The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fourth crop failure sparks suicide spate

Karimnagar, Oct. 31: A farmer couple in Andhra Pradesh killed themselves last night after the fourth failure of their crop.

Chanda Swamy, 55, and his wife Shankaramma, 50, had ventured to raise cotton and maize this kharif season (June-October), encouraged by the free power provided by the new Congress government.

After the crop failed ' following the fourth successive drought ' the couple consumed pesticide in a hut on their farm 2 km from Raghavpur village in Peddapalli mandal of Karimnagar district.

They had lost their last piece of property ' family jewellery worth Rs 75,000 mortgaged for a fresh crop loan of Rs 30,000.

'We had no alternative. We failed to finance our son Prabhu's studies and our plan to celebrate the wedding of our second daughter. We had placed all hopes on the kharif crop of cotton and maize. Both failed us again,' their suicide note read.

The same day in the same district, farmers M. Lingachari, 25, A. Rajaiah, 55, and K. Mallareddy, 52, of Vemulawada and Mustabad mandals committed suicide.

Nearly 24 farmers have killed themselves in Peddapalli alone since the new government took charge in May, village revenue official Harkishan Rao said.

The suicides have put chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy in a spot.

Over 100 farmers, including 46 weavers who also run farms, have committed suicide in Karimnagar since June, the district administration said.

The official state toll is 504 since May. Unofficially, the figure touches 1,100.

'Almost every farmer had high expectations in view of the free power and moratorium on loans. They took loans liberally during the year, confident of making ends meet,' Rao said.

Mallaiah, the sarpanch of Raghavpur, about 170 km from Hyderabad, said: 'Their land was already mortgaged to banks. The fourth failure of crops in a row broke their hearts.'

The Chandas apparently had an agricultural debt of Rs 1.7 lakh ' excluding the Rs 30,000 ' and risked digging a fourth borewell on their 23 acres as the others had become defunct.

Clustered in their small, five-room mud house where 13 members live, Swamy's elder son, 38-year-old Gopalakrishna, and his wife Kalpana were speechless.

Prabhu, the third son who rushed back from Hyderabad, was wracked by guilt.

'I could have given up studies and worked with them had I known it,' he said, referring to the Rs 7,000 he needed for hostel fee as he had bagged a 'free' computer science seat in a city college in the backward-class quota.

He had completed his intermediate exam with scholarship.

'Swamy used to console others and distance them from such dire acts. He must have lost the last hope to do this,' said his 58-year-old friend Nagbhushan Rao, the local schoolteacher.

Almost 2.35 lakh hectares were cultivated during the kharif season. But the crop failed in over 1.5 lakh hectares, driving the indebted farmers to further despair, said Rajeswar Rao, the secretary of Karimnagar Farmers' Association.

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