Roy Mathew

Discussions on suicides at ministerial level today

Farmers did not get promised reliefFinancial and social factors did not get due attentionMeasures for revival of agriculture needed

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan will be holding discussions with the Central team studying the farmers' suicides in the State here on Sunday.

Detailed discussions at the ministerial level will take place on Saturday. Minister for Agriculture Mullakkara Ratnakaran, Minister for Cooperation G. Sudhakaran, Minister for Revenue C. Divakaran, Finance Minister T. M. Thomas Isaac and higher officials will participate in the discussions. The Government will be presenting a detailed picture of the farmers' suicides before the team.

The team, consisting of advisors to the Planning Commission R. Bandopadhyay, B. C. Munda and Sahamathe, has already visited the Wayanad district on a fact-finding mission. They will reach here on Saturday.

Higher incidence of suicides was being reported from Wayanad, Idukki and other districts for more than a decade now. In fact, the suicides had been gradually increasing in the State. Their number peaked in 2002.

However, action by the Government was wanting. Though the UDF Government announced a package for Wayanad, it did not get fully implemented. It even appeared that the Government was keen on projecting the problem as a psychological one, going by the nature of expert committee it constituted. All members of the 14-member committee were from the medical profession. It was stated that the basic reason for suicides was psychological, though financial and social factors act as triggers.

No major effort was made to address the financial and social factors, which would have brought down the suicides significantly. Support prices for agricultural products and crop insurance would have contributed significantly in reversing the trend, if earnest efforts were made. Long-term measures to improve productivity and profitability and check imports were needed besides debt relief.

Wayanad and Idukki districts, which also face environmental degradation, would have benefited in a number of ways if the Government supported organic farming in a big way. However, it was not willing to support the farmers for a switch-over. The policy of the new Government is yet to be known.

Farmers would need subsidies covering the gestation period for such switch- over besides proper certification and marketing systems. Measures to check conversion of plantations and revive farming in general are also called for.