As many as 50 farmers from Maharashtra’s drought-hit Marathwada region have committed suicide in the first three weeks of this month, official figures from the state government have revealed. This comes at a time when the Bombay High Court, following a report in The Indian Express, has sought details from the state government regarding 89 farmer suicides in January over crop failure.
With 50 farmer suicides in February so far, this year’s toll has climbed to 139. Officials have said farmers are taking the extreme step after failing to pay off debts due to recurrent crop failures. Last year, over 1,100 farmers from Marathwada region had committed suicide over crop failure.
Beed, Osmanabad and Nanded districts, which accounted for most farmer suicides last year, have seen 65 farmer suicides so far in 2016—almost half the total toll. This, despite officials’ claims that all efforts are being made to arrest the suicides.
Osmanabad, where the state government has launched the zero-suicide plan, has seen 20 farmer suicides in the past three weeks. District Collector Prashant Narnaware conceded that their efforts are not yielding desired results. “I am sad that despite all our efforts, the suicides continue. We believe this is a fallout of four years of drought,” Narnaware told The Indian Express.
District officials said they are struggling to provide drinking water to the district’s 16 lakh population. “Of the 636 villages, nearly 3,500 wells in 125 villages have gone dry,” said Narnaware.
Officials said that of the over 20,000 wells in the district, only 10 per cent have “some” water which is being distributed through tankers to other parts of the district.
Osmanabad, which falls in a rain shadow region, has no major river flowing through it and no big dam.
With the district struggling to provide people with drinking water, agriculture has come to a complete standstill. “Where will we find water for agriculture purpose?,” asked senior district officials.