Thursday, November 01, 2007

Farmer Suicides - The Hidden Truth Uncovered!!!

Lot of people asked me and even raised questions about the usefulness of the information obtained from the government. 6 long months of running around and about 600 pages of data. What is it worth? Well, I have ideas. I wanted to do a social audit to know what all is happening on ground. If at all anything that’s written in Government GO’s is actually happening. I knew I would come across shocking stories, some very emotional and heart wrenching. But it had to be done for the information has to be used for the larger good. To at least make people aware of what is happening with the “Annadaatha” and India after all is not shining for them. I toured 3 districts of telangana and captured some stories on video in their own words. I did not pick and choose villages. It was random. I came across villages and found cases.

GO 421spells out the procedures laid down and details of the compensation and other welfare measures to be undertaken for the suicide hit families.

What does G.O.Ms No 421 say?

1. 3-member committee consisting of

  • RDO/Sub collector
  • DSP
  • Asst.Director of Agriculture

2. Verify each case and establish correlation between

· Farm related operations
· Economic distress
· Social Humiliation

3. Compensation of Rs 1,50,000/-

· Ex gratia of Rs 1,00,000/-
· One time loan settlement up to a ceiling of Rs 50,000/-

4. Other Measures

· Admission of children in social welfare schools and hostels
· Allotment of houses under I.A.Y scheme
· Economic support under Government schemes
· Widow Pensions etc

Place: Medak District
Village: Chelmada

Case 1:

In this case, the suicide was declared non genuine without proper investigation. Some one in the village told the committee that the suicide was due to land disputes and the committee believed. No discussions with the family took place. They were not even given a chance to explain their stand. The fact being, suicide was because of mounting debt and failing bore wells. One fine day, one official came to the widow with the news of the rejection. This is how our system works. There are two small kids and fortunately the grand father is taking care of them and the kids are continuing their studies. They did not even know the magnitude of the tragedy. The debts are still there and I am still wondering who will repay them and how!!!

Case 2:

In this case, it’s not entirely a farm related suicide. The deceased had debts primarily because of the marriages in the family. But can you disassociate politics? Since the deceased was a former MPTC(Local representative) and close to the ruling politicians, compensation was granted in 2 months which is considered fast. And there is no one-time settlement of the loans. Off camera, the son agreed that their compensation was granted primarily because he was a former politician and has very little to do with farm related distress. This is the other side of the dark story. What a contrast to the first one!!!

Case 3:

In this case, the age-old problem of corruption. The widow of the deceased paid a bribe of Rs 20000 to get her compensation. Everything was crystal clear that it was a suicide driven by distress and debt. Yet she had to run from pillar to post and had to shell out Rs 20000 that is sometimes their Annual Income. She is not being given the widow pension she is entitled to for reasons better known only to the bureaucrats. There was no one time settlement made and so all the compensation amount was robbed by the moneylenders leaving her penniless. She was very frightened to talk to us thinking us to be some officials. She has two children. One of them has dropped out of School for obvious reason and the other one is studying. And from the list of other welfare measures, nothing was granted to her. Bribe for a farmer suicide compensation!!!

Place: Nalgonda District
Village: Yadavalli (The worst fluoride affected village in the state)

In this case, the widow is yet to receive compensation even after 2.5 years from when the suicide took place. She has already spent Rs 10000 in bribes. The deceased farmer has a very good name in the village and he once lived a very comfortable life only for successive droughts, debts and govt apathy lead him to take the ultimate step. The sad part is I have her bank details and account number and she is not aware of the same. 2.5 years and counting!!! In the mean time, all tragedy that has to happen will have happened and the govt can compensate the future generations. The delay is unreasonable.
An other dark side to the never-ending story.

