Madhya Pradesh: Farmer’s Loan or Burden of Death

madhya-pardeh-1By Manish Kumar
Madhya Pradesh is increasingly becoming a ‘Mrityu’ Pradesh (a land of death) for farmers. This assertion is rooted in increasing number of farmers committing suicide in the state. A Chauthi Duniya team travelled across the state and talked to affected families in remote villages in order to find answers to the following disturbing questions: What compelled the farmers to commit suicide? Why Shivraj Singh Chauhan government failed to allay the sufferings of the affected farmers? Why farmers are not getting the benefit of government schemes meant solely for them? During our investigation many startling facts come to the fore. Dr. Manish Kumar relates the horrific tales of farmers’ tragedies that unfolded during our journey…

Despite all the efforts of Madhya Pradesh government to put a lid on reports of farmer’s suicide incidents, extremely worrying trends are emerging from the data collected by the government and a number of social institutions. The past nine months the state has seen nine hundred farmers committing suicide due to the loan-related issues, which alone explains the frightening larger picture! Moreover, this figure of 900 is confirmed by acknowledgement of the state’s Home Minister the state assembly that about 350 farmers have committed suicide in the past 4 months. In November 2015, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan had pointed out that 1108 farmers had committed suicide in the state. If we juxtapose the result of the government-conducted survey with that of social organizations and calculate the average, then it would be at least thousand farmers committing suicide in Madhya Pradesh every year. The shameful aspect is that some time ago, despite unambiguous information, the government had refused even to accept that the farmers are committing suicide due to distress. The extreme insensitivity on the part of government and administration is that just to maintain the good image of the government suicides of farmers were not being officially registered. Some of the ministers in the state government keep issuing ludicrous statement on farmers’ plight. The government maintained that the suicides were caused by family disputes, love affairs, intoxication or even by madness. The bright spot in this gloomy picture is that despite the government apathy, media, social organizations and farmers associations have kept raising the issue.
When Shivraj Singh government was in denial mode all the time, it was but natural that the question of compensation for the affected families will not crop up. However, despite all the government’s efforts to sweep the issue under the carpet, it increasingly started attracting people attention; and at last the government has to concede that during the period between 1 July 2014 and 30 October 2015 about 2848 farmers had committed suicide in the state. If we look at a little earlier from 1 January 2014 to 30 June 2015, the same data give a figure become 3646. In the last nine months alone 897 and in the past four months 342 cases of farm suicides have been reported.
Anyway, we do not aim to tangle the painful fact of farmers suicide in figures, but rather we do intend to disentangle that have been willfully complicated. If Shivraj Singh government does not take corrective measures in time, farmer suicides will break all the previous records. Teams of senior bureaucrats, constituted by the chief minister, have submitted their ground survey report of the affected villages to the government, but the report highlights many shortcomings of the government, therefore the chances are that they will remain wrapped under the carpet. But the findings of these reports contradict government claims of personal nature of the suicides, saying farm distress is the actual reason for them to take the extreme steps. Moreover, farmers are not getting the benefits of schemes and ending their lives due to their debt. Officials accepted and written that in many villages there is no irrigation facilities. The perennial problem of unavailability of seeds and fertilizer compound by crop failure and mounding burden of debts are the main causes of their farm suicide. After submission of these reports the government accepted that 342 farmers have committed suicides in the past four months.
Barbaric, inhuman and irrational ways of recovering debt from farmers’ is the main cause of suicides. Even a cursory look at the standard set by the Madhya Pradesh government to recover debts, one would easily say that these are the main provocation of suicides. Usually farmers debts are in tune with two lakh, ten lakh and and fifteen lakh rupees. There is no region in the state which is not under the burden of debt. The Kisan Credit Cards, meant for giving relief to farmers, have become most fatal for them. The government claims that it provides loans to farmers at zero interest rate, but the ground reality is bizarre and inhuman, for once a farmer borrowed money, he/she will be trapped in a lifelong quagmire of debt. In fact, the preconditions set for this loan scheme is that farmers must repay his loan every year on 15 March. If he fails to do so on stipulated date, then he will become a defaulter. This is an ample proof of government’s apathy towards farmers. For government, March may be the last month of financial years, but for farmers even the government mandis (Markets) are open after 15 April. Does the Chief Minister who claims to be a farmer himself not know that on 15 March the crops are not even harvested? How can farmers sell that before 15 March? The government trickery is also evident from the fact that the farm loans are cleared in the month of May, but they are asked to repay in the middle of March. It is obvious that this scheme has been formulated to render farmers defaulters. Once the stipulated date of 15 March passed the farmers have to pay 16 percent interest on their loan. Besides, the borrower has to pay 3 per cent of their loan for insurance. If we calculated all the expenses incurred in the process of getting loan and repaying it, the loan on zero percent interest seems nothing but an illusion, because at the end of the day the farmer has to pay 22-24 per cent interest on his loan. Government shy away from it responsibility, saying it is unaware of the problems. Shiv Kumar Sharma, President of Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, says that he has repeatedly explained to the government through the media that the zero percent interest loan scheme is nothing but a deception. It is a conspiracy against farmers which wreak havoc on them. In fact the loan scheme which meant for helping distressed farmers, in the long run takes the form of a blood-sucking Mahajan. madhya-pardesh-2
Government apathy and negligence have also contributed in the plight of farmers. In most part of Madhya Pradesh you will notice that farmers are encircled in the troubles created by the government. Owing to this insensitivity towards the problems of farmers the state of Madhya Pradesh is turning into Mrityu Pardesh for them. The nature is also not favouring them. Since last three to four years the farmers have been reeling under the spell of drought, hailstorm, and some excessive rain, especially in the last two years have not been good for farming. The cost is increasing every year, but the productivity is becoming less and less. Most of the farmers are dependent on loan. They have incurred heavy losses for the past two years; the income from farming is not enough to run their homes. In this backdrop where on earth will they be able to meet other expenses of their families, and maintain their dignity in the society?
In most of the rural areas of Madhya Pradesh, the scarcity of water started manifesting its ugly face in the month of February and March itself, but the government has not yet taken notice of it. If on the one hand the government of Madhya Pradesh is flaunting the award given by the Prime Minister, the farmers are upset and frustrated on the other. The yield of wheat, chickpea, lentil, coriander crop is not as good as it used to be. Scarcity of water has added to the agony of farmers which is being felt everywhere, but the situation is worst in Bundelkhand and Chambal region. In the absence of any governmental system of irrigation, farmers are forced to buy water at the rate of Rs. 100/hour and at some places even Rs 200/hour. In some areas, water levels have gone below normal level, leaving wells and pumps useless. If this is the situation in February and March what would happen in May and June? Despite such a big danger lurking on the horizon, Madhya Pradesh Madhya Pradesh government is busy in flaunting Krishi Kraman award and patting its back.
Another reason for farm suicide is the corruption and government policies.

