Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)

Small loans but big burden

DEEP DESPAIR Fresh data reveals that a loan as low as `10,000 could push a farmer to commit suicide in Maharashtr­a’s cotton-growing Vidarbha region

- HT Correspond­ent letters@hindustant­imes.com

MUMBAI: Just how much debt does it take for a farmer in one of India’s richest states to take the extreme step of killing himself ? A new study on Maharashtr­a’s predominan­tly cotton-growing Vidarbha region reveals it could be as little as `10,000.

Days after fresh data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) revealed that Maharashtr­a has the highest number of suicides by distressed farmers among all states, a new analysis of farmer deaths over the past three years reveals just how deep despair runs in Vidarbha. The analysis by several farmers’ organisati­ons under the banner of a farmers’ collective, the Kisan Mitra, shows farmers were driven into a state of helplessne­ss, often over small loans, especially when they were trapped in a vicious cycle of crop damage and losses.

“In many cases, even a loan as small as `10,000 was enough to push the farmer over the edge. This figure says a lot about how little faith farmers have in the ability and willingnes­s of the state to help them,” said Kisan Mitra director Madhukar Gumble.

The study found that from 2012 to April this year, 3,145 farmers committed suicide in six Vidarbha districts, with nearly one in three saddled with debts ranging between just `10,000 and `15,000. Moreover, one in four farmers driven to suicide was under 30, a grim statistic in a country where 65% of the population is under 35.

“Most youngsters refuse to take up farming but the few who do are immensely aspiration­al and want to make a difference. When they face losses and see the lack of government support, their enthusiasm turns into frustratio­n very quickly,” said Gajanan Kale, a member of Kisan Mitra. While most farmers killed themselves because of debt, the suicides are generally a result of various factors, experts said.

At least 925 farmers took their lives because they felt the government was apathetic to the crisis while 117 farmers were worried crop failure would affect the marriage prospects of their daughters and 296 were ill when they committed suicide.

Less than 10% blamed factors such as drought, excess rainfall and hailstorms. According to the NCRB, most farmers who committed suicide in 2014 were from Maharashtr­a. Of the 5,650 farmers who ended their lives across the country, 2,568 were from the state followed by Telangana, with 898 suicides, and Madhya Pradesh, with 826.



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