The state health department has registered 1,417 farmer suicides in 14 districts of Marathwada and Vidarbha from October 2015 to June this year. Two surveys since October last year also identified over 1.27 lakh farmers with medical ailments.
The rising cases had prompted the Maharashtra health department to set up Prerana – a mental health scheme in 14 drought affected districts in Marathwada and Vidarbha. Since October last year, two surveys have identified over 1.27 lakh farmers with medical problems.
Dr Manish Renghe, Assistant Director (mental health), Maharashtra told The Indian Express that suicides are multi-factoral and while agrarian crisis was among the many reasons that led farmers to take the extreme step, the Prerana project was mainly set up to identify and treat medical grievances, both physical and psychological, that farmers face.
“This intervention is an ongoing process and the impact can be assessed only after a couple of years. However, we conducted two rounds of surveys and reached out to 42.53 lakh farm households,” Renghe said. The state health department officials said that 1,602 farmer suicides were registered from April to September 2015. When the Prerana project was launched in October, the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers conducted the first survey in October-November 2015 while the second survey was conducted in April-May-June this year.
Eight districts of Marathwada — Aurangabad, Jalna, Latur, Beed, Hingoli, Osmanabad, Nanded and Parbhani — and another six districts in Vidarbha, Akola, Amravati, Washim, Yavatmal, Buldhana and Wardha, were identified for the project. From October 2015 to March-end this year, 1,27 lakh farmers were identified with a host of medical complaints at the outpatient department of rural hospitals, primary health centres and sub-district hospitals of these 14 districts.
The second survey from April to June had new and follow-up patients and a total of 21,090 were identified for medical grievances. At the in-patient department too till March 31 this year, 11,098 farmers were treated while 5,187 were hospitalised from April to June this year.
Diabetes and hypertension were the major ailments farmers faced. From October 2015 to March 31 this year, 64,577 farmers were treated for hypertension, 41,308 for diabetes, 11,312 for alcohol and other addictions, 2,888 for heart ailments, 546 for stroke, 334 for cancer and 503 for renal problems. From April to June this year, both new and follow-up patients included 8,789 farmers treated for hypertension, 4,307 for diabetes, 4,462 for alcohol and other addictions, 382 for heart disease, 134 for stroke, 102 for cancer and 148 for renal problems. A total of 6,243 farmers were identified with anxiety and depression from October 2015 to March-end this year and from April to June both new and follow-up patients included a total of 2,766 farmers.
Those hospitalised for treatment of hypertension included 2,270 farmers from October 2015 to March this year. There were 1,583 farmers treated for diabetes, 676 for heart disease, 247 for stroke, 195 for cancer, 4,407 for dialysis, 841 for depression and 879 for various addictions. From April to June this year, both new and follow-up cases hospitalised included 996 for hypertension, 457 for diabetes, 145 for heart problems, 73 for stroke, 19 for cancer, 2,087 for dialysis, 535 for anxiety and 866 for varying addictions.
Stress related disorders and depression were common among farmers at Pachod town in Aurangabad, Jafrabad city in Jalna, Kalamnuri in Hingoli, Dhamnagar in Amravati, Murud village in Latur, Bhokar town in Nanded, Beed, Malkapur in Buldhana and Umarga in Osmanabad according to the health department data. Farmers were identified for mild, moderate or severe depression based on a patient health questionnaire on a 9 scale that measured the level of anxiety. At the state-run 104 health advice call centre, 18,657 distress calls were made in a year’s span. According to Renghe, 2,526 calls were from farmers.