Statesman News Service, BHOPAL, Jan. 24. —
Are Madhya Pradesh farmers going the Andhra Pradesh way? Over 1,700 farmers from Jhabua have written to the President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, seeking his permission to commit suicide because they are unable to repay bank loans drawn in excess of Rs 7 crore.
A delegation of farmers met the Governor, Dr Balram Jakhar, recently and complained that government officials had talked them into implementing an unfeasible irrigation scheme.
The lift irrigation scheme costing Rs 60 lakh came with a 50 per cent grant for farmers. As part of it, drain, canal or river water is channeled into big wells. The stored water is then discharged to canals using lift pumps to irrigate agricultural fields. The farmers asked the Governor to scale down the quantum of the loan and invoke appropriate provisions of the law against the officials for misleading them. They blamed the failure of the scheme on inadequate technical assistance and poor construction materials.
The state government, however, has dismissed the farmers’ entreaty to Dr Kalam as a pressure tactic. In 1988, the state promised farmers “prosperity” if they adopted the scheme. Banks too, had eagerly disbursed loans. In 1996, each farmer in 81 Jhabua villages was in debt without their parched lands getting a single drop of water. By 2005, the banks were at the doors of the farmers armed with notices to attach their homestead and cattle. Mr Ratanakar Raut, a water management expert, said: “It seems, the government went ahead with the schemes in Jhabua without conducting a feasibility study.”
Between 1988 and 1993, 142 LIS were implemented and 16 more between 1995 and 1996. The Udwahan Sichai Pariyojna Peedit Hitgrahi Sangh chairperson, Mr Kailash, who led the delegation of farmers, said: “More than 1,700 farmers are facing a debt trap.”