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Last Updated: Monday, 15 September, 2003, 18:47 GMT 19:47 UK
Teams to stop India farm suicides
The government in the southern Indian state of Karnataka is sending teams of experts into the countryside to stop farmers from killing themselves.

Karnataka farmers
Farmers protested in Bangalore by staging mock suicides

Karnataka's farming community has been rocked by more than 70 suicides in the past three months, most of them blamed on debt and drought.

The authorities said they will send health and agriculture officials to meet the state's farmers and reassure them.

The move followed a day-long meeting on Monday, attended by farmers, ministers and psychiatrists.

A statement issued at the end of the meeting urged farmers not to take their own lives and instead wait for the government's relief efforts to take effect.

The chief minister of Karnataka, SM Krishna, said the farmers' bereaved families would continue to receive aid.

Sweeping changes

The government has also announced an 8.5 billion rupee relief package, which includes funds for seed subsidies, power bills and the waiver of interest rates on loans.

The BBC's Habib Beary says drought has been a major cause of despair for the farmers - Karnataka is one of India's most arid states and has not had enough rainfall for three years.

Farmers' loan certificates
The rising cost of farming: A farmer holds up his debt certificates
Rising debt levels amongst farmers have also exacerbated the problem.

Shankarikoppa, a farmer, said the government should make sure farmers were paid enough for their crops.

However, other sides called for sweeping changes to save the farming industry.

A representative of the Karnataka State Farmers' Association, KS Puttanaiah, said farmers should not have to pay back loans to the government and banks.

The pressure group, which last week attacked the former offices of biotech giant, Monsanto, boycotted Monday's meeting.


SEE ALSO:
Indian farmers target Monsanto
11 Sep 03  |  South Asia
Indian farmers plan hunger strike
30 Oct 02  |  South Asia
Farmers welcome halt of 'terminator'
05 Oct 99  |  South Asia


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