20 farmers commit suicide in southern India after lack of rain

20 farmers commit suicide in southern India after lack of rain New Delhi - At least 20 farmers have committed suicide in arid regions of southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, news reports said Sunday.

Most of the suicides were in the Telengana and Rayalseema regions where farmers depend heavily on seasonal monsoon rains which have been scanty this year, the Times of India newspaper reported.

The state government said 20 farmers had committed suicide over a period of 40 days but the reasons were being ascertained.

The farmers were driven to suicide under mounting debts, the Times of India reported. They had taken loans to dig bores to tap groundwater for cotton and other vegetable crops in the absence of rain, but the falling water table due to lack of rains worsened the situation.

The state government has announced it was helping the farmers through crop insurance and loans.

Families of farmers who had committed suicide would get compensation of 150,000 rupees (about 3107 dollars) each.

More than 700 million people in India are dependant on the seasonal monsoon rains for their livelihood.

The rains have been up to 20 per cent less than normal across large parts of India this season so far, according to the Indian weather office.

The federal government has declared 177 of India's 626 administrative districts as drought hit.

In his Independence Day speech Saturday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the federal government would provide all possible assistance to farmers to deal with the drought. (dpa)