Five farmer suicides in Maharashtra in 24 hours says NGO

NDTV Correspondent | Updated: May 01, 2012 16:10 IST

Mumbai:  May 1 is celebrated as Maharashtra Day across the state. However for five families it’s not meant to be that. There are reports that five farmers including one woman farmer have committed suicide in the Vidarbha region of the state in the last 24 hours. Three farmers were from Yavatmal, one each from Washim and Amravati districts. According to statistics released by a Farmer advocacy group Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) the five farmers – like thousands of other farmers – were waiting for relief aid declared in December 2011 by Maharashtra chief minister but hadn’t received anything till date.

Ramdas Dhale of Chincholi village in Yavatmal district, the VJAS says, was a debt trapped farmer who owned over Rs.3 lakhs taken as a bank loan and from a money lender.
Last week, in Yavatmal district, another farmer killed himself by drinking pesticide. In his alleged suicide note, he asked co-farmers not to vote for the Congress and the NCP accusing them of failing to bring relief to distressed farmers.

According to VJAS, the administration officially admitted that standing crop on nearly 90 lakhs hectares were damaged due to poor monsoon and a dry spell in September. Out of this, 40 lakh hectares was the cotton crop. They say the government then went on to declare a relief amount of Rs. 2000 crore and cotton growers were assured minimum Rs.8000 relief aid per family. However many farmers say they haven’t received anything till date which has resulted in this fresh spurt of suicides.  VJAS adds that the state administration hasn’t even prepared list of farmers who suffered crop failure.
Maharashtra’s agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil told NDTV that farmer suicide figures have been decreasing and that Rs. 1,300 crore of the sanctioned Rs. 2,000 cr had already been disbursed.
Patil said, it took time to prepare the list as they had to confirm farmers who were eligible for relief.

The issue farmers say is connected with the Union Textile Ministry’s ban on cotton exports that lead to a surplus in the domestic market and a subsequent crash in prices. Farmers say the returns they are getting for the market doesn’t even cover the cost of production. Faced with severe losses and loans to pay, many farmers have taken the extreme step.

However, after pressure from Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and the Gujarat and Maharashtra governments, on Monday Union Minister for Textiles Anand Sharma said in New Delhi that the restrictions on cotton exports have been lifted and would be reviewed every three weeks.

About 332 farmers have killed themselves in Maharashtra since January this year

DNA investigations: Marathwada region beats Vidarbha in farmer deaths

In 2011, the highest number of farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra was not in Vidarbha, but unexpectedly, in Marathwada.

This region and Khandesh, where farmers suffered crop failure and massive debt, have emerged as the new epicentres for suicides in the state.

The numbers: Marathwada had 435 farmers’ suicides, Vidarbha 276 and Khandesh 133. Overall, 860 farmers killed themselves in 2011, the highest figure in the last four years, according to Maharashtra’s law and order department. (In 2008, there were 771 farmers’ suicides, in 2009 535 and just 363 in 2010). Within Marathwada, Beed district (represented by a BJP stalwart) had the highest number of farmer suicide deaths.

The reason for this desperation was the failure of the BT cotton crop due to lack of irrigation, scanty rainfall, and massive debt. (These will be detailed in subsequent stories in this series.)“These are the reasons for the suicides but the government remains ignorant,” says Dr RP Kurulkar, retired economics professor and chairman of the Marathwada Statuary Development Board (MSDB) in Aurangabad.

Marathwada comprises Aurangabad, Nanded, Latur, Jalna, Beed, Parbhani, Osmanabad and Hingoli. Khandesh comprises Jalgaon, Dhule, and Nandurbar. DNA visited several districts in both Marathwada and Khandesh and heard several poignant stories.

Just 30 days ago, Shivaji Munde, 45, of Hivrabel in Kalamnuri tehsil of Hingoli district hanged himself because his BT cotton crop failed. His son Pravin, 21, said the crop failed as they had no irrigation and there were no rains. “Out of debt my father killed himself,” he cries. Pravin, a standard XII student, now has to give up his dream of higher education.

Debt drove Dadarao Mhende of Phuldhaba in Hingoli to kill himself last November. “This year we had a lot of hope from BT cotton,” his brother Bapurao says. “Seed sellers said the yield would increase and that we could repay loans from previous years, but the crop failed completely.”

