Moved by the grim scenario in which farmers in the state are committing suicide due to bankruptcy and indebtedness, the Uttarakhand High Court has asked the state government to prepare a scheme for payment of compensation to the bereaved families, create a corpus for waiving off their loans while also passing a series of directions for the state government and the Centre to ensure farmers get good returns for their labour and are insured against any losses due to reasons beyond their control.
A bench of Justice Sharad Kumar Sharma and Justice Rajiv Sharma asked the Centre and the state government to provide legal status to Minimum Support Price.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation moved by Dr. Ganesh Upadhyay highlighting the incidents of suicide committed by the farmers in the State of Uttarakhand.
He had submitted that “there is abject poverty, high levels of indebtness and crop failures leading to suicides. Four farmers in the State of Uttarakhand have committed suicide. After coming into existence of State of Uttarakhand, more than 2.26 lakh families of farmers migrated from the hill districts of the State”.
Before passing the directions, the court noted that the farmers have a right to live with dignity and since the farmers are not able to repay the bank loans, they borrow money from local money lenders at an exorbitant rate of interest. There is delay on the part of government agencies for making payment to the farmers.
It is to be noted that according to the data compiled by the Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Mahasabha, in 2016-17, only 20% agricultural land exists in the hilly areas for cultivation and remaining 80% is either lying barren or has been sold for commercial purposes. A large size of crops is also damaged by wild animals. The total cultivated area in the State is about 7,84,117 hectares. About 90% of population of the State depends on agriculture for its livelihood.
Below are the directions passed by the court:
The court made it clear that ‘agriculture produce’ would mean all produce and commodities, whether processed or unprocessed of agriculture, horticulture, apiculture, sericulture, livestock and products of livestock, fleeces (raw wool) and skins of animals, forest produce and fisheries for the purpose of determining three times above the average cost of production.
The court also noted that, “The farmers are debt-ridden. They are not in a position to repay the debts due to ever decreasing prices of their produce. The worst affected are small and marginal farmers. Sometimes, they take recourse to extreme measures such as suicide etc. It is expected from the State to provide a mechanism to reduce their burden by creating a corpus to waive off their loans at least to the extent of Rs. 50,000.
“Most of the agricultural land in the State of Uttarakhand is rain-fed. Whenever there is scanty rain, the crops fail. The State is required to formulate a Scheme providing insurance cover to their crops in consultation with the National Insurance Companies at minimal premium”.