Even as thousands of farmers are on the streets in a standoff with the BJP-led central government, Karnataka agriculture minister BC Patil has invited their wrath after saying, “Farmers who commit suicide are cowards.”
Speaking at a function at Ponnampet Forestry College in Kodagu, Patil said, “I met a woman who was wearing gold jewels and I questioned her about it. And she said, ‘These jewels are a gift from the earth. I have worked hard in the farms for 35 years and I am able to own these.’ If a woman can earn this from farming, why are farmers committing suicide? A farmer who commits suicide is a coward. A true farmer must not commit suicide.”
He continued that farmers must instead develop mixed farming and involve themselves in animal husbandry and organic farming to earn a profitable business. He also stated that paddy cultivation alone is not providing profits to farmers and promised to take steps to provide better prices for paddy. However, his comment on suicides has not gone down well with the farmer community.
“A farmer does not commit suicide due to personal reasons. A farmer’s suicide is often referred by the farmer community as government sponsored murder,” said farmer leader Kuruburu Shanthakumar. He explained that a farmer suffers because of three main reasons – natural disasters, price drop for crops and untimely supply of seed and manure. “After bearing enough of these sufferings, when a farmer cannot see a way out, he commits suicide. The dual policies of the government are provoking the farmers to commit suicide,” he added.
Explaining the dual policies of the government, he said, “During the Green Revolution in the 1980s, the government asked farmers to extensively use chemical fertilizers and hybrid seeds. And today, we are asked to practise organic farming. The government must wake up. Instead of making baseless comments, the policies must be changed,” he said.
Meanwhile, the president of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Kodihalli Chandrashekar, demanded that Patil apologise to the farmers. “I strongly condemn the statement of BC Patil. As an agriculture minister, he must look at farmer suicides in a different perspective. Instead of filling hopes, he is making foolish comments. He has disrespected farmers and he must apologize,” he demanded.