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SC seeks detailed plan of action from Centre to tackle farmer suicides

LiveMint logoLiveMint 27-03-2017 Apurva Vishwanath

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre to file a detailed plan of action to tackle farmer suicides in the country within four weeks.

Additional solicitor general P.S. Narasimha told the court that a comprehensive roadmap is in the pipeline. “Centre will take steps but implementation is at state level,” he said.

The court’s direction came on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking compensation from the Gujarat government to families of farmers who committed suicide in the state between 2003 and 2012.

Citizens Resource and Action Initiative, a Gujarat-based non-profit had moved the court in 2014 seeking Rs5 lakh each for about 700 families.

A bench comprising chief justice J.S. Khehar, justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul said farmer suicides are a serious issue.

In an earlier hearing, the apex court issued notice to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), all states, Union territories and the Centre. Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, had sought a fresh look at ensuring adequate compensation for farmers.

Data from the National Crime Records Bureau show that suicides by farmers rose 42% between 2014 and 2015, due to consecutive years of drought during these years. The data further shows that indebtedness and crop failure were the leading causes of farmers taking the extreme step, and over 70% of them were small and marginal farmers owning less than 2 hectares.

The Centre has taken several steps to alleviate the distress of farmers across the country, the government told the upper house of the Parliament last week. These include interest subsidies of crop loans, a new crop insurance scheme launched last year and schemes to restore soil health and improve access to irrigation.

The Centre has also set up a committee to suggest ways to double real (inflation adjusted) farmer incomes between 2016-17 and 2022. The broad approach of the committee will be to raise net incomes by reducing costs of cultivation, increasing yields and ensuring higher market returns on the produce, said a note prepared by the agriculture ministry which was distributed among stakeholders at a national level consultation held in March.

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