This Article is From May 01, 2015

In Tamil Nadu's Tiruvarur, Farmers Say Lack of Crop Insurance for Cotton Led To One Suicide

"Now I have to educate my daughter and two sons. The government should help," says R Raji, the wife of Rajaraman, the farmer who killed himself.

Tiruvarur, Tamil Nadu: Days after a cotton farmer in Tamil Nadu killed himself, allegedly because last Friday's unseasonal rains destroyed his entire crop, the farmer's father says his son wouldn't have taken such an extreme step if the state government had insured his cotton crop instead of refusing to do so.

"Had they insured the crop my son wouldn't have committed suicide. At least now the government should give insurance cover for cotton," said Kaliaperumal, the father of 38-year-old Rajaraman, who killed himself on Sunday by consuming pesticide.

Farmers in Tiruvarur say government officials do not insure their cotton crop, because they say not enough farmers cultivate it. That, officials tell them, makes it ineligible for insurance under the conditions of the Crop Insurance Scheme. But the cultivation of cotton has sharply increased in Tamil Nadu, because the introduction of BT Cotton has meant higher yields. Therefore, many more farmers now grow cotton. BT Cotton's yields are three times that of the non-BT variety. Now, there are a total of 400,000 acres under cotton cultivation, and, in Tiruvarur alone, cotton is being grown on 12,000 acres.

In last Friday's rains and strong winds, Tiruvarur's farmers say that 5,000 acres of cotton farms in this district have been partially damaged. Essentially, cotton requires a rain free summer.

Rajaraman had lost a considerable amount of his cotton crop last year as well. This year, he pledged his wife's gold jewellery so he could get Rs 1 lakh to cultivate his leased, three-acre land, hoping he would have a good harvest. And for the second year in a row, it wasn't to be. "He was mentally disturbed on how he would repay the loan. I told him not to worry," said R Raji, the farmer's wife.

"From next season we will notify it for insurance," says K Mayilvahanan, Joint Director of Agriculture in Tiruvarur. Until now, he says, Tiruvarur didn't have enough acres on which cotton was growing,  to make it eligible for insurance.

Cotton farmers in Tiruvarur say in the last two months alone they added 8000 acres, and the eligibility conditions here have already been met .

Some government officials are calling Rajaraman's suicide, "a panic reaction."

But for R Raji, the panic is all too real. "Now I have to educate my daughter and two sons. The government should help," says the shattered mother of three.