent
The district witnessed 15 deaths in 3 days during November
HYDERABAD: Sixty-nine farmers from Adilabad district committed suicide during the kharif season that lasted from August to November 2009 and the number grew to 93 by December 15, if reports from the non-governmental organisations and farmers’ associations in Andhra Pradesh are any indication. Failure of kharif crop and mounting debts are stated to be the reasons for the spate of suicides across the district.
A recent committee constituted by Deccan Development Society, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), PEACE, AP Rythu Sangam and other organisations recently came up with a study report that revealed the staggering number of farmer suicides.
The committee visited around eight families in various mandals, informed G.V. Ramanjaneyulu, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.
“In the first week of November alone, over 16 suicides were reported in vernacular newspapers and that’s when we put together this committee. The committee with the help of local media and farmers estimated that over 69 suicides had taken place during the kharif season,” he said. Confirming the report by the committee, S. Malla Reddy, vice-president, A.P. Rythu Sangham, says over 93 suicide deaths were recorded by the Sangham by December 15, 2009.
Majority of the farmers who took the extreme step had taken large amounts of private loans and micro-finance operators at high interest rate in order to cultivate cotton, revealed the report.
G. Bhojanna of Lokeshwara village in Lokeshwaram mandal of the district is one such farmer of five-acres who ended his life last November due to mounting debts incurred on his failed cotton crop.
His accrued loans of two years amounted to Rs.3.5 lakh, and every month, he had to suffer the ignominy of the moneylenders’ visits to his home, his son G. Gangaprasad, an 18-year-old college student who now spends more time as a daily-wage worker said.
Bhojanna’s widow Indramma is helping run the house now with her meagre income as a beedi worker.Burden
The interest rate on private loans ranges between 24 and 36 per cent, informed Rajasekhara Reddy, one of the committee members.
“The microfinance companies would collect the interest amount every month. For a farmer this is a burden as farming doesn’t guarantee regular income,” he explains.
“We had brought this to the notice of the district Collector too and submitted a memorandum. However, the Collector had approved ex-gratia for only 18 deaths he considered genuine. After we submitted our list, ex-gratia was cleared for 50 farmer families,” S. Malla Reddy, vice president, Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangham.BT cotton hybrids
The report further states that though on an average 1.65 lakh hectares of land is under cotton cultivation in the district, this had increased by 20 per cent in 2009. Thus a total of 1.90 lakh hectares of land was reported to be under cotton cultivation, with almost 80 per cent of it under BT cotton hybrids, it says. The drought forced the farmers to re-seed thrice for gap filling and with each bag of cotton seed costing around Rs.750, this meant an increase in cost of cultivation, explains Mr. Rajsekhara Reddy. “The minimum cost of cultivation per acre is around Rs.12,000 so a farmer would require a harvest of six quintals per acre merely to break-even,” he points out.MSP
Despite the minimum support price for cotton in kharif 2009 standing at Rs. 3,000, the low yield - almost half of the previous year - pushed farmers deeper into debts, the report points out.
Kodanda Reddy, member, Andhra Pradesh Kisan Cell, said the district had witnessed 15 deaths in three days in November and this too was brought to the notice of Collector.
“I visited the families personally to ascertain the facts. Majority of the farmers didn’t receive crop insurance amount and there was little intervention to stop the private lenders,” he says adding the loans were also given in kind in the form of seeds and fertilizers.
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