MADURAI: The State government on Wednesday informed the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court that only 17 farmers had committed suicide due to drought this season, between October 1 and January 8, across 32 districts. The government submitted it had sanctioned `3 lakh compensation each to the families of farmers who ended their lives.
A division bench of Justices A Selvam and P Kalaiyarasan wondered about the number of suicides furnished by government to the court.
“Many media houses were highlighting the suicides of farmers almost daily as if more number of ryots were victims of the drought,” Justice Selvam observed orally, before directing the government to file a counter-affidavit to the petition. The Bench adjourned the matter for further hearing on March 9.
In his public interest litigation ((PIL), K K C Balaganesan of Sivakasi said since rainfall failed in the State, water bodies dried up, especially in Thanjavur and Nagapattinam districts, where farmers lost both Kuruvai and Samba crops.
Many farmers had planted various crops, including paddy, maize, cotton, blackgram, pulses and chilli with the help of meagre ground water, expecting monsoon rain.
But the monsoon failed. Many farmers could not run their routine life.
Such farmers were committing suicide. In December last alone, 84 farmers committed suicide across the districts, the petitioner claimed seeking compensation to their families.
When the petition was heard, the special government pleader said normally the Northeast monsoon would provide 440 mm rainfall every year, between October and December.
But, only rainfall of 168.3 mm was received in 2016, which was 62 per cent lesser than the normal rainfall. So drought had affected crop yield in the State.
The government conducted on-field inspection in 1,564 villages and found that up to 87 per cent of crops were affected due to drought. So it declared 13,305 out of 16682 villages as drought-affected, he said.
He further said as per record, 17 farmers had committed suicide due to drought between October 1 and January 8 in districts, including Tiruvarur, Erode, Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Madurai, Cuddalore, Thoothukudi, Dindigul, Tirupur, Tirunelveli and Villupuram. The government had sanctioned `3 lakh each to the families from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.