|Vidarbha suicides may spiral out of hand|
|Mumbai, August 17, 2009|
Maharashtra, home to the country's richest industrialists, where endless films are made depicting all that is bright and beautiful about India, has a soft underbelly. It is also the state where Vidarbha, the country's suicide capital, is located.
Some 1,200-1,500 farmers commit suicide in Maharashtra every year, and the loss of a few lives hardly makes the news. But this drought, the number is feared to double--particularly in Vidarbha.
The month of August has just gone past the half-way mark and 24 farmers have already taken their lives. The monthly average is 25-30, but June saw at least 44 farmers committing suicide.
"Not just tigers but even farmers would become extinct in Maharashtra if the current spate of suicides continues for the next few years," says Kishore Tiwari, who heads the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, an organisation that has taken up the cudgels on behalf of the hapless farmers.
In 2006, a total of 1,486 farmers committed suicide. The next year it was 1,248. Last year, despite the rainfall being normal and the Union government announcing a massive loan waiver, it was no less than 1,258.
Tiwari fears the situation could be catastrophic this year-when the rainfall has been scanty at best-and more than double the usual number of farmers could end their lives. All that he and other activists are asking for is that the government implement the recommendations of a oneman panel it had set up.
The Narendra Jadhav Committee was appointed by the Vilasrao Deshmukh government to look into farmers' suicides in 2008. "The government must put its suggestions into practice. The panel clearly laid out policies on how the state should assist farmers by offering cheaper healthcare and implementing schemes like Antoyodaya Yojana and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act," says Tiwari.
Officials have identified 158 taluks out of 355 in the state as water scarcity areas, which have less than 50 per cent of the required water supply. The state government has instructed district collectors in these areas to defer the recovery of farming loans for now.
A 33 per cent discount on power bills has also been announced. Students in these taluks who will appear for senior and higher secondary certificate board examinations won't have to pay their fees this year.
But Tiwari says this is far from adequate.
"Maharashtra is sitting on a volcano. More and more farmers are falling into a debt trap due to the drought," he says. "The state government is clearly not thinking about how to reduce these deaths for good. That is why it is going for stop-gap measures instead of tackling the real problem."Courtesy: Mail Today
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