Even 65-year-old Ratan Patil of Dahivad in Amalner, Jalgaon, recently killed himself by drinking the very pesticide he was supposed to spray on his BT cotton crop. He had no crop due to no water, and recurring debt drove him over the edge.

“My uncle could not bear the ever-increasing debt, so he chose to end his life in old age,” says nephew Ashok. When asked if he used irrigation facilities, he said: “We have never seen any irrigation facility in this region.”

“If the government does not take the right steps immediately, then like Vidarbha, Marathwada and Khandesh, we will see more farmer suicides yearly,” warns Rajan Ksirsagar, a political activist from Marathwada.

Seeds of Change

A healthy cotton plan
Seeds Of Change
Maharashtra sounds clarion call on hybrid crop liability

Competition is tough in the seed market, which may explain why marketing gimmicks are often used to woo farmers. It’s tougher still for the farmers to get compensation when the claims fail and they are saddled with a bad or damaged crop. Sometimes the state government steps in to offer compensation or the farmers turn to the consumer court for relief. Typically, of course, the lack of compensation leads farmers deeper into debt.

In a departure from the norm, Maharashtra agriculture commissioner Umakant Dangat recently directed multinational seed major Bayer BioScience to pay 164 farmers in Dhule district Rs 44.8 lakh compensation for damage to their cotton crop in 2010. The culprit: bacterial blight (the plants had stunted growth and leaf damage, which affected the quality of the cotton bolls)—even though the labelling on the seed packet had assured a good yield and the ability to resist pest or disease attack.

“The company’s claim was that the crop would be less susceptible to pest and bacterial (alternaria leaf) blight disease, but our inquiry found it to be a false claim,” Dangat tells Outlook. Prakash Sangale, district superintendent agriculture officer, Dhule, says inspection of the fields showed bacterial blight had damaged between 40-70 per cent of the crops of the 164 farmers who had complained about the Bayer’s SurPass hybrid cottonseed. The total number of affected farmers was much higher, he claims. The average crop area of the affected farmers was one hectare.

Bayer’s representatives were part of the field inspection team and also participated in the three-tier appeal system provided under the Maharashtra Cottonseeds Act 2009. In its defence, Bayer officials had told the committee of experts, which included members from the agriculture university and the Central Institute for Cotton Research, Jalgaon, that the complaints pertain to only 500 farmers from one area though 45,000 seed packets of the hybrid variety had been sold. The implication being that no direct correlation could be established between the blight and the seeds.
As the farmers wait for compensation, Bayer has challenged the agriculture commissioner’s order in the high court. In an official statement to Outlook, Bayer said, “As per our investigations, the yields below expectations in a few pockets are due to combination of inadequate crop management and adverse environmental conditions. We are in the process of contesting the unjustifiable claims through a legal course.”

The team inspects the damaged crops

In another case in Madhya Pradesh, Bayer was ordered in December 2011 by the consumer court in Khargone district to pay Rs 3 crore to farmers whose cotton crops failed to deliver the promised yield, allegedly due to poor quality of seeds. Declining to comment on the Maharashtra order due to lack of information, agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan points out, “In the report on biotechnology, submitted in 2004, I had recommended that seed companies should give an insurance policy to farmers who buy their seeds. Unfortunately, this has not been implemented so far.”

It is rare for the farmers to get compensation directly from companies providing agriculture inputs like seeds. Whether it is the Rs 61 crore paid in 2010 for poor performance of hybrid maize in Bihar or the Rs 2,000 crore relief announced last year for cotton crop damage by Maharashtra, it’s generally the state government that picks up the tab. A notable exception is the compensation Mahyco was made to give in 2007 to farmers in Tamil Nadu.

“Seen together with the SC verdict last month recognising farmers’ rights as consumers, it is an important development outside the ambit of the Seeds Act 1966 wherein only seeds inspectors can initiate proceedings,” says Sudhir Panwar of the Kisan Jagriti Manch. Experts feel it’d be a fitting follow-up if other states heed the call and become voices of their farmers’ interests. But, farmers too need to fight unsubstantiated claims.

