The Church in Kerala has welcomed new state government measures to prevent farmer suicides, including a one-year moratorium on repayment of loans.
Hailing government efforts, FatherThomas Therakam, said “the new measures are a good start.”
Fr Therakam is the spokesman of Mananthavady diocesewhich covers Wayanad district, where five farmers, heavily in debt, have killed themselves in the past fortnight.
Chief Minister Oomen Chandy announced the measures on Wednesday after a three-member committee headed by additional chief secretary K. Jayakumar submitted a report on a wave of suicides over past few years to the cabinet.
The package includes a moratorium on repayment of agricultural loans taken from government departments and other government agencies for one year, a benchmark price for agricultural produce and better compensation for crops destroyed by wild animals.
The government will remove the threat of jail for defaulting on these farm loans and also extend paddy procurement to Wayanad.
Fr Therakam urged the government to introduce crop insurance as most of the dead farmers committed suicide after their crops failed or wild animals destroyed them.
Fr John Choorapuzhayil, director of the Wayanad Social Service Society, said they have introduced many projects in association with Caritas India to try and tackle farmer suicides in the district.
Hundreds of suicides by farmers have been reported in Kerala over the past decade.
Thousands more have killed themselves nationwide.
Most of the farmers here take loans from banks or money lenders to buy seed or equipment. When crops fail or when prices fall, they are often unable to repay the loans.