Andhra & Telengana farmers suicides on rise despite credit support

Farm crisis continues to haunt both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has observed there is 322 % rise in the farmers’ suicides in Andhra Pradesh during 2015 over 2014 while Telangana has witnessed a rise of 152 % in farmers’ suicides. Over 3026 farmers have eportedly committed suicides in Telangana since its inception in June 2014 as per Rayathu Swarajya Vedica (RSV), an NGO which is working among farmers. The two states have created maximum storage space for farm products, doubled credit flow consecutively for three years and together have more than one third of the total number of NGOs in the country.  In spite of receiving the highest agriculture credit, debt relief, implementing the largest number of central government’s development schemes, having the largest number of water harvesting schemes, the largest number of lift irrigation projects and introducing hundreds of innovative farm technologies have faild to prevent farmers’ suicides.

On the other hand many low revenue generating and infrastructurally backward states like Odisha, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and North Eastern States have significantly lowered farmers’ suicides. National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) has pointed out bankruptcy, indebtedness and other economic issues as main reasons of farmers’ suicides in the states. NCRB points out more than 55.9% farmers commit suicide in the states due to indebtedness.  In fact, indebtedness happens because the environment for the credit to perform has not improved. There has been no state of the art mechanism to examine the end use of credit. Many of the experts’ view on farmers’ crisis is like five blind men describing the shape of an elephant. It is impossible for a person to understand farmers’ problems unless he lives with them for a long time. Rural economy which is delicately woven around so many factors, is too complex to understand and almost impossible to plan without long enduring grass root level research.

The farmers’ problem lies not in the availability of credit but in its effective utilisation of it. How can the farmers effectively use credit if the environment around does not allow absorption of credit. If the ground water in a village plummets and the crop diversity depletes, the farmers have little scope for revival. If farmers do not get the remunerative price for their produce and waste hard earned money on consumer items instead of building economic assets, they will only invite misery. If subsidy and loan waiver benefit reaches the non-target groups and the education system makes children urban centric it is bound to affect village productivity. If villages do not have quality health care centres, good schools, roads, play grounds and a good socio cultural life, the credit will not perform and it would reach the unscrupulous elements.  Farmers are human beings and need the basic necessities of life to make farming work.

Twenty years back every village in undivided Andhra Pradesh had buffer food zone. There were enough edible plants, fruits, herbs and shrubs which met the food and nutrition need of villagers. Due to extensive use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, weedicides, lack of awareness among people about the medicinal and nutrition value of those plants, the buffer food back up got depleted. Today the majority of fish ponds in villages are either highly polluted or have shrunken to one tenth of its size. Ten years back hundreds of villagers in Boshi village of Adilabad had milch animals to substantiate their farm income. After 2012, the villagers faced fodder scarcity. Today the villagers do not want to keep milch animal due to non-availability of green fodder. Rich and influential farmers keep digging bore wells which has further deepened the ground water. Ten years back the village community worked hard to build water harvesting structures to increase the water table for farming activities.

Majority of villagers in Telangana have small land holdings. In the past they used to combine farm activities with so many other economic activities like dairy, handicraft making, weaving, fishery and selling of minor forest products. Today so many lairs of middlemen make life difficult for village producers. There are hardly any toy makers in Nirmal of Adilabad. When precious wood worth hundreds of crores of rupees are smuggled out from the forest, the Nirmal toy makers do not get Poniki wood to start their business independently. Nirmal toys have very good demand in domestic and international market.

There is no guarantee that farmers would get remunerative price for their produce. Unseasonal rains bring uncertainty to farm income. Insurance companies are not transparent in their dealings and worry about their premium collection without much survey. Illiteracy and backwardness put farmers at receiving end. They easily come under the control of traders and middlemen. As the majority of farmers cannot communicate in any other language than Telugu, they fail to bargain for a good margin.

(Sudhansu R Das)