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Farmer Suicides on the Rise, Government Policies Not Helping the Distressed

The total number of farm suicides in the ten-month span between January and October this year marked only a 7% dip than 2016.
Farmer Suicides

Image Courtesy: Catch News

As many as 1,254 farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra between June and October, after the sudden ‘implementation’ of restructured loan waiver scheme, an official data shows.

More than half of these cases, 691 farm suicides, were reported from the Vidarbha region of the state which had recently witnessed the pesticide-related fatalities among the farming community.

The total number of farm suicides in the ten-month span between January and October this year marked only a 7% dip than 2016. 2,604 cases had been reported in the initial ten months of 2016, while in the same time period, 2017 witnessed 2,414 cases of farm suicides.

However, Maharashtra governments’ policies, loan waiver schemes, do not do much for the distressed farmers. The government had introduced a revised loan waiver scheme in June this year as the result of farmers’ movements and struggles. Restructuring the previous loan waiver package of 2007-08, the government introduced a loan waiver scheme named as ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Krishi Sanman Yojana’ (CSMKSY).

Under the CSMKS scheme, "farmers who have availed crop loan or term loan after April 1, 2009, and have defaulted on such loans as on June 30, 2016, on certain criteria would be given loan waiver of a maximum of Rs. 1.50 lakhs. If the amount of default is more than Rs. 1.50 lakhs, the said farmer would be required to deposit the entire beneficiary share of such default amount in the bank and only then the farmer will receive Rs. 1.50 lakhs from the Govt.”

Until September 22, 2017, 56,59,187 loan waiver applications, which satisfied the terms and conditions of the government, were received under the CSMKSY scheme. But figures show that only a small section of farmers are entitled to loan waivers, with a large number of accounts still left to be verified.

Consider the case of cotton growing Amravati division where 907 farmer suicides were seen between January and September, compared to the 892 in 2016. As per the data, 6,104 farmers from Yuvatmal Panchayath in Yuvatmal district which comes under Amravati division had applied for the loan waiver under the CSMKSY scheme. But only 35 farmers have benefitted from the scheme so far. Yuvatmal district is one of the most vulnerable districts in country’s suicide map.

There is not much difference in availing the benefits for the farmers in Western Maharashtra, which has reported 80 cases during this period, compared to 68 in 2016, and Vidarbha regions. Vidarbha has witnessed 1,133 cases of farmer suicides between January and October, almost on a par with 1,203 during this span last year.

Meanwhile, the state government believes that the loan waiver will not bring down the number of farmer suicides.

Along with the negligence of the state government, the farmers face low agricultural prices, an issue which the government has not addressed yet.

Mentioning the low agricultural price, Ajit Navale of All India Kisan Sabha said that the prices for agricultural products have dropped compared to last year.

“Last year the market price for a quintal of cotton was Rs 5,400. This year, it is Rs 3,400. The government has announced a minimum support price of Rs 4,320 but barely anything is being procured," he said.

“The crash in soybean prices and the slow pace of government procurement is another looming crisis. This Kharif season, 31 lakh tons of soybean has been produced, but the government plans to procure very little of this”, he added.

The soybean farmers are forced to sell their products at prices that fetch Rs 1,600 to Rs 2,200 per quintal as against the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 3,050. A recent report from Maharashtra shows that it has only procured around 9,000 quintals of soybean till the first week of November against the target of 10 lakh quintals. The estimated production of soybean this season is 35.74 lakh tonnes. The farmers are being compelled to bear losses by selling their produces at prices much lower than the MSP. And though the farmers have been demanding the implementation of buying the produces at their MSP, it still exists only on papers.

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