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Killing fields: Why Telangana farmers are dying when KCR is one of them

india Updated: Nov 13, 2014 16:03 IST
Prasad Nichenametla
Prasad Nichenametla
Hindustan Times

Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhara Rao is a farmer and his heart beats for this most basic Indian occupation, which according to him can yield crores. He has, however, a problem of hundreds and a few lakhs on his hands at this point.

Hundreds of his fellow farmers across nine rural districts of India’s newest and 29th state have committed suicide over debts of a few lakhs, leaving behind hapless widows awaiting moneylenders’ knocks.

According to a list compiled by grassroots organisations Caring Citizens Collective and Rythu Swarajya Vedika, 375 farmers have committed suicide between June 2 and November 8.

The government is not buying this figure. A debate, however, does little for farmers or widows such as Kamalamma and Rajitha whose miseries are piling up.

Kamalamma who?

In the parched Pallepahad in Nalgonda district, Kamalamma, 36, sits forlorn at her house. Her tears have dried up, much like the wells in the village.

Her husband, Dasari Ramulu, 45, committed suicide on August 21 by hanging from a tree. The marginal farmer had taken Rs 5-lakh loan for borewells and for his daughter’s marriage last year.

For a farmer overburdened by the debt, the poor monsoon did not help. His paddy crop, the family’s only source of income, on an acre dried up.

Ramachandraiah, his elderly neighbour, offers the hindsight. “He never shared his pain with us. He might have feared he would lose the respect he had in the village.”

Now, Kamalamma looks clueless about how to bring up her three children who are in school. She goes to work as a farm labourer, earning Rs 150 per day. With crops failing, that daily wage work too will stop. A buffalo the family had also died while giving birth.

Kamalamma dreads the day when moneylenders will come to collect. For sure, they will come.

What police report says: Suicide because of loan burden

What revenue official says: Suicide resulting from domestic quarrels

Kamalamma, 36, holds on to her husband’s picture outside her house, dreading the day when moneylenders will inevitably come knocking. (Prasad Nichenametla/HT Photo)

Rajitha who?

In Tarigoppula village of Warangal district, Rajitha, 24, is yet to come to terms with the loss of her husband. Polaboyina Pochaiah, 35, consumed pesticide on October 16.

In addition to his family’s two acres, Pochaiah had leased-in 10.5 acres at Rs 3,000 per acre three years back.

The first year went fine but he suffered a loss the second year. He managed to cover up with an accompanying crop. But a repeat loss this year, with all of the maize in the 10.5 acre dried up due to bad monsoon, meant tenant farming proved too much of gamble.

His family says they were clueless about what was going on in his mind.

“I only know that he took loans from moneylenders,” says Rajitha.

His younger brother Kanakaiah showed HT the dried-up maize crop. He says the loan burden could be Rs 2 lakh or much more.

Pochaiah’s two children are in elementary school. They are too small to know why their father committed suicide. Rajitha would be hoping they don’t get trapped in the same cycle.

What police report says: Suicide because of loan burden

What district collector says: Not yet brought to our notice; shall probe such cases

Pochaiah’s younger brother Kanakaiah shows their dried-up maize crop; Rajitha (Right), 24, clutches her husband's picture at their house. (Prasad Nichenametla/HT Photo)

Debt-to-death cycle: the problem areas

June 2 was when KCR (as Rao is popularly known) took oath as CM of Telangana, which was carved out of Andhra Pradesh.

The government is not buying the figure of 375 farmer suicides and pegs the number at below 80. The Caring Citizens Collective and the Rythu Swarajya Vedika are not buying the government figures either.

A farm loan waiver of up to Rs 1 lakh announced by Rao’s government is coming in tranches and is yet to be executed, thereby denying farmers fresh bank loans.

What’s more, if the state does not acknowledge farmer suicides, it denies families of the deceased government aid of up to Rs 1.5 lakh.

Rains were scarce this year and erratic power supply is drying up the remaining crops.

KCR and leaders of his party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, are accusing Andhra Pradesh and its CM Nara Chandrababu Naidu for the power problem.

KCR’s defence is emphatic. The CM, who has a productive farm in his home district of Medak, says, "We are aware of the suicides. But what can we do when Chandrababu Naidu has vowed to destroy farming in Telangana and show me as a failure?”

Government banners such as this one at the Turkapally panchayat office in Nalgonda highlight implementation of the farm loan waiver promise to 3.6 million farmers. The waiver, however, is coming in tranches and not helping the farmers much as they are being denied a fresh bank loans. (Prasad Nichenametla/HT Photo)

Irrigation projects such as the Pranahita-Chevella that will bring Godavari waters to the parched Telangana are far from completion.


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