VIJOO KRISHNAN | 20 MAY, 2015
Acche Din a Year Later: Litter of Broken Promises And 60 Farmer Suicides in Haryana in One Month
Agrarian sector in deep distress while government remains in denial mode
THE CITIZEN joins Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ‘nation’ in assessing his one year in office. This report begins the first of a series of articles assessing the performance of the government in some key areas that might pass the attention of the ruling establishment and its large support system. The farmers stories below provide the narrative.
NEW DELHI: Punjab and Haryana were the poster-twins of the Green Revolution. The States were in the forefront of the transformation of India from a perpetually food deficit “Ship-To-Mouth” existence to a situation of food self-sufficiency. They were show-cased as the land of prosperity and the Farmers were credited with feeding the hungry millions through their toil and resilience.
Today the farmers---many of them retired soldiers---in Haryana are undergoing deep agrarian distress. This is reflected in the suicides of at least 60 farmers in the past one month. The statistic includes young farmers who died of heart break on seeing their crops being destroyed by unseasonal rains and hailstorm. The insensitive manner in which both the central and state governments, both under the Bharatiya Janata Party, have handled this crisis has pushed them further into an abyss.
Rather than mitigate their suffering, provide effective compensation and take emergency confidence building measures the Haryana BJP Minister for Agriculture has made extremely insensitive comments and described the Farmers committing suicide as “cowards” and “criminals”. The Union Agriculture Minister claimed in Parliament that not a single Farmer had committed suicide in Haryana. The Government is continuing in this criminal denial mode and refusing to accept the truth.
A team of the All India Kisan Sabha visited the affected villages and recorded several cases of suicide and heart attacks because of deep distress. Some of the cases are detailed below and tell a story of crop failure, deep debt, and desperation. The 60 deaths in one month exposes the government’s claim that there has been not a single farmer suicide in Haryana.
Teori Village in Ganaur Tehsil of Sonepat District.
1. The distraught family of Rajesh who hanged himself on May Day at the age of 32 years explained to the team the reasons that drove him to this extreme act. He owned 5 acres of land and had leased in 17.5 acres paying an exorbitant rent of Rs.45,000/Acre. Both crops of paddy and wheat suffered extensive damage in the unseasonal rains and hailstorm. Basmati which fetched Rs.6000/Qtl last year only received 1600/Qtl this year. It is to be noted that while the Farmers are getting pittance for their toil and investment companies are making huge profits exploiting their distress. A kilogram of the popular Basmati rice brand India Gate costs aroundRs.200/-. He had taken Rs.4.82 lakhs from Kotak Mahindra Bank at 14% Rate of Interest in addition to the lease amount from Private Money Lenders at 24% Rate of Interest. He leaves behind 4 children- 3 girls and a boy all aged below 6 years and his wife as well as aged parents and a younger brother.
2. The next visit was in the same Village where Kuldip Singh aged just 25 years had hanged himself unable to bear the loss of his entire wheat and paddy crop and the refusal of the Patwari to record the losses. He owned merely 4 Bighas of land and had leased in 16 acres of land at Rs.46,000/acre. He had taken the loan from Private Money Lenders at 24% Rate of Interest. His octogenarian Grand Mother Rajwati Devi claimed that the Money Lenders were harassing him and the Government inaction led him to commit suicide. He had been denied even the Government announced compensation of Rs.11,800/acre. He had leased in land at Rs.46,000/acre other costs of production when accounted for will be much more. Yet it is this meagre amount given as compensation to few handful of Farmers that Narendra Modi has been trumpeting as the highest ever compensation. The team also heard instances of Farmers being given cheques for compensation of Rs.5/acre, Rs.63/acre and Rs.200/acre in different parts of the State.
Katwal Village in Gohana Tehsil of Sonepat District.
3. Balwan Singh aged 59 years had died of a heart attack on 8 April, 2015 unable to bear the loss of his standing crop. He owned 3 acres and had leased in 8 acres more at the rate of Rs.30,000/acre. He leaves behind his wife, 3 sons and 3 daughters. The Government does not consider such deaths as arising out of farm distress and there is no compensation to the affected families. The pressure from the Money Lenders continues unabated and the family members continue to be threatened.
Rewara Village of Gohana Tehsil in Sonepat District
4. Yudhvir aged 42 years had committed suicide on 17 April, 2015 by consuming pesticide in his field. The Patwari and other Government officials refused to make an assessment of the extensive damage to his wheat crop. He owned 2.5 acres and had leased in 3 acres at the rent of Rs.35,000/acre. He leaves behind his wife, 2 daughters, a son and aged parents. Yudhvir’s brother Jagvir is an Army Jawan who is now left to look after this family in distress. The political leadership and the “nationalists” who lose no opportunity to use the slogan of “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” had not found time till date to visit the family. In all 12 suicides were reported in Sonepat District.
Pindara village in Jind District
5. Rajesh aged just 33 years had hanged himself on 28th April, 2015. He owned 2 acres and had leased in 2 acres at a rent of Rs.38,000/acre. The unseasonal rains and hailstorm had totally destroyed the standing wheat crop and in the last season cotton also was totally destroyed. He had borrowed Rs.5 lakh from Private Money Lenders at 24% Rate of Interest and they were pressurising him to pay back the loan. Although the Patwari had made a survey of losses no help was forthcoming from the BJP Government. He leaves behind his wife and 3 girl children who are staring at a bleak future. Two other suicides were reported in Jind District.