Government apathy and negligence have also contributed in the plight of farmers. In most part of Madhya Pradesh you will notice that farmers are encircled in the troubles created by the government. Owing to this insensitivity towards the problems of farmers the state of Madhya Pradesh is turning into Mrityu Pardesh for them. The nature is also not favouring them. Since last three to four years the farmers have been reeling under the spell of drought, hailstorm, and some excessive rain, especially in the last two years have not been good for farming. The cost is increasing every year, but the productivity is becoming less and less. Most of the farmers are dependent on loan. They have incurred heavy losses for the past two years; the income from farming is not enough to run their homes. In this backdrop where on earth will they be able to meet other expenses of their families, and maintain their dignity in the society?

Madhya Pradesh levies VAT on fertilizers, imposes tax on agricultural implements, and tax on tractor registration is higher than it is in other states. Mandi charge is also on the higher side. In fact farmers are being robbed from every side. Moreover, the state has become a hub of fake fertilizer, seed and pesticides. In fact gullible farmers are being cheated from all sides! It is impossible that without the connivance of government official or the government such a large scale bungling can happen. Neither the opposition nor the farmers associations have raise this issue the way they should.
Madhya Pradesh’s securing first position in food grain production is a fraud and deception. The question as to when from the past three years the state is under spell of draught the how could it be possible for the state to secure first position in food grain production? The fraud is that food grains from neighbouring states are smuggled in and sold in Madhya Pradesh’s mandis, thus mechanically increasing the productivity. The negligence of the government is manifest in the fact that even after crop failure there is no contingency plan for relief to the farmers. The central and state governments are announcing crop insurance, but the farmers will not be the beneficiaries of this plan. In case of crop destruction due to the natural cause, the farmers should be given as much compensation as the expenses he has incurred on the farming. While current practice is that government conduct a survey only after three months of the occurrence of disaster. Who will tell the government that a farmer cannot wait for three months for compensation as he has to do preparation for the next crop? In such case the officers make assessment sitting in their offices.

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