HYDERABAD: At least 17 farmers, especially tomato and onion growers, have ended their lives in AP’s Kurnool district in the last two months since the lockdown was announced in March, Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV), an umbrella association of farmers’ groups and NGOs, said after conducting a field survey.

Kurnool district police confirmed to TOI independently that FIRs have been registered in all 17 deaths under section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The FIRs cited “unbearable agricultural debts, loss of crops, failed borewells and pressure of repayment of debts” as prime reasons for the farmers resorting to suicides.

Police records also confirm that except four, all other deaths were reported in May alone. When contacted, district superintendent of police K Pakirappa told TOI that “FIRs have been registered in all the cases of farmer suicides. The reasons cited are crop failure and debts.”
However, disputing the figures, district agriculture department joint director P Wilson said there could be five to six farmer suicides in the district during the lockdown period as per the department’s records. “Farmers were paid Rs 7,500 each by May 15. Seed has been supplied to them on time and various facilities have also been extended,” he told TOI. He said the government is taking the necessary steps to rescue farmers. “Today, farmers are happy with the initiatives we have taken.” Onion and tomato farmers come under the purview of the horticulture department.
While districts like Kadapa saw two or three suicides by farmers during the lockdown period from March 24 till now, Kurnool recorded the highest number of farmer suicides during the lockdown in comparison to any other district in AP and Telangana, pointed out B Kondal Reddy, RSV secretary. “Suicides by farmers have been significantly high in Kurnool,” Kondal told TOI. RSV also cited mounting debts, dysfunctional borewells and lack of market price for the agriculture produce as reasons for the farmers to take the extreme step.
Kondal said among those who committed suicide were 15 tenant farmers — many of whom were tomato and onion cultivators. “Apart from rising debts and defunct borewells, the farmers were pressurised by moneylenders to clear the loans which led them to suicide,” he said. Denying this, Pakirappa said there was no issue of moneylenders pressuring farmers in Kurnool.
A young onion farmer, Kuruva Venkateswarlu (25) hanged himself in his Chandoli village home in Pattikonda mandal. That was on May 5. Wife K Sumalatha said they incurred Rs 5 lakh debts. An FIR (crime number 148/2020) was filed in Pattikonda police station. “This rabi season, we cultivated onion. Due to the lockdown, prices came down drastically and we ended up in severe losses,” Sumalatha said.
Distraught over mounting debts and lenders’ pressure, Eedur Basha, a farmer from Ramallakota in Veldurthy mandal, took a similar step on May 2. Basha’s wife Shamshad Bi, in her testimony to the RSV survey, said they own a small one-and-a-half acres of farmland. “We have been cultivating chilli and cotton for the last three years. My husband dug around 11 borewells, which dried up later. We incurred Rs 8 lakh debts. Basha was pestered by the moneylenders to clear the outstanding loans. He could not take it any more and ended his life,” she said.

A tomato farmer, K Venkatesh (55) took his life recently as his crop did not yield him the returns. Wife Venkata Laxmamma said her husband committed suicide owing to pressure from lenders to clear Rs 5 lakh loan he had undertaken some time ago. The survey said most of the suicides had been reported from Banganapalle, Pattikonda, Guduru and Peapully mandals.
Meanwhile, RSV has demanded that the government pay at least Rs 7 lakh compensation to each family as per a GO issued after YS Jaganmohan Reddy came to power in 2019.

Courtesy Times of India