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Death track door-to-door

Hundreds of farm deaths later, here is another lip-service to the cause by the Maharashtra government.

india Updated: May 20, 2006 03:00 IST

Hundreds of farm deaths later, here is another lip-service to the cause by the Maharashtra government. The administration is on a door-to-door survey to ascertain the reasons behind the suicides on the cursed cotton fields of Vidarbha despite the implementation of a special Rs 1,075-crore package.

The death count is alarming. In the current kharif season, more than 550 farmers — mostly cotton growers — have chosen the easy way from the vicious cycle of debt and crop failure. Death. Micro-level statistics reveal that on an average, at least three farmers have committed suicide in the region everyday. The factors are multiple — crippling debts, pressure from private and unscrupulous money lenders, high interest rates, soaring input costs, low output prices and corporate seeds supplied by MNCs, which perish faster than the home-grown variety.

The state government, caught red in the face, is pushing the agenda further. It is trying to blend fact-finding with awareness. On the cards are street theatre troupes that will perform “morality skits” in the affected villages. The message: Don’t kill yourself. Be brave in the face of adversity.

But the administration is on shaky ground. Talking to the Hindustan Times, S.K. Goel, divisional commissioner of Amravati, admitted that despite a slew of measures, the administration has not been able to stem the tide of death.

“We have told government employees of different departments in the division to go to the villages and hold weekly meetings. Interact with them and try to find out their problems,” he said. The paperwork is ready. A proforma will list details about a particular farmer so that it becomes a kind of a ready reckoner. The heads include: total land, loans from banks; private money lenders and a family and health dossier. The crew is essentially ground-level. Gram sevaks, revenue department, animal husbandry and dairy development wing staff, health workers and other government employees will be on the job.

Goel said, “We have received at least three different survey reports, carried out by reputed social institutes. Surprisingly, each one contradicts the other. The door-to-door survey will be a comprehensive study on the issue and help us work out corrective measures.”

First Published: May 20, 2006 03:00 IST