Bengaluru, Jul 18: Rattled by a sudden spurt in farmers suicides, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Saturday took a leaf out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's book on "Mann ki baat" to reach out to peasants through radio, assuring them the government was with them in their distress.
As farmers suicides continued unabated, throwing up a major challenge to his government, Siddaramaiah spoke his heart out through "Dil ki baat" programme, telling the peasants that he was also a son of a farmer and he empathised with them.
In his address broadcast through AIR stations across the state, Siddaramaiah said 70 farmers had committed suicide since June which was a matter of concern and the sudden rise had remained "an enigma" to the government itself.
Siddaramaiah said previously 100 or 200 farmers would commit suicide a year and 48 such incidents were reported during 2014-15 but the incidence saw a rise since June.
"I am a farmer's son. Have faith in the son who hails from a farmer's family," said Siddaramaiah, as he came under fire from the opposition BJP and JDS who have launched an all out offensive against him for allegedly "neglecting" farmers and having visited the house of even a single victim.
The chief minister's radio talk and efforts to reach out to farmers come amid reports that Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi had planned to visit the affected families but was prevailed upon by Siddaramaiah not to go ahead with it.
As more suicides are being reported particularly in the politically powerful sugar belt of Mandya district, former Chief Minister and party senior S M Krishna has taken the initiative to visit the affected families, reflecting unease within the party over "lack of swift" response from the government.
"The suicides have caused severe anguish in me. No words are enough to comfort the affected families. I myself being a son of a farmer, I empathise with you," Siddaramaiah said, while appealing to them not to allow their mind to be weakened by distress.
"Whether it is one farmer or 100 farmers, the pain is the same," he said, adding he could not visit the affected families of farmers as he was preoccupied with the legislature session. He said he would visit them soon.
Siddaramaiah said he has already instructed the district in-charge ministers and legislators to visit the farmers' families.
He also appealed to the opposition parties not to use farmers as "pawns" and not to indulge in "profit-loss calculations" out of their distress.
"It is time for all of us to wipe out the tears of farmers and make them mentally strong," he said.
Noting that private money lenders have emerged as the "face of Yama (god of death)" because of their exploitation of farmers, he said the government had already taken steps for a statewide crackdown on them.
He said stringent provisions of the Act relating to money lending were being enforced and those exploiting farmers were being put in jail.
Certain provisions would be made more stringent, he added. Siddaramaiah appealed to the farmers not to lose heart and to face the present distress boldly as suicide was no solution to their problems.
Listing out the various steps taken by his government for agriculture and farmers, he said Rs 10,000 crore loan would be distributed during 2015-16. The government was always committed to farmers and would never let them down, he said.