The Andhra Pradesh-based Human Rights Forum (HRF) and Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV) have claimed that the state government failed to provide financial assistance to the families of at least 18 farmers who committed suicide recently. The organizations indicated that the families concerned were entitled to such assistance under the provisions of Government Decree (GO) 43.
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Members of HRF and RSV visited affected families in East Godavari and West Godavari between 23 and 25 March. Notably, the 18 suicides took place in Ramachandrapuram and Rajahmundry tax divisions in East Godavari district, and Eluru division in West Godavari district. .
“We have no hesitation in stating that the families of the deceased farmers are eligible for the financial aid scheme of Rs 7 lakh under GO 43. In all these cases, it can clearly be established that there was a correlation between the operations related to agriculture and economic distress leading to suicide. However, they have not received any help from the government so far. We were shocked to learn that the three-member Audit and Assurance Committee headed by the RDO had not visited a single one of these 18 families, as required by GO 43. In many of these In any case, even the mandal-level committee, with the MRO as chairman, did not go to the villages to talk with his family members. These families have literally been abandoned by the government,” said VS Krishna, a member of the HRF Coordinating Committee.
The HRF said it found that the 18 sharecroppers ended their lives due to the appalling state of institutional credit, leading to overreliance on private lenders, leading to high debt loads. “These farmers also lacked access to reliable, reasonably priced and remunerative inputs for their production. Successive governments have failed on all these fronts, rendering farmers powerless. They ended their lives, either by consuming pesticides or by hanging, after being driven to utter desperation for not repaying these loans they had taken out at high interest rates from private lenders. All of these deaths date from June 2019 and therefore fall within the purview of GO 43. Had the government taken the issue of GO 43 implementation seriously, it would have ensured that three-member committees visited families within a specified time. … If they had done that, it could have been easily established that the farmers committed suicide for “agrarian reasons”.
“It can be said with certainty that they committed suicide because of the losses in agriculture-related operations, which led to an ever-spiraling cycle of debt and, consequently, intense distress. What is extremely worrying is that none of these 18 farmers received the Cultivator’s Rights Card (CCRC). In each of these cases, proof of rental could have been easily established if the administration had been serious. The families of these farmers are in a state of acute deprivation and all face regular and persistent pressure from pawnbrokers to pay,” an HRF statement read.
The HRF said the total number of farmer suicides in the two districts of Godavari since June 2019 is 87 (46 in East Godavari and 41 in West Godavari). Only seven families were extended free of charge in East Godavari and 21 in West Godavari, he added.
“Administrative negligence on this scale defeats the very purpose of GO 43 and somehow multiplies their tragedy. We call on the state government to stop downplaying the scale of the crisis and to take concrete steps to alleviate the situation. As a first step, he must ensure that all reported cases of farmer suicides are investigated at the earliest and that justice is done for the families,” Krishna said. .
The HRF and RSV have urged the government to amend GO 43 and insert a single loan settlement provision into the financial package, to ease the debt burden on families. “It will help to some extent to ensure that they are not harassed by those they have borrowed money from,” said RSV state committee member B Kondal.