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India: Drought-Hit Farmers Protest Government Inaction

Kshitij Nagar
New Delhi
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Dozens of debt-ridden farmers from drought-stricken Tamil Nadu, in southern India, have been rallying for over a week in New Delhi, demanding help from the government.

During their protests they have carried skulls of colleagues and relatives who committed suicide in recent months to draw the government’s attention to the plight of farmers in the state.

“There has been a severe drought in Tamil Nadu over the past eight years. The government has failed to provide us enough water from the rivers for irrigation,” an agitated farmer and protester, Prabhu Durraswami, told BenarNews.

Durraswami said he wanted the government to waive his bank loan of 100,000 rupees (U.S. $1,530) which he took out in 2013 to set up an irrigation system in his field.

“I cannot repay the loan due to low crop yields year after year. I am afraid if I am unable to repay the debt, the bank will auction off my land to recover the sum,” he said.

“My brother committed suicide when his last crop failed, as he was unable to repay a farming loan,” said Rajalakshmi Narayan, another farmer.

“I am here, holding my brother’s skull so that people know the pathetic and desperate situation we are facing,” he told BenarNews.

On Tuesday, the protesting farmers held talks with officials from the ministries of water resources and agriculture but were unable to reach a consensus.

An official with the Ministry of Water Resources told BenarNews on condition of anonymity that the government was “confident of coming up with a solution within two weeks.”

The farmers are determined to carry on with their protest until their demands are met.

“We won’t back down until all our loans are waived,” protester Muniswamy Thayagaraj said.

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