ANDHRA PRADESH

`Dead' farmers show up at inquiry

VITAL PROBE: Retired district judge L. Rama Chenna Reddy heading the commission of inquiry on farmers' suicide deaths examining C. Chilakamma, whose husband, Somasekhar, committed suicide after incurring heavy debts due to failure of crops for three consecutive years, in Visakhapatnam on Thursday. Photo: K.R. Deepak

VITAL PROBE: Retired district judge L. Rama Chenna Reddy heading the commission of inquiry on farmers' suicide deaths examining C. Chilakamma, whose husband, Somasekhar, committed suicide after incurring heavy debts due to failure of crops for three consecutive years, in Visakhapatnam on Thursday. Photo: K.R. Deepak  

Living farmers' names included in suicide deaths

Special Correspondent

VISAKHAPATNAM: The L. Rama Chenna Reddy Commission of Inquiry into farmers' suicides in the State, which visited 18 districts so far, has observed that not all cases are related to agriculture and even living farmers have been included in the list of suicide deaths.

The Commission started its inquiry in October last year after the Telugu Desam Party submitted a list to the Government that 2,861 farmers and weavers had committed suicide or died due to starvation between May 2004 and May 2005, unable to bear debt burden.

Huge debts

Mr. Reddy who conducted the inquiry in the district on Thursday said that in some cases the farmers had committed suicide unable to bear the burden of loans taken for children's education or marriage.

In some cases, including one from Visakhapatnam, debt became a burden because the farmers had turned alcoholics. In a case from the district, the post-mortem as well as the report from the Forensic Science Laboratory has revealed that only traces of liquor and not poison was found in the viscera of the victim.

Natural deaths in list

Many natural deaths were stated as suicides in the TDP list and four farmers who had allegedly committed suicide were physically present for the inquiry. This happened in the case of two farmers in Nellore and one each in Khammam and Nalgonda.

The four did attempt suicide but survived after receiving treatment in hospitals, Mr. Reddy said.

The Commission also found that 600 to 700 cases were still in the preliminary inquiry stage. The Collectors concerned were told by the commission to speed up the inquiry pending at the MRO or the DRO level.

Ex gratia was paid in 781 cases. Mr. Reddy said that the amount was paid by officials after making inquiries and they were all genuine cases. It was also found that ex gratia was not paid in some cases and the Collectors concerned were told to pay the amount as early as possible.

The Commission also found that Rs.1 lakh to be paid to the family of deceased farmer over a period of three to four years to develop agriculture, was paid in a short time of two to six months in some cases in some districts.

Families of farmers informed the Commission that Rs.1 lakh, along with Rs.50,000 paid by the Government to clear the debts, were taken by the money lenders.

``This is quite shocking. How could the officials pay the amount in a short period? The amount is meant to help the deceased farmer's family to stand on its own. I informed the Collectors and wanted them to inquire,'' Mr. Reddy said.

Pat for Anantapur official

However, he appreciated the method adopted by the Anantapur Collector who made the family deposit the sum in a bank and arranged loans in one form or other to acquire farm implements or other farm-related requirements and milch cattle or to establish small business.

He observed that some families had given up farming, particularly in Anantapur, Karimnagar and Mehabubnagar and opted for milch cattle, fair price shops, etc.

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