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Unattended and unending woes of Karnataka farmers

By Nithin Sridhar

351597-farmer-draughtAs many as 29 farmers committed suicide in the sugarcane hub Mandya district. The death count was 197 by July 29. Many lost their lives in districts, namely, Mysuru, Belagavi, Tumkur, Dharwad and Davanagere.

Increasing farmers’ debts due to loans from moneylenders on exorbitant rates has escalated suicides. Farmers with less than two acres of land manage loans from banks and co-operative societies with great difficulty.

Consequently, they are forced to take money from private moneylenders who slap high interest rates.  Though the law stipulates that the moneylender should not charge more than 14% annual rate of interest, many unscrupulous moneylenders charge 2- 3% interest per month and sometimes it shoots up to as much as 36% interest per year (As per Frontline, GC Bayya Reddy,President, Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha KPRS). This issue has hit the farmers

When Newsgram asked about this farmers’ dilemma from Mysore University professor Assadi, he explained moneylenders facilitated quick money to farmers in need. Every time a farmer is in distress and needs money, a moneylender will be the first person the farmer would approach.

The professor, who is also the Chairman in Political Science department, said-

“In many cases, moneylenders are also seed-providers. In such cases, the moneylenders will provide the seeds to the farmers and later purchase their commodities. This provides an opportunity for the moneylenders to completely exploit the farmers. In days of yore, feudal lords, like the moneylenders today,used to exploit farmers by usurp their lands in case they fail to repay loans. But, now moneylenders exploit farmers not by confiscating their land, but by increasing their debts and exploiting the commodities produced.”

The drought this year in at least 16 districts of the total 30 districts is another factor that has severely affected farmerKarnataka farmers. The drought has caused crop failure at many places and has further increased the farmers’ woes.

Analyzing the issue of drought from an Ecological perspective, Dr. Assadi termed drought as man-made and human greed has led to deforestation and global warming. Therefore, multiple factors like drought, crop failure, and loan dilemma have aggravated the agrarian crisis that has taken place in Karnataka.

Measures that could help tackle agrarian crisis 

According to Dr Assadi agriculture should be unyoked from global market dependence. Agriculture should be declared as an industry and provided advantages like any other industry. A new policy must be implemented wherein further fragmentation of the agricultural lands must be prohibited, as it has led to countless farmer woes. A distress cell must be introduced in villages wherein the farmers can be counselled.

On a similar note, Report on Farmers’ suicide (2006): Meeta & Rajivlochan

  •  Improve the efficiency of various infrastructures present at the local level like Primary Health centres
  •  At least one trained medical nurse must be present in each Panchayat who can provide succour and guidance to the people
  • Appropriate vocational education must be provided at village and taluk levels to assist people in understanding the complexities of the present day production and marketing techniques
  •  Ex-gratia payment to the families of suicide victims must be stopped (as many may commit suicide so that their family gets compensation)
  •  The farmers should be provided direct cash subsidies instead of their indirect counterparts

The relationship between agriculture and globalization must be deliberated upon so that a holistic and pragmatic solution can be achieved to address farmers’ issues. Various short-term initiatives and long-term policy changes must be carried out to tackle the agrarian crisis.

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