Four suicides in a month show not all’s well with farm sector in Uttarakhand
The deaths came as shock to people in the hill state because Uttarakhand has no known history of farmer suicides unlike agrarian states like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtradehradun Updated: Jul 14, 2017 20:42 IST
It came as a shock to many in Uttarakhand when in June newspapers flashed the report of a farmer committing suicide in Pithoragarh district. The farmer took the extreme step allegedly after receiving a recovery notice from a bank on a loan he had taken. Few days later, another farmer allegedly committed suicide in Udham Singh Nagar district owing to similar reason. Till now four farmers have killed themselves, the last one on Wednesday.
The deaths came as shock to people in the hill state because Uttarakhand has no known history of farmer suicides unlike agrarian states like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Pithoragarh is a hill district where land holdings are small and farming is rain-fed. On the other hand, Udham Singh Nagar falls in the plains where famers have comparatively bigger land holdings and have irrigation facilities. The farmers in the plains also are comparatively prosperous compared to their counterparts in the hills.
Experts say a major reason behind the suicides is farmers’ dependency on the bank loans and 100% risk factor for the crops they grow.
“Be it plains or the hills, farmers seek loans to sustain agriculture. They don’t understand that bank has nothing to do with your crop and it just wants its money back on time,” says Ratan Aswal, who is reviving agriculture in his village Mirchoda in Pauri Garhwal.
A data from the district bank shows that out of 1.6 lakh farmers in Udham Singh Nagar, nearly 60% have taken loans.
Subhash Behar, chairman of the district co-operative bank, says that farmers have taken cumulative loans to the tune of ₹29,240 lakh and some 61% has been recovered from them.
Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar districts give maximum agri output as they fall in the plains. Dehradun and Nainital, which have some of their areas in hills, also contribute to the state’s food bowl. Half of the state’s agricultural land falls in the four plains districts of Dehradun, Nainital, Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar and rest is shared by the nine hilly districts.
In sharp contrast to the plains, the farming in hills has become a non profitable entity for the farmers. Government figures show around 8% decline in farming land — from 7.91 lakh hectares in 2009-10 to 7.41 lakh in 2011-12.
Prakash Dimri, a farmer from Doon Dwara village in the outskirts of Dehradun says, “On an average, a farmer spends ₹2,200 on sowing in an area of 0.02 hectares (or 1 nali) while the return is not more than ₹1,500.”
The land holdings are tiny and have been getting further fragmented over time.
“Eighty-seven per cent of the farming in the hills is rain-fed while only 13% has irrigation facility,” says Vijay Jardhari, an agri expert, while underlining “change in the climate pattern is also a big concern as rain cycle is no more regular and farmers are left with little choice”.
Government has urged the farmers to not worry as it has decided to conduct audit of the farming pattern every three months. Moreover loans on less interest rates are also on anvil.
“The farmers will soon be able to avail ₹1 lakh loan on mere 2% interest rate,” chief minister TS Rawat had recently said.