Tag Archive Kisan Mitra

How a rural distress helpline in Telangana is preventing farmer suicides


Set up in 2017, Kisan Mitra provides counselling to distressed farmers and acts as a bridge between them and the government.
The Kisan Mitra team
Shruthi, who heads the team of counsellors at Kisan Mitra, is among the many volunteers in the organisation who are lending a helping hand to the distressed farmers of Telangana. Kisan Mitra, a non-profit organisation, is a rural distress helpline that acts as an intermediary between the government and farmers.

Set up in 2017, the helpline strives to provide financial security to farmers and makes sure entitlements reach their pockets on time. Apart from securing an economically stable future for the farmers, the volunteers at Kisan Mitra also provide counselling to farmers who are on the verge of suicide and handle distress calls from farmers who are depressed and need a ray of hope in their lives.

Why are the farmers distressed?

Telangana is one of the states worst hit by the agrarian crisis. Thousands of farmers have killed themselves  since the inception of Telangana and the state stands second when it comes to farmer suicides in the country. So what exactly is worrying the farmers in the state?
Harsha, one of the founder members of the organisation, tells TNM that it’s the lack of proper implementation of schemes that is drowning the farmers in the state under massive debts.
“Kisan Mitra was floated as a subsidiary of the Centre of Sustainable Agriculture after a number of farmer organisations brought to our notice the farmer distress in the rural parts of Telangana. So over the years, what Kisan Mitra has been able to gauge from its activities is that there is no dearth in the monetary schemes for farmers introduced by the government but there definitely is a lack of interest on the government’s side to ensure proper implementation,” says Harsha.
He goes on to add, “For example, a cotton farmer is entitled to a sum of Rs 30,000 per acre from the government. But the vicious cycle of debt begins when the farmer fails to get the amount on time. For him to continue work on the fields, he borrows money from money lenders at exorbitant interest rates. Some farmers will also submit their land deeds as mortgage. By the time the government money reaches him, he might have already paid multiple installments of the interest money.”
And this is where organisations like Kisan Mitra come into the picture.
“We ensure that the entitlements from the government reach the farmers on time. For this, we begin with creating awareness on what the government schemes are, what are the viable means of investment and also insurance, about which most farmers have least knowledge about,” Harsha explains.
Calling for help still a stigma
Of the hundreds of calls that Kisan Mitra receives in a day, most are distress calls made by men. But Shruthi, who heads the counselling team, says there’s a long way to go before men feel that it’s all right to talk about mental health and not give in to the societal pressure of proving one’s hyper-masculinity.
“To begin with, none of the farmers suffer from any psychological issues. It’s various factors joined together that drives a farmer to suicide. In rural areas, mental health is still a taboo to be discussed. It was only last year that a farmer killed himself after suffering from extensive crop loss. His wife knew of his mental condition but was threatened to not to talk about it to anyone. One day, as he got a cue that his wife was meeting the village head for some financial help, he consumed poison and ended his life. Such is the stigma associated with mental health in our country,” Shruthi shares.
And for the same reason, Kisan Mitra conducts awareness programmes not just for male farmers, but also for women who are in a better position to advise and counsel their husbands.
Shruthi, who was working as a psychologist in Hyderabad, left the job and joined the Kisan Mitra team in 2018.
“It’s mostly the small income farmers who fall into huge debts. While many maybe at the verge of suicide, some may also be just seeking solutions to their problems. For farmers who need immediate counselling, we send our field coordinators to help them. If we think a particular farmer needs monetary help, we make arrangements to ensure he is eligible to some sort of monetary scheme under the government. This may not be a direct government intervention but an alternate mechanism where we ensure that the farmer has enough money to buy food or is able to send his kids to school,” Shruthi explains.
Kisan Mitra currently operates out of three districts – Vikarabad, Mancherial and Adilabad. While its field volunteers are limited to these areas, it receives calls and provides counselling to farmers from across the state. Of the 9000 plus calls that Kisan Mitra has received till date, Harsha says they have been able to resolve over 5000 cases and the rest are still pending for some level of intervention from the government.
The organisation also has its presence on WhatsApp, where it tries to disseminate more information on organic farming and provides knowledge on best farming practices.
“We also visit hospitals and meet farmers who have survived suicide attempts. There are many reasons that can lead a man to desperation. Kisan Mitra is currently trying to zero in on these triggers and help victims cope with them,” Shruthi adds.

With A Single Phone Call Farmers Are Getting Help From Government Officials, Thanks To Kisan Mitra Helpline


From our friends at
Efforts For Good
Deepika Vemuri

May 19th, 2018 / 5:34 PM

Mallappa from Tattepalle, Vikarabad district, Telangana, called on Kisan Mitra helpline multiple times expressing anguish and distress, on 17th May 2018 evening around 5 PM, when things reached a state of desperation, he said he would commit suicide. Mallappa’s younger daughter’s treatment costs a lot of money while the elder daughter does not have a job. On the one hand the bank loan needs to be paid off, but on the other hand, he lacks capital for his sugarcane crop. With no drip irrigation and faulty land records were compounding his problems. All these problems were deeply disturbing him and his family. Mallappa’s story is just the tip of the iceberg.
Every few days we hear many distressing news of farmer suicides. What is causing farmers across rural belt in India to commit suicide? Is it the farm distress? Has agriculture become so unsustainable that farmers see no other way out? Are we there for our farmers? There are several such questions which troubled Center for Sustainable Agriculture(CSA) and they decided to take concrete action through Kisan Mitra Helpline.

