Mumbai: The opposition leader in the Maharashtra Assembly, Vijay Wadettiwar, has accused the Eknath Shinde government of failing to prevent the rising number of farmer suicides in the state. He said that as per the official data, 1,555 farmers have taken their own lives between January and July this year due to various reasons, including crop failure, debt burden, and lack of government support. He also expressed concern over the possibility of a drought situation in 13 districts of the state that have received below-average rainfall so far.
Wadettiwar, who belongs to the Congress party, said that the government was not aware of the seriousness of the situation and was busy with social media campaigns. He cited several reports that have highlighted the plight of the farmers in the state who are facing acute water scarcity and low prices for their produce. He demanded that the government should declare a drought and provide relief measures to the farmers.
According to Wadettiwar, the Amravati division in the Vidarbha region recorded the highest number of farmer suicides with 637 cases till July this year. He said that Amravati district alone accounted for 183 deaths, followed by Buldhana with 173, Yavatmal with 149, Akola with 94, and Washim with 38. He said that the Aurangabad division in the Marathwada region witnessed 584 farmer suicides during the same period. He added that the Nashik division reported 174 cases, the Nagpur division 144 cases, and Pune division 16 cases.
Wadettiwar claimed that June was the worst month for the farmers as 233 of them ended their lives. He said that January and March saw 226 deaths each, February 192, April 225, May 224, and July 229. He said, “Farmers are dying every day. When will the government declare drought?” He further said, “How are we worried? We just have to give assurance and go away. This is the agenda of this government.”
The issue of farmer suicides has been a long-standing problem in Maharashtra, which is one of the largest agricultural states in India. According to a study by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, some of the main causes of farmer suicides in Maharashtra are high population pressure on farming operations, scarcity of irrigation, declining size of land holding and large number of marginal and small operational holders, relatively high proportion of low-income families, crop failure, government apathy, poor irrigation, high debt burden and corruption in subsidies. The study also suggested some remedial measures such as improving access to credit, insurance, and social security, promoting organic farming and crop diversification, enhancing water management and irrigation facilities, and strengthening procurement mechanisms and market linkages for the farmers.
Maharashtra is not the only state in India that is facing this crisis. According to official figures, over 600 farmers in India committed suicide every month in 2019. Some agricultural experts believe that the death toll could be even higher as many cases go unreported or are classified under different categories. The reasons for farmer suicides vary across different regions and states, but some common factors are low income, indebtedness, climate change, natural disasters, pest attacks, and lack of institutional support. The central and state governments have announced various schemes and policies to address this issue, but their implementation and impact remain questionable.