No water for land, farmer kills himself

As the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka debated the possibilities and difficulties of sharing Cauvery water in Bangalore on Thursday, a marginal farmer in Nagapattinam district ended his life in despair after failing to secure a loan he needed to make arrangements to irrigate his small piece of land.

S Selvaraj of Karunkani Panchayat of Keezhayur in Nagapattinam is the second farmer to commit suicide in a week in the Cauvery delta region where farmers are experiencing a distress situation.

Selvaraj, 52, a farmer with about two acres of land, was in utter despair as he struggled to make ends meet this farming season, one of the worst ever in the recent times. Like most others in his village and the delta region, Selvaraj was unable to do agriculture during the earlier short-term crop 'kuruvai' due to lack of water. Putting their disappointment behind, all were looking forward to the long-term samba season to make up for the failure of kuruvai. However, the unprecedented water scarcity this time due to failure of northeast monsoon and refusal by neighbouring Karnataka to share water citing severe shortage there, shattered the dreams of Selvaraj and thousands of other farmers.

"Selvaraj had taken loans from banks and also private persons after pawning whatever he had to undertake farming this season. His first attempt at direct sowing failed miserably as it rained intermittently for a few days and then stopped. Taking a gamble, he then prepared seedlings and was waiting for water, either through rain or from Cauvery, to plant them. But both did not happen. As a last-ditch attempt, he tried to get some money on loan to hire a pumpset to draw the little water left in the nearby canal to irrigate his land. When even that failed, perhaps he felt there was nothing left to live for," said K R Ravichandran, president of Karunkani panchayat.

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