The Tamil Nadu government today told the Supreme Court that a total of 30 farmers have committed suicide across the state in 2016-17 and it was taking appropriate measures to deal with the situation.
An affidavit filed by the state government before a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and A M Khanwilkar said the kin of 82 farmers, including the 30 farmers who have committed suicide, have been give Rs 3 lakh each as ex-gratia from Chief Minister's Relief Fund.
It said as per the reports compiled from information given by different district collectors, 52 of the listed 82 farmers had died of various other reasons, but not committed suicide.
The affidavit filed by state government's standing counsel M Yogesh Kanna said the state government was taking several measures to dissuade farmers from taking the extreme step, including collective farming and introduction of dip irrigation for which more than Rs 2000 crore has been sanctioned.
Kanna said the state government was also considering waiving loan of farmers taken through cooperative banks, in order to provide relief.
The affidavit said the state has faced the most severe drought in over 100 years and was adopting a proactive approach towards farmers it extended crop loans to the tune of over Rs 4000 crore to over 7 lakh farmers in 2016-17.
"In the previous year of drought in 2012, the Government of Tamil Nadu sanctioned relief to the extent of Rs 1377 crore to help the drought affected population. Likewise, consequent to the floods of 2015-16, the government disbursed Rs 407.57 crore as relief to 7.62 lakh farmers in order to enable them to get out of their misery as 8.67 lakh acres of their crops were affected," the affidavit said.
The bench said a three-judge bench will take up the matter for hearing.
The apex court had earlier this month rapped the state government over farmers' suicides and said it cannot leave the poverty-struck agriculturalists at the mercy of their fate.
It had also sought government response within two weeks on the plea filed by Tamil Nadu Centre for Public Interest Litigation (TNCPIL).
It also appointed appointed advocate Gopal Shankar Narayan as the amicus curiae to assist it in the case.
Noting that the state government was in a position of a "loco parentis (role of a parent) to the citizens", the bench said when there were so many farmers' deaths in Tamil Nadu, "it becomes obligatory on the part of the state to express concern and sensitiveness to do the needful and not allow the impecunious and poverty stricken farmers to resign to their fate or leave the downtrodden and the poor to yield to the idea of fatalism.
"As is manifest from the assertions and the grievances that have been agitated, deaths are due to famine backdrop and other natural causes and also due to immense financial problem. The State, as the guardian, is required to see how to solve these problems or to meet the problems by taking curative measures treating it as a natural disaster. Silence is not the answer."
The top court had also asked the state government not to treat the plea filed by TNCPIL as an adversarial litigation and take up ameliorative measures to address the agony faced by the farmers.
The affidavit of the state government holds importance as farmers from the state are organizing protests at Jantar Mantar in national capital and had also resorted to stripping outside Prime Minister's Office to press for their demands of loan waiver and drought-relief package.
The farmers from the southern state have been demanding a drought relief package of Rs 40,000 crore, farm loan waiver and setting up of Cauvery Management Board by the Centre.
The drought-hit farmers have been protesting in the city adorning human skulls around their necks and eating rats, trying to grab the attention of the authorities towards their condition.