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Karnataka: Farmer Suicides under the CM who comes from “Vokkaliga” family

 Farmer Suicides under the CM who comes from “Vokkaliga” (farmer) family

Karnataka went to the polls last May and the results produced a hung assembly. After much discussion, Janata Dal (Secular) and Congress forged a post-poll alliance to form the government. HD Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) became the chief minister and Dr. G Parameshwara of the Congress the deputy chief minister.

Former Karnataka Chief Minister and former Indian Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda had assured that he would work for the welfare and interests of the farmers. Therefore, the farming sector placed a lot of trust on his son HD Kumaraswamy, the “Grandson of the Soil”.

It is a well-known fact that farmers have been in a lot of problems since a very long time. The exorbitant costs of the seeds of crops, or manipulated hybrid seeds, drought in the state and failure of crops have put the farmers in a very bad situation. Unable to repay their loans, farmers are at the end of their wits, with some even committing suicide.

A few days after Kumaraswamy assumed office as chief minister, the farmers appealed to the government to waive their loans. They had valid-enough reasons including crop failure due to inadequate rainfall, drop in minimum support price and the apathy of the officials concerned. The government considered these aspects and collected information about farmer loans by nationalised, public sector, cooperative and private sector banks. The loan amount summed up to about INR 53,000 crore.

Frontline parties in Karnataka had promised to waive farmer loans in their manifesto. However, after assuming power, the stakeholders in the coalition government have not made any effort to keep their word. The government put forth certain conditions to waive off the farmer loans.

In his budget, the chief minister stated that the loan waiver was subject to certain conditions to which the farmers raised objections. The government stuck to its stand, saying that the loan amount was not being used for the right purposes.

The farmers started receiving notice of non-payment of dues from the banks. Despite the chief minister’s assurances to the farmers that the banks would not trouble them in any way, notices did not stop. The farmers panicked. Some committed suicide by hanging, consuming poison, getting crushed under the wheels of a train, jumping into wells and rivers. Despite this, government did not realise the gravity of this issue.

Among the Karnataka farmers committing suicide, one-fourth were sugarcane growers. It is a fallacy that sugarcane farmers are well off. Sugarcane is the main crop in four districts of Karnataka, and 25% of the sugarcane farmers from these districts committed suicide.

Last November, a sugarcane farmer in Mandya district committed suicide. He blamed chief minister HD Kumaraswamy for his death. The government called a meeting between the sugarcane farmers and the sugar mill owners (most of them being politicians).

However, the meeting failed because the sugar mill owners were extremely adamant in not paying the proper price for the sugarcane crop. They did not show even the smallest crystal of sugar’s worth of accommodation to the farmers. Some of them cited some other reasons and slunk away from their commitment to the farmers.

It is a tragedy that the government is not serious about finalising the minimum support price for the crops that the farmers grow. Due to this, farmers are finding it difficult to lead their lives in peace.

Unregulated urbanisation has taken a toll on forests and trees. This has led to shortage of rainfall and the rivers are drying up, causing the crops to fail. Farmers take loans from several sources and panic when they are unable to repay their loans, thus committing suicide. The government has failed to protect the interests of the agricultural sector and farmers.

Waiving loans are just like pain-killers. The government will surely shift the burden of loan waivers onto the shoulders of the middle-class people that pay all their bills and taxes on time. It has to delve deep into the farmers’ problems and find a permanent solution to them.

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