As many as 12,021 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra from 2015 to 2018 for reasons that included bank loans and crop failure, averaging eight deaths a day. This number is over double that of the preceding four-year period from January 2011 to December 2014, when 6,268 farmers killed themselves.
The figures were provided by Maharashtra Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Subhash Deshmukh while responding to a starred question tabled in the state legislative assembly. Only 6,888 of the 12,021 cases – around 57% — were found eligible for ex-gratia financial assistance of up to Rs 1 lakh from the government, he said.
The issue of farmer suicides gains significance at a time when the BJP government is hoping to come back to power in the state later this year. Farmers have taken out marches to Mumbai on several occasions over the last four years in attempts to highlight their plight.
Despite government assurances, the spate of farmer suicides in Maharashtra shows no signs of abating. According to data provided by Mr Deshmukh, as many as 610 farmers committed suicide in the three-month period extending from January to March this year.
Experts have blamed alleged failure of government schemes for the growing farm distress in the state. Although the state administration claims to have spent Rs 8,946 crore on the Jalyukt Shivar – its flagship water conservation scheme – and completed work in 18,649 villages, water levels in the state have dipped to an alarming 6.11 per cent. The government’s promise of bringing about a “tanker-free Maharashtra” by 2019 does not seem to have been fulfilled either, given that 6,905 tankers were used for providing water to drought-hit areas in the state until June 15 this year. The figure for the same period last year was 1,801.
According to experts, the government’s loan waiver scheme doesn’t seem to have succeeded in arresting the number of farmer suicides. As many as 4,500 of the 12,021 suicide cases occurred after the scheme was rolled out in June 2017, data tabled in the state assembly testified.
Incidentally, a 52-year-old farmer from Washim was detained by Mumbai police on Friday after he allegedly complained to mediapersons about a loan waiver certificate that was not being honoured by bank officials. He had come to the Maharashtra capital to meet state opposition leader Dhananjay Munde when the incident occurred.
The BJP is set to fight the Maharashtra assembly polls in alliance with the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena. They had scored a resounding victory in the recent Lok Sabha elections despite perceived resentment among farmers, bagging 41 of the state’s 48 seats.