ANDHRA PRADESH

CPI(M) to distribute rice to bereaved families

HYDERABAD, Jan. 20. The CPI (M) will distribute one bag of rice each to families of all the 633 farmers who committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh since 1998 in a symbolic condemnation of the Government's apathy to the plight of ryots.

It has appealed to all political parties, NGOs, philanthropists and well-to-do farmers to come to the rescue of distressed families by making donations in cash and kind.

Addressing a press conference here on Sunday, CPI (M) State Secretary B. V. Raghavulu said the trend of suicides which started in 1998 had reached a peak after a relative lull in 1999 and 2000. As many as 202 farmers ended their lives in 2001 while 22 died this year, mostly in Nalgonda, Karimnagar and Anantapur.

Warangal district (120 deaths since 1998) topped the list of suicides followed by Anantapur (110), Karimnagar (80), Mahabubnagar (51) and Guntur (49). An alarming feature was the large number of suicides by farmers growing cotton and groundnut.

Mr. Raghavulu pointed out that 55 groundnut farmers had ended their lives since last November but Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had not found time to console their families or to identify reasons for the large number of deaths. The Government was deliberately refusing to take note of these suicides so that its ineptitude was not exposed. It was also declining to pay ex gratia on the specious ground that it would encourage more suicides, ignoring the fact that the number of deaths was rising even otherwise.

The CPI (M) leader said the Government policies were mainly to blame for the suicides. One such policy was to exhort farmers to grow commercial crops like cotton and groundnut in view of the paddy glut.

Mounting electricity bills and rising debts were some of the other reasons for the suicides. "Where is the human face to the reforms that the Chief Minister often talks about?'' he asked.

The Government should write off the debts of small and marginal farmers, a none-too-difficult task when viewed against the backdrop of generous concessions given to M/s India Cements and M/s International Seaports.

Mr. Raghavulu wanted the Chief Minister to immediately tour Anantapur district and to convene an all-party meeting to discuss relief measures for farmers. The CPI (M), he said, was chalking out a plan to launch an agitation in Nalgonda, Warangal and Karimnagar in cooperation with other parties.

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