Desperation seems to have caught up with the normally imperturbable tribal farmers of Adilabad which is evident from the abnormally large number of suicides by them since 2011. As many as 27 of them, all cotton farmers including a woman, from the aboriginal Gond, Naikpod, Mannepu and the Lambada plains tribe, figure in the list of 101 cotton farmers who have committed suicide since January 2011.
Giving up life, for whatever reason, was hitherto an unknown phenomenon in the primitive tribal communities which, paradoxically, have deprivation for a way of life. The gamut of Bt cotton, however, has dislocated their way of dealing with failures and like the trend in other communities, tribals are increasingly preferring the ‘easy way’ out.
In 2010, only one Gond cotton farmer had committed suicide owing to debts. There was a drastic increase in the extent of land under cotton cultivation and the incidence of suicides in the agency in the following year.
Statistics reveal that all the tribal farmers who have committed suicide, actually tilled their own lands. Only Butti Posham, a Mannepu from Nennel, had cultivated cotton in 20 acres of leased land while Pendur Suresh of Neredigonda had tilled five acres of illegally occupied forest land. Though the Gonds and other tribal people have been cultivating forest and hilly land since time immemorial, the change in crop seems to have brought doom to their door step. They cultivate cotton in every available piece of land without bothering about the compatibility of the crop with the soil.
“Not all soils will aid better yields of cotton. Hilly areas are not at all suited to this crop,” opines B. Muralidhar, Assistant Agriculture Officer, Adilabad, as he seeks to explain the cause for lower yields. “Cotton requires enormous investment which is recoverable only if the yield is good. The productivity of the lands in question cannot be increased up to desired level even if maximum quantity of artificial fertilisers are used,” he explains. The scale of bank finance for cotton being on the higher side, many tribal farmers have drawn larger amounts as crop loans. Like their counterparts in other areas, these farmers are also ending up in the debt trap.