BENGALURU: As many as 1,903 farmers in Karnataka killed themselves since 2014, data obtained by Express from the state Agriculture Department reveals.
Statistics show farmer suicides in the state have increased from 122 in 2014-15 to a record 1,461 in 2015-16. Between April and September this year, the state has witnessed 320 farmer suicides.
The number of farmer suicides in the current financial year has already surpassed the record of 2014-15. Mysuru and Mandya, mainly dependent on Cauvery river, reported 14 per cent of the total farmer suicides reported in the state since 2014, with 275 deaths.
Government officials say crop loss, drought and pressure from private money lenders are the main reasons. A majority of the farmers who committed suicide in the sugarcane belt of Mandya and Mysuru is also because of the fall in sugar prices, they add.
But what is worrying is the continuous unfavourable orders from the Supreme Court on the Cauvery dispute and the prevailing drought condition in several districts of Karnataka. These two factors may further affect the farmers.
Karnataka has already announced drought in 68 taluks in its 22 districts because of the second successive drought year and sixth consecutive year of deficient rainfall.
When contacted, Commissioner for Agriculture Pandurang Nayak said farmers in Cauvery basin districts are the worst affected because of the inter-state water dispute. “We are trying our best to prevent farmers suicides through various government schemes,” he said.
‘Schemes not reaching beneficiaries’
State Sugarcane Growers Association president Kurbur Shanthakumar said most government schemes meant for farmers were not reaching the actual beneficiaries. “We have been suffering because of severe water shortage and our crops have been destroyed because of drought. But the government has not done anything to protect farmers’ interests. The number of farmer suicides may further increase because of lack of support from the government and also the Supreme Court order to release more water to Tamil Nadu,” he said.
‘High compensation also triggering suicides’
“It’s difficult for farmers to get crop loans from nationalised banks. Hence, many of them are forced to borrow from private lenders at huge interest rates for various expenses and then are unable to repay. The increased compensation for bereaved families of farmers is also forcing many to resort to such acts,” said a senior official in the Agriculture Department.
“We have started several schemes including medical care and crop insurance for farmers. We have also launched a crackdown on illegal private moneylenders under the Karnataka Moneylenders’ Act, Karnataka Pawn Brokers’ Act, Chit Fund Act and Karnataka Prohibition of Charging Exorbitant Interest Act. We are also counselling farmers not to use suicide as the last resort,” he adds.