NMKMS Press Release
  24 February 2005
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Increasing suicides by farmers in Madhya Pradesh: State government must take responsibility and action

Nimad Malwa Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan,
Jail Road, Mandleshwar,
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel : (0)9425056802, (0)9425087827

Increasing agrarian distress and anti-farmer policies in Madhya Pradesh are pushing farmers beyond the edge of survival and into the spiral of self-destruction and suicide. On the 8th of February, 2005, Radheshyam Pithia, a farmer from Village Pokhrabad, District Khargone crushed under a debt burden, committed suicide. Just 1.5 months earlier, on the 22nd of December 2004, a farmer from Village Surpala, District Khargone committed suicide because of debt. These suicides indicate the consistently falling and fragile economic situation of the peasantry in Madhya Pradesh. The Nimad-Malwa Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan condemns the attempts of the State government to present these suicides as a consequence of family conflict instead of owning responsibility for the situation, and demands that it immediately give Rs. 2 lakhs as compensation to each of these families, and bring fundamental and sweeping changes in the currently anti-farmer policies so as to stop any further misery and suicides.

It may be noted that last fortnight Radheshyam Pithia from Village Pokhrabad committed suicide by consuming pesticide, being unable to pay up his debts. Radheshyam had three brothers who worked as labor at Indore. Radheshyam farmed their agricultural land. He had taken a loan of Rs. 30,000 from the Cooperative Society, which had increased to Rs. 50,000 along with interest. On the 7th of February, the Society officials visited him and threatened to carry away the tin sheets that covered his roof. Since his crops had failed and he had not got any viable prices for his crops, it was not possible for him to make any arrangement for money, and in desperation, he committed suicide.

In a similar manner, a bank loan of Rs. 40,000 had been outstanding on Kailash Sirwi, another farmer who committed suicide in Khargone in December 2004. Moreover, he had an outstanding electricity bill of Rs. 37,000. In fact, the Electricity Board officials had already confiscated his irrigation pump once, and it was released only on the part payment of Rs. 8200. The officials threatened to re-confiscate it unless he paid up the entire amount soon. Kailash also had received no proper prices for his crops. Not being able to pay or to withstand the pressure of the outstanding bank debt and electricity bill, Kailsh took his own life.

Subsequent suicides by two farmers in only a single district of Madhya Pradesh, that too only in the last two months indicates the extent of agrarian distress in Madhya Praesh. These suicides are a consequence of the completely anti-farmer policies of the State and the Central government.

Sources of credit dry up, farmers pay highest rates interest

It may be noted that the peasantry today has few sources of available credit, yet faces the highest rates of interest. Today, when private industrialists can get infrastructure loans at even 4% interest and urban consumption loans for buying cars is available at 7% interest, farmers have to pay 14% interest for even co-operative credit and 20 to 100% for loans from money lenders. At the same time, over the last 1.5 decades, the World Bank has worked assiduously to ensure the reversal of provisions for priority sector lending to farmers by nationalised banks – that had increased enormously after bank nationalization in 1969. This was done through a number of Banking Reform reports, so that little or no credit goes to the farmers from the nationalized banks. At the present a clutch of industrialists have captured nearly 150 lakh crores of Indian public money, and refuse to pay it back. The government has failed to recover this money, yet when the poor farmer has a small outstanding debt, his draught cattle, home goods, pumps, roof tiles, are seized for recovery.

Increasing electricity tariffs and falling power supply due to reforms

At the same time in the last 3-4 years in the name of power reforms, the government has pushed up the electricity tariffs for agriculture enormously first by 150% from 2003, and then again by 21% in 2004. Without question, the already struggling farmers will have to wash their hands off energized irrigation and therefore any kind of water for rabi or protection against drought. The un-payable and accumulated bills along with draconian power sector laws that allow recovery from house-hold goods will only force them to suicide.

No compulsory procurement, farmers sell at distress prices

On the other hand, there is a virtual conspiracy by the state machinery to make minimum prices for the compulsory procurement of even the existing crops like cotton unavailable for the farmers. Witness for example the fact that Khargone Mandi did not offer even minimum procurement prices even after a farmer’s agitation.

The state seems to have turned co-conspirator along with the developed countries of the world and their multinational companies to destroy the agricultural economy of India, and open our markets for their agricultural goods, thus jeopardizing our economic sovereignty as well. In this attempt, the World Bank, Asia Development Bank, DFID –a Department of the British government and such agencies are actively promoting the withdrawal of subsidies and ensuring the increase of the prices of fertilizers, seed, pesticides, and other agricultural inputs, while at the same time ensuring the removal of quantitative restrictions on agricultural imports through the WTO regime, so that the market is flooded with cheap, highly subsidized imports of agricultural goods from the developed countries through their agri-businesses and prices for local farmers fall. It is because of these policies that thousands of farmers have been committing suicide in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa, Maharashtra, Punjab, Kerala, etc, and now a similar situation is occurring in Madhya Pradesh.

It is a matter of great shame that the state government has tried to camouflage the situation by reporting that these suicides are a response to family conflict. What is required is that the state should urgently help the affected families and take concrete policy steps to better the economic situation of the farmers. The Nimad-Malwa Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan demands that the state government immediately give Rs. 2 lakhs as compensation to each of these families and set aside their debt and electricity bills, in order to ensure their survival. In addition, the state government must set aside all existing rural debt, make fresh credit available at 4% interest, reduce electricity tariffs to 2000-2001 rates, and ensure compulsory procurement and minimum support prices for all major crops. Agricultural inputs must be subsidized and quantitative restrictions on the imports of agricultural goods reimposed, so that agriculture can become viable, and farmers can move back from the abyss of destruction, powerlessness and suicide. The farmers of Pokhrabad and the Nimad Malwa Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan calls on farmers all over Madhya Pradesh to respond to these incidents and unite, and warns the government to mend its policies or face the farmer’s ire.

Alok Agarwal
Suresh Patidar