Farmers’ deaths a human rights issue: Supreme Court
"It is rather strange that there have been several incidents of farmers' suicide yet there is no national policy to protect them from crop failure leading to their indebtedness," CJI said
Addressing the issue of farmers suicide, the Supreme Court on Friday found it strange that there was no national policy to compensate tillers for crop failure or indebtedness, two major reasons for them to take their lives.
A bench comprising Chief Justic J S Khehar and Justice N V Ramana was hearing a three-year-old appeal by an NGO, which questioned the rationale behind Gujarat high court's decision not to entertain its PIL seeking relief for farmers, nearly 600 of whom had committed suicide between 2004-2012.
The CJI said, "It is rather strange that there have been several incidents of farmers' suicide yet there is no national policy to protect them from crop failure leading to their indebtedness. There must be a policy to compensate farmers for crop failure. This is a national issue and of larger public interest." Petitioner's counsel Colin Gonsalves and Gujarat counsel Pritesh Kapur agreed with the bench.
Taking suo motu cognition, bench decided to convert the appeal into a PIL and issued notices to the Centre, states and Union Territories. It asked them to file their responses within four weeks. It said participation of all governments in formulating a national framework for payment of compensation to farmers distressed by natural calamities was imperative.
However, the Centre informed the court that the NDA government had launched a comprehensive crop insurance scheme under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), which assured a certain sum of money for crop failure because of localised incidents and post-harvest losses.
The CJI-headed bench said, "If there is a natural calamity, there should be a policy to give compensation to farmers."
Last year in February, the SC had refused to entertain a petition seeking a direction to the government to fix minimum support price (MSP) of agricultural products. A bench headed by then CJI T S Thakur had said, "We are not supposed to go into policy matters. It is for the government to see and take decision. These are matters which are between people and the government... It is a problem of governance and the government has to take measures. We are not sitting in judgment over policies."