TNN | Nov 1, 2014, 0

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday sought response of the Gujarat government on an NGO’s allegation that drought and debt drove more than 600 farmers to commit suicide in the state between 2003 and 2012, when Narendra Modi was chief minister.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and U U Lalit issued notice to the Anandiben Patel government on a petition filed by Mallika Sarabhai-founded NGO ‘Citizens Resource and Action Initiative’ which challenged the Gujarat High Court’s decision not to intervene in the case on the ground that farmers’ relief and rehabilitation was a state policy matter.

The NGO said its coordinator, Bharat Sinh Jhala, had made a series of RTI queries forcing the Gujarat government to disclose that from 2003 till 2007, as many as 498 farmers committed suicide. In response to another RTI query, the state informed that between 2008 and 2012, another 121 farmers committed suicide, taking the number of officially acknowledged farmers’ suicides to 619.

Jhala had written to the chief minister and chief secretary of Gujarat on May 25 last year requesting financial assistance to the kin of farmers who committed suicide due to crop failure.

The NGO had collected detailed information about the reasons that led to suicides by 41 farmers. The reasons were “increasing amount of loan, cotton crop failure due to no rain, bad economic situation, inability to pay installments for loans taken for tractor, seeds and other agricultural implements”.

The petitioner said among the suicides, the most striking incident was the mass suicide on April 8 last year by the entire family of Rathilal Jeevabai Maladiya of Daldi village in Rajkot district. “The family of five jumped in front of a running train. Three of them died on the spot and other two were seriously injured,” it said.