Since November, six farmers, including five since the beginning of this year, have committed suicide in Idukki district of Kerala — the last death was of N Sreekumar (59) in Vathikudy on Saturday. According to sources, hit by crop failure post-floods, these farmers were unable to repay their bank loans, and some of them had received recovery notices from the banks.
Besides Sreekumar, Vathikudy reported two other deaths — Kunnumburathu Sahadevan (68) on January 29 and Thannikkattukalayil Santhosh (37) on January 2. Both the farmers had received notices from banks to repay their loans. Sreekumar was reportedly dejected over his crop (pepper) loss and worried about debt.
The other farmers who committed suicide are: Vettikkappallil Divakaran (72) of Kanjikkuzhi on November 14, after he received a bank notice; N M Johny (58) of Vazhathoppu on February 7; Kottakkalil Raju (62) of Anaviratti village on February 9, who also received a bank notice.
“Many farmers are finding it difficult to repay their loans following the loss of their crop after the floods. The climate change has led to largescale destruction of their crops in the last few months… The government aid has not reached all the affected farmers. Besides, the government assistance does not match the loss,’’ said Vijayakumar Raghavan, a member of the Vathikudy panchayat.
During the floods in August, Idukki district saw many landslides. While 59 people were killed, about 11,530 hectares of agricultural land was destroyed.
“All banks have been asked to stop recovery proceedings. In the coming days, agricultural officers in the district will meet the farmers who have been served recovery notices by banks. These farmers will be counselled to prevent them from taking the extreme step,’’ said Bose Joseph, Deputy Director of Agriculture in Idukki district.
He said central government aid of Rs 10 crore was distributed among 36,882 farmers after the floods. The state government’s aid of Rs 13 core is expected this month. “However, we could not help 4,000 other farmers who don’t have patta (ownership document) for their affected land,’’ he said.
Roshy Augustine, the local Kerala Congress (M) MLA, said the state government has declared a moratorium on recovery of bank loans for a year. “But such a step is not sufficient as it will only give a short relief for farmers. The farmers should get a special financial package to overcome the crisis,’’ he said.