Chennai: When it comes to farmer suicides, Tamil Nadu has found a prominent place in National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) report for 2019. With a total of 427 farmers and farm labourers dying by suicide in 2019, there has been an increase in 6% in the number of such deaths compared with the previous year.
The already distressed farm sector coupled with the economic disasters has forced several farmers to take this extreme step. The recent amendments in the agriculture policies and ordinances meant to tilt the balance in the favour of corporates, too, pose a danger to the farmers in the years to come.
The electoral promises made by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the run-up to the 2014 general elections, assuring the implementation of the M S Swaminathan Commission report, still remains on paper. The recent amendments and ordinances related to agricultural trade, brought in by the BJP-led Central government, have also been criticised for being anti-farmer. In fact,there have been protests by farmers against the agri trade ordinances.
POLICIES BETRAYING FARMERS
The NCRB report has stated that six farmers and 421 farm labourers died by suicide in 2019 in Tamil Nadu. The report, however, has not pointed out the reasons for the suicides. The state ranks seventh below Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana.
P Shanmugam, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha, said: “The policies pursued by the governments play a crucial role in forcing farmers to commit suicide, which is a huge cause of concern. The failure of governments to fix minimum support price (MSP) for the produces, as per the demands and lack of quick interventions on farmers' issues have affected the farmers badly”.
‘PALTRY HIKE IN SUGARCANE FRP’
The continuing reluctance of governments to increase the MSP for crops in proportion with the increasing input costs is taking a heavy toll on the farming community. Farmers associations have been fighting against this injustice every time a revision in MSP is announced. The paltry increase in MSP, not taking into consideration the demands of the farmers, has been continuing for the past several years.
Paddy farmers of Tamil Nadu have often suffered severe losses due to unseasonal rains and delay in procurement process. Their demand for better MSP is unheeded. Natural calamities have also resulted in huge losses for coconut, plantain and sugarcane farmers in different time periods.
The recent announcement by the Union government on the increase of Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) for sugarcane is a classic example of how the Centre is ‘responding’ to the demands of the farmers, said
Shanmugam, pointing out that the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs recently announced an increase of just Rs 10 per quintal to be paid by the sugar mills to farmers for the upcoming marketing year”.
CANE FARMERS NEED IMMEDIATE SUPPORT
Sugarcane farmers Tamil Nadu have been demanding a ‘reasonable’ MSP.Private sugar mills still owe them long-pending dues. The list of six farmer suicides also includes sugarcane farmers.
“Sugar mill owners are delaying payment to farmers continuously. Some sugarcane farmers committed suicide this year, which is highly unfortunate. The state , too, has remained mute on the issue,
encouraging sugar mill owners to delay the payment”, Shanmugam added.
Mill owners continue to violate the agreement on ensuring payment to farmers, while the government refuses to intervene in the matter allegedly due to the influence of the owners.
‘PROBLEMS DIVERSE FOR TN FARMERS’
Farmers in Tamil Nadu are facing diverse challenges. The sustained struggle of the delta farmers against the hydrocarbon project has given them a slight relief. The farmers of the western districts are still fighting the GAIL pipeline project through agricultural lands, the high tension electric line, the green corridor road between Chennai and Salem.
The recent Acts and amendments, including The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020, The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 and The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance,2020, have been termed as “anti-farmer” by farmer organisations.
“The AIKS is leading the protests against anti- farmer policies of the government. The last couple of decades have witnessed several thousand farmers committing suicides for various reasons. Only a drastic policy
change in favour of the farmers can save them from disaster”, said Shanmugam.
Agricultural growth has remained stagnant in the past six years and the present economic crisis also seems to further dash the hopes of the farmers. The Union and state governments need to be more proactive in framing policies to save farmers from further sorrow.