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Rs47 crore later, Maharashtra government may scrap pilot scheme for distressed farmers

It has come to light that the number of suicides have been rising in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal and Osmanabad districts despite intervention

mumbai Updated: Jan 29, 2018 00:13 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Surendra P Gangan
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra government,Yavatmal,Osmanabad
The scheme called ‘Baliraja Chetna Abhiyan’ was to be rolled out in all the districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada if it had been successful in Yavatmal and Osmanabad.(HT File)

The state government’s recent pilot project, which aimed to reach out to distressed farmers by offering counselling and monetary compensation to bring down the suicide rate seems to have come to a nought.

After spending Rs47 crore in the past three years out of the allocated Rs60 crore in the two worse-affected districts — Yavatmal and Osmanabad — the state government is mulling scrapping this initiative launched in 2015. The scheme called ‘Baliraja Chetna Abhiyan’ was to be rolled out in all the districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada if it had been successful in these two districts.

So what prompted the government to go back on this much-publicised scheme ?

It has come to light that the number of suicides have been rising in these two districts despite intervention through the scheme in the past three years. The state government has now asked the Directorate of Economics and Statistics (DES) to review the scheme and submit its report, based on which the decision of budgetary allocation for the next fiscal year will be taken.

The DES is in the process of appointing agencies to study the socio-economic impact of the scheme in the districts.

The relief and rehabilitation department is of the opinion that there was no point in continuing the initiative because it had failed to achieve the results. In Yavatmal, 386 committed suicide in 2015, 272 in 2016 as against 238, 231 and 266 suicides in 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively. Similarly, in Osmanabad, there were 164 and 161 suicides in 2015 and 2016 against 22 (2012), 29 (2013) and 71 (2014) suicides in earlier years.

“It is proven that the initiative has failed to achieve the expected results after spending a lot of money on the two districts. We will have to do a rethink based on the result,” said an official from the relief and rehabilitation department.

However, district level officials believe the scheme has been effective to a large degree. For the first time, the state had adopted a personal and integrated approach to curbing suicides by offering counselling to identified distressed farmers families, awareness drives in villages through folk music and kirtans, monetary assistance of Rs5,000 to repay loan, assistance with education costs and weddings of their children, etc. Committees were set up at the village- and district-level to reach out and identify distressed families.

“We have been able to reduce the number of suicides compared to rest of the districts in the past two years. We also conducted an independent survey by Tata Institute of Social Studies (TISS) with a sample from 10% of the beneficiaries of this scheme. It suggested we upscale the scheme as the results are positive. We are now concentrating on families of the 700 farmers that committed suicides in the past six years. The government may conduct an independent review, but we are sure that it will continue the scheme,’’ said R V Game, Osmanabad collector.

Yavatmal collector Rajesh Deshmukh also said with the help of the scheme, the district collectorate has brought a positive impact on the lives of the farmers. “We have successfully increased the cover under irrigation by funding farm ponds and wells in the past two years. This has enabled farmers to take additional crops and rise their income. We have reduced the suicide figures,” he claimed.

First Published: Jan 29, 2018 00:13 IST