22 farmer suicides in three weeks

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Nearly two dozen farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra in the past three weeks due to massive loss of crops, a report has claimed.

The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, a farmers’ advocacy group, claims that 22 farmers have ended their lives in three weeks, mostly in the Vidarbha and Marathawada regions. Nine of these deaths took place in just the past three days, after a prolonged and unusual hailstorm destroyed acres of crops, the group says.

The Maharashtra government has not confirmed these grim statistics.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has asked for Rs. 5,000 crore from the Centre but farmers say they don’t expect quick relief; the process involves a report from the state government, followed by a spot assessment by a central team, before any money is sanctioned.

Sources say even this amount may not be enough to compensate for the loss of crop spread over at least 16 lakh hectares.

Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region is often described as ‘suicide country’ with reports of a farmer suicide every eight hours even till two years ago.

Ahead of next month’s general election, the tragic deaths have fueled a political blame-game. The opposition Shiv Sena has alleged that the Congress and NCP, which co-govern Maharashtra and are allies at the Centre, are using the election code of conduct as an excuse for inaction.

“I blame the system. Farmers have no godfathers. Should we talk of rules when people are dying?” said the Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut.

The poll code of conduct bans any political party from making announcements that may influence the voter.

Senior NCP leader and union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said, “I appeal to people that we will find a solution in spite of the Model Code of Conduct. We cannot resolve this in a day. There will be delays. But we will resolve it by talking to other parties.”