Vidharba: The Rat Poison Brides

Rs 82,000 crore spent, yet Vidarbha is counting its 117th suicide this year. ROHINI MOHAN nails what’s wrong with the Prime Minister’s giant relief fund. Photographs by VIJAY PANDEY

 Rs 82,000 crore spent, 80 percent farmers left out • Only 11 percent farmers use irrigation, rest depend on rain. Yet, 3/4ths of PMpackage geared for former • Waivers only valid for farmers with bank loans. But 75 percent borrow from moneylenders • Scheme ignores farmers with over 5 hectares, dying or not • Lethal fine print: if a farmer with a partially waived loan doesn’t repay outstandings by July 9, 2009, the waiver will be annulled • Multi-crore scam in PM’s cow subsidy • PM package sells soyabean seeds at Rs 3,500 per quintal, while it costs Rs 2,700 in MP. Worse, the state buys the farmers’ harvest at Rs 2,160, a rate lower than its own selling price

ONLY COWARDS commit suicide, they say. Only those who don’t have a fight in them; those who want to run away just when life gets tough. So what is the highest denominator of grief a man must choke back before he’s allowed to give up?

The temple courtyard in Wagdha village is filled with farmers, standing and squatting, looking at their feet in mournful silence. This is the 117th time this year that one of them has been driven to suicide. For the 117th time this year, a farmer lay flat on his back in his parched cotton field, looked skyward at the blinding sun and decided it wasn’t worth living. For the 117th time, a familiarly desperate life ended too soon.

The mourners tell the story of this 117th cotton farmer: Mangalchand Pratap. In the bone-dry Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, Mangalchand had endured more than any average 35-year-old could. The only legacy from his father to his three sons was an endless spiral of debt. Since he was 20, Mangalchand had struggled as the sole farmer in the family, while his brothers did manual labour in nearby cities. In 2008, a pest infection called ‘laal’ killed the entire crop on his five hectare field. He was left with nothing except the rising interest on the bank loan he had taken to buy cotton seeds. His wife, Surekha, recalls it as the year when the usually affable Mangalchand turned sour. “Each meal we fed our three children last year felt like a miracle,” says Surekha.

LOST: Husband drank rat poison in 2005 
 Disqualified for widow compensation

LOST: Husband drank pesticide in December 2005 
 Received Rs 1 lakh widow compensation

LOST: Husband hung himself in June 2007 
Partial loan waiver and soyabean seed subsidy

Husband drank pesticide in June 2005
RELIEF: Received Rs 1 lakh widow compensation

LOST: Mother jumped in a well in May 2008 
 Nil. Death wasn’t regarded farm-related

 Husband drank pesticide in November 2008
RELIEF: Nil. Application for PM package rejected

LOST: Father hung himself in September 2006
RELIEF: Nil. No benefit from package

Husband hung himself in December 2006
RELIEF: Soyabean seed subsidy. Cow subsidy rejected

 Husband and son drank pesticide in 2002 and 2006
RELIEF: Nil. Full loan waiver of Rs 15,000

Husband drank pesticide in November 2008 
Nil. Government took land for dam, has not paid yet

This year, with renewed hope and a prayer to the rain clouds, Mangalchand took a crop loan of Rs 30,000 to buy cotton seeds. On the morning of June 24, however, when he walked into his field, he saw the freshly sown cotton seeds ruined by “chota paani”or a small drizzle that drenches the seeds just enough to destroy them. That very evening, Mangalchand drank a bottle of pesticide. His brother Dhyaneswar saw Mangalchand crash to the ground, his mouth frothing and his hands clasping the dry black soil. Today, holding his brother’s eight-year-old daughter, Dhyaneswar says, “How much can a man struggle when he sees that his children are going hungry? My brother is just one of the many farmers that will commit suicide this year.”

Vicious cycle A fresh round of borrowing begins every year around May-June, when seed sowing starts

This ominous prophecy is, unfortunately, Vidarbha’s darkest truth. The cotton belt of Maharashtra has been infamous for farmer suicides since 2001 — activists and journalists have screamed themselves hoarse for the governments to respond. As more farmers committed suicide, the Congress-led UPA government announced a series of fire-fighting measures. The first of this came after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s two-day visit to Vidarbha in July 2006. In the face of a shocking 1,448 suicides that year, Singh announced a special relief package of Rs 3,750 crores for six drought-hit districts of Vidarbha. Later, in 2008, he offered a bigger bounty: Rs 71,860 crores by way of loan waiver for farmers across India. The waiver also served as a pre-poll sop that was critical in bringing the Congress back to power in 2009.

