Friday, June 18, 2021
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Save the farmers

Maharashtra continues to face the challenge of dealing with rising cases of farmers’ suicide. The agrarian crisis in the arid Marathwada region of Maharashtra is deepening and as many as 93 farmers have reportedly committed suicide since January 1, 2015. Successive droughts, hailstorm in 2014 and faulty agriculture policy are all contributing to the crisis. Other states’ data are mostly updated till October, showing that Maharashtra’s figure till that month would certainly be more as many suicides had been reported from the state after April last year. 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.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis said that improving the irrigation facilities was the only solution to curb farmers’ suicides in the state.

With traditional crops not bringing them suitable price in the market, a large number of farmers have opted for water intensive orchards and perennial crops like sugarcane, grapes and banana. The move came despite Marathwada being an arid region. The orchard farming is capital intensive, and so farmers incur large debts. There is a long waiting period for the yield and sometimes it take years for the investment to payoff.

Crores of rupees for relief packages were announced after successive droughts and hailstorm, but it didn’t always reach the intended beneficiaries or took far too long.

It is a matter of shame for everyone that farmers continue to commit suicides. There is an urgent need to address basic issues like improving irrigation facilities. The Devendra Fadnavis’ government should address these issues as farmers have to undergo huge hardships. Farmers perform hard work in discomfort for our happiness. They stay in rural areas which lack basic amenities. They are the backbone of the nation and the reason for our smiles. Maharashtra state has a lot of revenue, which it is wasting on petty things; same can be used to give them cheap rice at Re. 1 and monthly pension of Rs. 1000. Maharashtra coastal areas get flooded in monsoon whereas Vidarbha and Marathwada faced drought. Water should be utilised from these flooded coastal areas to remote areas of Vidarbha and Marathwada. The national river connection gird will somewhat can help in this cause, the plan which was started by former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, later suspended in 2006 by UPA government, should be restarted again. I hope that the new government acts swiftly in farmers’ interest. At least, 17,368 Indian farmers killed themselves in 2009, the worst figure of farmers’ suicides in six years, according to data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). This is an increase of 1,172 over the 2008 count of 16,196. It brings the total farmers’ suicides since 1997 to 2,16,500. The share of the Big 5 States, or ‘suicide belt’ — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in 2009 remained very high at 10,765, or around 62 per cent of the total, though falling nearly five per cent in points from 2008. Maharashtra remained the worst State for farmers’ suicides for the tenth successive year, reporting 2,872 cases. Though there is a fall in 930 such cases from previous data, it is still 590 more than in Karnataka, second worst, which logged 2,282 farm suicides.

Maharashtra has logged 44,276 farmers’ suicides since 1997, over a fifth of the total 2,16,500. Within the Big 5, Karnataka saw the highest increase of 545 in 2009. Andhra Pradesh recorded 2,414 farm suicides — 309 more than in 2008. Madhya Pradesh (1,395) and Chhattisgarh (1,802) saw smaller increases of 16 and 29. Outside the Big 5, Tamil Nadu doubled its tally with 1,060, against 512 in 2008. In all, 18 of 28 States reported higher farmers’ suicides in 2009. Some, like Jammu and Kashmir or Uttarakhand, saw a negligible rise. Rajasthan, Kerala and Jharkhand saw increases of 55, 76 and 93. Assam and West Bengal saw higher rises of 144 and 295. NCRB farm data now exist for 13 years. In the first seven, 1997-2003, there were 1,13,872 farmers’ suicides, an average of 16,267 a year. In the next six years, 1,02,628 farmers took their lives at an average of 17,105 a year. This means, on average, around 47 farmers or almost one every 30 minutes killed themselves each day between 2004 and 2009.

A record of 120 debt-ridden farmers are reported to have committed suicide in the drought-hit Vidarbha and Marathwada regions of Maharashtra. Sixty seven years of independence and the governments (both central and state) have failed to protect farmers. Farmers’ suicide is a serious problem which Modi and BJP or even Congress and Pawar never understood and will never understand. The issue involves lending to farmers, the price that they get for their hard work besides rain and the supply of standard pesticides and fertilizers. The farmer reels under quite a few of these problems. While Modi goes abroad and speaks about different issues, promoting developments and shining Indian has failed to speak for farmers and also do anything that would alleviate their suffering. It’s a sad state of affairs. I am sure any voter will feel cheated to have such a government which focuses only on the rich and corporates. Government will have to intervene in the farmers’ debt by surveying the farmers and making suitable arrangements to relieve them of their burden of debt. One can’t simply stand to 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. Easy accessible bank loans must be available to farmers on special reduced interest rates and arrangements 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.

Dr. Vaidehi Taman
Dr. Vaidehi is an Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and an Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which she caters for her sister-concern Kaizen-India Infosec Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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