Hyderabad, India: Candle Light Shraddhanjali for the 150,000 farmers who have committed suicide Print E-mail

PRESS RELEASE November 23 2006

FARMERS’ SUICIDES OR STATE GENOCIDE?

Candle Light Shraddhanjali

23rd November 2006
6 pm, Tank Bund, Hyderabad

150,000 and still counting! There seems to be no end to the suicides of farmers in the country, driven to this extreme measure as a desperate response to the intensifying-antifarmer environment in the country.

Eighty two year old Freedom Fighter, Cooperative Movement Leader and Former Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commision, Sri Mohan Dharia is on a hunger strike since 14th of November 2006,
demanding immediate government attention to the continuing disaster in the farming sector in the country. The crisis in the agrarian sector, triggered by the anti-farmer policies of government is driving
the farmers to increasing debt and suicide.

This is to demand immediate government intervention to stop the spate of farmers’ suicides in India and to get the government to address the basic causes of such distress.

SAVE THE LIFE OF MOHAN DHARIA
SAVE THE LIVES OF MILLIONS OF FARMERS
SAVE THE HANDS THAT FEED US

For more information, contact: Centre for Sustainable Agriculture
12-13-445, Street No 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad 500017
Phone: 040-27017735

Firstly, consider this about the current agrarian genocide in India:
SUICIDES:
• More than 1.5 lakh farmers have committed suicide across the country in the last decade or so.
• In Andhra Pradesh, only about 2300 cases have been officially accepted as “genuine” by the government though thousands have been reported by the Congress Party itself while it was in the
Opposition
• About 3500 farmers have reportedly committed suicides in the past 2 ½ years alone in AP, as per some political parties
• From June this year, reported number of suicides has crossed 330. Just in the month of November 2006, more than 30 farmers have killed themselves in AP (Eenadu)
• Studies point out that indebtedness and decline in economic status of the family drives most farmers to suicides (Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research)
• Suicides are also higher in more ‘developed’ areas, as several analyses show.

INDEBTEDNESS:
• Nearly half of the farming households in the country are reported to be indebted (NSSO) in 2005.  Compare this with 26% in 1991. The two most important reasons for taking a loan is for “capital
expenditure in farm business” and “current expenditure in farm business”. This has a relation with thencreasing costs of cultivation, increased need for expenditure in farming and also lack of ability to
repay due to adverse market conditions
• Out of the total number of cultivator households in the country, only 27% receive credit from formal sources and 22% from informal sources, as per the Finance Minister of India, showcasing the
“financial exclusion” of a vast majority of farming households
• As per the NSSO [59th round] 56% of the indebted households have debts with formal sources, with most outstanding loan being against such formal sources
• NSSO also reports that 82% of all farm households in Andhra Pradesh are indebted in 2001. The average loan amount was Rs. 23,965/- per household
• Every farming household in the country on an average has a debt of Rs. 12,585/-

LACK OF OTHER SUPPORT:
• Only 9.4 per cent of the Andhra Pradesh farmers had access to information from extension workers in 2002 with 30% accessing information through private traders (NSSO, 2005)
• Rural development expenditures are coming down steadily in India, as percentage of total GDP over the years
• Hardly 10 per cent of farmers are covered by crop insurance

What the government is proposing:

• Towards the end of September, ten years too late for thousands of farmers, the government at least takes cognizance of farmer suicides and the deep agrarian distress. Announces a Rehabilitation package for 31 identified districts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra involving Rs. 16978.69 crores consisting of Rs. 10579.43 crore as subsidy / grants and Rs. 6399.26 crore as loan.
• Under the rehabilitation package, Rs.90.6 billion have been allotted for 16 districts of Andhra Pradesh, 20.6 billion for six districts of Karnataka, Rs.7.6 billion for three districts of Kerala and Rs.30.8 billion for six districts of Maharashtra
• About 5700 crores out of this goes to Major Irrigation Projects and Rs. 9738 crores in all for various irrigation projects (minor, medium and major) – 57% of the package!
• Rs. 1860 crores out of this for watershed programmes [50% grant and 50% loan] – about 11% of the total package
• About 2100 crores for schemes and programmes under Dept of Agriculture including 830 crores for seed replacement!
• Rs. 2006 crores interest waiver with 50% being Central government share There is also an announcement of increased outlays for agricultural credit, with the interest rates for short
term loans pegged down to 7% pa.

Our demands

The above rehabilitation package does not address the real causes of agrarian distress including:
- techno-centric approaches to agriculture, often with faulty technologies (pesticides and chemical fertilizers earlier and transgenics now) - there are no direct benefits for farmers in such an approach
- ever-increasing costs of cultivation with the agri-technologies promoted now
- steady decline in public support leading with private players playing a dominant role with their bottom line only being profits in the area of inputs, credit, extension etc.
- adverse markets and competition from cheaper imports from elsewhere
- lesser and lesser share in the retail price, with retail sector being opened up and with agri-processing

To address the real causes of agrarian distress, the government should do the following:
• Immediate debt relief.
• Ensure a fair price and a fair share of consumer/retail price to farmers for all crops. Enforce such a price through prompt and timely market intervention through procurement. Create adequate budget provision and special fund for such a purpose.
• Crisis in extension support has to be addressed by recruiting committed workers who will facilitate a farmer-led, knowledge driven, local resource based agriculture on the ground
• Comprehensive, appropriate crop insurance mechanisms to be put into place, especially in rainfed areas
• Comprehensive social security legislation and mechanisms to be put in place for all farmers, especially small/marginal farmers and for agricultural workers
• Expand institutional credit through automatic entitlement on the basis of land ownership/tenancy and peer collateral for short term loans at 4% interest
• Stop conversion agriculture lands into non-agriculture use especially for SEZs
• Universal PDS should be continued and broad based to include millets, pulses and edible oils in PDS
• Distribute one acre of wet land with assured irrigation or one hectare of dry land to all agriculture worker families with joint patta with the women heads of the households; if no land is available, government
should buy from the market
• Moratorium on GM crop field trials and release and encourage transparent public debate
• Promote ecological farming through a suitable incentive package
• Quantitative restrictions on exports and imports should be brought back to ensure food sovereignty notwithstanding WTO and other bilateral/pluri-lateral free trade agreements.