Hyderabad, June 1: Chinna Reddy borrowed more than Rs 20,000 to sink a borewell, could not repay, was stripped of his dignity by his moneylenders and set himself ablaze.
He took the toll of suicides by Andhra’s desperate farmers to more than 100 on Monday since chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy’s Congress government took over just two weeks ago.
“I do not know whether you will call it an agrarian emergency or not but agriculture in Andhra Pradesh is in a shambles. Who will you hold responsible for this' My two-week-old government or nine years of Chandrababu Naidu'” an exasperated chief minister told The Telegraph in an interview.
Non-government activists put the toll of suicides by Andhra’s farmers because of financial pressure at more than 20,000 in 10 years.
Suicides by Andhra’s farmers and weavers have become so much a given in national public life over the last four years that only the very committed bother to detail them.
“I will do everything possible on the face of the earth to change this. I promise this. I mean it when I say I will do everything possible on the face of the earth,” Reddy says.
He had announced a package of relief measures within hours of taking over. He has written off power dues from farmers that will cost the state exchequer nearly Rs 1,200 crore and waived an additional Rs 400 crore worth of electricity charges.
He said he was in talks with major corporations — notably Reliance Industries and Indian Oil Corporation — to start contract farming in Andhra Pradesh in a big way.
“They will give loans to farmers to buy inputs and to sink borewells. I am also considering a moratorium for one year on loan recoveries from small and marginal farmers,” Reddy said.
Only on Sunday, Reddy issued an appeal to Andhra Pradesh’s farmers. “Do not resort to desperation,” he said in an open letter. “Do not be disheartened,” he pleaded.
But across Andhra Pradesh — and the suicides are spread over nearly all its districts — successive crop failures, usurious rates of interest, bad cropping and the ignominy of social stigma are driving the worst-off farmers into consuming the pesticide Endosulfan or hanging themselves or to self- immolation.
Local media and non-government organisations in the farm sector say the number of suicides by farmers since May 14 has crossed 100. The chief minister is not wide off the mark.
“According to information with me so far, it is about 92. But even 40 or 50 suicides by farmers is a huge number,” he admitted.
The dispute in the figures arises because many of the deaths reported to be suicides are not verified by the administration. That does not indicate that the administration is inefficient. It is just a statement that means there have been so many that it is difficult to keep count.