Noisy scenes in Kerala Assembly over farmer suicides

The Congress-led UDF opposition on Monday created a ruckus in the Kerala Assembly over farmer suicides and urged the Pinarayi Vijayan government to waive agricultural loans on the lines of the party-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The CPI(M)-LDF government said they were working out a plan to waive farm loans up to Rs two lakh through the Kerala State Farmers' Debt Relief Commission, but the Opposition staged a walkout over the government's reluctance to discuss the farmers' plight on the floor of the House.

Before the walkout, the ruling and opposition members also locked horns over the number of farmers who ended their lives due to debt and crop loss in the recent period.

When Agriculture Minister V.S Sunil Kumar said a total of 15 farmers-10 in Idukki and five in Wayanad- had committed suicide after the LDF government came to power in May 2016, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala argued that 18 farmers ended their lives in the last one and half years.

Listing out the series of programmes and packages implemented by the government to ease the crisis in the agrarian sector, Sunil Kumar said the sector has been facing grave challenges in the aftermath of natural calamities like floods, drought and the 'Ockhi' cyclone and the farmers were undergoing severe mental trauma.

"But the government is making all possible efforts to support farmers and has announced a series of packages to revive the sector.

We have already given financial aid of Rs 204.99 crore to farmers who had suffered crop loss due to the August floods," he said.

The one year-moratorium on various loans taken by farmers, announced in the wake of August floods last year, had been extended till this December 31, he said.

"Now we are working on a plan to write off the loans up to Rs two lakh, taken by farmers from both cooperative and commercial banks.

We plan to implement it within months.

Stringent measures will be taken against the banks which cause difficulty to farmers defying the moratorium," the minister added.

However, Congress legislator I.C Balakrishnan, who gave a notice for the adjournment motion over the issue, asked the minister to announce the exact dates of the farm loan waiver.

"Is the Kerala government ready to waive the agricultural loans on the lines of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh?," he asked, adding that the Left government was "cheating" the farmers.

As the Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan rejected their plea for the motion, the UDF opposition staged a walkout.

(Agencies)