By Binu Mathew
27 May, 2004
unique drama is being played out in the South Indian state of Andhra
Pradesh. Grim, dark and unbelievable yet horrifically real. Driven to
desperation farmers in the state are committing suicide with the hope
of getting the relief package offerered for the survivros of deceased
announced by the recently formed Congress government. The government
had announced free electricity for agriculture , waiver of electricity
dues and a Rs.150,000 financial assistance for the relatives of the
farmers who committed in their hundreds during the tenure of the previous
government led by Chandra Babu Naidu.
Fourteen farmers have killed themselves in the last 24 hours across
Andhra Pradesh even as the state government, several organisations and
prominent citizens appealed to the distressed farmers not to commit
According to official
figures, 50 farmers have died since the Y S Rajashekhar Reddy government
took over on May 14. However, according to the Andhra Pradesh Rythu
Sangam, a farmers outfit of CPI(M), 92 farmers have killed themselves
in the last two weeks. According to another estimate, 220 farmers have
committed suicide from Jan 1 to May 13.
On May 14, a Congress
government was sworn in after the TDP was defeated in elections.
Twelve farmers committed
suicide on Tuesday alone and two on Wednesday. Y Yadav of Nalgonda district
had run up a debt of Rs 2 lakh. He went to his field early in the morning
on Wednesday and drank pesticide.
of Nizamabad district B Papaiah could not bear the pressure of his debtors
to repay his loan. He hanged himself on Wednesday.
Of the 12 farmers
suicides that took place on Tuesday, five were in Guntur, two each in
Nalgonda and Mahbubnagar and one each in Warangal, Karimnagar and Nizamabad.
Most of the farmers who died were young, between 25-45 years. A few
were in their sixties while the farmer in Nizamabad was only 25. Their
debts ranged from Rs 50,000 to Rs 3.5 lakh. Chepala Srinivas of Bapatla
in Guntur district had a loan of Rs 3.5 lakh. He paid off a part of
it by selling his land and when he could not repay the rest of the loan
he killed himself. Most of the suicides were by drinking poison, the
rest by hanging.
Minister YSR led a rally of prominent citizens and others here on Wednesday
to express support to the farmers. Appealing to farmers to desist from
killing themselves, YSR said his government would do whatever it took
to strengthen agriculture. He has finalised a programme under which
67 lakh acres would be brought under irrigation, he said.
the backbone of our economy, he said, urging farmers to avail
the package of benefits announced for those in distress.
Helplines have been
set up in most districts from where suicides have been reported. While
some helplines set up in district headquarters like Guntur have been
flooded by calls from farmers, some have received no calls at all. Activists
point out that most farmers in the backward regions of Telangana and
Rayalaseema have no access to a phone and so such helplines serve no
They also point
out that in most cases these helplines function like complaint desks
manned by a clerk who merely records the details of the caller. If they
were manned by professional counsellors they could be more useful, they
The left parties
have asked the government to freeze all recovery of rural debt for one
year to give farmers confidence. They also want a comprehensive law
to be enacted to free farmers from indebtedness.