Despite the packages for farmers in Vidarbha, more than 150 of them have committed suicide since January this year and the situation is worsening, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Devendra Phadnavis said on Monday.

At a discussion in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, Mr. Phadnavis used the farm crisis to press the party's demand for a separate State of Vidarbha, pointing to the severe discrimination the region faced.

Mr. Phadnavis referred to the Adarsh Mishra committee of the Planning Commission and its report submitted a few years ago which highlighted the farm crisis. The farmers in the region were being slighted for years and it was the government policy that was pushing them to take their lives. Only 35 lakh of the 57 lakh hectares was irrigated, there was a huge backlog of electricity and pump sets and this region alone would need Rs 44,000 crore to fill the irrigation backlog.

Vidarbha lost out to western Maharashtra that was better irrigated and better connected in terms of electricity. The government was planning to locate 47 power plants in the Vidarbha region and use up the water meant for irrigation to run these plants. A separate Vidarbha was the only answer to the crisis, he said.

Kishore Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti has, in a press statement, put together reports in local papers last week that said 17 farmers had killed themselves. This took the number of suicides for 2010 to 241. In 2009, as many as 916 farmers committed suicide. However, as Mr. Phadnavis and other MLAs pointed out, families of barely 20 per cent of those who die were eligible for government compensation.

The Vidarbha region is battling a water crisis and the government has declared scarcity in 15,460 villages.