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Congress demands Legislature Committee to probe farmers’ suicides

Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council Mohammed Ali Shabbir demanded the constitution of a Legislature Committee to probe into the suicides committed by farmers and also to suggest measures to prevent agrarian crisis in future.

Initiating the debate on farmers’ suicide in the State Legislative Council on Tuesday, Shabbir Ali said that there has been a confusion over exact number of suicides due to farm related reasons since the formation of Telangana. Therefore, based on FIRs, all cases of farmers’ suicide should be re-investigated so as to get the exact statistics. He made it clear that the Congress party never indulged in politics over dead bodies. Therefore, it would support the State Government in all its initiatives to help the farmers and the families of those who committed suicide.

Shabbir Ali said although the Congress leaders were upset after losing last elections, they were happier over the formation of Telangana. However, he said in just 16 months, more than 1500 farmers committed suicide. The spate of suicides is still going on unabated and in every three hours, one farmer is taking away his own life. He accused the TRS Government of remaining a mute spectator to the spate of suicides by farmers. “The State Government woke up from its slumber after 16 months and over 1500 deaths. It enhanced compensation from Rs. 1.5 lakh to Rs. 6 lakh with effect from September 19, ” he said adding that enhance compensation should be implemented with effect from 2nd June, 2014.

Shabbir Ali slammed Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao for neglecting farmers. He said except for the inaugural meeting of State Level Bankers Committee held on June 4, 2014, the Chief Minister did not attend any of the seven SLBC meetings held later. “KCR has lot of time to visit China, Singapore and Hongkong. But he has no time to spare for farmers,” he said. Stating that almost 80% of the farmers belong to SC, ST and BC communities, he asked the government not to treat them like untouchables.

The Congress leader strongly criticised the TRS Government for splitting the crop loan waiver payment into four instalments. While Rs. 4250 crore were paid in 2014-15, this year, second instalment amount was further divided into two parts. He said this process has chained the farmers for four years. Since entire dues were not cleared, the banks are not releasing the mortgaged documents, passbooks, gold, etc., to farmers. Therefore, the farmers feel more tortured than relieved due to the crop loan waiver scheme. Showing a copy of TRS party’s election manifesto, he said TRS never said that the crop loan would be waived in instalments. He demanded that the government either clear the dues in one instalment or stand guarantee to ensure release of all documents and gold.

Meanwhile, Home Minister Nayani Narasimha Reddy intervened and objected to the use of sentence “farmers have been chained.” In his response, Shabbir Ali clarified that the word “chained” was not used in literal sense. He wanted to convey that farmers have been tied and could not do anything unless their dues are completely cleared. Shabbir Ali said that the Home Minister should not give an impression that nothing of serious nature have occurred to farmers. He said farmers have been lathicharged and harassed by TRS Government. “If you have guts, then agree for debate on such cases including Alair and Warangal encounters,” he asked.

Shabbir Ali also slammed the State Government for not declaring drought-hit districts in 2014. Referring to a statement made by Deputy CM Mahmood Ali in Assembly on November 20, 2014, he said despite having clear statistics on rainfall deficient mandals, the TRS Government did not declare drought hit districts, apparently due to some sentiments. This caused heavy losses to farmers. Five other States, including Andhra Pradesh, which declared drought hit districts, got Central relief. He said neighbouring Andhra Pradesh got Rs. 237 crore for seven drought hit districts.

“Who is responsible for not declaring drought hit districts? You are blaming previous Congress Government for all wrongs. Now we are in opposition. Do you want us to sign the files of drought hit areas and send them to centre?” he asked.

He also listed out various measures taken during previous Congress regime to prevent farmers’ suicides.

Shabbir Ali also criticised the TRS Government for reducing the plan expenditure on agriculture. He advised the TRS Government to allocate 20% of total budget for agriculture and farmers’ welfare. He also alleged that banks have been cheating farmers over crop insurance. He said that the government should ensure that all farmers get the benefit of crop insurance.

Speaking about unseasonal rains, he said thousands of acres of Rabi crop were lost due to heavy rains and hailstorm. While the State Government did not provide promised Rs. 5,400 per hectare of input subsidy, the Central Government did not release funds despite Union Ministers including Venkaiah Naidu and Bandaru Dattatreyya visiting the affected area. He said an all-party delegation should be taken to Centre to seek relief for drought-hit and unseasonal rains’ hit farmers.

He said while the farmers were hit due to drought, unseasonal rains and other factors, many of them were fleeced by fly-by-night travel agents who cheated their children on the promise of sending them to Gulf countries. He said that the State Government almost scrapped NRI Cell which was created while he was the minister from 2004-09. He demanded that the State Government provide training to farmers’ children in different skills so that they could help their families during crisis.

“What have you done in the last 16 months? Instead of accepting mistake, you are doing post-mortem of cases of farmers’ suicides. Please don’t link farmers with any parties. Don’t politicise the farmers’ suicides,” he appealed to the TRS Government. He also demanded that effective representation be made with the Centre for increase in the MSP for agriculture produce. In case the Centre did not increase the MSPs appropriate, the State Government should compensate it from its own funds.

At this point, Home Minister Nayani Narasimha Reddy intervened and blamed the Congress for farmers’ suicide. Responding to his allegation Shabbir Ali said it was ridiculous on the part of TRS to blame previous Congress regime. “A child starts speaking in three months and a child is born in nine months after marriage. How long will you act like a child? Your government is now 16-month old. Stop acting like an innocent and start accepting responsibilities,” he said. (EOM)