PIL sought committee to provide assistance to drought-hit farmers

The Madras High Court Bench on Wednesday directed the State Government to consider constituting a Farmers Debt Relief Commission (FDRC) on the lines of a commission already established in Kerala to provide assistance to drought-affected farmers.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Satish K. Agnihotri and Justice R. Sudhakar passed the order while disposing of a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed last year by State Agriculture and Horticulture Diploma Holders Association, represented by its secretary V. Balakrishnan.

“We hope and trust that the Government will consider the request positively as it is beneficial to farmers in the State of Tamil Nadu,” the Bench said after pointing out that the Virudhunagar Collector alone had filed a report in the case without spelling out the government’s stand on constituting the FDRC.

Efforts being taken

The report, also filed in March last year, merely stated that the Government was taking all possible efforts to implement two different crop insurance schemes — National Agricultural Insurance Scheme and Weather based Crop Insurance Scheme — for the benefit of the agriculturalists in the State.

Further, a Government Order passed by the Revenue Department on February 2, 2013, and annexed to the Collector’s report, stated that the Government had sanctioned Rs. 3 lakh each to the families of nine farmers who committed suicide in Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Pudukottai, Virudhunagar and Tirunelveli districts.

On the other hand, the petitioner association claimed that the agony undergone by farmers, who often land in trouble due to crop failure and inability to pay back debts, could be reduced to a great extent if an FDRC was constituted in the State to scrutinise pleas for debt relief on a case-by-case basis.

It also claimed that the State Government had failed in effective implementation of insurance schemes in the State.

The Agriculture Insurance Company of India data stated that crop insurance penetration in Tamil Nadu was just 3.12 per cent as against 25 to 40 per cent recorded in other States.

Citing the instance of Kerala, the petitioner said that the farmer suicide rate in the neighbouring State had come down considerably due to the State Government acting promptly on various recommendations of the FDRC including the declaration of entire Wayanad district as drought-affected.

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