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  Opinion   Edit  29 Jan 2017  Provide relief to farmers in distress

Provide relief to farmers in distress

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Jan 29, 2017, 4:10 am IST
Updated : Jan 29, 2017, 5:01 am IST

Quite brazenly this government has trotted out the argument that it has brought the crop insurance scheme.

Supreme Court of India. (Photo: PTI)
 Supreme Court of India. (Photo: PTI)

The Supreme Court has put Parliament to shame by raising pertinent questions last Friday about farmers’ suicides in the country — which stands at about 11 per cent of all suicides, according to the National Crime Records Bureau — and impleading the Centre and all states and Union territories on a matter brought before it by the NGO, Citizens Resource and Action Initiative.

The apex court converted the case into a public interest litigation, indicating the importance it accords the issue in contrast with the political class. Farmers’ suicides and agricultural distress have been discussed several times in Parliament and state Legislatures. But such discussions are generally marked by the mouthing of platitudes, and absence of political will to ameliorate the situation.

 

This is ironical since the data suggests that it is the poorest rural people — those owning less than one hectare of land or farm workers who are sharecroppers, in effect — who tend to take their lives in the largest numbers, typically because they are steeped in indebtedness and the amount to be repaid can be as paltry as Rs 300.

Quite brazenly this government has trotted out the argument that it has brought the crop insurance scheme. The argument indeed mocks those who make it. It is worth asking whether a farmer can buy crop insurance if he is ready to take his life for a few hundred rupees? Crop insurance clearly does not address the real issue. In any case, the scheme long pre-dates the present regime.

 

It is a sign of the uncaring attitude of our politicians towards farmers that in the present election season in several states, even the leading politicians are mounting crass attacks on one another but the question of farmers’ suicides has been conspicuous by its absence.

It is not a day too soon that the two-judge bench of the Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and Justice N.V. Ramana gave sympathetic hearing to the petitioner’s counsel Colin Gonsalves, who is known to foreground issues affecting the poor and the marginalised, and called for a national policy to aid farmers in distress so that they may not be driven to take their own life.

 

After all, in the past one year farmers’ suicides have jumped as much as 40 per cent and this has happened in states run by different political parties. The percentage jump is the highest for Maharashtra while in absolute numbers Karnataka recorded the most suicides in the year.

In the hierarchy of possible causes, the sowing of water-guzzling cash crops like sugarcane appears to rank high in the drought years. Otherwise too, cash crops are risky on account of reliance on market forces. Our poor farmers’ lives are on the line. The government should keep this in mind.

Tags: supreme court, national crime records bureau, j.s. khehar