For the first time, the state government is looking at a holistic approach to tackle the agrarian crisis in 14 suicide-prone districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada and moving away from loan waivers and dole.
On Independence Day, the government will launch schemes specific to these 14 districts (eight in Aurangabad and six in Vidarbha) that have high incidence of farmer suicides. These include subsidised foodgrain under the Food Security Act for all ration card holders and subsidised medical treatment and surgeries under the Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayi Yojana.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday gave directives to the divisional commissioners, collectors and guardian ministers of all districts to ensure decisions taken by the government reach the last mile marginal farmer. The government is looking at an approach that is solely focused water conservation measures by digging over 1 lakh wells and 50,000 farm ponds. “Along with water conservation, we are looking at providing support to farmers’ families by giving food at subsidised rates and free medical services. We have lifted economic criteria for these welfare schemes, making it accessible to all farmers,’’ said a senior bureaucrat.
Farmers will be able to buy rice at Rs3 a kilo and wheat at Rs2 a kilo under this scheme. These prices were only meant for Below Poverty Line families.
From November 2014 to May this year, 1,286 farmers had committed suicides in these districts. The government has also realised the need to provide
mental health facilities at the district government hospitals and clinics. “We will be criticised if we say many of the suicides are not just prompted by debts but because of personal angst and depression. Hence, we are looking at employing a private psychiatrist in every district-level hospital,’’ the bureaucrat said.
The state had announced rescheduling of loans and interest waiver for farmers.
Those who can pay back their yearly loan instalment to the banks, will get an interest waiver for 2015-16. For the next four years from 2019-2020, the state will pay the 6% interest on their loans to the bank. The government will take on a burden of Rs1,526 crore for this scheme.