Maharashtra claims drop in farm suicides, experts say too soon to rejoice
In April, there were 188 cases of farmer suicides — lower than the monthly average of 225 to 250 in the first three months of this year, the relief and rehabilitation department’s statistics showedUpdated: May 25, 2018 01:10 IST
Fewer farmers in Maharashtra committed suicide in April, compared to the first three months of 2018, numbers released by the state government showed. While the state claimed it was a possible effect of its decision to waive farm loans, agricultural experts warned that the drop could be temporary and the government should not start patting its back yet.
In April, there were 188 cases of farmer suicides — lower than the monthly average of 225 to 250 in the first three months of this year, the relief and rehabilitation department’s statistics showed.
The department said the trend was seen across the state, but was more significant in parts of Marathwada and Vidarbha.
“We have credited more than Rs14,000 crore in the accounts of more than 36 lakh farmers in the past few months,” said an official from the agriculture department who did not want to be named. The official said that over the past few days, the government’s lists of beneficiaries were put up in offices of gram panchayats, as many farmers had not been aware about the money being credited in their accounts. “Close to three lakh new farmers were added to the benefits scheme after we recently widened the scope of the loan waiver. This helped build a positive sentiment among farmers,” the officer said.
Farm experts, however, are sceptical of the number and of whether the fewer suicides were an effect of the loan waiver.
“I don’t think farmers’ distress has reduced,” said Vijay Jawandhiya, an agriculture analyst. “If the government claims a drop in suicides, it may be statistical jugglery. Agricultural finances have worsened in the wake of falling prices to produce such as tur, chana and cotton, among others.”
Jawandhiya said there were also complaints that the government machinery was attempting to suppress cases of suicides by not reporting them.
Local authorities, however, maintained the data was good news. Osmanabad collector RV Game said, “Generally, distress among farmers goes up in April and May as water scarcity increases, while it is also wedding and school admission season. But the convergence of various government schemes and our efforts to provide a support system has helped us improve the situation.”
Yavatmal collector Rajesh Deshmukh said the loan waiver possibly proved to be a great respite. Official government data showed there were 3,062 suicides in 2015, 3,228 in 2016, and in 2017, 2,917 farmers killed themselves.