Even as a 10-member team from New Delhi took stock of the crop damage in drought-hit districts of Nuapara and Bargarh Thursday, the Centre asked the Odisha government to send details of all farmer suicides in the state since January.
The Central team, which was led by joint secretary in the agriculture ministry, KS Srinivas, toured Bargarh and Nuapada districts, where they met some farmers before discussing the drought situation with local officials. The team will visit Bolangir and Kalahandi districts on Friday.
The team will share its assessment with the Centre for a decision on a drought package for Odisha.
Last week, Odisha sought an interim assistance of Rs 1,687.5 crore for farmer subsidy and providing cattlefeed in drought-hit areas. But before the team submits its report, the agriculture ministry has asked Odisha for month-wise and district-wise details of all farmer suicides since January this year.
In a letter to the state, additional secretary in the ministry, Ashok Dalwai asked whether any studies on farmer suicides were conducted, and, if so, what were the recommendations.
“Some states in particular have been reporting high number of farmer suicides year after year. Yours is unfortunately one of the states that has been showing higher number of such suicides,” Dalwai wrote in a letter to the Odisha chief secretary.
The ministry also asked if Odisha had acts or rules in place to enable regulation of non-institutional credit. Speaking about 111 cases of alleged suicides by farmers, the state had last week said none of these farmers had died due to loan burden or crop failure.
However, an investigation by The Indian Express found that in Bargarh and Bolangir, the loans given to farmers at an usurious rate of interest were the trigger behind the suicides. On Wednesday, in the Assembly, Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra had alleged over 140 farmers had died in the state since June due to crop failure.
“You can’t say the farmers committed suicide due to domestic problems or other factors. Loan burden and loss of crop forced them to take the step,” he said, referring to the joint inquiry reports of SPs and collectors of districts that denied the possibilities of suicide due to crop failure.