In the midst of the severe drought and agrarian crisis, there is good news from parts of the state. Seven districts in the worst-hit Vidarbha and Marathwada regions have registered a 25 per cent decline in farmer suicides between January and April 2016, as compared with the last year.
The districts include four suicide-prone areas from Vidarbha — Amravati, Yavatmal, Washim and Akola, and three — Beed, Nanded and Jalgaon — from Marathwada. The total number of farmers suicides recorded in the past four months in these areas has come down to 339 this year, from 452 last year. A highly placed source in the government said, “The biggest change noted has been in Yavatmal, where farmer suicides have come down from 122 to 66.” Yavatmal had earned the tag of the ‘farmer suicide capital’, and the change is a result of various short- and long-term measures taken by state government, sources said.
A district collector from the region said, “Now, district collectors are empowered to provide immediate aid to distressed farmers, including monetary help upto Rs 5 lakh, sustained supply of food grains and free medical care. This has gone a long way in tackling the agrarian crisis.”
At a review meeting held this week with district collectors to assess the drought situation, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told the local administration, “While the efforts that have helped reduce farmer suicides are laudable, we still have a formidable task ahead. We have to bring down farmer suicides to zero.”
“Under the ongoing programmes, we have ensured food security and health care to 68 lakh farmers. Counselling and provision for work through NREGA have brought positive results. Water and power are two things we are committed to provide to farmers to make them self-reliant. This would be complete with strong agro-industrial linkages to ensure assured dividends to small and marginal farmers in 14 suicide-prone districts,” Fadnavis said.
Yavatmal district, which has witnessed one of the highest number of farmer suicides over the past decade, was picked up for the pilot project undertaken by the government to address the agrarian crisis. Apart from subsidies food and health care, villagers were also engaged in counselling and social networking through “bhajan” and “kirtan” programmes.
According to the government data, in the first few months of 2016, farmer suicides in Amravati have come down to 14 from 23 (2015); Yavatmal 66 from 122; Washim 20 from 35; Akola 60 from 66; Beed 63 from 83; Nanded 57 from 69 and Jalgaon 49 from 54.
Kishore Tiwari, activist who heads the commission for farmers in distressed districts, said, “The biggest relief to farmers during the drought is assured food and health care. Awareness campaigns and financial compensation have also brought about a positive change in suicide-prone districts.”