About 70% of farmers who committed suicides during the lockdown period in the last two months are tenant farmers cultivating crops in 5 to 20 acres of agricultural land, a study conducted by Telugu daily Eenadu has revealed. Besides difficulties related to crop procurement, the study found that loss of crops, financial distress related to debts and failure of borewells are among the reasons for the farmers’ suicides.
Kurnool district has witnessed the highest number of farmers’ suicides during the lockdown period. According to an ongoing assessment by farmers’ body Rythu Swarajya Vedika, since lockdown, at least 45 farmers have committed suicide in the state. Of them, 25 were from Kurnool district.
Eenadu interviewed the families of 20 farmers who committed suicide during lockdown between April and May in six districts of the state. It found that of the 20 deceased farmers, six were farming on their own land, four were tenant farmers without any land holdings and the remaining 10 were tenant farmers cultivating on their own and leased lands. All the families admitted that the farmers were overburdened by farm-related debts. The total financial burden faced by these farmers was just Rs 1.98 crore.
The average age of these farmers was 46.5 years, including two farmers below the age of 30 years and five of them were below 40 years.
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Bandi Surendra, 29, a tenant farmer in Sirvella mandal in Kurnool district was one of the farmers who committed suicide recently. Reportedly, he cultivated paddy, cotton and chilli crops in seven acres of leased land during Rabi season. According to his family, he was left with Rs 3 lakh debt after selling the crop produce and the total debt amounted to Rs 5 lakh including previous debt. Following this, a distressed Surendra hanged himself in his residence leaving behind his wife Naga Lakshmi who is an agricultural labourer.
There is an immediate need to address several discrepancies related to compensation for the deceased farmers, said Kondal Reddy of Rythu Swarajya Vedika. “As per the government order no 102, Rs 7 lakh is to be paid to the deceased farmers’ families. Whereas, for tenant farmers without crop cultivation rights cards (CCRC), the Agriculture Department is either delaying or denying to pay the compensation amount. Many landowners make informal agreements with tenant farmers which makes it difficult to obtain CCRC cards,” Kondal Reddy told NewsClick.
He added that the Agriculture Department can utilise the village secretariats in identifying tenant farmers in the state for compensation related matters.
Difficulties that came with Lockdown
According to newspaper reports, farmers who cultivate vegetables, lime, sweet lime and banana crops have faced major losses due to fall in prices and difficulties in procurement due to lockdown restrictions.
On June 2, 68-year-old Bale Timmaiah, a farmer in Diguvapalle village, in Nimmanapalle mandal of Chittoor district committed suicide by consuming pesticide. According to his family, He could not collect his tomato crop extended in two acres of land during lockdown and was burdened with Rs 3lakh debt.
Rythu Bharosa Scheme
Meanwhile, thee Andhra Pradesh government has been implementing YSR Rythu Bharosa - Prime Minister Kisan Scheme under which farmers are paid Rs 13,500 per annum in three instalments. As per the government figures, the scheme benefits about 49 lakh farmers in the state.