Ajhaib Village in Meham Tehsil in Rohtak district.
6. Jaikumar aged 33 years had died of heart attack due to the trauma of seeing his entire crop destroyed in the rains and hailstorm. He owned 4 acres and leased in 6 acres at Rs.22,000/acre. The paddy crop in the last season had suffered losses and production was below normal. The Basmati price also had fallen drastically and the amount invested into cultivation could not be regained. Wheat crop this season was totally destroyed in the rain and hailstorm. He leaves behind his wife Manju Bala, 2 daughters and a son. The District Collector had said that there were 100% losses and there was no need for any assessment in the District but very few received compensation. The team was also informed of another suicide by Satyender Singh who had leased in 20 acres at Rs.6 lakh and there was total loss of crops. He had received a compensation of merely Rs.11,800/acre.
Sisar Khas Village of Meham Tehsil in Rohtak District
7. Sandeep died of a heart attack on 12 April at the age of 27 years. He had taken 3 acres on lease at Rs.25,000/acre in addition to the 10 acres owned by his family. He had taken a loan of Rs.6 lakhs from the Oriental Bank of Commerce. The entire cotton, Mustard and Wheat crop was destroyed and no Government help was extended to overcome the situation. His family explained that this scenario and the pressure of having to repay loans were responsible for his death. He leaves behind his wife Monika and a 6 month old daughter in addition to his aged parents.
8. The same Village saw 27 year old Manish commit suicide by hanging on 5 May, 2015 as the crop on his 2.5 acres of land was totally destroyed. He had taken loan of Rs.1 lakh from Agricultural Cooperative and Kisan Credit Card. He also had take inputs from traders worth 1 lakh which had to be repaid with 24% Rate of Interest and Rs.3 lakh from Oriental Bank of Commerce. His brother and mother are both disabled and unable to work. He was the main earner in the family. His Father Azad Singh used to work under MGNREGA but there is no regular work and it has further reduced after the BJP Government took over he claimed.
9. Balwant Singh aged 65 years who owned 5 acres had leased in 10 acres at Rs.35,000/acre. He had taken Rs.35 lakh on loan from Private Money Lenders at 24% Rate of Interest in addition to Rs.50,000 from Cooperative Bank. He was yet to receive last year’s arrears of paddy and wheat of which 75 percent was still due. To add to his woes this year’s unseasonal rains and hailstorm had devastated his entire crop awaiting harvest. He died of a heart attack in his field on 3 April, 2015. He doesn’t count on records of the Government for any compensation to the family.
Paju village in Loharu tehsil in Bhiwani District
10. Surender aged 50 years had committed suicide by jumping into a well as the entire mustard crop was destroyed. He owned 5 acres and had leased in 2 acres at Rs.15,000/acre. The last season had seen his entire crop being destroyed due to drought-like conditions. Although he ran from pillar to post even the meagre Rs.4,000/acre as drought relief was not given. The crop loss in this year’s rains further caused acute distress. He had borrowed Rs.3 lakh from the Sarva Haryana Gramin Bank and another 1.5 lakh from Money Lenders. He was forced under such circumstances to commit suicide. He leaves behind his wife and 2 children, the elder of who is disabled. The same Village had reported another suicide too.
11. Madan aged around 32 years born in a Dalit family had committed suicide unable to bear the torture of Money Lenders who threatened and beat him up. He had taken 11 acres as a sharecropper forced to give 75 percent of the produce to the landowner and retain only the remaining 25 percent. The entire crop was destroyed. He had borrowed Rs.48,000/- from local people at 120 percent Rate of Interest. He had also paid back Rs.57,500/- in last 6 months to them. He named 3 people in a note written on the temple wall where he committed suicide. None of them have been arrested. His wife Suman, a 13-year old daughter and 11 year old son are hoping against hope that the Government will come to their rescue. No Government official or elected representative had visited their house as yet.
But for the absence of Land Reforms the BJP’s Election Manifesto and Narendra Modi’s speeches during the campaign seemed like having virtually lifted out of the Charter of Demands of the All India Kisan Sabha. It was literally an enlisting of the “Mann Ki Baat”/wish list of the Farmers of India. It claimed that the BJP Government would usher in Achhe Din and
The BJP propaganda blitzkrieg and the Narendra Modi’s high voltage campaign led to Farmers and agricultural workers voting for the BJP in many parts of India in the belief that they would actually implement their promises. What they have received in return so far is only the empty “Mann Ki Baat” of the Prime Minister. Each one of these promises has been broken. Public investment in agriculture and rural development has been drastically curtailed, agricultural credit is inaccessible and usurious Money Lenders are looting the Farmers unchecked, input costs are skyrocketing, crop prices and Minimum Support Prices are unremunerative and do not even cover the costs of production, procurement mechanism is being fast dismantled and private players allowed to exploit distressed Farmers.
The Modi-led Government has also issued an order stating that Food Corporation of India will not procure from States giving bonus over and above MSP to Farmers and MGNREGA has been scaled down drastically. The Land Acquisition Ordinance is promoting land grab at the expense of the Farmers to facilitate corporate profiteering. In such a dismal state of affairs, the unseasonal rains and hailstorm followed by extremely insensitive Government handling has only pushed the farmers into dire straits.
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