Sambalpur, Jan 9:
Repeated crop loss and the burden of repaying loans has left farmers with no option but to end their lives by committing suicide if the recent spate of suicides by farmers in this part of the state is any indication. Five farmers have allegedly committed suicide in the last 24 days while two are battling for their lives in hospitals.
Santosh Bhoi (56), a farmer from Maneswar Halipalli village, is battling for his life at the VSS Medical College and Hospital at Burla after he attempted to end his life by consuming poison on Tuesday. Santosh made a living by cultivating his own half an acre and two acres as a share cropper. As his crops were completely damaged by cyclone Phailin, Santosh decided to take the extreme step apprehending his inability to repay the loans he had taken for the Kharif season, family sources said.
But luck was not on the side of another farmer Uday Khadia (36) of Hirakud Dengimacha who, unlike Santosh, lost his life after he consumed pesticide on December 6 unable to bear his crop loss and the bleak prospects of repaying loans. His family members Malati Khadia, son Shiba (8), Krishna (6) and daughter Sonali (3) are waiting for the government dole to survive.
Uday had taken a loan of Rs 90,000 last year from the primary cooperative society to purchase a power tiller. He had also availed crop loans to the tune of Rs 42,300 for the Kharif crop apart from hand loans from some persons. Cyclone Phailin had caused extensive damage to his crops. After paying the interest on his loans and the share to his landlords, he was left with no money. Mentally disturbed over his debts, Uday opted for the extreme step. Many like Uday are waiting for agriculture loan waivers.
Another young farmer Sitakanta Nayak (25) of Ghesra village under Jharbandh police limits in Paikmal block of Bargarh district committed suicide by consuming pesticide on January 3 leading to hopelessness among the farming community in Bargarh district. Poor Kharif yield and the burden of loans had cast its spell on Sitakanta forcing him to commit suicide. Locals feel had the administration identified the problems faced by young farmers and found a solution to the problem, Sitakanta’s life would not have come to such as abrupt end.
Paddy belonging to farmers left rotting in market yards is a common scene in western Odisha. The callousness of the millers and administration is proving fatal for the farmers. Hapless farmers imploring to get their dues for a year’s hard toil at the feet of the millers and babus in market yards has often resulted in them breathing their last in the market yards itself. One such example is the case of Vijay Thappa (50) and his son Thabir of Debagarhtikra in the periphery of Bargarh consuming poison on December 28 after being in a state of mental depression as they failed to sell their produce lying in the market yard. While Vijay succumbed to the poison, his son Thabir is battling for his life. Vijay had borrowed Rs 50,000 from the primary agricultural cooperative society for his Kharif crop and had suffered heavy loss due to crop failure.
How farcical was the state government’s post cyclone Phailin crop loss assessment is evident from an example in Bargarh district. On December 29 a young farmer Makaru Bag (40) of Ganiapalli under Gaisilet police limits committed suicide by consuming poison owing to crop failure. The administration had no report on Makaru’s crop loss nor had it made any effort to extend assistance to Makaru. Similarly, another young farmer of Manikpur village under Mursundi panchayat in Birmaharajpur block had ended his life by consuming poison on December 13.
The apathy of the government towards farmers is forcing them to search for alternative livelihoods in this western part of the state. Many youths from small and marginal families of this region are leaving their homes and hearths in search of livelihood for other states to work as dadan labourers with the government machinery remaining apathetic to their problems. Small and marginal farmers crushed under successive crop failures are waiting in vain for government assistance.