Hype and reality

Print edition : February 03, 2017

THE news of more than 102 deaths of farmers was met with disbelief in many quarters. Agriculture Department officials said there was “media hype” surrounding these claims that farmers were dying of heart attack. According to them, the farmers’ families would get a solatium from the State government if they could make out a case that the farmers had died of shock on seeing the condition of their crop. While conceding that it was “a severe drought” that affected the State, Agriculture Department officials pointed out that the farmers who had committed suicide or died of heart attack were also stricken with “internal problems in their families”. It is not to discount the fact that some farmers might have committed suicide unable to cope with the stress, they said. “But it is media hype when claims are made that eight farmers or 12 farmers had died of a heart attack in a single day,” an official said.

Leaders of Left parties, who had prepared a list of 102 farmers who had died, conceded that “it could be a mixture of genuine distress deaths and bogus claims”. According to them, it was not possible to verify every claim whether it was genuine or bogus. But the number of dead did not surely touch 126 as claimed by some newspapers and television channels, they said. A scrutiny of the age of the farmers who died of a heart attack show that a large number of them were in their late 60s or early 70s and some were even 75 years and above. Vadamalai of Puthagalur village, Vazhkkai, Nannilam taluk, Tiruvarur district, was 85 years old when he died. A leader of the Left party said: “It is the local media [television channels] which are making these tall claims without taking into account the age of the farmers who die.” On January 10, when Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam announced his government’s intention to declare all the 32 districts in the State drought-affected, he said his government would pay a solatium to those farmers who had taken their own lives.

“In the last two months, 17 farmers committed suicide. Although these suicides of farmers could have occurred due to various reasons, the families of the dead would be given a solatium of Rs.3 lakh each from the Chief Minister’s Public Relief Fund,” the Chief Minister said. “There are reports in the media that farmers have died of shock because of the impact of the drought. Detailed reports about these deaths have been sought from District Collectors. After these reports are received, due relief would be provided to the families of the dead farmers.”

T.S. Subramanian

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