(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
November 13, 2011
Peasant Suicides: Order of the Day under UDF
C P Aboobacker
WYNAD district of Kerala witnessed three peasant suicides in a very short span of seven days --- all due to the debts in which the peasants were trapped. The fall in the prices of agricultural products and the damage to crops due to weather are the reasons for these suicides.
The last victim of the suicide series is Varghese alias Raju (48) who had contracted a loan of Rs three lakh from the SBT, Kalpetta branch.
Earlier, the LDF government tackled in a determined way the series of suicides by peasants in Wynad district --- a trend that had started during the preceding UDF regime. The LDF government instituted a Debt Relief Commission and wrote off debts up to Rs 50,000. But the present UDF government too is apathetic to the peasants’ lot while it showers concession after concession upon the rich.
In case of Verghese, the fall in prices of agricultural produce left him helpless and forlorn. Along with this, bad weather conditions destroyed hundreds of banana plants. The prices of banana and cardamom have fallen down abysmally though traders charge high prices from the consumers for the items for which they pay minimal to the cultivators. The rise in fertiliser prices has also been contributing to the serial suicides.
The neo-liberal policies arrogantly being pursued by the central government and obediently toed by the state government are impoverishing all sections of the people. At the same time, banks are not ready to advance them loans. Their primary condition to grant loans is not the loanee’s requirement or possession of land, but his capacity to repay, which a peasant can prove only after the harvest and on the basis of the price the produce gets in the market. In the case of millionaires, however, banks do not put any such condition. This disables the peasantry to continue cultivation. Moreover, because of the high-handed ways of the self-financing educational institutions under the UDF’s patronage, peasants’ children are not able to get education of their choice. The rise in the petro-product prices and the unusual increase in freight charges also affect the lot of the peasantry. They are unable to make both ends meet on the one hand and become incapable of repaying the bank dues on the other. So, instead of suffering any humiliation, they opt out of life in the most miserable circumstances.
The first peasant to commit suicide in Wynad in this post-LDF period was Sasidharan, the second one was Ashokan and now it is Varghese. If the government does not take immediate debt relief measures, peasants are doomed to further unfortunate incidents.