More suicides predicted this season owing to crop failure and debt

“More suicides will take place as the season progresses,” warns a distraught Itikyala Poshetti of Ankoli village in Adilabad whose younger brother Poshamallu, a cotton farmer, committed suicide on September 7 owing to crop failure. Poshetti is not a doomsday messenger but predicts a distressful future for farmers in Adilabad based on the poor condition of agriculture in the district.

Stock-taking in view of the World Suicide Prevention Day being observed on Tuesday revealed that as many as 22 cotton farmers (the police records show only 8) are reported to have committed suicide between July 28 and September 9 this year owing to crop failure and debts. The only other thing which all these farmers have in common is that they had cultivated cotton in leased lands and had suffered losses during two previous seasons.

While all the farmers in the district stand to lose heavily due to floods and excessive rainfall this monsoon, cotton farmers are faced with a worse predicament owing to the scale of debts. “My brother had obtained some land on lease thinking he can raise enough money to repay his debts accumulated over the last couple of years,” says Pedda Bhumanna, younger brother of Poshamallu, as he tries to explain the necessity for small farmers to cultivate on leased lands.

According to observers, farmers take the extreme step when their sources of funds, especially the private money lenders, dry up. “Money lenders stop financing once they realise that crop failure has debilitated the borrower,” points out senior TRS and farmer leader B. Goverdhan Reddy.

The adverse weather has affected the growth of plants in almost all the 3.1 lakh hectares of cotton which will ultimately affect the crop yield. While the total yield is expected to be a dismal 39 lakh quintals this season, the estimation of a low yield of 4 to 5 quintals per acre is the chief cause of distress among the farmers.

The coming weeks are crucial as the scenario, in terms of quantum of failure, becomes clearer to the individual farmers. Those with insurmountable losses are bound to be under extreme stress.