Karnataka setting up panel on farmers’ welfare

Bengaluru, July 19 (IANS) Rattled by a spate of farmers’ suicides across the state, the Karnataka government is setting up a committee to recommend steps for improving their lot, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said on Sunday.

“The committee, headed by eminent agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan, will study problems faced by our farmers and recommend measures to improve their quality of life,” Siddaramaiah told reporters at a village in Mandya district, about 100km from Bengaluru.

As the legislature’s monsoon session is underway, the chief minister said he will on Monday announce in the assembly the committee’s details, including names of its other members, terms and deadline for submitting its report.

“Bailing out distressed farmers and improving their welfare is our priority, as they contribute to the rural economy and help in achieving food sufficiency. As a farmer’s son, I know the problems of farming,” he said.

A day after addressing farmers through a radio programme “Dil ke Baat” on Saturday, the chief minister reiterated that there was no grave cause or reason for them to end their precious lives.

“We have taken measures to tackle your problems and are doing our best to ensure remunerative prices for your crops. We are crediting to your bank accounts dues from sugar mills for crushing your cane,” he noted.

Visiting a few houses in the district, where around 20 debt-ridden farmers committed suicide since June, to console their families and assure them fair compensation, the chief minister said he had directed officials to find out reasons behind spurt in suicides and identify the distressed among them.

“I have told deputy commissioners of the affected districts like Belagavi, Bidar, Kalaburgi, Mandya, Mysuru, Shivamogga and Tumakuru to ascertain causes behind suicides in some districts and address their woes,” Siddaramaiah said.

The state government is also at a loss to understand why farmers in districts with better infrastructure and irrigation facilities were taking their life while not a single suicide was reported till date from backward districts like Bengaluru Rural, Chikkaballapur and Kolar districts.

Consoling a bereaved family of Shivalinge Gowda, a debt-ridden farmer, who immolated in his field by setting afire his cane crop in Pandavapura taluk on June 25, Siddaramaiah assured his widow of securing a job to her family member and paying for the education of Gowda.

About 70 farmers had committed suicide across the state during the last four weeks for various reasons spanning from rising debt burden, mounting arrears from sugar mills, non-remunerative prices and pressure from unscrupulous moneylenders for paying up loans taken at higher interest rates.

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