Only 25 per cent of the farmer suicides in Maharashtra so far this year were because of reasons related to farming, data released by the union agriculture ministry indicates.
In a reply given in the Rajya Sabha to NCP MP D P Tripathi, the agriculture ministry has claimed that 725 farmers committed suicide in the state between January and October this year due to purely agrarian reasons.
Activists say there have been close to 2,800 farmer suicides this year. “As per records available with the state, there have been nearly 2,800 suicides committed by farmers this year. The state has, however, found that only 725 of these were due to purely agrarian reasons. Most of the other suicides have taken place either due to poverty or other causes,” farm activist Kishore Tiwari said.
Tiwari had been roped in by the state government to head a mission to reduce farm distress and arrest the trend of suicides in 14 districts of the state.
As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the total number of suicides by farmers in Maharashtra in 2014 was 2,568.
Suicide by farmers are listed under various causes, including bankruptcy or indebtedness, farming related issues like failure of crops, distress due to natural calamities, inability to sell produce, poverty, family problems and illness. The reasons behind suicides are checked by local officials and listed. Earlier this month, the Bombay High Court had asked the state government to take the issue of farmer suicides seriously while observing that farming was considered an activity of pride in Maharashtra. The court referred to several letters it had received from farmers which stated how indebtedness led to suicides. “This needs to be addressed,” the court had said.
In the wake of rising cases of farmer suicides, the Maharashtra government has decided to launch a mental health scheme aimed at bringing down the number of deaths due to the agrarian crisis. Under the plan, the government wants to create mental health wings in nine districts and five sub-district hospitals in the state. It envisages roping in accredited social health activists (ASHA) and community health workers in efforts to reduce suicides by farmers.