Till date, more than Rs 82,000 crores have been allotted to farmers through state and Central relief packages. Political gains have been reaped, and most of the money has been spent. Yet, every year, Vidarbha reports almost the same number of suicides, if not more (In 2001, 52 farmers committed suicide. In 2008, the number had risen to 1,267) So why have the packages failed to quell the suicides? Why is Vidarbha in an unending worst case scenario?

In Kedapur village, people point us to the house of Chandrakala Misra. “Most widows hire farm hands or simply sell off the land after their husband’s death,” says a neighbour, “But Chandrakala is a fighter.” Three years ago, she had woken up to find her husband Gangaram Misra hanging from the ceiling. Since then, Chandrakala has learnt to plough the land herself, a job traditionally reserved for men because of the difficulty in herding the oxen. “If you’ve come to promise me some package, don’t think I’m a fool,” says Chandrakala. “Every government official, media person, or NGO I have met has sold me empty promises of help.” Today, Chandrakala trusts no one but herself. She works 12 hours through every day of the year, as farm labour for big landlords and as a housemaid in three houses. She sends her two daughters to school, admittedly on huge loans from the moneylender. She has not a moment to breathe, and not an iota of help.


Loan waiver based on amount of outstanding loan, not acreage

Crop insurance in drought years to cushion harvest failure

Greater farm-related subsidies for non-irrigated farmers

Incentives to grow food crops, at least enough to feed family

Agricultural income tax to penalise those investing black money

Government must guarantee to buy produce at the right price

Chandrakala’s life today is proof of how crores may have been spent, but not much of that money has reached the neediest hands. She was rejected by the tehsildar for the Rs 1 lakh compensation given to widows of farm-related suicides. “Some government babus came and asked me if I wanted monetary compensation or education for my children,” says Chandrakala, “I asked for both. I got neither.”

An officer at Yavatmal’s district collectorate says Chandrakala’s husband must’ve killed himself “in a state of drunkenness” or because of a “domestic dispute” – the two most common official excuses for refusing compensation to bereaved families. As for the loan waiver, Chandrakala says, “That’s for people who were given bank loans in the first place. We were refused bank loans for at least 10 years and had to borrow from the sahukar (moneylender).” Today, Chandrakala is running the risk of losing her five hectare to the moneylender. “I now understand why my husband gave up,” she says.

In the blue Kishtabai’s husband drank rat poison last year. Her son Gajanand (in pic) dropped out of engineering college to do farming
Dispirited future Meera Kachru with her daughter in their village hut. Meera’s husband hung himself in 2005 due to harassment from a moneylender
On empty stomachs Surekha, whose husband committed suicide in 2009, says each meal the couple fed their children last year felt like a miracle
Spirit to struggle Chandrakala, a widow, works 12 hours every day as farm labour for big landlords and as a housemaid in three houses

People like Chandrakala are the reason relief packages were put together. But it is the Chandrakalas that they have ultimately looked right through. In 2008, Kedapur village’s Bhujanna Vittal was refused a full loan waiver because he had a landholding of five hectares (those with less than two hectares got a full waiver, and those with up to five hectares got a partial waiver). Of his Rs 50,000 bank loan, about Rs 20,000 was waived off in October last year. Two months later, Bhujanna went to the market to sell his much depleted cotton harvest. With the proceeds, he bought a kilo of rice, some tomatoes, and a bottle of rat poison. He was found on his cot the next morning, his face as blue as the walls of his house. “He had spent more money on growing the cotton than the harvest finally sold for,” says his widow Kishtabai, “I was not surprised when he committed suicide.” Her son, 20-year-old Gajanand, is less forgiving, “I was in engineering college on a full scholarship and have had to drop out to do farming. Without my father around, I’m expected to be the sole breadwinner.”

Worse, Gajanand and the close to six lakh farmers who received partial loan waivers in Vidarbha have now been informed by their banks of a lethal fine print: if they do not repay their outstanding loans by July 9, 2009, the waiver too would be annulled.

