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2,414 farmers commit suicide in Maharashtra from Jan to Oct; no dip despite loan waivers

As many as 1,254 farmers have ended their lives since the state government announced its farmer loan waiver scheme on June 1

mumbai Updated: Nov 17, 2017 10:22 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Surendra P Gangan
Hindustan Times
Mumbai news,Maharashtra,farm loan waiver
In October alone, 248 farmers killed themselves across the state. (HT file photo for representation)

Five months after the state government announced a loan waiver and weeks after it actually began disbursement, there has been no drop in the number of farmer suicides. As many as 1,254 farmers ended their lives since the Rs34,000 crore waiver was announced on June 1 this year, taking the total number of deaths to 2,414 until October 31, according to official figures.

Eleven districts in Vidarbha have the dubious distinction of reporting the highest number of suicides — 1,133 in 10 months to be precise. Eight districts of Marathwada (central Maharashtra) follow with 789 suicides until October 31. In October alone, 248 farmers killed themselves across the state.

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a loan waiver on June 1 after statewide agitations by farmers’ outfits and Opposition parties. On June 24, the CM announced the quantum of the benefits, while the disbursement began during Diwali this year. Despite this, around 240 farmers commit suicide every month on an average and at least eight suicides are reported every day. Last year, an average of 250 suicides were reported in a month. The state had witnessed the highest number of suicides in 2015 at 3,228, although the number slightly dipped to 3,063 the next year. In 2017, there is no sign of a dip.

The figures issued by the relief and rehabilitation department of the state government show that 1,254 famers ended their lives in the five months since the loan waiver was announced. Before the announcement, 1,160 farmers had committed suicides in the first five months of the year (January to May).

The figures indicate just how the grave agrarian crisis is in the state and measures such as loan waivers are proving to be woefully inadequate to stop the spate of suicides. Farmers seem to be stuck in a vicious circle of limited income with high input costs, damage to crops owing to natural calamities such as scarce or heavy rain or hailstorm and a system that does not get them an adequate price for their crops. To make matters worse, a majority of farmers do not have any supplementary income to take care of their daily expenditure in case the crop fails. The Fadnavis government announced an ambitious loan waiver to help the indebted farmers. However, some agriculture experts also said its failure to disburse the loan five months after the announcement led to a rise in the number of suicides. “It is cruel to keep farmers on a tenterhook for so long. Farmers today are not sure whether they will get the benefits of waiver; if getting them, to what extend and if not then what are the reasons? This has led to unrest among them. I hope the number falls once the amount gets credited to their accounts as was witnessed in the 2008-09 loan waiver,” said farm expert Chandrakant Wankhede.

The state government has been implementing pilot projects in Osmanabad and Yavatmal with the allocation of the Rs500 crore each for schemes to reduce suicides. Under these projects, the government has been promoting ancillary businesses such as goat farming and sericulture (silk farming) to empower farmers with an assured income.

“It is a social evil that needs to be addressed with common consensus by all political parties, without indulging in the blame games. We have announced the loan waiver and farmers should rest assured disbursement will be credited into their account in the next few days,” Pandurang Fundkar, agriculture minister told HT.

First Published: Nov 16, 2017 14:01 IST