692 suicides in 10 months as drought crisis persists

Agriculture Department director GT Puthra said, 'The government has been providing compensation for accidental deaths at least since 2010'.
Last Updated 26 February 2024, 05:20 IST

NB Hombal Bengaluru: As many as 692 farmers killed themselves in Karnataka between April 2023 and January 2024, Revenue Department data shows, highlighting acute rural distress in the wake of persistent drought conditions. Haveri, Belagavi and Chikkamagaluru had the highest suicide rates, the data shows. The state also reported 548 accidental farmer deaths in the same period.

All in all, 1,240 farmers lost their lives in the last 10 months, with an average of more than four deaths a day.

The data furnished by the state government attributed suicides to farm loan distress and drought. Karnataka has already declared 223 of the 236 taluks as drought-hit. Of these, 196 taluks are categorised as severe drought-hit and 27 as drought-hit.

As many as 22.59 lakh farmers have taken medium-term and short-term loans from cooperative institutions to the tune of Rs 17,534 crore till Jan 31, 2024, and 8.5 lakh have secured loans from nationalised banks to the tune of Rs 1,7424 crore till Dec 31, 2023. The data further revealed that only 238 farmers have repaid their loans (Rs 3.07 crore) in cooperative institutions.

A senior official who wished to remain anonymous told DH that farmers who repay loans from cooperative institutions are under great pressure to do so, but several lakh farmers depend on private money lenders, where the distress is higher and leads to suicides.

However, the main criterion for paying compensation is that the farmer must have taken a bank loan and the death must be due to suicide.

Agriculture Department director GT Puthra told DH that farmers who commit suicide due to debt get Rs 5 lakh in compensation and the deceased’s spouse gets a monthly pension of Rs 2,000. Farmers who die due to snakebites and other accidents get a compensation of Rs 2 lakh.

“The government has been providing compensation for accidental deaths at least since 2010,” he said.

Of the 692 suicides reported so far, the revenue department has disbursed compensation in 448 cases and rejected 76 applications.

In 548 accidental deaths, the state has disbursed compensation for 307 cases and rejected 42 applications.

Haveri has reported the highest number of suicides with 84 cases followed by Belagavi (75) and Chikkamagaluru (60). Among accidental deaths, Tumakuru topped the list with 62 cases, Belagavi 35 and Mysuru 33 deaths.

Dr TN Venkat Reddy, domain expert and retired agriculture professor from UAS Bengaluru, said that farmer suicides are closely linked to debt, but not all deaths can be attributed to loans. “Many factors drive farmers to such extreme steps.

Instead of linking the compensation to bank loans or other factors, the state government must come out with its own Minimum Support Price (MSP) policy for mango, tomato, ginger, onion, chilli and crops largely grown in the state,” he said.

Bleak stats show that 692 farmer suicides between Apr 2023 and Jan 2024 548 accidental deaths 223 of 236 taluks declared drought-hit 22.59 lakh farmers have taken loans.

(Published 26 February 2024, 05:20 IST)

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