Farm Distress Stands In The Way Of A Fourth Term For The BJP In Chhattisgarh -Shreehari Paliath

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published Published on Nov 17, 2018   modified Modified on Nov 17, 2018

Baloda Bazar, Kabirdham (Kawardha), Rajnandgaon, Mahasamund, Kanker (Chhattisgarh): “I’ll ask them to give me a job first and then think about giving my vote,” said 28-year-old Kekti Verma, holding back her tears. “I have three girls, the eldest one is 10 and youngest four. I haven’t got any help till date from the government.” Kekti is the widow of Dhal Singh Verma, a two-acre paddy farmer in Sararidih in Baloda Bazar constituency, 50 km northeast of Chhattisgarh’s capital, Raipur.

Unable to repay a Rs 600,000 loan, Dhal Singh hung himself from a mango tree in a nearby farm on October 6, 2017. He was 30 years old.

As many as 1,344 farmers--519 a year or, more than one per day--committed suicide in Chhattisgarh during the last two-and-a-half years till October 30, 2017, The Hindu BusinessLine reported on December 21, 2017. Baloda Bazar reported 210 farmer suicides, second highest in the state. IndiaSpend could not independently verify these data.

This number is similar to the number of farmers/cultivators who committed suicide in 2016--as IndiaSpend reported on March 21, 2018, based on a government response in parliament that month. The state contributed 9% of the 6,351 farmer suicides in India that year, fifth most in the country.

As Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) longest serving chief minister, Raman Singh, 66, tries to win a fourth consecutive term in a state with nearly 4.3 million farmers--the state is 77% rural and 17% of the state gross domestic product comes from agriculture--our reporting shows he will face issues such as farmer suicides, discontent due to inadequate government purchase price for foodgrains, delays in the payment of Rs 300 per quintal (100 kilograms make a quintal) of paddy bonus promised before the last election, and inefficient crop insurance under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana or PMFBY (Prime Minister’s Farm Insurance Scheme).

Despite despair and unrest roiling the state’s farms, a Lokniti-CSDS-ABP News pre-election survey, conducted in October 2018, indicated 42% of the farmers planned to vote for the BJP,  while 36% would vote for the Congress party. An average of four opinion polls indicated a close contest between the two parties with 45 seats going to the BJP, compared to 38 seats for the Congress in the 90-seat legislative assembly, BloombergQuint reported on November 8, 2018.

Please click here to read more., 16 November, 2018,

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