The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Thursday issued a notice to the Tamil Nadu government on the reported deaths of farmers over a month in the state.
Several districts in the state have been reportedly affected by poor monsoon which resulted in poor harvests—the second in the year—leading to farmer suicides and deaths.
“The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports regarding the deaths of 106 farmers during a period of one month in Tamil Nadu which it considers as a matter of concern,” said the notice.
The Commission said farmers were feeling neglected by policymakers despite being the most crucial and significant section of the state and asked the state chief secretary to file a report within six weeks on the steps taken or proposed by the government.
The state government, which had remained silent on the issue amid growing demands to declare the state drought-hit, on Tuesday announced that a high-level committee will be formed to assess the extent of farmer distress, after meeting with representatives of various farmer organisations across the state.
According to chief minister O Panneerselvam, the committee will survey 10% of crops in all affected areas, with subsequent financial relief to be based on their findings.
“There is a need for sincere implementation of the laws and policies made for the farming sector especially, small farmers. The farmers are required to be brought out of the agrarian crisis, which have been adversely affecting them since long,” the NHRC observed.
Madras high court had also directed the state government on Thursday to file an affidavit within four weeks, detailing the steps it was taking to prevent more farmer suicides.
“We would like the state government to place on record the steps which have been taken to prevent the suicides of farmers,” said the first bench comprising chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sundar, in response to a PIL filed by K K Ramesh, managing trustee for the Tamil Nadu Centre for PILs.
As per reports, the most affected districts are Thiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Viluppuram, Pudukottai, Ariyalur, Cuddalore and Thanjavur, it said.
Tamil Nadu received only 166mm of rainfall during this northeast monsoon—considered the lifeline of the state—against its seasonal average of 437 mm, according to the Indian Metrological Department (IMD) in Chennai.
Most of the affected farmers hail from the Cauvery Delta district, the fertile breadbasket of the state. Majority of them are now facing the prospect of two consecutive failed harvests: first in kuruvai (summer) due to Karnataka’s refusal to release Cauvery water, and now the samba (winter) due to monsoon failure.
Despite the deaths—106 according to local reports—the government is yet to officially declare the state drought-affected.