Visakhapatnam: Human Rights Forum (HRF) and Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV) demand that the PA government take steps to immediately implement GO 43 which provides financial and rehabilitation programs to the families of farmers who died by suicide.
The HRF and RSV teams visited 18 farming families who had died by suicide in four tax divisions in West Godavari and East Godavari districts.
The teams have observed that families of deceased farmers are eligible for financial assistance of Rs. 7 lakh as per government order. In all of these cases, it can be clearly established that there was a correlation between farm-related activities and economic distress eventually leading to suicide. However, they have not received any help from the government so far, the teams said. “We were shocked to learn that the three-member verification and certification committee led by RDO had not visited a single one of these 18 villages, as required by GO 43. In many of these cases, even the mandal-level committee, with MRO as chairman, did not go to the villages and talk with the family members.These families have been literally abandoned by the government,” HRF and RSV members said.
All 18 who died were sharecroppers who ended their lives due to the appalling state of institutional credit leading to overreliance on private lenders resulting in high indebtedness. These farmers also lacked access to reliable, reasonably priced and remunerative inputs for their production.
The HRF and RSV have said successive governments have failed to help farmers. They ended their lives after being driven to utter despair at not being able to repay those loans they had taken out at high interest rates from private lenders. All of these deaths from June 2019 fall within the jurisdiction of GO 43, the HRF and RSV team added. They further stated that it can be established with certainty that the farmers committed suicide due to the losses in farming-related operations, leading to an ever-spiraling cycle of debt and, as a result, intense distress. . “What is extremely worrying is that none of these 18 farmers received the Cultivator Rights Card (CCRC). In each of these cases, proof of tenancy could have been easily established if the administration had been serious,” the team said.
They pointed out that many farmers face extreme desperation. “In fact, the total number of farmer suicides in Godavari districts is a staggering 87 since June 2019 (46 in East Godavari and 41 in West Godavari). Only seven families were extended pro bono in East Godavari and 20 in West Godavari. Administrative negligence on this scale defeats the very purpose of GO 43 and in a sense multiplies their tragedy,” they added.
The teams called on the state government to stop downplaying the scale of the crisis and take concrete steps to alleviate the situation. “As a first step, he must ensure that all reported cases of farmer suicides are investigated as soon as possible and that justice is done for the families,” the team said.
HRF and RSV have also urged the government to amend GO 43 and insert a provision for a single loan settlement into the financial package to ease the debt burden on families. This will help ensure they are not harassed by those they have borrowed money from, they added.