Telangana puzzle: Suicides have dipped, but farmers continue to die in large numbers

KV Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on July 11, 2019 Published on July 11, 2019

The number of farmer suicides in Telangana seems to have come down over the past few months. But the agriculture sector continues to suffer from severe distress, and a staggering 12,820 farmers who had taken the Rythu Bima insurance cover have died due to various reasons over the past year.

“About ₹640 crore of the aggregate sum assured has been paid to the kin of 12,820 farmers who had registered for the scheme,” said C Parthasarathi, Telangana’s Principal Secretary (Agriculture).

Of the State’s 60 lakh farmers, only half have registered for the scheme, which provides a life cover of ₹5 lakh each.

The State pays a premium of about ₹2,200 per head to LIC, which has been given the Rythu Bima mandate. The government paid a premium of ₹1,000 crore to the insurance firm to provide the cover.

Farmers in the age group of 18 to 59 years are eligible for the scheme, which was launched last year.

No data on cause

The staggering number of deaths puzzles farmers’ unions and NGOs working in the primary sector. The break-up of reasons for the deaths is not available yet.

“We have seen a dip in the number of suicides in the last few months. But the number of deaths is huge. We need to study this phenomenon,” Ravi Kanneganti of Rythu Swarajya Vedika told BusinessLine.

“The majority of deaths could be due to health reasons. Excise collections have doubled since the formation of Telangana as liquor sales have gone up significantly. The excessive use of pesticides and weedicides, too, is resulting in serious ailments,” he said.

He pointed out that only half of the 60 lakh farmers have been enrolled in the insurance scheme. “This is quite surprising — why such a large number of farmers are still out of insurance cover,” he added.

Agrarian distress

While the dip in number of suicides is promising, the agrarian distress does persist, said Aribandi Prasada Rao of the Telangana Rythu Sangham.

“Market linkages are very poor, making it prohibitively costly for farmers to sell their produce. The high cost of selling the produce is cutting into margins, resulting in poor returns, particularly in horticultural crops,” he observed.

Lack of access to institutional credit for tenant farmers and those practising shift-cultivation exacerbates the financial stress.

Published on July 11, 2019
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