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Suicide For Survival

By Binu Mathew

27 May, 2004

A 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 suicide.

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.

In Regatlapalli 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.

Meanwhile, Chief 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.

“Farmers are 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 purpose.

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 point out.

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.






Also See

Action Alert - Farmers Sucide in Andhra Pradesh
Write To The Chief Minister

Exit Chandrababu Naidu
By George Monbiot