Suicides by farmers in Telangana and pockets of Maharashtra since the start of a poor monsoon season are threatening to reach alarming levels, as authorities weigh options to handle a long-standing problem.
In Telangana, over 100 farmers have committed suicide so far, according to some accounts, which officials were yet to verify. In Maharashtra, 72 suicides have been reported since June.
“There have been some suicides. We are ascertaining the situation. The real problem is the neglect of irrigation in this region,” Telangana irrigation minister T Harish Rao said.
Kishore Tiwari, whose Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti has been documenting farmer suicides since 2001 in Maharashtra, said that 22 farmers had ended their lives since June in Yavatmal alone.
A senior Yavatmal district official told HT that poor rains in June had triggered a crisis but the situation was improving steadily after a late revival in the monsoon.
“The figure of 22 is an exaggeration,” Yavatmal district collector Ashwin Mudgal said, adding however that apart from poor rains, farmers were also facing difficulty in getting crop loans.
Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said that no state had declared drought-hit areas yet or flagged a crisis, adding that state governments had been already provided with a cash line to tackle drought mitigation without the Centre’s approval.
Suicides have long been an Achilles’ heel of the country’s farm sector — which provides livelihood to two-thirds of the population.
Although the monsoon has revived over central India, narrowing the seasonal shortfall to 25% below average until July 23, a long delay and dry conditions have caused several rounds of sowing to wilt.
In neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, a Cabinet proposal for recasting outstanding farm loans has been rejected by the Reserve Bank.
Less than half of India’s arable land has active irrigation, making the summer rains vital.
Thousands of impoverished farmers juggling debt and failed crops have killed themselves in states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnakata, leaving behind families pushed deeper into poverty.