Suicides in Vidarbha, which had started to decline from a peak in 2006, have risen again in the last two years to reach 1,328 in 2015, second only to the 1,449 of 2006. Also significantly, the proportion of suicides linked to agrarian reasons is 65 percent, the highest in the decade.
The 1,328 suicides are a tally that may include farmers as well as non-farmers in the six cotton-growing districts of Wardha, Yvatmal, Amravati, Akola, Washim and Buldana. As per government figures, 859 of the 1,328 were found eligible for government aid of Rs 1 lakh to the family of the deceased. This aid is given when the suicide is found to have been a result of agrarian causes. In addition to the 859 eligible cases, 114 suicides are under investigation while 355 were found ineligible.
From the previous peak of aid-eligible suicides at 39 percent in 2006, the proportion had steadily dropped to 24 percent in 2010 before rising successively to 70 percent in 2014. It implies that the suicides are including a higher and higher proportion of farmers.
The year 2006 was when farmer suicides sent alarm bells ringing in the government. The Centre and the state began stressing relief measures such as the PM’s and the CM’s packages for Vidarbha farmers. The drop began with 150 suicides fewer in 2007 itself and continued until 2013, before rising in two years that were difficult for agriculture.
In absolute numbers, the second highest tally until this year was 1,247 suicides in 2007. The year 2013 registered 805 suicides, a low that represented a drop of 45 per cent since 2006. It rose back to 964 in 2014 and now to 1,328. The rise has been a huge 523 in the last two years.
Among the six districts, Yavatmal alone has recorded 389 suicides, the district’s highest in the past 10 years, exceeding the 360 of 2006. Amravati had 304 suicides, again the highest for the district, above its 283 of 2010. Akola (191), Buldana (189), Washim (109) and Wardha (146) have also seen a substantial rise compared to 2014, though they had even more suicides in various other years over the decade.
Wardha registered the lowest increase since 2014 (134 to 146) and Buldana the highest (111 to 189). Incidentally, Buldana, Washim and Yavatmal share a border with Marathwada, scene of a huge agrarian crisis.