Agri Business

Maharashtra winds up pilot project launched to curb farmer suicides

Radheshyam Jadhav | Updated on August 07, 2020 Published on August 07, 2020

A farmer shows his damaged paddy crop following heavy rains, at a village in Karad, Maharashtra   -  KSL

Officials at district, local levels not interested in executing govt schemes for farmers, allege activists

On March 19, 1986, Sahebrao Karpe, a farmer from drought-prone Yavatmal district of Maharashtra committed suicide along with his wife and four children writing a suicide note saying, “ It is impossible to survive as a farmer.”

Thirty-three years after Sahebrao’s suicide, the State government is still groping in the dark to curb farmer suicides in Yavatmal. Admitting that its ambitious pilot project Baliraja Chetana Abhiyan (BCA) launched in 2015 failed to curb farmer suicides in Yavatmal and Osmanabad districts, the government decided to scrap the project. The scheme provided counselling and financial aid to farmers.

“The government reviewed the implementation of the project for the last five years. It was observed that there is no decrease in the number of farmer suicides and the project is not being implemented effectively. Hence, the State government was considering closing the project,” stated the government order on August 5 announcing the closure of the project.

Despite loan waivers, financial support and various schemes, farmer-suicides continue in Maharashtra, with Yavatmal and Osmanabad districts being prominent in this scourge.

Loan waiver is among the popular solutions that political parties hold out for curbing farmer suicides. But data tells a different story. Between 2014-18, Maharashtra saw 14,034 farmers end their lives — that’s eight a day. Of these, over 4,500 committed suicide after the State announced a ₹34,000-crore loan waiver in June 2017.

About 6,268 farmer-suicide cases were registered in Maharashtra from January 2011 to December 2014. During the next four years (2015-18), the number of suicides almost doubled to 11,995.

The State government wrote to the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) in 2015 saying, “The prominent reasons noted for farmer suicides are debt, crop failure, inability to repay debt resulting in pressure from debtors, inability to procure enough money for daughter’s marriage or other religious activities, chronic severe illness, vices like alcohol addiction, gambling, etc”.

Yavatmal-based activist Arvind Borkar says that 100 per cent dependability on agriculture is one of the main reasons for farmer suicides. “In the last few years, natural calamities have repeatedly destroyed crops. Droughts and unseasonal rains are making farming vulnerable. Generations after generations of farmers are stuck in a vicious cycle of debt which affects their personal and family lives,” said Borkar.

Activists also allege that government officials at district and local levels are not interested in executing government schemes for farmers.

Anil Ghanwat, president of Shetkari Sanghatana, said that farmers must be given “freedom” to cultivate and sell their produce. “There are a lot of restrictions on farmers. He is not even able to decide the price for his own produce. Liberating farmers from the clutches of rules is the key to address agrarian distress,” he said.

The Government of India had conducted a study titled ‘Farmer Suicides: An All-India Study’ during 2016-17 to ascertain the reasons for the growing number of farmer-suicide in the country. According to the study, the reasons responsible for farmer-suicides in the country are drug/ alcoholic addiction, illnesses, family issues, gambling, expectation of non-institutional credit, lack of access to expected credit, failure of rains, cyclone, drought, non-realisation of higher output prices, and crop failure, among others.

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Published on August 07, 2020
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