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Farmers, activists demand end to agrarian crisis

Posted on Nov 28, 09:48PM | IANS

Accusing the government of ignoring farmers' issues, families of farmers who committed suicide and agricultural activists Wednesday demanded a joint session of parliament on agricultural crisis.

"A joint sitting of both houses on the agrarian crisis should be called in the ongoing winter session of parliament," said G.V. Ramanjaneyulu, executive director of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture.

The agricultural expert added that MPs "have forgotten farmers and their issues. So many farmers have committed suicide. It's a national crisis."

"Every new government policy will impact them, including FDI in retail, seeds bill and many other legislations. They should have a joint session and discuss farmers' issues first."

Ramanjaneyulu was speaking at a meeting of over 500 farmers and families of farmers who committed suicide from different parts of the country.

Jagatpal, a farmer from Hamirpur district in Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh, said: "My father Tulsidas committed suicide on May 18 when he lost his crops for which he had taken a loan of Rs.33,000 from a moneylender. Faced with the prospect of being the only earning member and feeding a large family of six children, and an ailing elder brother, he saw no other alternative."

"More than a dozen farmers have committed suicide in our village in the past 10 years. More than 90 percent are in debt," he said.

Khoin Bai of Kanker District, Chattisgarh, said: "My husband Bishnu Ram Mandal was only 40 when he committed suicide. He had borrowed Rs.1 lakh from a bank and another Rs.30,000 from the local moneylender by pledging his land. He used the entire money for a bore-well for his dry land," she said.

"When this failed him in giving a good crop and bank officials started pressurising him to repay the loan, my husband hanged himself," she added.

She added: "The suicide was published in local newspapers and the district collector promised to waive off the entire loan amount, but the bank is still pursuing us. I work as a farm labourer and have two daughters. How can I pay the bank now?"

"Waiving off loans will not alleviate the conditions of farming families who have committed suicide. The government has to accept that there is a deepening agrarian crisis due to an agriculture policy, which is influenced by neo-liberalism," said Amar Jyoti Nayak, activist of Land and Livelihood Hub, ActionAid India.

"A comprehensive relief and rehabilitation policy has to be developed for farming families who have suffered due to suicides. The government must urgently bring out an Income Guarantee Act for the farmers," he added.

Ramanjaneyulu said: "The fact that farmers' suicides have risen over the years indicate that the initiatives by government are not working. This requires a paradigm shift in the model of agriculture, for example, access to resources like land, water, subsidies, support prices and infrastructure."