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Post-suicide, farmers’ families stare at debt burden in drought-hit Karnataka

S. Bhuvaneshwari
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Even those who meet eligibility criteria for compensation are not getting their dues

“I lost everything, including my son, to drought,” says 70-year-old Muddakka, whose son Nagendrappa committed suicide in January this year.

He had taken loans from a moneylender to sink a borewell in Bevinahalli in Sira taluk, which has been reeling under drought for three years. Like many other borewells in the area, his too did not yield water, pushing him into a debt trap.

From private lenders

The family has not received compensation because he had borrowed from private moneylenders. Only families of farmers who have borrowed from nationalised banks or cooperative societies get compensation.

Nagendrappa grew horse gram and toor dal in his two acres and raised a loan of Rs. 80,000 to dig a borewell as there had been no rain. Even after drilling more than 700 ft, he didn’t hit water.

The wife of the deceased, N.R. Sumithra, and Ms. Muddakka work as daily wage workers, earning Rs. 50 each a day. Ms. Sumithra has four daughters aged between one and 10.

Nine kill themselves

According to the Agriculture Department, nine farmers have committed suicide in Sira taluk from April 2012 till June 24, 2013. The number of suicides was five in 2009-10, three in 2010-11 and 12 in 2011-12.

Of the sowing area of 76,000 hectares in the taluk, cultivation was done in 56,000 hectares last year, which shrunk to 1,300 hectares this year. In 2011-12, the estimated crop loss was 45 per cent; in 2012-13 it was more than 50 per cent.

Even those who meet the eligibility criteria to receive compensation are not getting their dues.

The family of Eranna, who committed suicide on February 11, 2012, at M. Dasarahalli, is yet to get compensation because the Agriculture Department says there are no funds.

Pressure from creditors

His daughter Shruthi told The Hindu : “My mother works as a labourer and private moneylenders come to our house and ask us to clear the debt.” He had borrowed from both institutional and non-institutional sources.

Minister for Law and district-in-charge Minister T.B. Jayachandra told The Hindu that funds will be released by July 6 and compensation to the farmers’ families will be given immediately.

Recent case

The Minister was in the taluk to visit the family of Jayarama Reddy, who committed suicide on June 21 this year, at Melkunte Gollahalli in Sira taluk. The 44-year-old marginal farmer had raised a total loan of Rs. 1.5 lakh from institutional sources and private lenders to sink a borewell that failed.

Mr. Reddy’s wife Sannathyamma, who has three daughters, told The Hindu that she was worried about the future of her daughters.

The Minister said the only long-term solution is to recharge the groundwater table by filling the Madalur tank with water.

State Secretary of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sanga Devaraj B.S. demanded the government to increase the compensation from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 5 lakh to provide self-employment to members of the deceased farmers’ families.


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