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Debt toll up in cotton belt

Maharashtra?s valley of death is on the boil. Try as it may, the state just cannot stem the tide of green agony, writes Pradip Kumar Maitra.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2006 02:30 IST

Maharashtra’s valley of death is on the boil. Try as it may, the state just cannot stem the tide of green agony. The burden of debt seems insurmountable. Minister Anil Deshmukh virtually had nowhere to hide when villagers stormed the venue of his meeting on Thursday evening with the body of a farmer — another crop failure victim.

Namdeo Mahalle, a 40-year-old farmer from Nagpur’s Khandala area, committed suicide on Thursday, adding to the debt death-count. Consecutive drought for the past three years coupled with heavy borrowing from private moneylenders drove him to the edge. When the villagers came to know that the minister was in Narkhed, they picketed the panchayat samiti office with Namdeo’s body. The cornered minister tried to pacify the crowd, but to no avail. Deshmukh represents the Narkhed assembly segment.

The death trail does not end here. The same evening, another farmer from Nandni village ended his life by consuming poison. Owner of a six-acre plot, the tiller was unable to repay his debt. Over the past 24 hours, two more farmer suicides were reported from Yavatmal district.

Sixty-nine-year-old Shyamsunder Pawar, a cotton grower from Baradtanda-Pardhibeda village succumbed to the debt burden. On Wednesday, another farmer Kisan Rathod jumped into a well to escape a failed crop and the debt cycle.

Suicides in the region peaked between December and February with an average of two a day. It’s still on. And political and social activists are at a loss. Despite a financial package of Rs 1,075 crore, the government has not been able to contain the curse.

Delhi is worried. Responding to a letter by Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Janandolan Samit, President A.P.J Abdul Kalam has directed the Maharashtra government to take necessary steps.

First Published: Mar 04, 2006 02:30 IST