More Farmer Suicides In Odisha, Government Says Not Due To Crop Failure

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The family of Tarini says they didn't get any help from the government apart from Rs 2,000 for the farmer's cremation.


Bargad, Odisha:  19-year-old Ajit Bariha had asked his father for Rs 2,000 to be able to take his class 12 exam. His father, a farmer, who couldn't bear the pain of not being able to arrange the money, killed himself a few days later.

The remaining of Ajit's family lives in Barihapaali village of Bargad district, 350 kilometers away from the state capital Bhubneshwar. Ajit says his father, Tarini, was tense because the crop had failed.

"I feel guilty now... I demanded money for my exam fee. When he said he had no money I kept pressing for it. After a few days he consumed pesticide" Ajit said to NDTV.

Tarini Bariha was a landless cultivator. Pratap Kishore his neighbor, who had given him two hectare land for agriculture says, "Farmers here are in a very pathetic condition. Most of them are under enormous debt and can't repay it because crop often fails due to drought. The debt keeps accumulating."

The bereaved family of Tarini didn't get any help from the government either.

"They gave us just Rs 2000 for the cremation under the Harishchadra Yojna. That's all," says Ajit. His family was helped by an NGO which gave them Rs 10,000.

A few kilometers away in the Sohela block, Makardwaj Wag also killed himself over debts from crop failure.

"He went to fields and didn't return that day. We went searching him and found unconscious in fields. We rushed him to hospital but had consumed poison and he was declared dead," said a neighbor.   

Ironically, the district collector Anjan Kumar Manik claims that the Bargad district is known for bumper paddy production. "25% of state's paddy is procured in Bargad. Almost 10 to 11 lakh ton every year," he says.

A part of the district falls under Hirakund Command area and is well irrigated. But the rest of the blocks often face droughts. 150 farmers committed suicide in Bargad in the last one year.   

"These people do not get loan from banks easily. So they go to private money lenders for money who lend at a very high rate of interest. But when the crop fails, the farmers can't handle the pressure." says Satya Narayan Devta, a local Congress leader.

This claim is however strongly refuted by the state government. "These are not the suicides because of farm distress. This is not the first time Orissa is facing drought. Orissa has seen droughts, cyclones and floods for several decades now and people have developed the resilience." says Mr Manik.

However, the number of farmer suicides has increased over the last few years.

Members of the 'Right to Food' campaign claim that they have investigated 30 suicide cases in 12 districts of which, 25 were due to crop failure and debts.

"Government reports about the farmer suicide are manufactured and mischievous," says Pradeep Pradhan, a member of the organisation.

Saumya Ranjan a social activist in Bargad says the officials misrepresent information under pressure from their 'political masters'.

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