Farming in Shiggaon Taluk is expensive causing an increase of farmer loans and farmer suicide. In the year 2016, in the entire taluka, there were seven farmer suicides whereas in the year 2017, there have been a total of nine suicides. Although, there is not a significant increase, the fact that the issue is still prevelant over the years is a concern.
Inadequate rainfall in the past five years and crop failure have led the farmers of a Shiggaon to a point where their debt is increasing and mounting over their heads day after day.
Some taluks of Karnataka like Davangere, Mandya and Sagara are said to be suicide –free when it comes to farmers. But there are taluks like Kalaghatgi and Shiggaon where farmers commit suicide every now and then.
With agriculture being the main profession of the town and the agricultural implements being so expensive, the farmers do not really have a choice but to invest in those implements in the hope of getting good produce and yield. Most of the money that is loaned to them is spent in seeds, cultivators, fertilizers and drips.
Most of them still use traditional forms of farming and have not started organic farming which promises (less produce but quality produce?). So, the agricultural department of Shiggaon have introduced a scheme from last year called “Organic Village”, which is done on the 100 hectares of organic Farms.When a survey was conducted by the agricultural department it was seen that only 50-60 farmers have opted for organic farming and that includes only 1 per cent of the village population.
Mr. E Yeligar cultivates cotton and owns a land of 12 acres in Shiggaon. He has a joint family of nine kids, one old ailing mother and one wife and two sisters to sustain. His crops have been failing since the past three years now, where the yield is not proper. He has a loan of Rs 5 lakhs from the co-operative society bank, which is a local community bank which provides loan to farmers at 0 per cent interest rate. These banks provide extension of time and do not harass the farmers to re-pay the loans as so many of them are committing suicide because of the legal notices and harassment that is done by the moneylenders and government banks.
He had previously taken Rs. 4 lakhs from the bank and has paid only two lakhs and is struggling to pay the rest. His wife, Sumita Yeligar says, “We talk together every night and I am so upset that he might do something to himself. I talk to him and tell him that everything will be fine and we will find a solution.”
The farmers that have loans of the banks regularly get notices to repay. In a few cases they have also sent people to their houses and asked them to repay the loans. “The moneylender would harass us and tell us to pay the money in two days with the interest mounting up but we never had the money to pay him,” said Pakirappa Banimatti, another farmer in Shiggaon.
Pakirappa Banimatti, has a smaller family to sustain as compared to the Yeligar’s. He has a wife, a mother-in law and one child. He has five acres of land and as a loan of 5 lakh rupees from the bank and his relatives. He said, “I spent most of the money on seeds and good quality fertilizers.” The government is not doing anything and we do not have money to repay the moneylenders and they used to keep coming and harassing us.
“The moneylenders are now rounded up and put in jail. They are not allowed to give money to the farmers and cannot go harass them. This was done to curb farmer suicides in the village, because most of them were getting scared and choosing the wrong way out,” said Mr Asmat, Senior Police Officer, Shiggaon.
Maulasobh Tota, another farmer at Shiggaon is the poorest of them and has a loan of 6 lakhs rupees from the bank and the relatives and does not even have a proper house to stay in and has two daughters. “I do not have money to repay the lenders, neither do I have money to do my daughter’s marriage. I do not know what to do. My land is also barren and the crops are not growing,” said Maulasobh.
The banks that provide loans to these farmers have a very different thing to say though. The main banks that the farmers take loans from are SBI Bank and Syndicate Bank, where there was also the most amount of rush. The SBI branch manager Mr Virendra has said, “We care about our customers more than the money, we will waive off the loan if something happens to the farmer.”
The SBI Bank provides a minimum to maximum loan of Rs 1lakh to Rs 3 lakh. The loans given to the farmers depends upon the type of crop that they have. If a farmer has a loan of 3 Lakh rupees, they have an interest of seven per cent and the effective rate is four per cent When asked them what happens if the farmer cannot repay the loan, they said that they provide an extension of time and after that also if they cannot repay the loan, it turns into a NPA ie Non-performing assets. He said most of the loans taken by the farmers are spent on seeds, cultivators and fertilizers. They have also said that they do not issue any legal action when it comes to agricultural farmers when they are not repaying the loans.
When spoken to the Syndicate Bank, they said, “We cannot just waive off the loan because somebody might kill themselves, Incase that happens the money will be shifted to their legal heirs and they will be responsible to pay the loans,” said Mr Deepak, Branch manager of Shiggaon. He also stressed on the fact that the bank provides subsidies to the farmers. They also have the highest interest rate of seven per cent. They also give loans from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakhs. They have various schemes like the Kisan Rate Card and they also provide loans with concession for allied activities.
Mr C Yeligar, is the father of a son who committed suicide at the age of 40. He had a two lakh loan from the bank and he drank poison and killed himself in the cow shed. “I told him so much that I will help you out, you leave agriculture and we can try doing something else. He did not listen to me. He left me and his wife and his seven year old son just like that,” said his father. Mr C. Yeligar is also the uncle of E. Yeligar who has tremendous amount of loans. He also mentioned that his son was not getting a job and so he decided to do agriulture. So, unemployment here also can be one of the causes for suicide.
“The money that is now been given to us by the government is not enough to sustain me, it is not even enough to sustain the medicines that i have to buy for myself or for the education his son has to get,” said C.Yeligar who lost his son seven months back.
Shivaputtray Hermat is another such case, where the entire village was shook because he hanged himself from a tree in his own field. His brother Sadashivya Hermat is the one who found him hanging. He had a loan of Rs 4 lakh in the bank and the yield was not proper. He incurred losses and was not able to take it.
His brother Sadashivya Hermat is also a farmer now and has a loan of 3 lakhs, and he has spent his money in buying a tractor and agricultural implements. He is very shook by his brother’s death and pleads the government to help them. They have got only half the concession and are awaiting the other half. He has his father and mother to look after, all alone now, and they are always sick.
The co-operative society in cooperation with KCC Bank decided to start this initiative and they provide loans with an interest rate of 0 per cent, and most of the farmers have now started going to co-operative society for loans. Mr Shivanand Swami, the manager at Co-operative society said, “We are much more than profit. We are doing this to help the farmers. We give them an extension of time and we also provide counselling to the farmers who are in depression and do not know if they can repay or not.”
When spoken to the farmer union of Shiggaon, they said that they frequently hold protests for the farmer’s when they commit suicide. And, that they file petitions and try to help the farmers.
The agricultural department has said that they help the farmers by providing subsidies and concessions., They also say that there is nothing more they can do. The banks have denied the fact that they harass the farmers for loans and that they provide an extension of time. The co-operative society provides loans to the farmers now at 0 per cent. The moneylenders do not exist now and they cannot give money since they go harass the farmers and now they round them up in the jail.
We canot really say that there is any specific solution to the farmer suicides because this has been prevelant over the years. There is no quick fix but we can start taking a step towards organic farming which is one of the solutions towards this. Although, this might not be really helpful because organic farming is expenive and the investment is a lot. Organiz farming may not be the best solution for farmers who are already in debt, there are no instant solutions to this problem, either. This is one of the steps that can be taken.