Around 900 farmer suicides were reported in the eight districts of Marathwada region between January and October this year. During the same period last year, 700 farmer suicides were reported, according to officials at the Aurangabad divisional commissionerate.
Compare this with 2013 and 2014, when a total of 600 suicides were reported in Marathwada. And between 2006 and 2012, less than 400 farmer suicides were reported on a yearly basis. The year 2015 recorded the highest number of farmer suicides — 1,133 from January to December — in 10 years.
Marathwada has been in the grip of severe drought in the last four years — two during the Congress-NCP regime and two during the BJP-Sena-RPI government. A year ago, the state government picked Osmanabad — which has seen several suicides — to implement a “zero-suicide district” plan.
Since the plan was set in motion, the number of suicides in Osmanabad has in fact gone up — from 136 between August 2014 and August 2015 to 172 between August 2015 and August 2016. “They spoke about zero suicides and look what shocking figures have emerged in Osmanabad. It is a telling commentary on the Devendra Fadnavis government’s failure to save the lives of farmers,” said Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant.
Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said, “The Fadnavis government only makes tall claims. If more than 1,000 farmer suicides have taken place in two years in Marathwada, it shows the complete failure of the government in taking care of the farmers,” he said.
The Fadnavis government maintained that it had put in place several plans to check farmer suicides, but a turnaround would take time.
According to Beed district collector Naval Kishore Ram, the plans being implemented include offering rice and wheat at Rs 2/kg and Rs 3/kg to farmer families, critical health care benefits, crop insurance, counselling and guidance. “Surgeries for critical ailments like heart and kidney problem are being performed free of cost in government hospitals and empanelled private hospitals,” he added.
Osmanabad district collector Prashant Narnavare said they had undertaken mass counselling and guidance programmes for farmers. “This is being done through expert doctors. First we identify farmers who are mentally disturbed due to various reasons. We call them for counselling with experts,” he said.
Farmer suicides are not just due to crop failure or mounting debts, Ram added. “There are several factors behind their suicide. It could be family pressure or illness,” he said.