Farmer suicides rise in Vidarbha, Marathwada regions
120 farmers from the drought-hit regions of Maharashtra have committed suicide in the past month
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One hundred and twenty farmers from the drought-hit Marathwada and Vidarbha regions of Maharashtra have committed suicide in the past month, according to Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), a farmers’ advocacy group from Nagpur.
“Fifty-five farmers from Vidarbha and 65 farmers from Marathwada region took their lives in one month; in the last 24 hours, one farmer has killed himself every hour,” said Kishore Tiwari, president of VJAS.
“The crisis this year has been compounded by severe drought—there were no rains during June and July. Whatever little the farmers could harvest of their cash crops—soyabean and cotton—is failing to fetch any returns as the market price has fallen below the minimum support price. Most farmers are unable to repay their loans and are heavily indebted to local moneylenders,” Tiwari added.
Last Friday, Kashiram Bhagwan Indare, a 75-year-old farmer from Akola district, lit his own pyre in the middle of his soyabean field and killed himself.
A day later, another cotton farmer from Nanded district electrocuted himself to death.
On 18 November, the newly elected Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis notified drought in 19,000 of the state’s 39,000 villages.
A few days later, on 29 November, the state asked for Rs.4,500 crore from the centre for drought relief.
The Union ministry of agriculture told the Lok Sabha last week that 301 farmers across the country have committed suicide so far this year because of agrarian distress, according to reports submitted by the state governments.
Of these, Maharashtra accounted for the highest number of 204 suicides.
However, the data for Maharashtra was only for January to April this year.
The state has not sent updated data to the centre for the Kharif crop season beginning in June that was severely affected by drought.
According to the National Crime Record Bureau’s Accidental Deaths and Suicides Report for 2013, there were 11,744 farmer suicides reported across India in that year, and Maharashtra recorded nearly 27% of them—the highest for any state at 3,146.
According to data collected by VJAS, 1,022 farmers have taken their lives so far this year in 11 districts of Vidarbha region. Of these 522 deaths have been recorded since April.
“Overdependence on cash crops like cotton and soyabean in non-irrigated areas have led to this recurrent phenomenon. Sadly, the families are yet to receive a penny of relief as yet—they do not have enough to eat as all their production is concentrated on cash crops,” said Tiwari.
The June-September southwest monsoon ended this year with a deficit of 12% of the long-period average. Marathwada and Vidarbha subdivisions of Maharashtra recorded deficits of 42% and 14%, respectively.
Other than Maharashtra, the states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have notified drought this year and together sought nearly Rs.11,000 crore in central assistance.
The central government is yet to announce any compensation for these drought-affected states.
PTI contributed to this story.
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