Nature’s vagaries have once again put Vidarbha’s cotton growers in a quandary this year. First, the paucity of rains at the onset of monsoon season dried up crop and later, torrential rain over the last fortnight washed away crops sowed again.
At least six farmers committed suicide in Vidarbha this month as they could not generate funds for second sowing.
According to reports reaching here this evening, among these six victims, three were from Yavatmal, two from Bhandara and one from Nagpur district. They were identified as: Sanjay Mohture (35) of Gurtha village, Lallu Ramaji Kar (32), Kanhargaon (both Bhandara district), Chitra Mankawde (50), Jamgaon (Nagpur), Santosh Malekar (40), Rahapal, Sitaram Chavan (60), Vithala and Subhash Ramgade (37) of Yarad village (all in Yavatmal district). Almost all the farmers ended their lives by swallowing pesticides, reports said. With the deaths of six farmers this month, the toll has touched 482 this year while the figure was 918 last year.
It was a difficult task for Indutai Balkrishna Ashtakar (50) of Sakhre village in Yavatmal district to cope up with the situation as first her cotton and soyabean crops dried up because of paucity of rains and now the second time, resowed crop was washed away following incessant rains in the region for the last several days. Her husband, Balkrishna Ashtakar, ended his life on January 24, 2010 over failure to reclaim his 9.5 acre land despite repaying the loan with interest to the moneylender.
Balkrishna had taken a Rs 60,000 loan from Vijay Adgulkar and repaid Rs 65,000 including interest but the moneylender set his eyes on the land and brought a court decree against Balkrishna. The poor farmer pleaded before Adgulkar but in vain, forcing him to consume pesticide.
Indutai mortgaged gold ornaments of her daughter-in-law this season to get crop loan from a moneylender this year but her crops dried up initially and the re-sowing were washed away. "My situation is like my husband’s and you may hear the news that I have ended my life anytime," a crestfallen Indutai said.
In Yavatmal district’s Vara-Kawatha village, the predicament is similar for 28-year-old Aparna Malikar, a farm widow, who hogged headlines when she figured in the last edition of Kaun Banega Crorepati. She borrowed a Rs 60,000 loan from self help groups to cultivate cotton and soyabean on her 6-acre land and later Rs 40,000 from a private moneylender. Both the times, crops either dried up or washed away.
"Now, who will give me a loan for a third time?" she asked, adding she did not get crop loan from the banks as her husband Sanjay was a defaulter. Sanjay committed suicide on August 21, 2008 and she was responsible for repayment of loan she never knew her husband had taken.
Kishore Tiwari, the convenor of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti, claimed that the situation in the cotton-belt in Vidarbha is worse as crops of around 18,000 hectare were damaged because of torrential rains since mid-July. Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti has been documenting the farmers suicide in the region since 2001.
According to Tiwari, the financial institutions, including nationalized banks, were not generous with the farmers while disbursing crop loans. "They had hardly given away 50 per cent loans what they committed to disburse to farmers this year," he alleged.
He demanded that the government should provide crop loans immediately to affected farmers for resowing.
The district of Yavatmal, Ashwin Mrudgal was not available for comments.
Cotton is the biggest cash crop of Vidarbha and parts of Marathwada and Khandesh in Maharashtra. The crop’s price virtually decides the fate of 30-lakh (three million) families in this highest cotton producing state. Over 14,000 cotton growers, mostly from Vidarbha, have committed suicide because of debts and crop failure since 2001.
Farmer suicides in Vidarbha region:
2012 (till August 7): 482