Several government efforts to curb the farmers' suicides in Vidarbha did not seem to have its desired impact as five more farmers ended their lives in the last 48 hours, taking the toll to 44 this month alone.
The poverty-stricken cotton growers, who ended their lives were: Sudhir Wadaskar of Junera, Pisaram Zhade, Rekepara (both in Chandrapur district), Tulshiram Patil of Ramapur (Akola), Raju Walki of Tijason (Yavatmal) and Pandurang Dethe of Satgaon of Buldhana district.
The crisis in the region is deepening in the cotton sale season as cotton growers are not getting good deal from the state-sponsored procurement centres.
Apart from the remunerative price, farmers who are trying to sell their goods, say that this year very few government centres that buy cotton at the support price have been set up. Moreover, the centres are forcibly deducting 50 per cent of loan amounts from the sale money which is ruining the annual economy of small and marginal farmers.
It has left the poor farmers at the mercy of private traders, who are exploiting the situation and giving them a meagre rate, at least Rs 100 less per quintal than the support price.
Over 260 cotton growers have ended their lives since the cotton sale season began in November last. The plight of farmers shows that the relief packages from the state and union governments had hardly any impact on them. Even the government officials also admit that though both the relief measures did make some difference, but suicides continued unabated.
The PM relief package, announced by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in July last year, is largely meant for projects which will take three to five years to complete.
Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti says, with cultivation of cotton turning into a highly losing proposition, more than 40 per cent of the farming population has expressed the desire to quit and migrate to urban centres for other options. He insisted an urgent intervention of the state government in the matter.
In December 2005 when the Vilasrao Deshmukh Government rolled out an Rs 1,075-crore relief module, more than 200 farmers had ended their lives. An alarmed Congress government in the state did almost everything that it could in the first half of 2006 to curb the suicide rate.
The state rescheduled crop loans, waived off interest on outstanding debt, banned illegal money-lending, encouraged diversified crop pattern and ancillary activities and gave direct monetary assistance to widows of farmers. Towards the end of the year, the government even came up with an aid of Rs 1,500 per hectare for cotton growers.
However, these also could not yield desired dividends.
The divisional commissioner of Amravati divsion and coordinator of government packages, points out the problem would not solve only by providing loans of waiving of loan interests. "We should ensure that the farmers should get more income by using minimum agriculture inputs," he added.
According to him, the government had provided Rs 1,844-crore loans to farmers in six districts in the region this year in comparison to Rs 746-crore last year.
"It is a fact that despite all efforts, farmers could not generate more income," he regretted.