More vidarbha farmer deaths feared as authorities get tough
Published Date: November 23, 2010
|Debt-ridden farmers meet in village Hiwara where power connection is snapped following their failure to pay up the outstanding tariff|
Church and social activists fear more debt-ridden farmers will take their own lives in western India after the government begins to forcefully recover loans and cut power supply.
“If the government action continues there would be more suicides,” warns Father Francis Dabre, who coordinates the Catholic Church’s social works in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra state.
As many as 667 debt-trapped farmers have committed suicide in the region since January this year following crops failure.
Father Dabre says the power disconnection and forceful recovery of loans have further shattered the farmers’ attempt to rebuild their lives. The government action, he asserted, have violated the farmers’ fundamental rights.
“It is the government’s duty to ensure its citizens lead a dignified life,” the Catholic priest told ucanews.com on Nov. 22.
Kishore Tiwari, who heads the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (forum for Vidarbha people’s struggle), says the government agencies do not care about poor people.
He told ucanews.com on Nov. 21 that he has consistently taken up the issue with appropriate government forums but nothing has happened.
Meanwhile, some banks have started seizing loan defaulters’ tractors and other movable property, Tiwari said.
Starvation deaths and suicide face some 150,000 farmers after the electricity department cut their power supply, he said Another 370,000 farmers could face a similar fate.
Ramesh Sankneniwar, a farmer from Hiwara, a village in Yavatmal district that reported the largest number of farmer suicides, said crops had failed after the “sudden power supply disconnection.”
The father of three said his eight acre farm had a thriving Bt Cotton crop a month ago, but the plants died as he could not water them.
“We pleaded with the government not to disconnect our power when the crops required water the most, but to no avail,” he said.
Sankneniwar had taken 300,000-rupee (US$6,820) bank loan mortgaging his property. “Failure to return the loan will lead to confiscation or auction the property,” he said.
Suresh Bolenwar, from the same village, says some farmers see no option but to end their lives if the government does not come to their rescue.