Despite the Maharashtra government’s farm loan waiver scheme to “settle” the agrarian debts of farmers, the number of farmers committing suicide in the state continues to rise. The state has witnessed a total of 696 farmer suicides in the initial three months of 2018. Though the state government had declared farm loan waiver in June last year, the figure is much higher than the number of cases that were reported during the same period last year, which was 672.
The Vidarbha region has recorded a slight dip in the cases with 329 cases, compared to 353 cases of last year. However, the Vidarbha region has marked the highest number of agriculturists committing suicide. On the other hand, Marathwada, Northern Maharashtra and Western Maharashtra regions have been seen a rise in the farmer suicides.
According to the latest data, Marathwada region – consisting eight districts – has recorded a total of 278 cases of farmer suicides since January 1 to April 16, this year. During the same period in 2017, the number of cases was 251.
In Marathwada and Vidarbha, the cotton-growing belts, 80 percent of the crops were affected by the pink bollworm pest attack. Inadequate pricing of produces, mounting debt, infertility and hailstorm have intensified the crisis in the region.
If we look the district-wise classification of the cases in the Marathwada region, the highest number of farmer suicides have been reported in the drought-prone Beed district. Forty-five farmers’ suicides were reported in Aurangabad district followed by Osmanabad-40, Parbhani-36, Jalna-31, Nanded and Latur- 21, and Hingoli-21.
So far, 37 lakh farmers have been covered under the farm loan waiver scheme titled ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana’. However, nearly half of the farmers in the beneficiary list are yet to receive the benefits. Though the government had earmarked Rs. 34,000 crore for loan waiver scheme, only Rs 13,782 crore have been credited into the accounts of the farmers until March 7.
The delays in the disbursement of farm loan waiver has adversely affected the prevailing agrarian crisis in the state. Low prices for the agricultural produce has also been a trigger behind the crisis. Though the BJP-led government in the state had assured the implementation of Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for the agricultural produces during the farmers’ agitation, not a single crop other than soyabean is trading at the MSP. However, the soyabean season is over. At present, the potato farmers are getting only Rs 1-2per kg. Onion farmers, who were getting Rs 20 per kg, are forced to sell their produces for Rs 6 per kg at the wholesale market. The condition of chana (Indian chickpea) farmers is not promising either.
The issue is further compounded for the sugarcane farmers, who are yet to receive their pay from the sugar mills, owing to the steady fall in the sugar prices. In case of dairy farmers, though the government had increased the procurement price from Rs 24 to Rs 27 per litre, the farmers are getting an average of Rs 20 per litre.
Since the government does nothing to intervene in the market prices of the seasonal crops, the farmers are struggling to find other options to get rid of the debt, and deal with the crisis.