I spoke to Telangana Agriculture Minister, Mr Pocharam srinivas. In the wake of Limbaiah’s suicide at tank bund, the minister had said that his death was due to health conditions and regarding suicides he opined that it was media hype.
Me: As an agriculture minister, how could you say such a statement about the farmer suicides?
Minister: Well first of all I had said that in the context of Limbaiah’s death, which btw was not a farmer suicide case. He had 3 acres of land which he leased and he and his wife were receiving 1000 per month because of their health condition. Regarding suicides, yes there are suicides happening in Telangana
Me: Sir, how many suicides have happened in the past year
Minister: 141 suicides have been confirmed thus far and have been compensated
Me: (In shock) how can you say only 141, there have been over thousand suicides already
Minister: You are in America, you don’t know the ground reality. Not all the deaths are suicides. There was for e.g. one death which when enquired found out to be a death resulting from a quarrel between the in laws.
Me: (Interrupted the minister) Sir, if the media writes such stories, we could discount it. But how can you, as an agriculture minister, say this. 141 and 1047 suicide deaths, there is a big disconnect. I will send you all the details which are from an RTI response, please kindly respond.
Minister: Ok, send it to me. There seems to be a certain excitement when it comes to suicides.
Me: (Interrupted the minister) Sir, there is no excitement, there is only sadness as to why such a situation even exists
Minister: We are also trying to prevent this and we are not happy either.
Me: Moving on to the issues of Tenant farmers, sir, what is the situation like
Minister: Where do you stay in india, which district
Me: Secunderabad, RR district.
Minister: Ok, when you come to Secunderabad, please visit me and I will tell you what the status is and how things work.
Me; thank you for your time and will certainly meet you when in Hyderabad.
Minister: Thank you
This call and many such calls I made to MLA’s and MP’s is to highlight that as elected officials they are obligated to talk to us and we have a right to question them. Ideally there should be a sustainable platform of engagement with the elected officials but since that’s not there, calling the officials directly is probably one direct way.
Our participation in democracy doesn’t end with just voting, in fact voting is the beginning of such a participation and engagement.