After days of hushed chanting that “the sky and Government betrayed” him, Baga Paik, Nabarangpur, Odisha left behind his three sons and a loving wife, he killed himself and compelled to do so, whether Damodar Rout, a veteran ruling BJD leader believes it or not. Once Dr. Rout said: ‘Chasi Marena, Adivasi Bhika Magena’ (Neither the farmers suicide nor the tribes are beggars) but what happened in the case of Baga Paik, crushed by debt and took his life out of sheer desperation who had a loan of 56 thousand rupees for cotton farming. I protested a 12-hour sit-in fast in front of dead body to support emotionally to family where SHG members were demanding to recover loan. Parameswar Nayak, Mayurbhanj had moderately large – 3 acres of farming field where he put his heart and hard work into farming. That’s why he couldn’t take the pain of crop failures and accumulating debt and putting his life to death. There are many such instance of farmers commit suicides in Odisha and that even at staggering rate. Odisha farmers hardly grow cash crops but paddy farmers extortionate rates of interest charged by moneylenders is seen as one of the major reasons driving farmers to despair, while Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharastra farmers grow cash crops.
Agriculture land with irrigation facilities in Odisha is very low compared to other States. While 98 per cent of agriculture land is irrigated in Punjab, in Odisha it is very less amount of land has irrigation facilities. Despite promising irrigation to at least 35 per cent of the cultivable land in the state since it came to power 15 years ago, the Naveen Patnaik government has failed to provide assured irrigation, not even a single acre of new land irrigated. It is still just about 14 per cent of the land is irrigated in Odisha. State Government is neglecting agriculture sector during the last 15 years. Odisha has been relegated to the position of second grade State as far as foodgrains production is concerned. The state is facing a severe drought, the government has adopted an anti-farmer approach . The total number of farmer suicides in the state crossed the 100-mark in 2015. However, the state government is denying it. Moreover, Chief Minister didn’t take precise steps to control farmer suicides. They are dying under burden of debt. Farmers continued to commit suicide even after announcement of a drought package by the state government as it was of no use.
The state government had targeted to provide Rs 5,500 crore cooperative loans to farmers during Kharif, only Rs 436 crore loans were made available. Small and marginal farmers as well as share croppers were deprived of getting loans from government agencies, they were forced to take loan from money-lenders at very high rate of interest, adding crop failure and inability to repay loan were prime reasons of suicide by farmers. Farmers’ suicide had scripted a dark chapter in Odisha’s history.
Rather than spending afterwards on relief package to deal with farmer suicides, it will be better to take preventive measures to control this crisis. The preventive measures should be addressed on both social and economic fronts. In this connection, the importance of financial literacy, education, counselling, and medical services cannot be over-emphasised for addressing social causes. However, economic causes leading to erosion in farm income need to be taken up with a sense of urgency. Farm income is exposed to both production and market risks.Hence the real amar ladoo is in getting the farmers ready to face the ruthlessness of a globalized market where everyother country is heavily subsidizing its agriculture to ensure food security, else hapless farmers will keep on dying and people like me will be protesting on the streets.
Written with inputs from Sanjay Kumar Bissoyi.