Kerala farmer’s suicide triggers political row; 'a victim of govt's apathy towards farmers,' says opposition leader

K G Prasad of Ambedkar Colony in Thakazhi was left distraught as Supplyco had reportedly delayed repayment of a loan taken instead of procured paddy.
Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.

ALAPPUZHA:  A farmer caught up in the debt trap died by suicide in Kuttanad, triggering a wave of protests on Saturday.

K G Prasad of Ambedkar Colony in Thakazhi was left distraught as Supplyco had reportedly delayed repayment of a loan taken instead of procured paddy.

The 55-year-old revealed his ordeal in an emotional phone call to his friend, after consuming rat poison on Friday. In a suicide note found at his house, Prasad accused banks of denying him finance citing non-settlement of the paddy receipt sheet (PRS) loan, which had lowered his CIBIL score. 

The farmer’s death triggered a political controversy with the Opposition UDF and the BJP coming out against the state government. Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan said Prasad was a victim of the government’s apathy towards farmers.

Reacting to the developments, Food and Civil Supplies Minister G R Anil clarified that the entire liability of repaying PRS loans is on the state government, and hence, farmers do not incur any liability on the same. “The arrears of PRS loans have been fully paid. Therefore, PRS loans will not affect the CIBIL score of farmers,” said Anil.  

Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, who was in Kochi, rushed to Tiruvalla and paid tributes to Prasad. He promised to take up the farmers’ issues with the Union and state governments.

Prasad, who was the district president of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, had contacted Sivarajan, district secretary of the organisation, over the phone after consuming poison.  “I failed in life, I am devastated. I had cultivated paddy on several acres. The government procured my paddy, but delayed payment. When I approached banks for a loan for the second cycle paddy cultivation, they denied the loan as my PRS loan has not been repaid,” Prasad said in his final conversation. 

Kin alleges apathy on the part of govt MCH staff

“I quit alcohol 20 years ago, but now I have started drinking. I have lost my livelihood, I gave my paddy to the government and landed in a debt trap. My voice should reach the government. If a farmer dies by suicide, what can you do? I will die. You should help my family. None can help me. I have no other way. If I die, you should support my family,” Prasad said.

After the call, Sivarajan alerted Prasad’s relatives who found him unconscious in the house and shifted him to the MCH at Vandanam. However, Prasad’s family has alleged apathy on the part of MCH staff, saying the authorities refused to admit Prasad citing the unavailability of an ICU bed. Prasad was then taken to a private hospital in Tiruvalla but died on Saturday.

“We lost precious hours at the MCH,” said a friend of Prasad. In the suicide note, Prasad said he had taken a loan in 2011. He defaulted and the loan was settled in 2020 through the one-time- settlement scheme. “Though his paddy was procured, the amount was paid as a PRS loan months later. Prasad had approached three banks for agricultural loans for the second cycle of paddy cultivation.

However, he was denied citing the nonsettlement of the PRS loan which had reduced his CIBIL score. This forced him to take the extreme step,” said a relative. Coming down heavily on the government, Satheesan said: “The government failed to distribute paddy procurement price months after procurement. Banks have distributed the price as a loan and as the government delayed payment, it was marked as NPA which led to a reduction of farmers’ CIBIL score.

Due to this, farmers are unable to avail loans,” he said. The governor said the farmer’s suicide at Thakazhi is not an isolated incident. “Earlier also, farmers have committed suicide in the region. Despite giving certain assurances, farmers continue to take the extreme step and it is disturbing. We need to look into reasons why their situation has not improved despite guarantees. The farmers’ issues need to be studied very seriously to provide relief to them. We need to be more sensitive towards their cause,” he said.

Carrying the body of Prasad, a large number of farmers and BJP activists staged a protest on the Ambalappuzha-Tiruvalla road at Thakazhi on Saturday afternoon. Prasad’s body was cremated on his house premises in the evening.

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