Farmers’ Suicide In Odisha; The Ground Reality
The farmers of Odisha are reeling under sheer destitution due to faulty agricultural policy of the state government, farmers suicide has become a disquieting facet in the state. As per the official information, 1895 farmers have committed suicide in the state within last ten years. The state government is boasting that it has taken up a number of golden projects for the benefits of the farmers. But the reality is far away. While the number of farmers’ suicide in the state continues to rise, the attempt to handle such incidents has become tardy. The ruling party BJD leaders along with state Agriculture Minister Pradip Maharathi are desribing the farmers’ suicide cases as those that have been caused on account of reasons not connected with agriculture. It is ridiculous that BJD leaders are attributing the reason of such suicides to family dispute, depression and other social causes.
On February 28, a farmer of Bargarh District namely Hadu alias Khinu Bagarti (54) committed suicide. This incident occurred during the session of the State Assembly. The Agriculture Minister replied in the Assembly that the cause of the suicide is not connected with agriculture activity rather it is connected with other social and family matters, for which the farmer committed suicide. The Members of Opposition vehemently opposed this ridiculous statement of the Minister. Due to such strong protest by the Opposition and other pressure groups, State Agriculture Minister Pradip Maharathi has given a clarification on the incident thus : “It is unfortunate that a farmer has died. It needs to be ascertained how and why. I will ask Bargarh Collector to conduct a fresh probe.”
This statement of the Minister is very disturbing. It shows that there was an initial probe into the matter, which happens to be defective one for which a fresh probe is needed. It is not the single case where the farmers’ suicide cases, are being manipulated in order to save the reputation of the political babus. The sources say the real reason for suicide by Bargarh farmer Hadu Bagarti is crop failure due to lack of irrigation and burden of loan. This unfortunate farmer is the resident of village Kelapali of Chakarakala Grama Panchayat under Bargarh district. He sustained a huge financial loss last year in agriculture, for which he planned to recover it through growing paddy crop in three acres of land this year. But it is the irony of his fate that water was not made available to him for growing paddy crop coupled with alarming power cuts. He informed about these difficulties to the government officials many times. But the officials did not take it seriously, and the deceased Bagarti lost his crop, for which he had no way out than committ suicide, which may perhaps was the only way to save her family from financial devastation. The state government is trying to conceal this fact. The data, which is available regarding farmers’ suicide in the state is quite disturbing.
The state government is saying that the farmers of the state are in a better position in comparison with the past 20 years. But the information given by the State Agriculture Minister in the Assembly contradicts The government’s own stand on this issue. The Minister stated that a farmer’s family of the state earns per capita income of Rs.1407 per month from agriculture. If it is to be believed, then it can be concluded that every farmer family comes under BPL category and their standard of living is bound to be poverty stricken. Experts attribute this scenario to lack of vision and practical execution of different central schemes in the state. The agricultural marketing system has completely failed in the State. The Regulated Market Committees are mostly in paralysed condition due to political turbulences. Sources say the crop insurance scheme of the state government has completely failed in many areas. The farmers who lost their crop in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 in the Districts of Jajpur, Kendrapara, Sambalpur, Koraput, Ganjam are yet to receive crop insurance money. The government has not taken any prompt steps towards settlement of crop insurance claims, for which a number of farmers’ organisations have approached the High Court and in some case the High Court has given directions to the state government to settle crop insurance claim as early as possible. Another practical problem worth mentioning here is the nature of survey conducted by the state government to ascertain loss of crop. The Odisha Relief Code under proviso 28 makes a specific provision for conduct of fair enquiry regarding loss of crop etc. In most of the areas, due to lack of administrative vigilance, these procedures are not being followed, for which the farmers are not getting their dues.
In the present situation, it is quite disturbing that the farmers of South & Western Odisha are being forced to sale tamato at Re 1 or 50 paise per kg. Middle-men are purchasing the same and it is being sold in city markets at Rs.15 to 20 per kg. Similarly, the farmer’s are being forced to sale potato at Rs. 3 to 4 per kg to the middle-men which is being sold in the city market at Rs.10 to 12 per kg. The profit earned by the middle-men and shopkeepers does not encourage nor enrich the farmers. The state government has completely failed to control the situation. This is one of the most alarming reason for farmers’ suicide in the state.
By Debasis Tripathy