As the deadline looms, panic has spread through Vidarbha. Farmers in some villages have boldly declared that they will never repay their loans. Others quietly hope for another quick-fix package. This repayment clause was an unmentioned fine print in the much-touted loan waiver announced by then Finance Minister P Chidambaram. Since the average farm landholding in Vidarbha is five hectare, most farmers here got a partial waiver, unaware that they would have to repay the rest or forfeit the waiver. “We work on the fields from June to December, investing every borrowed paisa, and when it doesn’t rain and crops fail, we end up with no money to buy even food with,” says Hirasingh Chavan, a farmer in Washim district. “How am I supposed to repay my outstanding Rs 23,000? And if I can’t, why should I lose the waiver of Rs 20,000? What kind of package is this?”

A fresh round of borrowing begins every year around May-June, when seed sowing starts. At this point, Vidarbha’s farmer needs bulk cash — to buy cotton or soyabean seeds (around Rs 1,000 per acre), to plough the land (around Rs 1,000 per acre), and to purchase fertiliser and pesticide (around Rs 3,000 per acre). Years of below-average rain and crop has ensured that few farmers have any savings. Banks too refuse them loans because of their mounting previous debts. In 2006, the PM package had magnanimously directed banks to give crop loans even to defaulting farmers. Over 10 lakh farmers took loans that year, more than double the previous year’s numbers. But poor harvests for three straight years have meant that farmers are back to square zero. They’re unable to repay their loan and unable to borrow anymore.

‘If you’ve come to promise me a package, don’t think I’m a fool,’ says Chandrakala

MOST FARMERS haven’t repaid their loans for the past four years,” says RG Mahajan, manager of Bank of Maharashtra in Pahapal, Yavatmal district, “We’ve declared that 75 percent of farmers are not credit worthy.” A State Bank of India official in Amravati district says Vidarbha has always had the highest number of loan defaulters. “This year, we’re expecting the number of defaulters to rise further. Most of them are just hoping for another package to save the day.”

False promises, corruption and shameful indifference abound in the implementation of the PM relief package. An RTI petition filed by Yavatmal-based activist Vilas Wankhade in 2008 has revealed that the biggest beneficiaries of the PM package’s cow subsidy scheme (cows sold at a subsidy to bereaved families) were former politicians and sitting MLAs (see box). In 2007, a committee was formed to review the implementation of relief schemes in Vidarbha. Seven months later, economist Dr Narendra Jadhav, the head of the committee, spoke in a 102-page report of unmanageable corruption and supply of relief material at inflated costs. Soyabean seeds are sold under the PM package at Rs 3,500 per quintal while the seeds only cost Rs 2,700 per quintal in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. “On top of that, the state government buys the soya from us at Rs 2,160 — so much lower than what they sell the seeds for,” says Narayan Vibhutey, a young farmer in Washim.

‘I was not surprised when he committed suicide,’ says Kishtabai of her husband

STUNG BY allegations of corruption and poor performance, the Maharashtra government appointed a committee to investigate the multi-crore scam, which submitted its report and recommendations in early 2009. The report is not public yet. When contacted, a committee member, Dr Prafulla Kale, hinted at massive corruption involving influential persons. He also admitted that the investigation itself was fraught with “pressures from various sources”. “We have, however, remained fair and objective. Now, we’re seeing that the money spent is reallocated to the right people,” Kale said.

Officials within the government too admit that the loan waiver and PM package have been largely cosmetic. Sudhir Goyal, Amravati’s divisional commissioner in charge of implementing the relief packages, himself says, “What is the need for a package like this in Vidarbha? Suicides are a symptom of a deeper agrarian crisis. For rain-fed farmers like those in Vidarbha, the main worries are the monsoon and prices. After spending so much on cash crops, farmers find that their costs are higher than their returns. This factor is worse than ever, so how will suicides stop? What’s the point of putting money into schemes that do not address the core issues?” Maharashtra’s Agriculture Minister, Balasaheb Thorat too admits that the packages only provided a brief hiatus, “This year, too, rains have been delayed and I expect that the situation will worsen. We’re ready to tackle this.”

