The Supreme Court on Thursday told the Centre that it was not enough to give “compensation to the family of a farmer who kills himself” as it must move to implement policies that are on paper.
The SC bench headed by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar, while hearing a PIL by NGO Citizens Resource and Action Initiative (Cranti), said: “Giving compensation to the family of a farmer who kills himself is not enough. You are moving in the right direction but the suicides are still going up. There are policies but everything is on paper. You must move to implementation.’’
The court said the issue was “serious and cannot be dealt with overnight” and told Attorney-General K K Venugopal it will hear the matter again after six months.
Venugopal, while explaining the Centre’s plans to deal with the crisis, had sought a year within which, he said, changes would be visible on the ground with the implementation of schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. “The government is extremely serious in this matter,” Venugopal told the court. “Wait for a year or nine months and see for yourself if the suicide rates have come down,” he said.
The PIL filed in 2013 had originally dealt with farmer suicides only in Gujarat where, according to the plea, 692 farmers had committed suicide between 2003 and 2012. But in January this year, the Supreme Court expanded the ambit of the petition to cover the whole country.
Venugopal said 5.34 crore of the total 12 crore farmers had already been brought under various welfare schemes, including the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, which also covers 30 per cent of the gross crop area.
The percentage of farmers covered “will enhance to 50 per cent by 2018-19”, he added.
Senior counsel for Cranti, Colin Gonsalves, pointed out that lacunae in the implementation of the policies and lack of efficiency in making them operational had made it impossible for farmers to approach banks and they were pushed into the hands of local moneylenders. Although private insurance companies were given Rs 13,500 crore by the government, they had not disbursed the funds to affected farmers so far, he said.
The court noted that Gonsalves too had “complimented” the government efforts.