Farmers' suicide, calamities mark the year in Odisha

Farmers' suicide, calamities mark the year in Odisha

Odisha faces natural calamities almost every year. And 2015 was no exception. The eastern state was hit by a severe drought during the year which not only broke the backbone of the farmers’ community but drove many of them to commit suicide. The farmers’ woes were still far from over at the time of writing this story. 

The state recorded above normal rainfall at the beginning of the monsoon in June. But the subsequent months saw almost entire state receiving rainfall that was far below the normal level. In some districts, the rainfall deficit was as high as 70 to 80 per cent. At the end of the rainy season, the government came out with a shocking assessment which revealed that a total of 215 blocks in as many as 26 out of 30 revenue districts in the state had been affected by the drought. Crops were damaged in 13.41lakh hectares of land.

Marginal farmers affected
Reports of farmers’ suicide started trickling in from the districts following the crop failure. Majority of the farmers, particularly small and marginal among them, had taken loans both from government agencies and private money lenders. Many of the farmers allegedly took their lives fearing that they would not be able to repay the loans. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s public announcement that the farming community need not be worried for their agricultural loans had no impact.

By middle of December, more than hundred farmers had already committed suicide in different districts. The state had been recording cases of farmers’ suicide almost every year. But never before such large number of farmers had taken their lives on a single year. It certainly turned out to be a major embarrassment for the 15 year old BJD government in the state.

In fact, the two principal opposition parties, the Congress and the BJP, left no stone unturned to corner the Naveen Patnaik administration on the issue. The Congress launched a series of political activities across the state to highlight the plights of the farmers. Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi kick started the activities with a padyatra in the month of September in Bargarh, one of the western Odisha districts worst hit by the calamity.
Like the Congress, the state unit of the BJP too organized several programmes across the state including a Rath Yatra which went around some of the worst draught affected districts.

The opposition parties strongly criticized the BJD government alleging that the administration initiated no precautionary measures though experts had already predicted scanty rainfall and possible drought well in advance. And this led to farmers’ suicide. The BJD nevertheless hit back at the opposition saying that they were unnecessarily politicizing the issue. 

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