Supplying water to parched villages is not the only worry for the local administration in Marathwada, they are facing another major challenge — containing farmer suicides.
In the first three months of the year, eight districts in Marathwada have witnessed 273 suicides, a jump from last year’s figure of 214 for the corresponding period. The region recorded 30 farmer suicides in April, bringing the toll to 303. Topping the list is Beed with 54 suicides, Aurangabad with 51 cases, followed by Nanded (42) and Latur (40). Moreover, Marathwada has outnumbered Vidarbha (264) in farmer suicides in the first quarter of the year.
One such incident was reported in the Awate family in Sushi-Wadgaon village in Gevrai Taluka of Beed, where Radhakrishna Awate, 50, ended his life by jumping into a well on February 24. Awate had incurred huge losses after his pomegranate crop dried up for want of water. In 2007, his cousin RS Awate, too, had ended his life over crop failure.
Two months on, his widow Kantabai is yet to come to terms with the loss. “I have received government compensation, but nothing can make up for the loss. Completing the education of my two college-going children now seems tough,” she says.
“Farmers have already lost their crops and are distressed over the loans. The water scarcity is getting acute in some villages in Beed and Latur. The district administration has been directed to take steps to prevent suicides,” said an officer from divisional commissionerate at Aurangabad.
“Apart from 5kg of wheat and rice being given at Rs2 and Rs3 under the food security act, we have launched Baliraja Chetna Abhiyaan, under which the farmers are being counselled by experts. Farmers have also being give financial assistance for digging wells and other such activities,” said Chandrakant Suryavanshi, resident deputy collector of Beed.
Umakant Dangat, divisional commissioner, who is the administrative head of all eight districts, said, “We are pulling all strings to contain the suicides in Marathwada and ensure water supply.”
Agriculture experts blame the government administration for its failure to offer respite to farmers. “I would say the previous Congress-NCP government was at fault, but the incumbent BJP-led government hasn’t even reached the root of the problem. The situation has worsened. The rise in suicides is because the farmers are feeling helpless. They don’t have money, even as they battle huge debts,” said Amar Habib, Beed-based agriculture activist.