How is Kisan Mitra helpline different from others?

There are several helplines where farmers can call in, but most of them are just related to technical agricultural questions. What our farmers need is someone who listens to their problems and helps them by directing them to the right people for a solution. Kisan Mitra helpline is just that and much more. Mr Harsha from Kisan Mitra’s core team says “Understanding rural distress and issues and attempting to solve them one issue at a time, as well as making wider policy corrections has shaped what Kisan Mitra is today”.

Kisan Mitra helpline centre

Kisan Mitra Helpline was set up to understand the problems faced by farmers of Vikarabad district in the state of Telangana and to reduce farmers distress. Vikarabad is one of the backward areas in Telangana state. This helpline was launched on the occasion of Dr.B.R.Ambedkar Jayanti, on 14th April 2017 by Centre for Sustainable Agriculture with the support from the district administration, Vikarabad.

The district administration has made the Agriculture Department the nodal agency responsible for coordinating the complete process of this helpline with the help of all related departments at the district level. Centre for Sustainable Agriculture takes the lead in the running the Kisan Mitra helpline and handling of farmer’s distress calls. A team of five people have been appointed to manage the incoming calls, and one individual was appointed to oversee field-level coordination and interactions with farmers.
Talking to The Logical Indian, the Vikarabad district collector M/s Divya Devaraju explains the ideation and execution of Kisan Mitra. She says, “ Kisan Mitra is an outcome of a brainstorming session one day in Vikarabad Collectorate with different stakeholders working on farmer suicides.  It was felt that we are often reacting to farmer’s problems after they occur. Distress doesn’t occur in a day. A small land record issue here, a bank loan issue there, availability of subsidised seed elsewhere are often left unattended to, which lead to piling up of issues and finally distress.  Hence we thought can we proactively track the problems of farmers and solve them by taking to a logical conclusion. This was the birth of the idea of Kisan Mitra. Govt Order Ms 421 of the State Government in 2004 stipulated that there should be a farmer distress helpline in every collectorate. We simply took the mandatory requirement of the helpline and tried to make it more comprehensive. It is also an effort to make all stakeholder departments like revenue (land), agriculture, banking, electricity, agriculture marketing etc., aware of the issues of the farmers and work in tandem towards a solution.”

Vikarabad, collector Divta Devarajan interacting with one of the farmers family members who took his life.

Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Kisan Mitra’s team launched an awareness campaign which included flyers, posters, events such as suicide prevention week etc., while the agriculture department took up the initiative of wall writings in every mandal office to create and raise awareness among farmers and their family members. In addition to this, the field coordinator also visited many villages personally to interact with the community and distribute pamphlets and flyers about Kisan Mitra. The Kisan Mitra team and the district administration also reached out to various local print media outlets to reach a broader audience.

As of March 30, 2018, Kisan Mitra has worked on 3,022 cases in Vikarabad district. 740 of these cases were from farmers seeking information related to agriculture requiring technical knowledge and were diverted to the Kisan Call Centre(the govt helpline) and the Agricultural department. The remaining 2,282 of cases were from farmers with issues regarding non-agricultural matters requiring more considerable intervention or attention from the different government departments amongst other interventions.  Kisan Mitra also beganoperations in Adilabad district a couple of months ago. Since inception, they have tackled 289 cases. 216 cases were issues that needed intervention. They have also started operations in Mancherial from 29th March 2018.
Coming back to Mallappa’s case, Kisan Mitra sent their field coordinator Sangameshwar to visit the farmer within 2 hours.They met the farmer at the MRO office directly so that his grievances can be taken to the MRO instantly. In addition to this, Sangameshwar also visited the family and collected further details of the distress and reported it back to Kisan Mitra team on the same day. Kisan Mitra team then immediately swung into action and sent emails and SMSes to the district collector and other administrators the very next day.
Peddemul’s Mandal Revenue Officer (Tahsildar) responded immediately and called Kisan Mitra Field coordinator to the office to understand the issues that the farmer was facing and planned for a swift action on 18th May and by 19th morning, the farmer his family members were given the modified land record copies. Peddemul Horticulture officer invited the family members and oversaw the application process for Drip irrigation end to end. Following this, on 20th May, Sub-collector invited the Malanna, MRO and Kisan Mitra Field Coordinator and his daughter who had finished her degree and she was given a job locally.

Mr Doma Srinivas of Doma village says that he cannot imagine his life without Kisan Mitra. “Kisan Mitra not only saved my father’s life and gave me hope but also showed me a path forward in life,” he says. Mr Doma Srinivas was working odd jobs in another town when he was informed that his father had announced his intention to end his life in a local kisan sabha. By this time they were facing several financial difficulties as a family.
Agriculture was not proving to be a sustainable way of life for them. They had crop loans, and the bank was not helping them as colossal interest had accrued. Mr Srinivas read in the paper about Kisan Mitra and approached them. Kisan Mitra’s team reached out and gave confidence to his father.  In addition to this, they also helped by training him to be a field coordinator so that he can take care of his family members as well as help other farmers and their families. Mr Srinivas is negotiating with the bank for a one-time settlement and is hopeful of a good life ahead.