IDUKKI: Crop loss following the mid-August flood and the mounting debts have claimed one more life in the district. Johny, a farmer from Vazhathoppu village here, died on Thursday after he was frustrated with authorities’ cold response to his compensation claims. On Sunday, he went to his field early in the morning and consumed poison.
Though his relatives took him to the Kottayam Medical College Hospital, he died on Thursday while undergoing treatment. Local residents said Johny had taken loan from various financial institutions and a bank. However, the flood-damaged all standing crops, forcing Johny to default. “Johny seemed totally shattered for the past couple of weeks, as the bank had sent non-payment notice last week,” neighbours said.
Johny is the third farmer to have ended his life due to crop damages and debt burden in the past 30 days in the district. Santosh of Thannikkattukalayil house, Thopramkudy near Kattappana, commited suicide in the first week of January. Two weeks ago, a settler farmer at Perinchamkutty killed self pained by the plight of his farmer son, who was struggling due to debt and crop loss.
Fears of drought
Adding to their woes, farmers are worried that drought, which showed its signs earlier this year itself, could further cripple their plans.The mercury levels have gone up across the district with places like Velliyamattom recording 34° Celsius during the day on Thursday.
“The flood in August shattered all our hopes. If the climate deceives us in the summer as well, we have no other option but to end our lives as we depend solely on farming to repay the loans,” a farmer said, requesting anonymity. More than half of the population in Idukki depends on agriculture, of which over 85 per cent are small and marginal farmers having landholding of less than 2 acres.
Several studies have revealed that farmers in Idukki, who earn close to Rs 10,000 per month, are consistently under pressure and take loan from banks, self-help groups and private money lenders. For marginal farmers, it is difficult to get loan from nationalised banks, so they turn to moneylenders who charge between 2 per cent and 10 per cent interest per month.One more season of drought could really break their back.