Place: Mahboobnagar District
Village: Timmasaanipalli

In this case, the deceased raised debts of about 4 lakhs to dig bore wells and other farm related expenses. The only mistake of his is that the land is not in his name. The land is in his father’s name and of all the sons, he is the only one still in farming and is the only one taking all the risks. The other sons are all engaged daily wage labour. And unable to bear the pressure of the lenders, he committed suicide. Interestingly, my list showed that the suicide was not genuine and the case is rejected. But the widow tells me that no one came to her village to do any kind of investigation and she is still hopeful that something will be given to her. I did not want to disappoint her and tell her that the case is categorized as non-genuine. The reason for rejection being, he does not have land in his name and hence does not qualify to be a farmer. If he does not qualify to be a farmer, who else will? The widow has two little children ( 2 years and 4 years ). She is now working as a daily wage laborer in a local cotton mill. She too was contemplating the ultimate step, as she does not see any meaning in her being alive but for the two little children. This is the state of investigation and this is the procedure!!!!

These are just sample cases and I don’t even have to generalize. I was disturbed mentally after the stories. But this will not help. We have use this info now to set the system right!!!

Was the information useful and is it reaching the logical conclusion? You have to tell me this.



Naresh said...

Raki! This is 4 am while i read this blog!! after a hard long day(night). But having read this, i feel nothing has been achieved yet!! But I am confident with people like us leading the change, it will come..when? is the only question to be answered. Keep blogging and take the same to as many people as possible.

saujanya said...

After reading the blog, there was this feeling of depression, how many more could be out there in a more pathetic state probably, how can the help ever reach them? But then every dark cloud has a silver lining,When people like you keep on striving, may be that day is really not so far away...

Indian movie Maiacs said...

Raki...awesome job raaa...

Meeta said...

Your efforts are commendable to say the least. The common thread I find in all these cases is that the redressal process is kept vague enough by vested interests, so that emotionally affected families are unable to figure out their rights. Also, I am not sure if farmers get enough help from within their village community or even the govt on water harvesting mechanisms. Did you get a sense of how well evolved or practical these are in the villages you visited? Surely there are steps that can be taken before more farmers contemplate it?

Rakesh said...

Dear Meeta,

I know what i am trying to do is reactive and we need proactive steps to overcome this. The village community is close knit, but most of them are equally ignorant. I got a sense of how close knit they are, but again politics has its roots everywhere. There are divisions even there.

You are right, the redressal process is so vague and this is what i am trying to highlight and correct. I am trying to rope in media to highlight this apathy.

Would you believe that in Adilabad district of Andhra, there are 91 pending cases (yet to be decided as genuine/Non genuine) 10 of them from 2004,25 of them from 2005 and the rest from 2006!!!

Meeta said...

I'm glad you see the reactive-proactive angle to this issue. Very few people see beyond the furious indignation such issues drum up. Journalists make a living out of reporting aborted fetuses abandoned ruthlessly in public sewers and readers feed on such frenzy, gas out and forget about it after a few days. That is also because most people do not know what to do - exactly like the families of these hapless farmers. But that doesn't help lessen the problem either.

You have taken the first step in the right direction - seek out the answers, through laws like RTI. Ironically, even if you do get the information you need, dessiminating it to the right people is a whole different exercise, because such families are not as savvy as you and me to hit on blogs like yours.

That aside, I think the place to take action in is at the very beginning- helping farmers tackle drought through education. Like you pointed in your blog earlier, they are insulated even from banks, putting them at the mercy of moneylenders.

While we contemplate education initiatives for kids at the school level, I suspect we would have a revolution in our hands if we focussed on bridging the education gap between farmers and technology. Development in associated areas would follow as part of empowerment at this stage itself.

Rakesh said...


Couldn't agree with you more.That the information dissemination is an entirely different exercise and i am working towards it.Ironical that the people who should be knowing this info are unaware of it.

At an individual level, this is what i could do with the resources and time i had at my disposal.

Sheshidhar said...

Good work raa..

Rohini said...

You are doing a great job Rakesh.
Hope something good will happen to these families.

Sama said...

hi rakesh,
this is naresh's batchmate.....

felt very gud aftr goin thru ur blog and th videos...
awesome...keep up the gud work..

this wud surely motivate us and our discussions in google grps ..