Hyderabad, Mar 24: The previous TDP Government had not given adequate support to farmers, thereby failing to avoid a large number of suicides, according to the L Ramachenna Reddy Commission report.
The TDP, which was extending crucial outside support to the NDA Government at the Centre, could have influenced the latter to take measures like loans to small and marginal farmers at low interest and loan repayment in easy instalments. Such measures were not taken by the previous Government, the report, tabled in the Assembly, today said.
While the previous TDP Government had allotted Rs 8,287.60 crore for seven years till 2003-04, the present regime alloted Rs 3,331.04 crore in 2004-05 and Rs 6,374.12 crore in 2005-06. This showed the former had neglected irrigation, which affected farmers and labourers constituting 70 per cent of the State population, it said.
Had the TDP continued the scheme of providing ex gratia to families of deceased farmers and strengthened agricultural credit, extension advisory and quality input delivery systems to small and marginal farmers, suicides would have been reduced to a great extent, the Commission said.
Harassment by private money lenders and banks stood out as the immediate cause of suicide by 1472 peasants between July 1, 1998 and May 13, 2004 and 1068 farmers from May 14, 2004 till November 10, 2005. 'Almost all witnesses in their statements before the Commission in a chorus have uniformly stated their husbands/wives/sons (farmers) were harassed by private money lenders and staff of other Government institutions like Banks and Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies', the report said.
Urging the Government to amend the Seeds Act, 1966 to award stringent punishment to suppliers of spurious seeds along with substantial compensation to affected farmers, the Commission wanted middlemen to be discouraged, direct market intervention, crop plan preparation on basis of demand and supply and declaration of crop holiday to capital-intensive cotton, chillies and other commercial crops.
The Commission wanted villages as units for providing compensation under the crop insurance scheme and cloud seeding during July and August for Kharif crops and in November and December for Rabi crops.
Quoting from an article, 'Farmers Suicides in Punjab and Andhra Pradesh' by a Punjab University sociology professor, it said small and marginal farmers were more vulnerable than those with large holdings. This was found true during the inquiry in 22 districts.
The maximum number of 'genuine' farmer suicides from 1998 to May 13, 2004 was in Warangal district (471), which had drought for four successive years, followed by Anantapur (211), Adilabad (180), Karimnagar (157), Mahabubnagar (89) and Nalgonda (83). Between May 14, 2004 and November 10, 2005 it was Karimnagar (128), Kurnool (99), Mahabubnagar (91), Nalgonda (90), Anantapur (79) and Medak (74).
The report urged small and marginal farmers not to take up long duration crops under rain-fed conditions, particulary cotton, and go in for soyabean and other short duration crops.
Suicides by farmers dated back to 1985-86, when some cotton growers in Prakasam and Guntur districts ended their lives and the tendency was seen in the Telangana districts of Nalgonda, Medak and Warangal in 1997. It spread to other parts of the state barring Hyderabad district, where there were no such deaths, the report said.
The one-man Commission was appointed by the Congress Government to look into farmer suicides and weavers starvation deaths in the state from July 1, 1998 to May 11, 2005 and suggest corrective mechanisms. The terms of reference included assessment of the efficacy of the policies of the previous government in supporting farmers. The Action Taken Report by Chief Minister Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy said the Government had already taken corrective measures by playing the role of a promoter of agriculture, to realise the objectives of sustainable and economical crop production.
Government agencies like Cotton Corporation of India, and Markfed were intervening in the market. Agriculture Department (AD) took up propagation of crops with higher demand like maize, pulses and oilseed instead of water-intensive paddy and high investment crops like cotton and chillies. Area under cotton and chillies went down in 2005-6, by 14 and 37 per cent respectively compared to 2004-05.
The ATR said Government would form an expert team for field assessment of crop loss due to poor germination, genetic impurity and non-adaptability, the ATR said. On recommendations that agriculture's share in total advances should be hiked to minimum 25 per cent, which was its share, in Gross State Domestic Product, it said in 2005-06 Rs 12,700 crore had been advanced towards credit to farmers.
Tenant farmers were financed Rs 12.77 crore through Rythu Mitra groups as per the recommendation to bring them under the ambit of commercial banks and cooperative bodies. Biotechnology was being encouraged and biodiesel plantations taken up on a large scale in rainshadow districts. A cell was set up in the AD to create awareness on WTO norms and build capacity among farmers and entrepreneurs.