SC notice to Gujarat on farmers’ suicides

New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday issued notice to the Gujarat government on a petition seeking compensation to families of debt-ridden farmers who committed suicide for being unable to come out of financial distress.

“Notice”, said the apex court bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit in their order as senior counsel Colin Gonsalves appearing for the NGO Citizens Resource & Action Initiative (CRANTI) addressed the court on the petition.
Besides seeking interim relief and financial assistance and compensation of Rs.5 lakh each to the families of 619 famers who have committed suicide in the statesince 2003, the petitioner has sought direction to the Gujarat government to pay compulsory financial aid of Rs.30,000 per hectare to the farmers who have suffered crop failure.
It has also sought direction to the state government to ensure the prompt payment of crop failure insurance to the affected farmers.
The petitioner NGO has challenged the July 10, 2013, order of the Gujarat High Court dismissing its plea, saying that courts could not interfere in the policy matters.
The NGO told the court that the farmers of Gujarat were facing a constant neglect from the state government and other authorities and due to this farmers, left with no option, are being forced to commit suicide.
It said the families of the farmers who have committed suicide be given immediate assistance to help them sustain their lives and also farmers whose crops have failed should be compensated for immediately so that they are not forced to follow the path of suicide.
CRANTI in its petition has said that since 2003 – when suicides by the farmers started in Gujarat – till August 20, 2012, 619 farmers have committed suicides in the state. The figures, according to the petition, are based on the response of the Gujarat government to two RTI applications.
The petitioner NGO said it has compiled the list 41 suicides by the farmers and in all the cases the reason for suicide was financial distress that included bad economic situation on account of loans, including one taken from co-operative societies, inability to pay the tractor loan, failure of cotton crop on account of poor rains and other related reasons.
The petitioner NGO drew the attention of the court to the mass suicide April 8, 2013, by the entire family of Rathilal Jeevabai Maladiya, including the husband and wife and three others, of Daldi Village in Rajkot District. This family of five jumped in front of a train and three of them died on the spot and two were seriously injured.
It was only on March 26, 2013, that the Gujarat government issued a notification declaring many districts, talukas and villages of Gujarat as drought prone and semi drought-prone.
The initiative on behalf of the NGO was taken by its coordinator Bharatsinh Jhala who first moved the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 2007 about suicide of 489 farmers.
CRANTI said that there is an old saying, “If something seems too good to be true, it most likely is”, “this aptly applied to Gujarat that boasts of rapid development going on one hand, but on the other, has the grave issue of farmer suicides that the government is not only failing to address to, but is also blatantly refusing to acknowledge.”