Agri Business

Farmer suicides aggravates agrarian distress in Karnataka

Vishwanath Kulkarni Bengaluru | Updated on January 24, 2018 Published on July 14, 2015

The rise in farmer suicides has aggravated the distress in Karnataka’s agrarian sector. Over 50 farmers have allegedly committed suicide since the beginning of June across the State.

Pushed into financial crisis due to a combination of factors such as poor realisation for their produce, delayed payments and crop failures caused by poor rains, farmers are seen resorting to such extreme steps in recent months.

The trend of taking their own lives that started from the sugarcane belt of Mandya and Mysuru has now spread to all parts of the State.

“It is almost like a chain reaction. Even we are clueless,” said Kurubur Shantakumar, President of the Karnataka Sugarcane Growers Association, that recently conducted a 46 km walk in Mysore and Mandya districts covering 28 villages to instil confidence among the farmers.

“Farmers are landing in a debt crisis largely because of the delayed cane payments, even after 18 months. This has made them default on loans and borrow from private money lenders to keep going. As a result of high interest burden, many of them are in crisis,” he added.

Sugar mills, reeling under the impact of declining prices amidst excess supplies, have delayed their payments.

Cane arrears in the State for the 2014-15 season stood at over ₹3,000 crore according to the growers. The Government has intervened recently and set deadline of July 31 for clearing the pending payments for the last two seasons. To this extent, the Karnataka government has released ₹351 crore recently.

Also, the Government has started acting against the mills recently and seized sugar stocks. It expects to ensure cane payments to the growers after auctioning the seized stocks.

Shantakumar blamed the government for not taking timely and adequate measures to curb the distressing trend.

RS Deshpande, former Director at the Institute for Social and Economic Change agrees. “The farmers suicide has assumed huge proportions due to the Government’s lethargy. The State Government should have intervened quickly and deployed the field level staff to understand the situation, provide some succour to those under stress.” He further said that the State should take immediate steps to prevent any further losses.

The issue of farmer suicide has surfaced in the ongoing session of the state assembly. The state has announced constitution of a vision group under eminent scientist M S Swaminathan to suggest ways to boost the sector growth and make farming economically viable.

Also, with bleak prospects of securing a reasonable price in the days ahead, some of the farmers have started burning their standing cane crop in Mandya and other parts, so that they can take up some other crop.

“Sugar factories in Southern Karnataka were expected to re-start operations in July. But so far, they are no signs of restarting. Also, the decline in price has hit the jaggery making units, many of which have stopped operations," Shantakumar said.

Besides, the competing crops such as paddy, maize and even sericulture, that has been impacted by the recent change in duty structure on import of raw silk, are witnessing a bearish trend in prices.

Sugar millers said they would not be able to re-start their operations unless the Government shares the burden of fair and remunerative price (FRP) as the prices of sweetener continue to remain subdued.

“We want the Government to pitch in to make the cane payments,” said Pavan Kumar, President of the South India Sugar Mills Association (Karnataka Chapter). He said the cane arrears stood at ₹2,000 crore in the State.

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Published on July 14, 2015
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