BHUBANESWAR:Even as the suicide of Gajendra Singh at Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rally in New Delhi has shifted the focus back on farmers’ suicides in the country, the Odisha Government continues to be in a denial mode so far as agrarian distress in the State is concerned.
When the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) asked for a report on 17 farmers’ deaths last year, a joint report by Revenue and Agriculture Departments stated that the cases ‘may not be due to agrarian reasons’.
The Government, so far though, has not submitted compliance to the rights panel which had sought details of measures drawn up basing on the recommendations of the Farmer Commission which presented its report in 2012.
The Farmer Commission report itself does not make much mention of the suicides though it goes into the backdrop of agriculture economy of the State and the myriad problems associated with the sector.
While the State has stayed clear of the crisis by flatly refusing any such suicide, various other agencies differ. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)’s Accidents and Suicides Report says at least 150 persons employed in agriculture sector in Odisha ended their lives in 2013.
A paper by Asia Research Centre of London School of Economics says farmers’ suicide has been a constant phenomenon in the State. An analysis of the period 1995-2012 shows that every three years, four or more farmers in a population of one lakh have committed suicide in the State.
During the 1995-1997 cycle, the three-year average of farmers’ suicide stood at 6.8. It rose to 8.4 during 2001-2003 and saw a minor dip to 7.4 in 2004-06. In 2010-12, the average was four.
While the crisis lingers on, long dry periods during monsoon and unseasonal rains have left more farmers vulnerable to crop loss and indebtedness. The Farmer Commission report hits the nail on its head by pointing out where the problem lies.
While both short-term credit and agricultural term loan flow has grown multifold over the last 10 years, it has failed to match the requirement. In 2003-04, the total agri-credit in the State stood at Rs 2,682 crore which grew to Rs 8,366 crore in 2011-12. During the same period, the credit flow to agriculture as compared to overall credit flow rose at a snail’s pace. In 2005, the share was 19.31 per cent and by 2010, it had reached only 25.9 per cent mark.