Farmer suicides always carry a socio-political content but when a farmer commits suicide at a political rally held by AAP, a party that espoused the cause of farmers, among other things, the political class is almost put on notice and told that the problem is now at their doorstep. The issue has, predictably, become a political football with the blame game on in full swing.
With the land bill having becoming a politically divisive issue, there will be much greater focus on this unfortunate death than on those which are now taking place with regularity in many states. But the real issue is agrarian distress which earlier centred on Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh but is now visible all over India.
It is not as though the contagion has spread from one part to the others. Each region has its unique set of problems, the only common factor being the unseasonal rain in March. When the Centre cleared a Rs 2,000-crore drought relief package for Maharashtra, itwas largely on scanty rain last year, leading to drought-like conditions in several places. About 200 farmers committed suicide in the Vidarbha region this year till March-end, and about 1,000 last year.
In 2006, when almost 1,450 farmers killed themselves, the Centre had given a Rs 3,750-crore debt relief package for six most critical districts of Vidarbha.
This year the picture is the same in Bundelkhand, the region that straddles parts of both UP and MP. There farmers are taking loans on kisan credit cards (KCCs) and when they are unable to repay them, the only option before them is to fall back on the local moneylender, who charges usurious rates of interest.
There are problems at various levels. The administrations in most states, to begin with, try to play down the problem. Both the UP and the Centre have taken remedial steps. While the UP government has decided to compensate farmers on the basis of the crops cultivated, the Centre has announced an all-round increase in compensation, the degree depending on whether the land is irrigated or not. However, as is well known, such compensation can mitigate people’s sufferings to a very limited extent.
The latest suicide will add muscle to the elbow of those opposing the land ordinance though it has yet to be put into use. A bad monsoon looming means that both agrarian indebtedness and the politics which surrounds it go up several notches.