A record of 120 debt-ridden farmers has been reported to have committed suicide in last month in the drought-hit Vidarbha and Marathwada regions of Maharashtra. After 66 years of Independence, both governments either at the centre or in the state have failed to protect farmers. Farmers’ suicide is a serious problem which none of the governments –NDA or UPA –have understood and will never understand. The issue involves right from problems in lending money to the supply of standard pesticides and fertilizers. Actually, no one wants to understand farmers’ problems, but they want to fill their own wallets. They politicise the issue for their own benefit. PM Narendra Modi goes abroad and speaks about different issues where he promotes development and shining India, but he has failed to speak about farmers and issues related to them. Really, it is a sad state of affairs. I am sure that voters are feeling cheated to have such a government which focuses only on the rich and corporates. Government have to intervene in the farmers’ debt issue by surveying the farmers and making suitable arrangements to relieve them of their burden of debt. One cannot simply witness mass suicides of hardworking innocent people facing financial ruin and hopelessness. It has to be a part of the welfare system of the country. Easily accessible bank loans must be available to farmers on special reduced interest rates and arrangements should be there to extend payments time, if an unforeseen circumstance develops for any individual farmer. There can also be a philanthropic trust fund by contributions from benevolent people, to come to aid of farmers in financial distress.
Central government should form a small group of ministers, officers with planning skills and psychologists. This group should hold meetings at various rural locations inviting farmers who may be facing financial problems and are of fragile mental constitution. The invitees may be offered free travel and accommodation. There should be a national outreach to help farmers in difficulties with appropriate planning, financing, insurance, and above all psychotherapy. Last year, hailstorms have affected 28 of the 35 districts, destroying crop on over 19 lakh hectares and leaving farmers on the brink. The rabi wheat, jowar and sugarcane have been damaged, and fruit crops including pomegranate, mango, orange and grapes affected. The unremitting wave of farmer suicides continued in Maharashtra’s rain-shadow regions of Marathwada and Vidarbha with four more farmers taking their lives in less than 48 hours, belying feeble government promises of quick succour to afflicted farmers across more than 19,000 villages in the State.
Appallingly, three of these suicides took place in Latur district in Marathwada in less than 24 hours. 50-year-old Balu Mamade of Umarga village in Latur, who owned six acres, hanged himself after not being able to pay off debts to banks and moneylenders amounting to Rs. 1 lakh. He was further driven by the anxiety to marry off his three daughters. Less than 50 km away, Bhairavnath Deshmukh of Kanadi-Borgaon village in Nilanga took his life after his five-acre farm returned a poor yield. Govind Kamble (48), a small farmer in the same taluka, hanged himself as he owed a debt of more than Rs. 2 lakh to the local moneylender. In Beed district, Bhagwan Nipate, another marginal farmer steeped in debt, took his life by consuming poison, said locals.
The Bharatiya Janata Party in the state, which has sought a Rs. 4,500 crore drought-relief package from the Centre, has exhorted farmers to desist from suicide. The suicide toll has gone up to nine in less than a week. Changing weather patterns in the region, that has triggered a vicious cycle of poor crop yield and mounting indebtedness, has led to more than 240 farmers taking their lives in six districts in Marathwada alone. In the past 24 hours alone, around two dozen farm folks have committed suicide, according to available figures. Maximum deaths have been reported of farmers cultivating cotton and soyabean besides other cash crops and fruits – raised in over five million hectares – which have been destroyed in the drought.
Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti president Kishore Tiwari reiterated the long-pending demands for total farm loans waiver, food and health security for the farm folk, education and other social aid for the farm widows and orphans. Maharashtra continues to face the challenge of dealing with rising cases of farmers’ suicide. The suicide figure for the state between May and October is, however, not available with the Centre. Though the government remained silent over the exact reasons which might have forced farmers to take such drastic steps, it indicated the possibility of “agriculture indebtedness” being the primary factor behind such suicides.
The newly elected government should attend to this and make the life of a farmer the best as they toil and moil for the people’s happiness in their discomforts and hardships by staying in remote rural areas and not enjoying many things. Their sacrifice is a reason for our happiness and they are the backbone of the nation. Give them one rupee kilo rice and Rs.1000 as monthly pension. Maharastra has a lot of revenue. Maharashtra’s coastal areas got flooded in monsoon and areas like Vidarbha and Marathwada faced drought. This flood water should be utilised for drought areas through the national river connection gird scheme. I hope the new BJP government will acts swiftly to protect our ‘Annadaata’ Kisan.