Chennai: The farmers are shocked and can't believe that the Tamil Nadu government told the Supreme Court that not a single farmer committed suicide due to drought in the state and that they died of "natural causes". The court was hearing a petition on drought and farmer suicides in the state, which alleges that there were 82 farmer suicides in Tamil Nadu. The government said it has given Rs 3 lakh each to the families.
Farmer associations say it's cruel on the part of the state government to say there have been no suicides. They say the government had acknowledged 18 farmer suicides between November and end of January and more than a hundred deaths due to shock over crop loss. It had then directed the collectors to probe and provide relief.
B Dhandapani, member of the Tamil Nadu Farmers Association in Nagapattinam, said, "The government telling the Supreme Court that no farmer committed suicide is a joke. Haven't they paid Rs 3 lakh relief to families of those who died here? We condemn this."
In November last year, Philomena Mary's husband Antony Samy reportedly died of shock after his crop dried up in parched Nagapattinam, the tail end of the Delta region. He had taken a loan of Rs 3 lakh. Ms Mary has three daughters to look after and she doesn't know what to do now.
She said, "The government gave us Rs 3 lakh, but it's not enough. We took loans and pledged our gold. I've to educate my children. My daughters have to be married. It would be nice if the government could help us."
With 60 per cent deficit in rainfall, Tamil Nadu is facing its worst drought in 140 years. All 32 districts have been declared drought-hit. The protesting farmers have been demanding a Rs 40,000-crore drought relief package, farm loan waiver and setting up of the Cauvery Management Board by the centre.
About 100 farmers held a 40-day agitation in Delhi recently. They shaved their heads, halved their moustaches, held mice and snakes in their mouths, conducted mock funerals, flogged themselves and even carried skulls of farmers who committed suicide due to debt pressure.
They called off their protest on Sunday after an assurance from Chief Minister E Palaniswami that their demands would be met and a promise that he would ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi for help.