Bholenath Pradhan committed suicide in broad daylight outside his house by consuming pesticides as his family and neighbours looked on helplessly. Pradhan was only indebted with loans worth at least Rs. 15,000 but fudging of documents of Odisha based Bansajal Cooperative Society showed loans worth Rs. 61,000 against his name. Already debt-ridden, Pradhan didn’t know whom to turn to, to tell about the corruption and saw taking his life, the only way. “Only when we took him to the hospital he told us the reason for dying. He just had a debt of Rs. 5000 cash and fertilizers worth Rs. 10,000,” said Dukhi, his wife.
Bholenath wasn’t the only one cheated. Our Odisha community correspodent Mamta Patra reports that over 240 small-time farmers from Redhakhol district of Odisha have suffered a similar fate at the hands of the Bansajal Cooperative Society. “My loan of Rs. 10,000 was increased to Rs. 40,000 by the cooperative without any knowledge. I believe that Bholenath may have committed suicide under such circumstances” says Prafulla, a farmer who was duped by the same cooperative society. The secretary of the co-operative Prashant Kumar Panda , who was been accused of fudging the accounts of these 240 farmers has been suspended, but the farmers have to continue to suffer for his mistakes.
Bholenath succumbed to the scam of Bansajal Cooperative Society but your call may save the other farmers. Call the Deputy-Registrar Meri Jung Bag of the cooperative society on +91-9938563414 and demand that the farmers get relief from the repaying the fudged amount of loans and the culprits are punished.
Farmer suicide in India is a persistent problem since two decades. Odisha alone has seen 3602 farmers’ suicide in the fifteen year period between 1999 and 2013, according to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB). Majority of the farmers who perished were small-time , share cropper and marginalised farmers who had a plethora of problems that pushed them to take the extreme step. One needs to look at a number of factors to critically understand the magnitude and depth of the issue.
Only 10% of Indian farmers get institutional credit support, which forces them to look for financial support. Also whatever credit they get from banks is sometimes inadequate and farmers especially the ones, who are most affected (the small and marginalised ones) are financial illiterates who do not quite know how to avail the schemes they are entitled to. They instead take credit from alternative sources such as cooperative societies and private money lenders, who in turn lend money at high rates of interests. Amid increasing reports of suicides of farmers under pressure to repay loans, Odisha asked all its superintendents of police to strictly implement the Odisha Money Lenders Act, 1939, which states that no person in the state can carry on money-lending business after November 22, 1975, without being registered under the Act. The act was implemented seven decades later in 2015.
The relief packages announced by the central and state government fail to reach marginalised population such as tenant farmers, share-croppers and agricultural labourers, who solely depend on agrarian activities for income but are not technically considered farmers by the state or center.
A majority of rural population still depends on agriculture as primary occupation. Relief packages and credit support are short-term remedy for a problem which is decades old. The plight of farmers needs to be studied with a deeper understanding. There is an urgent need today to take effective measures and improve literacy among the poor about the solutions available to them so that more lives are not lost and better conditions become available to them.
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