In a stunning show of apathy, the Tamil Nadu government on Friday told the Supreme Court that no farmer had committed suicide in the state because of drought. Farmers in the state have naturally objected to this claim, saying their debts and drought for the second year in a row were the primary factors that led them to take the step. In its affidavit, the government said farmers took this extreme step due to prolonged illnesses, family situations and other personal reasons. This affidavit was in response to a notice issued by the apex court earlier this month, asking the government to report on the steps taken in addressing the recent spate of farmer suicides in Tamil Nadu following the worst drought in 140 years.
The government's response is perplexing primarily because it had declared the entire state, barring Chennai city, drought –affected. Moreover, if these deaths were not a result of drought, then why did the government grant compensation to 82 farmers who had committed suicide? The Tamil Nadu government's claims in the court come just days after Chief Minister Edapaddi Palaniswami on Sunday, assured to hold talks with the Prime Minister and fulfil the demands of farmers from the state, who had earlier protested in the national capital. Over the past six months, approximately 200 farmers have committed suicide in the state.
What's worse, one minister in the Tamil Nadu government, in an apparent bid to grab media attention, acted on an unusual idea of setting afloat Rs 10 lakh worth of thermocol taped together on the Vaigai dam reservoir to prevent the water from evaporating. The experiment failed rather miserably as the sheets were blown away by strong winds. Some observers had poignantly noted that the failed test represented the dissipation of hope among those suffering and the government's dwindling credibility. The government's claims in court on Friday may dent credibility further.