With low production and destruction of crops in the ongoing rabi season, Marathwada has recorded around 350 suicides in the past three months, a number which officials fear is likely to go up in the coming months.
The moisture content of the soil in the region has dipped because of inadequate monsoon, about 68% of its average, and in turn hit the sowing of rabi crops such as soya bean, jowar and bajra.
Aurangabad and Latur divisions in the region recorded 30% and 16% sowing of rabi crops respectively, much lower than last year’s average. While the sowing is still in progress, the reduced moisture content and carbon level are likely to hit the productivity.
Apart from the natural calamities, the callous authorities have made matters worse. “Around 138 talukas covering 1,604 villages are facing a drought-like situation. We are still to review the situation in Marathwada and other parts of the state. The final review will be completed by December 15, after which the decision on relief for farmers will be taken,” said an officer from the agriculture department.
In the absence of government intervention, cotton growers are being forced to sell the produce below the minimum support price. In parts of Marathwada, farmers have uprooted their standing promegranate plants because of water scarcity.
Nishikant Bhalerao, an agriculture expert from Aurangabad, said, “In its recent presentation, the agriculture department has stated the loss of agricultural produce in the kharif season in Marathwada was 48%, and it is expected to go up in the rabi season.
The poor rainfall in October has hit the production. Cyclone Nilofar brought down the moisture content even further,” he said.
Bhalerao said the government has no mitigation or relief plan. “The Assembly elections offered some solace, as the farmers got some money, though ill-gotten, to run their houses,” he said.
Agriculture minister Eknath Khadse said the situation was worrisome and the department was mulling special schemes and widening the scope of crop insurance to protect farmers.