Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Farmers commit suicide, Govt busy celebrating Maharashtra Day-BHASKAR

Farmers commit suicide, Govt busy celebrating Maharashtra Day-BHASKAR

Mumbai: On one hand, where the government is busy celebrating the Maharashtra Day, few miles away from the city, it was state of mourning for the Vidarbha farmers. In the last 24 hours, a total of five debt-laden farmers reportedly laid down their lives awaiting relief aid from the government. The farmers, who committed suicide in the Vidarbha region, also included a woman.

The failure of monsoons leading to series of droughts, lack of better prices, exploitation by middlemen and government hollow promises have taken the toll to 332 in the state in 2012.

According to Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), a farmer advocacy group, Ramdas Dhale of village Chincholi in Yavatmal district committed suicide early Tuesday. He was a cotton farmer who was in debt trap of around Rs 3 lakh.

"In the last 48 hours, four other farmers also committed suicide after they could not repay their debt. Their names are Ajabrao Meshram of Shivani and Ramnna Pedkulwar of Aril in Yavatmal, Parvatibai Kadel of Poharadevi in Washim, and Shriram Kakad of Sategaon in Amaravati," VJAS President Kishor Tiwari said on Tuesday.

"The total number of suicides by farmers has reached 332 in the past four months," he said.

He said like thousands of other farmers, the five farmers were waiting for relief aid declared in December 2011 by Maharashtra Chief Minister but hadn't received anything till date.

"Not much is being done to help farmers or prevent their suicides despite visits by several committees and political leaders, including Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi," Tiwari said.

According to VJAS, Maharashtra Agriculture Minister Balasaheb Vikhe Patil had officially admitted that standing crop on nearly 90 lakhs hectares were damaged due to poor monsoon and a dry spell in September, including 40 lakh hectares of the cotton crop.

"The government then went on to declare a relief amount of Rs 2,000 crore and cotton growers were assured minimum Rs 8,000 relief aid per family. However, they haven't received anything till date and it has resulted in this fresh spurt of suicides," VJAS said.

Moreover, cost of cultivation has jumped to almost double, not to mention lack of proper irrigation facilities for rain sensitive BT cotton crop, the VJAS added.

It adds that the state administration has not even prepared list of farmers who suffered crop failure.

Contrary to this, the state agriculture minister said the number of farmer suicides has been decreasing and Rs 1,300 crore of the sanctioned Rs 2,000 crore has already been disbursed.

Last week, in Yavatmal district, another farmer committed suicide by drinking pesticide. In his alleged suicide note, he asked co-farmers not to vote for the Congress and the NCP accusing them of failing to bring relief to distressed farmers.

The state government has failed miserably in implementing the prime minister’s special package for Vidarbha to improve irrigation in the region and stop farmer suicides.

In July 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced a package of Rs 3,750 crore, including writing off Rs 712 crore overdue interest on loans. The package, meant primarily for the six districts, included rescheduling of Rs 1,296 crore agricultural credit over 3-5 years. A moratorium of one year was granted as well.

The Maharashtra government did start several irrigation projects, but most of those are still to be completed.

With the contradicting stand of the government, the plea of debt-ridden farmers seems to have been falling on deaf ears.


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