Government figures on suicides are higher than those reported by activist groups

Anil Marope swallowed poison on July 17, leaving behind a distressed wife, a water-logged field and four children.

Just a month before his death, the 40-year old from Vidarbha’s Yavatmal district had sowed his 5-acre field and was hopeful of a good cotton harvest. But heavy rain washed away his crop, forcing him to sow seeds for the second time that month. Unable to repay mounting debts, he decided to take the extreme step.

Anil is not an exception. Fifty-five farmers like him have killed themselves in Yavatmal in the last three months alone, according to official figures. In fact, during this period, government figures are even higher than those reported by activist groups, indicating the severity of the crisis. Farmers advocacy group Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti recorded 23 suicides over the last three months.

Yavatmal is the epicentre of the farm crisis in Vidarbha, a region that reports the highest farmer suicides in the country. This year, the rain fury has added to the crisis. According to official figures, more than 60 per cent of the crop in Yavatmal has been submerged in floods. District Collector Ashwin Mudgal has said the farm produce this year from this district will be 50 per cent less than the average. “We have asked the State government to provide Rs. 64 crore to compensate farmers,” he said.

“August has always witnessed higher farmers’ suicides in Yavatmal. This year, from August 1 to 30, 23 farmers killed themselves in the district,” he added. Yavatmal has reported 141 suicides in 2013 so far.

“The cropland was damaged twice or thrice during the sowing time. Farmers invested everything they had. There is only a slim chance of harvest. If nothing is done now, the region will witness a flood of suicides,” said Gajanan Ahmadabadkar of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana.

The Maharashtra government had announced a package of Rs.1934 crore for Vidarbha’s farmers in August. But the district administration has only now received relief funds meant for farmers affected by the 2006 floods. Activists fear that such delays will only deepen the crisis.

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