The Karnataka government’s decision to limit the grant of financial aid to families of those farmers who had died by suicide after borrowing money from banks and financial institutions, came in for sharp criticism from the Karnataka High Court (Akhanda Karnataka Raitha Sangha v. Union of India).
The government had decided that financial aid will not be extended to the families of those farmers who had died by suicide after taking money from private money lenders.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty, took exception to this stance on Wednesday.
“Prima facie it appears to us that cause of suicide is inability of farmers to repay the borrowed amount with interest. Therefore, prima facie it is very difficult to accept that the classification made by the state government will stand the test of Article 14 of the constitution of India,” the Court said in its order.
The order further noted that the State has created two artificial classes of farmers who had died by suicide.
The first class of farmers, comprises of those who had taken loan or borrowed money from banks/credit society etc. The second class is of those farmers who had taken money from money lenders. It further added that the State government has decided to deny compensation to the families of the farmers who have taken money from private money lenders and have committed suicide.
Unable to digest the stand of the State, the Court proceeded to direct the Chief Secretary to make a clear stand on whether families of the farmers who killed themselves after borrowing money from private money lenders will be excluded from government assistance of Rs 5 lakh.
“Only in one taluka there are about 125 cases of farmers committing suicide, within a span of five years. We are sure that the chief secretary will consider why some farmers are forced to approach individual money lenders for obtaining loans,” the order said.
The Court was hearing a plea seeking directions to the authorities to immediately disburse the crop insurance loss compensation to the insured farmers in Shahapur taluk, Yadgir district for the 2016 monsoon season and thereafter.
Terming the rise in farmers’ suicide a serious issue, the Court had earlier directed the State government to provide details of aid/grant extended to the families of deceased farmers.
The order passed on Wednesday came after an affidavit was filed by Brijesh Kumar Dikshit, Commissioner for Agriculture and Director General, Environmental Management and policy research Institute highlighting the statistical position regarding the disbursal of government aid.
“The government has no control nor there is any regulation preventing farmers from taking any loan from private money lenders and therefore this aspect is one of the reasons for determining the eligibility of the farmers to extend the benefit,” the affidavit said.
It highlighted that from 2016 till 2020-21, 125 farmers committed suicide in Shahpur taluk of Yadgir district. Out of 125 farmers who committed suicide, families of 105 farmers were found to be entitled to compensation.
The remaining 20 families were held to be ineligible as the farmers who had died by suicide had not borrowed money from banks.
Further, it was stated that out of 105 families found to be eligible, seven families have not been paid compensation yet.
“Prima facie the cause for which farmer commits suicide is important…cause is he is heavily indebted…he is not able to repay the loan so he taken this option of committing suicide.What is the difference between the class of farmers who taken money from banks and credit societies and commit suicide and class of farmers who take loan from private money lenders and committed suicide,” the Bench demanded.
The matter will be heard again on March 29.