Hindustan Times (Lucknow)

Contrary to state claim, farmer deaths spike; Marathwada on top

- Surendra P Gangan


Farmer suicides in drought-hit Marathwada region have seen a sharp rise in the first three months of the year, with fatalities surpassing those in the neighbouri­ng Vidarbha district. Contrary to the state government’s claims, there has also been no sign of farmer suicides reducing across the state.

According to figures from the relief and rehabilita­tion department, 273 farmer suicides were reported from Marathwada in the first three months of 2016, 59 more deaths compared to last year. Vidarbha, on the other hand, has reported 264 suicides from January to March as against 333 during the same period last year.

In Maharashtr­a, 657 farmers killed themselves from January to March this year while during the same period in 2015, 645 farmers had committed suicide. The total number of farmer fatalities last year was 3,228.

According to experts and officials involved in droughtrel­ief operations, farmers in Marathwada are suffering owing to deficient monsoon three years in a row.

The state government, however, claims the number of suicides in the past three months has reduced. Revenue minister Eknath Khadse had informed the legislativ­e Assembly during the budget session that various surveys had proved that the suicide rate in districts such as Yeotmal and Osmanabad had reduced. Last week, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis too had said the reduced rate of suicides was the result of efficiency shown by government staff.

Vijay Jawambhia, agricultur­e expert, said, “Whatever the government claim is, the fact remains that the situation of farmers has worsened. With rising debt, farmers are worried about how they will raise money for next year’s seeds, even if it rains better this year.”

A senior official from the relief and rehabilita­tion department admitted that the government would have to pay more attention to the issue, especially in Marathwada. “We have launched two pilot projects in two Vidarbha districts to reduce the suicides and we have got positive outcome. We will now have to concentrat­e on Beed, Latur and Osmanabad – the three worst-hit districts,” he said.

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