Despite several state measures to prevent farmer suicides including food security for distressed farmers, farmer suicides continue in the killing fields of Vidarbha with five more suicides reported in the past 48 hours.
Among the farmers who have killed themselves because of agrarian crisis include: three from Amravati and one each from Yavatmal and Chandrapur district. They were identified as Subhash Satpute of Sirajgaon, Parasram Wankhede, Jalka, Satish Sahebrao Patankar of Warud (all from Amravati), Rajeshwar Khandate, Satgaon (Chandrapur) and Yadavrao Somnake of Shirola in Yavatmal district.
These five debt-ridden farmers ended their lives by swallowing pesticides, said Santosh Netam of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti that has been documenting farmer suicides in the Vidarbha region since 2001.
The news of farmer suicides from Vidarbha, a region which previously emerged in the national media for being the dark spot of agrarian crisis, appeared at a time when the government boasted of a drop in suicides by farmers after the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre and state.
Kishore Tiwari, chairman of the special task force appointed by the Maharashtra government to address the agrarian crisis, urged the government that it should ensure fresh loans to all loan defaulters for the kharif season that begins next month. Crippled with debts, farmers could not repay the crop loans this season owing to crop failure and are apprehensive that they would not get fresh loans in the ensuing kharif season. This frustration led them to take such an extreme step, Tiwari said.
He said that the banks in rural areas are not cooperating and are not keen to give fresh loans to farmers. “The situation would be more alarming in coming days if the government fails to intervene into the matter,” he said. “I am perusing with the government to provide fresh loans to all bank defaulters in the ensuing kharif season. But bankers are not responding positively in this regard,” he said.
Nationalised banks in Maharashtra have disbursed barely 10% of the crop loan targets issued by the state government for the kharif season of 2015-16. This finding came to light after a review meeting of bankers held by the state-sponsored Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalambi Mission in Pune. If any farmer commits suicide because of not getting crop loans, the Mission will treat the case as culpable homicide and seek action against the concerned officer, Tiwari said.
Former Shetkari Sanghatana president Vijay Jawandhia said that farmer suicides are continuing despite many promises by the new government. “Farmers are depressed and distressed as they have realised that they would not get better prices for their produce and not get fresh crop loans from the bank. These factors pushed them to take such drastic steps,” he said and demanded immediate loan waiver for farmers.
Former head of the department (economics), Nagpur University, and a well-known agro-economist Dr Shrinivas Khandewale alleged that the number of farmer suicides has increased in the region after BJP came to power at the Centre as well as in state. “The agriculture sector is not a priority area for the new government as it emphasizes on big industries and smart cities,” Khandewale said and alleged that the government did nothing when the region was reeling from an unprecedented drought this year.
He alleged that the farmers and farm labourers in the region were not getting adequate employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in this crucial period that also aggravated the situation.
With the deaths of these five farmers, the toll has risen to 27 this month alone while as many as 149 farmers have committed suicide because of the agrarian crisis since January this year. The figure was 738 last year.