Dole is not helping Vidarbha breathe new life into its “killing fields”— the spate of suicides continues as farmers sink deeper into the poverty-debt-depression cycle.
Eleven more tillers sought death as the easy way out over the past 48 hours to escape another “lean” season even as Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh increased the relief package from Rs 1,075 to Rs 1,500 crore.
In an act of desperation, six farmers tried to commit suicide on Thursday by consuming pesticide in the presence of 100 onlookers at the local gram panchayat office at Hata village in Akola. They were unable to pool in money to sow the second time round as heavy rain in June and July had washed away the “first sowing” and flooded the fields. The death toll in the current kharif season stands a little short of the 800-mark.
Denied flood relief compensation, the farmers had petitioned the district authorities several times to compensate the damages under the prevailing norms. But their plea fell on deaf ears. Irked by the “casual” approach of the administration, they had even threatened mass suicide recently, but the “threat” failed to spur the district authority into action.
In an attempt to teach the administration a “lesson” and highlight the plight of the cash-strapped “cultivators” in the district, they assembled at the gram panchayat office and gulped cans of pesticides. The farmers were rushed to the government-run Balapur Civil Hospital, where they are battling for life. The farmers are seething. Kishore Tiwari of the Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti said the Hata episode had exposed the state administration’s “anti-farmer” attitude. “The farmers are not only harassed by bank officials for loan recovery, but also by the district administration,” he alleged. He demanded that the farmers be given fresh loans for the “second sowing”. Rain-fed Vidarbha is Maharashtra’s cotton bowl.
Besides, it also grows soyabeans, oranges and jowar. Over-reliance on nature, exorbitant genetically modified seeds, expensive fertiliser and poor resource pool have driven the farmers to the edge. Altogether 2,827 farmers have committed suicide in Vidarbha because of “crop failure and debt” since 2001.