Under the cloud Badly designed, badly executed, the relief package is not reaching the people it is meant for
An RTI revealed that politicians and MLAs benefited most from the cow subsidy scheme

When the PM package was announced, voices from the Planning Commission, the Left parties and agricultural experts warned that it was blind to Vidarbha’s unique issues that have plagued it since the 1970s. The premonition was not off the mark. Wardha-based agriculturist Vijay Jawandia says, “Eighty percent of the farmers were left out of the various packages. Those eligible were short-changed. The schemes showed little understanding of rural India and conventional agricultural practises.” For instance, the loan waiver and several other packages were open only to farmers who own less than five hectares. But in most villages, agricultural land is owned by a whole family, with the title deed in the name of the eldest male member. So though land revenue records show that a farmer owns 15-20 hectares, his actual holding is 4-5 hectares. Yet, he was technically not eligible for any benefits. Similarly, Vidarbha has always practised rain-fed farming and only 11 percent of its farmers have irrigation. Nevertheless, three-quarters of the PM package was earmarked for farmers with existing irrigation projects. “With the three rivers in the area running dry, the rapidly depleting ground water, and scanty rainfall, irrigation is but wishful thinking,” says Kishor Tiwari, president of the Vidarbha Kisan Andolan Samiti.

Dr Prafulla Kale hints at massive corruption in the scheme involving influential people

Meera Kachru Chatale, a widow in Pahapal, narrates how government officials had brought a team to dig a well in her field. “They congratulated me saying my life would change, that my field will glisten with flowing water, that I will be a successful farmer.” Meera’s husband had hung himself in 2005 due to harassment from a moneylender. A local NGO submitted an application on her behalf when the PM package was announced in 2006 and she was found eligible. “They dug fast for two days, then got slower and slower,” says Meera, “In a week, they left, saying water has come.” Meera ran to the field and looked down the newlydug well. It was bone-dry. “There was not a drop of groundwater,” she says, “They were a bunch of liars.”

Over and over, the ill-conceived schemes ended up ignoring the genuinely deprived. A senior secretary in the Maharashtra agricultural department says, “Of the Rs 71,680 crore waiver, Maharashtra’s share was Rs 14,000 crores. The maximum benefit went to the more prosperous and wellirrigated western Maharashtra (Rs 7,000 crores). Vidarbha had to make do with just Rs 2,000 crores.” The very region whose farmer deaths had provoked the government into announcing the enormous packages was given leftovers.

A state survey finds that three in every four cotton growing families is in ‘acute crisis’

2009 is just beginning for Vidarbha’s farmers and already, they’re grappling with loan ultimatums and delayed rainfall. The state government’s own door-to-door survey finds that three in every four cotton farm families is in “acute crisis”. In the five days that TEHELKA travelled in the region, two suicides took place. It is but a gloomy news item for many, but every farmer who takes his own life leaves behind a lurking fear in Vidarbha. Packages may come and go, but as long as the suicides persist, so does the debilitating fear. While straightening the garland on his father’s picture, 20-year-old Gajanand morbidly challenges this reporter to return to Vidarbha a month later to check if he’s still alive. It’s not a threat, he says, but a cry for freedom from the fear.


Maharashtra: 17 farmers commit suicides in five days

NAGPUR: With seven farmers in Vidarbha committing suicide in last two days, the crisis which had seen a lull in last few months has resurfaced. According to Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, which spearheads cotton growers’ cause in the region and also keeps a tab on suicide committed by ryots, the farm suicide toll has reached an alarming 17 in last five days and 671 in the current year.

The farmers who took the desperate route in the last three days have been identified as Maroti Mate of Palasgoan and Jivan Raghtate of Rehaki village ( both from Wardha), Kachruba Meran of Balsamudra and Mahadev Pasode of Vadati in Buldhana, Kailas Solanki of Karanjkhed and Kisan Mahurle of Sonbardi in Yavatmal and Ratan Nagtode of Udapur in Chandrapur district. The other 10 victims in last five days have been identified as Parshuram Jambhulkar, Sukkhdev Pawar, Ashok Chintelwar and Ramesh Tekam of Yavatmal district, Gajanan Sawant, Ananta Bhilange and Vithoba Munde of Buldhana, Gajanan Kavate and Deorao Nimbolkar of Akola, Dadarao Nage of Amravati.

