In the wake of a spate of farmer suicides in Maharashtra and complaints of inadequate compensation for their families, the relief and rehabilitation department has decided to increase the current compensation limit of Rs 1 lakh, which might be raised to Rs 5 lakh. The new figure is likely to come into effect from April 1.
The state relief and rehabilitation minister Eknath Khadse made the announcement while replying to a question raised by legislator Abdul Sattar, who had complained of delays in distribution of compensation, with families having to wait for long periods to get their dues. Explanations are not given for such delays, he said.
“The limit for compensation is too low, and the state needs to widen this. It is doubtful whether insurance companies will be willing to pledge more money for cases of suicide,” said NCP legislator Jayant Patil. Khadse had said on Thursday that he had held a meeting with insurance companies, asking them to increase the limit with the help of certain group life insurance schemes.
“They will get back to us on this, but even if they don’t agree, the state government has decided to increase the limit from Rs1 lakh. We will bring this in from April 1,” Khadse added.
Khadse said the government will ensure the compensation reaches the families soon. “Compensation gets delayed because of incomplete paperwork, or because viscera reports from post-mortems take months to come. Also, for farmers to be eligible, they need to fulfil all the conditions. We will request that the compensation process is expedited,” he said.
Experts, however, claim the move could be an eyewash, and may fail to give relief.
Kishore Tiwari, leader of the farmer advocacy group Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), said two things need to change, along with increased compensation. “The conditions set for farmers’ widows to be eligible for compensation are so rigid that 60% of the 68,000 affected people have been denied compensation on grounds of ineligibility. Also, of the Rs 1 lakh compensation which is given through the Prime Minister’s relief fund, only Rs 30,000 comes in cash and the rest is a fixed deposit, which needs to be changed to 100% cash,” Tiwari said.
Congress legislator Yashomati Thakur said the government should concentrate on creating awareness and having village-level committees that will act as support groups, to prevent suicides.