A farmer in his paddy field. (Source: Express photo by Kameswar Rao)
The “all-out” efforts — as repeatedly being claimed by the Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra Government — to reduce the constantly rising suicide rates of distressed farmers in Marathwada seem to be yielding little results. The rate of suicides in Marathwada just does not seem to slow down. In the first month of this year, as many as 89 farmers have ended their lives — a figure which has been constant almost for past one year and described by the Task Force as collective failure of the state government officials.
Of the eight districts of Marathwada, where over 1,100 farmers had committed suicide in 2015, Jalna district recorded the highest 16 deaths while Nanded district is at the second spot with 14 suicides in January this year. Latur and Osmanabad come fourth with 13 deaths each.
Describing the large number of suicides as a collective failure of the government officials, especially the local administration, Kishore Tiwari, who heads the Farmers Distress Management Task Force appointed by the state government, said, “It is clear that the government officials, especially at the local levels, have failed to create confidence among the farmers regarding several government schemes intended to benefit them. The high rate of suicides only highlights the fact that there was a pressing need to double up efforts to reach out to the farmers in nook and corner of Marathwada region,” Tiwari said.
Listing the schemes launched by state and central governments for the benefits of distressed farmers, Tiwari said, “Be it food security plan, crop insurance scheme, health plans, easy availability of loans or counselling sessions, all-out efforts have been made to alleviate the miseries of farmers and prevent them from taking the drastic step. Therefore, it is surprising that suicides still continue to happen. The local administration need to go to the root of the problem to stem the suicides,” he said.
Tiwari, however said, since the farmer benefit schemes have been launched just a few months back, the results relating to reducing the suicides rate will take time to show up. “The current suicide phenomenon could be a fall-out of the ‘accumulating depression’ of years of poor rainfall and crop failure. Therefore, it will take sometime to overcome the problem,” he said.
Divisional Commissioner Umakant Dangat, who looks after eight districts of Marathwada and has been promising that “every efforts is made and all steps are being taken to reduce the farmer suicide rate”, remained unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts.
However, Beed district collector Naval Kishore Ram, who too had been talking about the number of steps taken to reduce farmer suicides, said Beed district has actually seen a reduction of suicides by farmers last month. “Every month, Beed has seen 20 or more suicides. Last year, the collective figure of suicides was close to 300. Therefore, the figure of 11 suicides last month is a substantial reduction and there will be further reduction in coming months,” Ram said.
Ram said,”We are working very hard to reduce the suicides. It is about human lives and we are adopting a different and holistic approach. We are regularly sensitising our officials to make all efforts to remove the most infamous district tag for Beed when it comes to farmer suicides,” he said.
Under the National Agriculture Insurance Scheme, Ram said,”We have distributed as many as Rs 375 crore to three lakh farmers. This amount is for crop failure. Like this, we are making every effort to ensure that maximum government schemes reach the distressed farmers.” Ram said the Beed administration has also taken up the issue of water conservation in every village so that in future water needs of the farmers are taken care of.