Sambhaji More's house is eerily silent. Life for the Mores came to standstill after elder brother Murlidhar, 48, committed suicide on Thursday (August 2). The Mores say a failed monsoon had multiplied his debt and made him 'frustrated'.
Murlidhar's body was found hanging from a tree in his farm in Yamaji Patil Wadi in Atpadi taluka, Sangli district, that morning. Sangli district is among the worst-affected by drought. Along with Satara, Pune and Kolhapur, it forms the relatively wealthy, sugar-belt region of western Maharashtra.
"Murlidhar was totally dependent on agriculture but it failed him for three successive years," said Sambhaji, "He dug his well deeper but it did not have water. As a result, he was very worried for the past few days."
Delayed or scanty rainfall, lack of reliable water sources and failed agricultural output meant that Murlidhar could not repay the loans to the cooperative credit society. "His initial loan was Rs 7,000 but delays and non-payment had increased it to nearly Rs 16,000," Sambhaji said.
The 'frustration' pushed him into alcoholism, which resulted in his end, said the family and fellow villagers. Murlidhar is the only farmer in the family; his 4 brothers have other sources of income.
Local police recorded his death as suicide with the "immediate cause of alcoholism". However investigating officer from Atpadi police station NV Damke said, "We are gathering information of More's previous loans. We will probe the incident from every angle."
Janardhan Chavan, former sarpanch of Yamaji Patil Wadi, said, "Murlidhar was non-alcoholic. Drought appears to have frustrated him, leading to his death."
Murlidhar's suicide is the first this year from the region but the sugar-belt is steadily witnessing farmers falling into a debt cycle. Their frustration is visible.
Shankar Nathjare, 40, of Tadole village dug a second well in his farm after the first one went dry last month but despite digging 60 feet, and spending Rs five lakh, there was no sign of water.
"I feel like giving up. I put all my money in the well. Yet, my farm remains dry," said Nathjare, a pomegranate grower.
Tadole, with the population of 2000, now has 100 wells. "Almost every family has dug wells in their farms", said Datta Bhagat. Villagers from the adjacent Jat taluka rely on tankers which come from almost 60 kilometres away. In Man and Khatau talukas, tankers come only once a week. "We get water very inconsistently, sometimes once a week, sometimes longer," said Srikant Chavan of Gondawale village.