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TN should take action to provide relief to kin of farmers: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court said that there should be "affirmative action" of the Tamil Nadu government to provide relief to the families of those farmers who committed suicide.

TN should take action to provide relief to kin of farmers: Supreme Court
A file photo of TN farmers protesting

New Delhi

The apex court made it clear that it is not treating the plea seeking relief for farmers in the state as adversarial but participatory and would not go into the figures of farmers who have committed suicide.

"We will not go into the figures of suicide. What matters and the issue at hand is how and what relief is provided to the families of farmers who committed suicide," the bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said.

The bench also comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar said, "We entertained this PIL to ensure that there should be affirmative action of state government to provide relief to the families of farmers, who committed suicide."

The apex court asked the state government to specify the steps taken to create awareness on Minimum Support Price (MSP) on 26 crops so that farmers do not rely on middlemen who come at their doorsteps to sell their produce.

It also asked the government to inform it about steps it intends to take to setting up mandis and opening of procurement centres on time in the acceptable radius to farmers.

"As advised at present, we intend to focus on two aspects. One aspect pertains to availability of awareness pertaining to Minimum Support Price (MSP).

"The second aspect pertains to establishment of mandis within an acceptable radius of the holdings and for opening of procurement centres on time," the bench said.

Additional Solicitor General P S Narsimha, appearing for Tamil Nadu, said that steps are being take to set up awareness camps.

Measures have also been taken to have mandis which are easily accessible and procurement centres have been opened, he said.

The bench also asked Narsimha whether there is any programme in Doordarshan to make aware the farmers about the MSP, establishment of mandis and procurement centres.

The ASG sought time till May 5 to make available all records with regard to queries of bench and said that the government is not taking it as an adversarial litigation but a litigation in which the state must play a participative role.

Advocate Gopal Shankarnarayanan, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae, gave certain short-term and long-term suggestions to deal with agrarian crisis being faced by the southern state.

The bench posted the matter for further hearing on May 8. The Tamil Nadu government had earlier told the 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 the apex court said that 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 had said as per the reports compiled from information given by district collectors, 52 of the listed 82 farmers had died of various other reasons, but not committed suicide.

The affidavit said Tamil Nadu 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 4,000 crore to over seven lakh farmers in 2016-17.

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 the government's response within two weeks on the plea filed by Tamil Nadu Centre for Public Interest Litigation (TNCPIL).

It 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 had 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."

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