Nagesh Prabhu

Government considering proposal to waive their crop loans

Deve Gowda writes to Chief Minister on disbursement of compensationTask force on farm strategies was set up in 2005 The panel is yet to submit a reportCommittee to be set up to prepare new agricultural policy

BANGALORE: The State Government is mulling over providing relief to the families of those farmers who committed suicide owing to crop failure over the past two years by waiving agricultural loans taken by them.

The Agriculture Department made the proposal after the former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda wrote to Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy saying that compensation was yet to be paid to the families of farmers who committed suicide.

The Agriculture and Cooperation departments are studying the proposal and preparing an estimate of the cost to the State exchequer, sources told The Hindu .

Despite a good monsoon last year, suicide by farmers continues to occur in the State. As many as 143 farmers committed suicide in 2005-06, while 271 did so in 2004-05 and 708 in 2003-04.

However, the number has been on the decline from 2000-01 when 2,630 farmers ended their lives.

Compensation awarded

Of the 143 cases that occurred in 2005-06, a committee set up to sanction compensation rejected the claims in 37 cases it awarded compensation to the families concerned in 65 cases. The remaining cases are pending before the committee for want of more information.

Mr. Deve Gowda appears to be concerned over the fact that the highest number of farmers' suicide cases have been reported from Hassan, which he represents in the Lok Sabha.

In 2005-06, 14 cases of farmers' suicides were reported from Hassan and Kodagu followed by Belgaum (13), Chitradurga (12), Koppal (11) and Bijapur (9). No suicides were reported from Chamarajanagar, Dharwad, Udupi and Bangalore Urban districts.

Hassan's dubious record

Hassan topped the list in the number of suicides by farmers in 2003-04 (69) and 2004-05 (37). Cases of suicide by farmers were brought to the notice of Mr. Deve Gowda at a meeting held last month in Hassan.

An eight-member task force headed by S.A. Patil, Vice-Chancellor, University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, was set up in 2005. It was asked to draw up short- and long-term strategies to increase the area under cultivation as well as address region- and crop-specific constraints to accelerate growth in the sector. However, he is unlikely to submit a report to the Government.

The task force held only three meetings, sources said.

Prof. Patil has now been appointed Director of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. A.K. Agarwal, Additional Chief Secretary and Development Commissioner, now heads the task force, sources said.

Now the Department of Agriculture is planning to constitute an expert committee to help the department draft a new agriculture policy.

It will also identify common constraints to higher growth, the gap between farm productivity and input cost, weak linkages between research and extension, access to credit and stagnancy in agricultural technology, sources said.

Short-listed

The names of R. Dwarakinath and S. Bisaliah, former vice-chancellors of the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore; and R.S. Deshpande, professor and head, Agricultural Development and Rural Transformation Unit, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore; have been short-listed for the committee, sources said.

Farm scientists point out that the Government only constitutes committees without any commitment to implementing programmes for farmers.

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