Nagesh Prabhu

Karnataka Government considering proposal to waive their agricultural loans

Deve Gowda writes to Chief Minister on compensationTask force on farm strategies yet to submit reportPanel to be set up to draft new agricultural policy

BANGALORE: The Karnataka 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 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, suicides by farmers continue 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.

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.

Gowda's concern

Mr. Deve Gowda appears to be concerned over the fact that the highest number of farmers' suicide cases has 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 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.