VJAS president Kishore Tiwari informed that when he visited Kisan Mohurale’s house at village Sonbardi in Yavatmal, his paralytic father and widow said the deceased farmer was under huge stress due to mounting debt, cotton crop failure and increasing medical expenses of his family. Most of Sonbardi farmers complained of heavy crop loss and that no one from the district administration had visited to asses the crop damage.

Situation of cotton growers in Western Vidarbha has worsened as the Bt cotton seeds promoted by the state have increased the economic pressure on farmers instead of resulting in higher yields of disease-free crop. Tiwari alleged. He demanded that the government should hike the minimum support price to Rs 6000 a quintal from the present Rs 3300 to save the farmers.

Maharashtra leads in statistic of shame-Farmers sucides

P. SAINATH, The Hindu, Mumbai, October 29, 2011

Share of Big 5 rose to 66.49 % of all farm suicides in 2010
Click here to view/download table on Farm Suicides: All India totals and numbers for five worst-affected States, 1995-2010

The five States with the largest share of the quarter-of-a-million farm suicides recorded in India over the past 16 years are Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

While the total number of farmers who took their own life in 2010 showed a dip from the preceding year, the share of the Big 5, in fact, rose to 66.49 per cent of all farm suicides in 2010. It was 62 per cent in 2009. Three of the Big 5 States have shown significant increases over 2009: Maharashtra (+269), Karnataka (+303), and Andhra Pradesh (+111). Nationally, the last eight years have seen on average, farmers killing themselves at a rate of one every 30 minutes.

In all, 14 of 28 States reported increases in 2010, while four have recorded declines of five or fewer suicides. The dip in 2010 comes with big falls in Chhattisgarh (-676), Tamil Nadu (-519) and Rajasthan (-461) and significant falls in Madhya Pradesh (-158), Puducherry (-150), and Uttar Pradesh (-108). West Bengal and Gujarat also report declines of 61 and 65. But the overall trend remains dismal.

In 1995, the first time the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) tabulated farm suicide data, the Big 5 accounted for 56.04 per cent of all farm suicides . In 2010, despite a one-year decline, they accounted for 66.49 per cent. Maharashtra’s story is alarming. It saw 20,066 farmers kill themselves between 1995 and 2002. That stands dwarfed by the 30,415 farmers who took their lives in the next eight years. The latter period saw an annual average increase of nearly 1,155 such deaths in the State. This was also the period when money was poured into relief ‘packages’ of the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister, through the loan waiver of 2008, and other measures.

During the very decade in which it reigned without break as the worst State to be a farmer in, Maharashtra rose to the first position among the big States in per capita income. Overall at Rs. 74,027, it is behind only much smaller States like Haryana and Goa. The Union Agriculture Minister is from this State and has held that post for six of those 10 years.

Vidarbha cotton growers` convention tomorrow in Yavatmal

Nagpur, Oct 12 (PTI) The Bhartiya Kisan Sabha (BKS), a left wing farmers union along with farm activists and economists will be meeting at Wani in Yavatmal district tomorrow for the Vidarbha Cotton growers’ convention. The meet will be working out a strategy on future agitation as more than three million dry land cotton farmers have already lost cotton crop over two million hectares, said, Kishore Tiwari of Cotton Farmers’ advocacy group Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti, which is supporting the proposed cotton conclave. Atul Anjaan, National Convener Bhartiya Kisan Sabha (BKS) noted economist Shirinivas Khandewale and Shivdas Utane Maharashtra unit president of BKS and Namdeo Gwande, General secretary of Maharashtra BKS along with Tiwari will participate in the convention. Anil Ghate is the convener of this cotton conclave, Tiwari said. Cotton is the biggest cash crop grown in Vidarbha region and in some parts of Marathwada and Khandesh. The price the crop gets decides the fate of three million families in the state which has the largest area under cotton crop in the country. Meanwhile, amid reports that private traders have started buying cotton in open market from farmers at prices ranging between Rs 4000-4500 per quintal, the Maharashtra Cotton Federation has demanded the government to raise the Minimum Support price to Rs 6000 against the current Rs 3300. PTI JOE