Farmer's Suicides & advice of chairman,commission for agricultural costs and prices
At farmers' meet, agricultural panel chief shoots from hip
H ANDS folded, tears wetting his cheeks, Saroop Singh, a 52 year-old farmer, begged for deliverance. "Save me or I will be forced to commit suicide." The farmer spoke not just for himself but for the 60-odd farmers gathered to meet Dr T Haque, chairman of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), at the office of the District Chief Agriculture Officer here on Sunday evening.
"The price we get for our crop is too little to sustain us," Saroop went on, telling Haque about his three-and-a-half acres and a loan of Rs 1.5 lakh that he had been unable to re pay for the last three years.
"Another difficult year and I will have no option but to commit suicide," he sat down, only to spring up again to add: "I am glad I took this loan from a bank, had it been from an arhtiya I would have been dead by now."
Haque, with a frowning look, snapped: "Don't commit suicide, no one will bother.
Pick up the gun, or protest in any manner you know." There was complete silence in the room as he went on: "The Vidharbha experiment has failed, we have had more farmer suicides after the PM relief package than before it."
Haque told the farmers how the price they sought and the price that economists and universities recommended was hundreds of rupees apart.
"No one seems to be hearing your voice."
As the CACP chairman gave the gathering a patient hearing, looking moved at times and angry at others, the farmers vent their angst against the government, the banks, the nature... everyone.
Gurbaksh Singh, a farmer from Tugal village, groused about the humiliation meted out to them by bank officials.
"The banks take advantage of the fact that many of us are illiterate. They send us to the patwari who demands his cut.
We end up mortgaging our entire land for a paltry Rs 2 lakh."
Raghuvir Singh from Saharanmajra village wanted farmers to be treated on par with industry. "The subsidies given to industrialists should be extended to us. After all, can the people do without food? There is not a single farmer in this room who is not under debt and if the government doesn't heed our SOS, farmer suicides will become common place in Punjab."
The way out, they told Haque, was fair pricing. As Satnam Singh put it: "Give us Rs 1,400 per quintal for wheat and Rs 1,200 per quintal for rice. Ensure fertilisers on time, give us good seed, and we will be fine."
Haque reiterated his call for protest. "Suicides will not move the government, protests will. Farmer unrest is a national reality that will worsen over the years."