Guntur, Andhra Pradesh: She married at 17 for love. Today, she is a widow, who is determined that her two-year-old son would not grow up to be a farmer like his father. He would go to school when he turns three and will complete his education. “I don’t know how I am going to manage,” said the 21-year-old who has no family, except a widowed mother, and no source of income.
Three months ago, Mounika’s young husband, who was in his late 20s, hanged himself, weighed down by debts to the tune of Rs 7 lakh.
For two years, Siva Rao’s cotton and chilli crop had failed. He had taken the land on lease. He had to pay the landowner over one lakh rupees, the seeds and fertiliser dealers and also the private money lenders.
Siva Rao’s brother Sambasiva is relieved that he is a labourer and has taken no loan. “At least I am alive. No one comes knocking, asking me to repay money,” he said.
Back at Siva Rao’s home, his wife is inconsolable. Her little son in her arms, she leafs through the photographs of happier times — of their marriage, when she was expecting a baby, when their son was born, his first birthday.
The toddler still remembers his father, but he may soon forget him. “I show him the photos to keep him alive in his mind,” said Mounika. “He will ask where his daddy is, and answers himself, saying ‘daddy has gone to the market to get something for me’.”
A survey of 25 farmer suicides in the last one-and-a-half years by a non-profit run by farmers, Rythu Swarajya Vedika, found all of them were tenant farmers. Of them, 19 were refused bank loans and had to borrow from money-lenders at interest rates between 24 and 36 per cent. The average amount of loan was Rs 4.4 lakh. Less than 20 per cent farmers in the state have loan eligibility cards. Only 12 per cent get bank loans.
Siva Rao had got himself a loan eligibility card too, hoping to get a loan from the bank, but he got no institutional loan as he owned no land.
Refusal of bank loans leave tenant farmers vulnerable – they do not get crop loan or crop insurance or compensation for natural disasters like cyclone, rain or drought.
Estimates show in the state, 70 per cent of farmers who commit suicide are tenant farmers. In some of the districts of Andhra Pradesh, like East Godavari, as much as 85 per cent of the land is farmed by tenants.
VDV Krupadas, Joint director of agriculture in Guntur, said the problems of tenant farmers are pronounced in several districts. “Even 4 to 5 years after loan eligibility cards have been introduced, there is a huge gap between the estimated number of tenant farmers and loan eligibility cards,” he said.
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ACCOUNT NAME: Mounika Punakala
ACCOUNT NO: 049810100173987
IFSC CODE: ANDB0000498
BANK NAME: Andhra Bank
BRANCH: Rajupalem, Guntur
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