The unremitting wave of farmer suicides continued in Maharashtra’s rain-shadow regions of Marathwada and Vidarbha with four more farmers taking their lives in less than 48 hours, belying feeble government promises of quick succor to afflicted farmers across more than 19,000 villages in the State.
According to locals and relatives, the farmers who took the extreme step were small landholders weighed down by massive debt accruing from three consecutive years of drought and unseasonal rain.
Appallingly, three of these suicides took place in Latur district in Marathwada in less than 24 hours. 50-year-old Balu Mamade of Umarga village in Latur, who owned six acres, hanged himself after despairing to pay off debts to banks and moneylenders amounting to Rs. 1 lakh. He was further driven by the anxiety to marry off his three daughters, said villagers.
Less than 50 km away, Bhairavnath Deshmukh of Kanadi-Borgaon village in Nilanga took his life after his five-acre farm returned a poor yield. Govind Kamble (48), a small farmer in the same taluk, hanged himself as he owed a debt of more than Rs. 2 lakh to the local moneylender.
In Beed district, Bhagwan Nipate, another marginal farmer steeped in debt, took his life by consuming poison, said locals.
The Bharatiya Janata Party in the State, which has sought a Rs. 4500 crore drought-relief package from the Centre, has exhorted farmer to desist from suicide.
With five farmer suicides being reported from Vidarbha and Marathwada in the last three days, the suicide toll has gone up to nine in less than a week. Changing weather patterns in the region, that has triggered a vicious cycle of poor crop yield and mounting indebtedness, has led to more than 240 farmers taking their lives in six districts in Marathwada alone.