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PUCL, December 2007

Farmers' suicide in Karnataka

Report of the Fact finding Team on Farmers’ suicide in Mysore and Chamaraj Nagar districts

A fact finding team comprising of Peoples Union for Civil Liberties(PUCL), P.D.F., Agricultural labours association, Samata vedike, Revolutionary Youth Association and Pedestrian Pictures, visited Hosapura village of Nanjangud taluk, Mysore district and Harave village of Chamaraj Nagar Taluk & district , on 26th Dec 2007 to investigate the suicide of two farmers Manjunath and Siddaraju of respective villages , Who had availed loans from ICICI Bank for purchase of tractor.

The team comprised of Prof. Muzaffar Assadi, Prof. Nagari Babaiah, Prof. V S Sridhar, Dr. Lakshminarayana, Dr. E. Ratirao, Sri. Venkataraju, Punajur Doreswamy, Maridandaiah budha, Chowdalli javariah, Abhishek and Rashmi. The team visited the villages and personally met the family members of Manjunath and Siddaraju to ascertain the facts leading to the suicide of the two farmers.

The facts are as under
Harave and Hosapura are villages situated in dry lands with rain fed cultivation. Both the farmers had lands to the extent of 4 acres each, considered to be small farmers. Both belonged to Lingayat (Veerashaiva) community. Siddaraju of Harave village was induced by an agent of ICICI Bank to take loan from the bank for purchase of Tractor. The open well situated in the land prompted the agent to depict the same as irrigated one and Siddaraju was made to sign on Loan documents in English, which obviously he was unable to understand. The agent encouraged Siddraju to take loan so that he can clear of his private debts. But he was not supplied with the trailer even after 8 months but for the bank authorities, a different trailer was shown as security. Siddaraju was operating his tractor to supply sand and stones to construction sites on rental basis. When the Bank authorities issued notice to Siddaraju for recovery of installment Siddaraju , unable to bear the depression commited suicide on 19th Dec 2007 by consuming pesticide. Later Farmers’ associations led by KRRS and Green Brigade protested in front of ICICI Bank demanding for compensation for the dead farmer and stopping the practice of using Coercion tactics for recovery of loans. Government promised a compensation for no avail. Till date no bank official or government representative has visited the village. The police are visiting the village regularly everyday. Harave village has got 17 tractors in all out of which 15 are financed by Canara Bank, 1 by Syndicate Bank, 1 by ICICI Bank.

Earlier in the month Manjunath of Hosapura village of Nanjangud Taluk, who had borrowed from ICICI Bank Mysore for purchase of a tractor committed suicide on 5th Dec 2007. Manjunath had repaid his first instalment of Rs. 48000/ promptly though with much difficulty. The Second instalment was due on 5th Nov 2007. Manjunath received a notice from the Bank instructing him to repay Rs. 53899/- being second installment. Manjunath received notice on 4th December 2007. On the same day three men came to the village posing themselves as ICICI Bank agents and after threatening the tractor driver seized the tractor by throwing out the grass loaded in the tractor. Manjunath who was in Nanjangud at that time came to know of the matter and did not return to his home that night.

On 5th December by 10.30 in the morning his dead body was found in the water tank in his land and Manjunath had commited suicide by consuming pesticide. In his suicide note Manjunath has stated that “ He had already paid one instalment of 48000/- towards the loan and now the Bank authorities have seized the tractor, feeling ashamed to come to the village , hence he is committing suicide ”. Later Farmers’ association held a protest in front of ICICI bank premises in Mysore and unable to withstand public pressure the Bank officials and District commissioner held talks with the representatives of Famers’ association. In the talks held on 14th Dec the Bank agreed to waive the liability of Manjunath and return his documents as well the tractor. The Bank also assured to pay a monetary compensation of Rs. 10 lacs , incase it is proved in the enquiry that Bank is responsible for the suicide . The amount is reported to have been kept as Deposit in the Bank.

Observations
For the past several years, after the Central government decided to increase agricultural lending , banks have started lending huge loans to farmers. Earlier farmers were to struggle hard to fetch small loans from Banks but of late Nationalized and private banks have started lending huge amounts. The private sector banks have appointed their own agents, who in tie up with Tractor manufacturers and Dealers, have created a nexus to drag the farming community in to debt trap. Though Post dated cheques are not to be obtained for Priority sector , agricultural lending, the banks are obtaining the same and are resorting to legal methods in case of dishonor of the cheques.

Capital has become scarce in rural economy. Farmers , who are already in a debt trap, courtesy private money lending, are hankering for loans from Banks and other government institutions. In this situation the Banks, especially private one, are resorting violent methods to recover dues from the farmers which has driven the farmers to suicides. Globalization policies have forced the farmers to approach private Banks for finance, as Nationalised banks and Co operative banks are shirking from their responsibilities in implementing welfare schemes. Primary Land Development Banks and APMCs are becoming irrelevant in the recent days. Instead of probing into the causes for the crisis in Backward Agrarian system the government is resorting to populist schemes like Loans, Subsidies, Minimum support prices and the team believes that these measures would bring only temporary relief to the farming community.

Demands
The government should pay monetary compensation to Manjunath and Siddaraju, the farmers who committed suicide. Their loans should be written off and ICICI bank should pay compensation to the families of the dead.
ICICI Bank should be penalized and blacklisted for misusing the government’s directives of doubling rural and agricultural finance.

Agents and Recovery agents and hooligans appointed by Banks should be abolished and any violations be punished according to law. Government to establish an autonomous body to monitor Bank finance to Agrarian sector and the body should be pro farmer.

The whole agrarian crisis is because of uneven land relations and lopsided capital formation in the rural economy. Globalisation process has exacerbated the crisis. The Peoples organizations and progressive groups should probe into the causes of the crisis to find a final and lasting solution.


People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014