While politicians discuss ways to tackle the agrarian crisis in the Maharashtra legislature, farmer suicides continue unabated in Vidarbha. Six more suicides have been reported in just the past 24 hours. With these, the toll in Vidarbha has risen to 38 this month and 826 since the start of the year. Last year, 1,072 farmers in Vidarbha committed suicide.
Agro-economist Arvind Bondre said the paucity of rain in western Vidarbha, the state’s cotton-belt, since the last week of June is the main reason for the crisis. Many crops, particularly cotton and soyabean, have dried up during this period and most farmers have no money to sow their fields once again.
“Every time the harvest looks bleak, there is a spate of deaths. The cause for concern is not only the high suicide rate but the entire agrarian crisis. Suicides are only an indication of the miserable condition of farmers in the region,” said Kishore Tiwari, president of the Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti, which has been documenting farmer suicides in the region since 2001.
Of the latest victims, three were from Yavatmal, two from Washim and one from Amravati district. One of the six farmers was a woman, according to reports. They were identified as Rajaram Balge from Vithargaon village; Bhaurao Bondekar from Takli, Srikrishna Ingle from Boriarab (all in Yavatmal); Durgabai Deshmukh and Sandip Shelke from Washim; and Ajay Kharifkar from Papad village in Amravati district of western Vidarbha.
Tiwari alleged that farmers whose crops dried up were not given loans for fresh cultivation, causing them to commit suicide. “The government should intervene immediately and ensure that such farmers get fresh loans for further cultivation,” he said.
Only 80,000 of four lakh farmers got crop loans this kharif season under the government’s restructured crop loan scheme. As the majority had to approach moneylenders, they had no choice but to end their lives after their crops failed as the loans would have been impossible to repay, Tiwari said.
Former Shetkari Sanghatana leader Vijay Jawandhia insisted that the state government direct all financial agencies to provide assistance to farmers in distress and ensure they get fresh loans. “Moreover, they should be given food security,” he said.