Agrarian distress claims 2,909 farmers in last decade

The farming sector in Karnataka has been going though a painful phase since the last few years and a whopping 2,909 farmers committed suicide across the State during the last one decade (2003-04 to July 31, 2012).

With farming becoming economically unviable owing to various factors, the data provided by the State Agriculture Department revealed that on an average 25 farmers committed suicide in Karnataka every month in the last 10 years. As many as 1,077 farmers ended their lives since the BJP came to power in the State in 2008.

The tragic incidents primarily occurred due to agrarian distress caused by crop loss on account of drought, floods and diseases; debts; high farming cost, particularly fertilizer; and low returns due to faulty policies of both State and Central governments, says R.S. Deshpande, Director, Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore.

The growth rate of the agriculture sector has been erratic during the last five years. According to Economic Survey, the sector recorded growth of 12.4 per cent of Gross State Domestic Product in 2007-08, 2.3 per cent in 2008-09, 3.6 per cent in 2009-10, 13.3 per cent in 2011-11 and – (minus) 2.9 per cent in 2011-12.

The State faced three consecutive droughts during the S.M. Krishna regime (2001-2004) and two consecutive droughts during the BJP rule (2011-12 and 2012-13). With declaration of 140 taluks as drought-hit in the current sowing season, the State is facing the worst drought in the last 40 years.

Top five

Officials of Agriculture Department told The Hindu that Hassan district reported highest number of suicides by farmers (309), followed by Bidar (220), Chikmagalur (213), Belgaum (205) and Chitradurga (193) in the last one decade.

The number of suicide cases reported in 2003-04 was 708, 271 in 2004-05, 163 in 2005-06, 346 in 2006-07, 342 in 2007-08, 337 in 2008-09, 290 in 2009-10, 242 in 2010-11, 187 in 2011-12 and 23 cases till July 31, 2012-13.

Of the 2,907 cases reported, a committee set up to sanction compensation rejected 1,548 cases and sanctioned compensation of Rs. 1 lakh to 1,258 cases. The panel is yet to decide compensation in 101 cases, officials said. As on July 31 this year (2012-13), 23 cases of suicides have been reported from eight districts. Six cases have been reported from Haveri, Chamarajangar (5), Mysore (4), Hassan (3), Bellary (2), and one each from Dakshina Kannada, Kodagu and Belgaum districts.

Package

ISEC research study (2011) noted that implementation of the Prime Minister’s Rehabilitation Package (Rs. 2,689.64 crore) in six districts of Belgaum, Chikmagalur, Chitradurga, Hassan, Kodagu and Shimoga had not helped small and marginal farmers. In fact, better-off farmers benefited from the package, it said.

However, officials claimed that the number of cases had come down in the last couple of years because of implementation of various schemes such as disbursal of crop loans at less rate of interest from cooperative banks (zero per cent up to Rs 1 lakh and 1 per cent up to Rs 3 lakh), implementation of crop insurance schemes and sale of farm inputs at subsidised prices.