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Last Updated: Monday, 22 November, 2004, 12:46 GMT
Indian farmer suicides 'continue'
YS Rajashekhar Reddy
The new government says a commission will probe suicides
An opposition party in India's southern Andhra Pradesh state says the new government has failed to stem suicides by farmers.

The Telugu Desam Party released a list of 2,000 farmers it says have committed suicide since elections in May.

The Congress state government admits there have been 500 suicides but blames policies of the previous government.

Droughts and loans have forced thousands of farmers into crippling debts over the past six years.

The state's Congress party was elected partly on a promise of a relief package for families of farmers who had committed suicide.


Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Rajashekhar Reddy said his government had set up a judicial commission to investigate all cases of farmer suicides since 1998.

Parched farmland
There are 11m farmers in Andhra Pradesh
About 90% are smallholders
The state has been suffering from drought since 2001
About 70% of the state's 78m people are dependent on agriculture

He said the commission would investigate whether 2,000 farmers had taken their lives in the past six months.

It would find out whether the new cases were because of Congress policies or what Mr Reddy called the misrule and wrong policies of the previous Telugu Desam government.

Mr Reddy said his government had taken several initiatives to help farmers.

He said it would take three years for the new policies to yield results.

A senior TDP leader, Janardhan Reddy, said if the suicides continued at the present rate, the number would hit 20,000 in the next five years.

In May, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced federal compensation for each farming family that had suffered a suicide.

Mr Singh also announced a special assistance package for villages to build irrigation tanks, provide piped water, build schools and improve roads.

Farmers have been taking their lives in Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring Karnataka state after failing to repay high-interest loans from private money lenders.

Analysts say the spate of suicides points to the collapse of cheap and affordable government credit to farmers.

Though overall interest rates have dropped in India, banks are hesitant to offer cheap credit to farmers, fearing defaults.

Farm associations say the farmers have been suffering since economic reforms began in India in 1991. They say they are paying more for electricity, fertiliser and loans.

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