According to a Right To Information report filed by Shakeel Ahmed, over 12,021 farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra between 2015 and 2018. This shows the massive agrarian crisis that Maharashtra has been gripped with.
Out of the total 15,356 farmer suicides during the six-year period, 396 cases were reported between 1 January 2019 to 28 February 2019. So far, the government has provided ex-gratia to 102 families out of 396 suicide cases, according to RTI activist Shakeel Ahmed.
Following is the statement showing the farmer suicide details from 2013-2018:
“70% of the Indian population is dependent on agriculture. The farmers toil day and night to feed the countrymen and keep them alive. But these very farmers have been living in crisis for years and nothing substantial has been done to elevate them from the present condition,” says RTI activist Shakeel Ahmed to media.
Farmer suicides missed from Maharashtra election debates
From speaking high about the abrogation of Article 370 to declaring the award of Bharat Ratna to Veer Savarkar, Devendra Fandavis led Maharashtra government left no stone unturned to lure voters into voting them.
However, amidst the grand rallies and exhibition of orange flags fluttering in the high rises of Mumbai, a dire crisis in Maharashtra is conveniently pushed aside – farmer suicide.
“This has been happening for years. People are being exposed to events which are diverting the attention from the real on-ground problems. Article 370 that was projected as an ultimate goal that has been achieved by the government,” said Venkat Iyer, certified project management professional who quit in 2003 to live on his organic farm in Peth village in Dahanu taluka, Palghar district, Maharashtra.
Iyer believes that farmer suicide is inevitable like rains that come every year as it is bound to happen.
According to Iyer, the Maharashtra government has suppressed the data and smartly broke it into various categories to showcase that the figures have come down. Thereby, diluting the gravity of the dire crisis.
National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, 2019 is seen as the fourth consecutive year when the government failed to release any report on farmer’s suicide. The last data was released in 2015.
Iyer claimed that no policy decision has been taken by the government to resolve the issue of farmer suicide. “What maximum they do is to give one lac rupees to the family of the deceased. But, what have they done to ensure that suicides won’t happen in the future?” asked Iyer rhetorically.
He also raised concerns over the distribution of cows in Marathwada and Vidarbha where people don’t get enough water to drink, farmers are expected to arrange food and fodder for cattle.
Out of the total 12,021 farmer suicides during the three-year period, 6,888 cases were found to be eligible for government aid after scrutiny by district-level committees, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Subhash Deshmukh told the House in a written reply.
According to Deshmukh not all farmers meet the eligibility criteria of getting financial aid from the government for his family after he dies.
“So far, family members of 6,845 farmers have been given financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh each. The remaining cases are being scrutinised to check their eligibility for compensation,” he said.
Rise Of Barren Land In Central Belt
Vasant Futane, an organic farmer of cotton hailing from Vidarbha region sees this problem from a different vantage point. He thinks the crisis is not only economical in nature but ecological as well. And, the government should focus on alleviating the risk of unforeseen climatic conditions.
“Small farmers with their limited exposure to modern farming continue to use harmful toxic chemical fertilizers which are making their farms parched at a rapid scale. Unfortunately, the government supports the practice by providing them with the subsidies on fertilizers and herbicides,” lamented Futane.
Futane also looks down upon the new policy measures to be taken by the government on zero budget farming mirroring the concept started by China in the 90s. “Zero budget farming means encouraging the usage of GM seeds which again suck the nutrients out of fertile land,” claimed Futane.
He also urged the government to divert the subsidies and benefits directly to the farmer rather than providing subsidies on the equipment. “They give us subsidies on seed and equipment. In times of intermittent or no rain at all, what benefit would we reap by having the seeds and equipment with us if the crops are fated to die off,” added Futane.
Iyer thinks along the same lines as Futane that the government has no analytical approach to resolving the crisis. “The current government representatives are so callous that they had gone to the extent of saying that farmers commit suicide in the greed of getting one lakh from the government,” added Iyer in sheer exasperation.
Conversing with The Logical Indian, Iyer raised a poignant question, “We talk about Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel’s statue, the debate over Nehru’s ideologies or changing the course of textbooks, but not talk about the present crisis like farmer suicide. So, are we living in the past?”
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