Editor's Note: The Congress rode to power in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan by promising to rid the state of farmers' issues. However, after securing a huge victory, the Congress' farm loan waiver schemes have thrown up several discrepancies, exposing a few major irregularities in previous BJP governments' agriculture debt adjustments. In this four-part series, we analyse the different problems related to the loan waiver schemes in the two states.
Bhopal: Under the burden of a loan of Rs 4 lakh, a failed crop and a parched farm, Juban Singh was elated when he heard the Madhya Pradesh government announced a loan waiver scheme for distressed farmers like him. His happiness was, however, momentary. Singh retreated into depression once again after hearing the terms and conditions of the 'Jai Kishan Rin Maafi Yojana'. Days later, the 45-year-old’s body was found hanging at his farm in Pandhana.
According to reports, at least three farmers have ended their lives since the announcement of loan waiver scheme by the government of Chief Minister Kamal Nath. Recently, a group of distressed farmers from Hilgan village in Sagar district threatened mass suicide if the government did not resolve their problems. Farmers complain that cooperative societies “miscalculated” their loan amount and even included the deceased on the list of beneficiaries.
Singh’s case was the first to be reported since the loan waiver scheme was announced. Pandhana police station in-charge Shivendra Joshi, who registered a case of unnatural death on 22 December, said the investigation shows Singh was depressed. “He did not have proper irrigation facilities and had taken a loan of Rs 3 lakh from a bank to restore his borewell. However, he failed and the borewell remained dry, which caused crop failure,” the police officer said.
But the deceased’s brother Kashiram tells a different tale. "My brother was very happy to hear about the farm loan waiver. He had taken a loan of Rs 4 lakh from a cooperative bank. As soon as he heard the terms and conditions of the scheme, he went into depression. He repaid the loan in March 2018, but again took a loan of Rs 4 lakh. He kept saying the Congress cheated us. On a Saturday morning, he went to the field and did not return. In the afternoon, locals found his body hanging," Kashiram said.
Within days, two other farmers also committed suicide. In Shajapur’s Kalapeepal village, Prem Narayan Raghuvanshi, 65, drank poison on 27 December and died after three days at a hospital in Bhopal. “My uncle had taken a loan of Rs 3 lakh. He was under depression over mounting debt as he failed to pay even the interest. He spent Rs 45,000 for borewell but even after digging 300 feet he did not find water,” Raghuvanshi’s nephew Jagdish said.
On 31 December, another debt-ridden farmer from Guna district reportedly consumed poison. According to a police statement of his kin, Nagji Bheel took a loan of Rs 40,000 from a local moneylender. All his hopes were crushed after he realised he was not eligible for the loan waiver. The moneylender forced him to repay Rs 70,000 with interest after threatening to seize his land. Under severe stress, Bheel drank insecticide.
Collector Bhaskar Lakshakar, who ordered a probe into the incident, said he gave a compensation of Rs 15,000 to the deceased's family immediately. Police is investigating the case under Section 174 of Code of Criminal Procedure. Preliminary investigation revealed that a local businessman lent some money to Bheel against his land documents. The moneylender then took a bank loan by mortgaging his property. Bheel went under depression when the bank sent him a notice demanding the loan be repaid.
Meanwhile, in another case, a 40-year-old farmer identified as Bherulal Malviya of Malhargarh tehsil of Mandsaur district reportedly died of a heart attack. According to locals, when he heard about the price of onions crashing at the Mandsaur Krishak Mandi, he collapsed. Malviya had gone to sell 27 quintals of onion, but due to the price dip, he only got Rs 10,440 for his entire crop. Locals rushed him to a hospital where he was declared brought dead.
Commenting on farmer suicide issue, Madhya Pradesh home minister Bala Bachchan said, "Our intention is clear from day one. Despite the bad economic condition of Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Kamal Nath announced the loan waiver scheme to make farmers free of debt. Over 20,000 farmers ended their lives in the past 15 years and the main reason behind this is debt. Once the farmers of state become debt free, they will also become stress free."
Farmer Welfare Minister Sachin Yadav said, "We are undertaking many new initiatives. We have initiated a plan to pay half the electricity bill of farmers and this plan is in execution phase. We are waiving off loans. We are introducing subsidy on agriculture equipment as well. Apart from these, we are promoting group farming where cultivators will work together for better production. These initiatives will make farmers stress-free and as a result, we will see improvement in farmers' lives."
Of all the states, Madhya Pradesh ranks third in the number of farmer suicides. Parshottam Khodabhai Rupala, Union Minister of State for Panchayati Raj, Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, submitted a report in the Lok Sabha stating that in 2016, a farmer committed suicide every eight minutes. Since 2013, instances of farmer suicides have grown by 21 percent in Madhya Pradesh. According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau report, 18,687 farmers have committed suicide between 2001 and 2015 in the state.
The author is a Bhopal-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com
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Updated Date: Feb 14, 2019 17:38:42 IST