A sugarcane farmer in Maharashtra’s Beed district committed suicide on Wednesday after his standing crop wasn’t taken to the mill for crushing due to the bumper production this year.
Namdev Jadhav (35), who belonged to Hingangaon village, under Georai tehsil, first burnt the crop and then hanged himself using a rope from a neem tree in his field, the police said. He used to grow sugarcane on one out of three acres he owned.
The suicide is a shocking development as sugarcane growers in the state are considered to be comparatively well-off. According to state government data, 2021-22 has been the most productive year for sugarcane in recent times. A total of 1,290 lakh tonnes of cane has been crushed in this season as of May 10. Another 23 lakh tonnes produced largely in Beed, Jalana and Osmanabad districts in the Marathwada region, remain to be crushed.
There are several reasons for not crushing the remaining crop with the state government’s mismanagement being the biggest factor. The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) had appealed to the state government to ensure that all the produce is transported to mills. “We had asked the state government to start all the mills in full capacity so that no farmer is left behind. But it failed to ensure it,” Maharashtra AIKS general secretary Ajit Navale told Newsclick.
Farmers in the Marathwada region opted for the cash-rich crop with good monsoons in 2019-20 and 2020-21 after successive droughts in 15 years. From 5,90,000 hectares last year, the area under sugarcane cultivation increased to 6,77,000 this year. The mainly leftover cane is in Marathwada’s districts.
Another reason for the problem is the ‘red zone notices’ issued to many mills. Mills which had failed to clear the government-declared basic fair and remunerative price (FRP) due to farmers in the last season were in the red zone. Mills are legally bound to pay FRP to farmers. The decision delayed the crushing season, which is now having adverse effects.
Ten days back, Union minister of road and transport Nitin Gadkari warned at a public function in Marathwada’s Latur city that sugarcane farmers will commit suicide if the situation continues.
Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar has appealed to farmers to not take such extreme steps. “The state government is with farmers. All the cane will be sent for crushing. The sugar corporation is managing things at the micro-level,” he recently said.
As monsoon in the state is expected around May 21, mills are rushing against time to crush sugarcane. Almost 15 mills will have to function till June 10 to crush the remaining produce. Others will likely end the season around month-end.