Former Speaker calls for social reforms to check farmer suicides

Says grand weddings, festivals trap farmers in debt; bats for comprehensive farm policy

Former speaker Krishna has appealed to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and heads of various mutts to take steps for social reformation in the farming community to prevent suicide.

He has also appealed to the government to formulate a comprehensive agriculture policy in the interest of both the farmers and the society.

Addressing a media conference here on Wednesday, he said farmers fall into the debt trap mainly due to social and religious functions, like marriages and festivals, in the families.

Need for simplicity

“Some farmers go to the extent of disposing of farmlands for marriages, giving excuse of social obligations. So, there is a need to go back to simple living. The chief minister should convene a meeting of seers, leaders of all political parties and prominent citizens to take decisions in this regard,” he said.

The seers should convince the people to take an oath that they will neither conduct grand weddings nor attend such grand functions. Politicians and prominent citizens should lead the movement by example, he added.

Allied activities

“Like in the olden days, farmers should concentrate on allied activities like animal husbandry and cottage industries to make agriculture profitable. The government should extend interest-free loans to farmers to buy up to 10 sheep or goats. Cooperative societies, on the lines of the milk unions, should be developed to procure, store and market vegetables and fruits and also produce from domestic animals like wool, hide and meat,” he said.

Expressing concern over depleting groundwater, he said indiscriminate digging of borewells should be checked.  

“Borewells should be dug only under the guidance of experts. Law should be enacted to rein in borewell drilling agencies by introducing ‘No Water, No Money’ policy. The agencies should be paid only if the borewell yields 2 inch water, if the availability is from 1 to 2 inches, only 50 per cent payment should be made, under 1 inch should be declared as failed borewell. he said.

“The government can explore possibilities of extending the Gangakalyana scheme for all small farmers. But, ponds should be made compulsory for all farmers for recharging of groundwater. Funds under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) scheme can be used for digging of ponds,” Krishna explained.

His other suggestions were making bank loans accessible for all farmers; waiving of interest on farm loans; conversion of mid-term loans into long-term loans; allocation of Rs 10,000 crore annually for empowerment of farmers dependent on dry lands; encouragement to sugar factories to produce ethanol and generate power to enable payment of up to Rs 3,000 per tonne of sugarcane; permission to coconut growers to tap and sell neera; encouragement to natural and organic farming; checking misuse of water in canals by farmers in view of justice for tail-end farmers; encouragement for jowar, ragi and other millets, which are rich in nutrition; etc.

Pointing out that women are abstaining from farm-related work due to education, he said they can be trained to take up cottage industries to support the family.

“Farm produce can be used as raw materials in these cottage industries, resulting in value addition, which will give a boost to the economy,” he said.

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