A glut of chillis and a rash of suicides: Switching crops hasn’t helped farmers of Telangana.
Koram Nageshwarara Rao was a cotton farmer in Koyagudem village in Telangana’s Kothagudem mandal. Despite inheriting four acres of land from his father, he could never avail a loan, despite numerous trips to the bank.
Desperate for money, he borrowed from a private lender at a higher interest rate. With his crop failing for the third continuous year, and his debts rising, Nageshwar killed himself on October 18, 2015.
His family insists that he would have been alive today, if the bank had given him a loan.
The situation of Malothu Jawahar Lal, a tenant farmer from Upparigudem village nearby, is worse.
Jawahar was a tenant farmer for 15 years and had taken land on rent, for Rs 10,000 an acre.
His crop failed for four continuous years, leaving him with a debt of Rs 4 lakh, following which he killed himself on March 18, 2016.
Both the farmers have left large families behind, including children who may now have to stop pursuing their education due to financial difficulties.
The plight of these two families, who are yet to receive an ounce of compensation from the government, were highlighted during a recent ground visit by the Rythu Swarjya Vedika (RSV), an NGO working with farmers at the grassroot level.
Despite the state government claiming that it took steps to help farmers, many ryots in the two districts of Khammam, and Bhadradri Kothagudem, are faced with an agrarian crisis.
While the state claims that 12 farmers in Khammam and 10 farmers in Bhadradri Kothagudem have committed suicide in the last three months, activists tell a different tale.
“At least 77 farmers in the last three months in Kothagudem district alone. A similar number of suicides occurred in Khammam too. Most of the deaths we saw were cotton families,” says Kondal Reddy from the RSV.
“Until now, tribal farmers usually relied on agriculture in small patches of land or on livestock, but this year, they also began taking land on lease. However, many were not able to get a loan, and with rising costs, they were forced into debt,” he adds.