With around 3,000 farmer suicides being reported annually from Maharashtra, the Devendra Fadnavis-led government is looking at a comprehensive policy to tackle the issue.
For the first time, the state is planning on direct intervention by identifying vulnerable families in rural Maharashtra, and offering them assistance. This will be through pooling of several Central and state schemes, which includes financial inclusion by opening of bank accounts, offering subsidy on agriculture pumps, interest-free loans, crop insurance, etc.
Local officials such as anganwadi workers, sarpanch and village chiefs will also be roped in to identify vulnerable families.
The policy is likely to be presented to the Cabinet for approval in the next few weeks.
Initially, it will be implemented in two suicide-prone districts — Yavatmal in Vidarbha and Osmanabad in Marathwada — before it is scaled up across the state.
“Earlier, we had a sectoral approach towards rural distress and focussed on developing the area as a whole. Now, we are considering targeting specific families. The policy will be presented to the Cabinet soon,” said chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya, refusing to comment further on the matter.
Till now, the state would offer compensation packages to farmers during natural calamities or announce construction of big dams. But the unabated suicides in the past decade have shown that monetary help is not a permanent solution, and most of the dams are still incomplete.
The decision for the change came after 11 bureaucrats visited villages in the two districts and met families of the farmers who had committed suicide. They also spoke to local administration officials to gauge the reasons behind the deaths.
“We found out that in many of these talukas nearly 30-40% of families don’t have bank accounts. The uncertainty of returns in agriculture, high input costs, water availability and overall lack of other employment and education opportunities are a few of the reasons for suicides,” said a senior official, who was one of the 11 visiting the districts.
The official said youngsters are frustrated with the overall unviability of agriculture and this, too, is a trigger for suicides.
As part of its plan, the state is also looking at including farm labourers and marginal farmers in its net. These groups normally don’t receive compensation as they do not own land or may not have documents to show their debt.
Unabated crisis over the decades
* Farmers’ suicides from 1995 to 2011: 53,818
* Farmers suicides from 2009 to 2014: 3,000 annually on an average (according to the National Crime Records Bureau)
* According to the state statistics, the figure from 2001 to 2014 is much less, at 17,645 deaths, or an average of 1,260 farmers annually
# Why the change in approach
* While so far, successive governments in the state have focussed on large-scale schemes for entire regions and announcing of compensation packages after natural disasters, the new policy is trying to zero in on specific families
* The decision for the change was taken after 11 bureaucrats went to visit villages in Yavatmal in Vidarbha and Osmanabad in Marathwada, two of the worst-affected rural regions in the state
* The officials met families of farmers who had committed suicides, and also spoke to local administration officials to gauge the reasons behind the deaths
* The state is looking at including farm labourers and marginal farmers in its net
* These groups normally fall off the compensation net as they don’t own land or may not have papers to show their debts
* Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had earlier asked the state administration to prepare a policy to tackle farmers suicides, which led to this exercise.