NEW DELHI — A chilling humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Maharashtra, new government data shows. As many as 601 farmers, driven to desperation after crop damage due to unseasonal hailstorm and rains, have killed themselves in the last three months alone — which amounts to almost seven farmer suicides a day, the Times of India reported.
Vidarbha, from where Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis hails, accounted for the highest number of cases — more than half the suicides between January and March. A total of 319 cases were registered in the eastern cotton belt alone, data shows.
Maharashtra registered 1,981 farmer suicides in 2014 but this year between January to March alone it has reached 30% of that figure, TOI reported.
Meanwhile, reports of farmers driven to the extreme step kept pouring in from other states as well. In Harda in Madhya Pradesh a debt-ridden farmer slashed his wrist yesterday, police said. His family and lawyer alleged he took the extreme step due to property attachment notice issued by bank officials over loan repayment, reported PTI.
Farmers' organisations have threatened to launch a nation-wide stir to press for their demand of withdrawal of the land acquisition bill. The association claimed that merely Rs 200 to Rs 700 per acre was being given in the name of relief to farmers.
The Maharashtra government has declared a Rs 4,000 crore drought relief package but farmers' groups said it amounted to a pittance, the report stated.
"It works out to just around Rs 1,875 an acre. Also, banks continued to demand repayments from farmers despite instructions from the state to restructure loans," TOI quoted Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti as saying.
Marathwada reported the second-highest number, with 215 cases.
Unseasonal rains have damaged standing Rabi crops in nearly 50,000 hectares of land impacting one lakh farmers in Vidarbha this year. According to revenue department officials, about 49,042 hectares in the region was affected in March due to rain and hailstorm including 28,233 hectares in Western Vidarbha which comprises five districts in Amravati division.
The total number of farmers affected in Vidarbha alone was estimated to be around 98,384, the highest being 54,962 farmers in six districts of Nagpur division in Eastern Vidarbha, official sources said after revenue authorities conducted a survey for losses in both Amravati and Nagpur division recently.
"Yavatmal district often described as the 'suicide capital' of Vidarbha topped the list with about 11,066 hectares of crop particularly wheat suffering more than 50 percent damage in the rains. The number of affected farmers was estimated to be 6,567," Ravindra Thakre, Deputy Divisional Commissioner (Revenue) who monitored the survey, said.
Yavatmal district was followed by Amravati with 7,7551 hectares and 16,173 farmers being affected. While in Washim and Akola districts about 4,177 hectares with 15,145 farmers and 3,518 hectares with 4,216 farmers were placed in the affected category respectively, Thakre said.
On the horticulture front, oranges, sweet lime and pomegranate crops were destroyed in 933.16 hectares and 1119 fruit-growers were affected, he said.
The situation in Eastern Vidarbha comprising six districts in Nagpur division too was far from better. Wheat, Jawas and Lakhodi in about 18,468 hectares of land suffered damages affecting 51,546 farmers. Nagpur district was the worst-hit with 9794.37 hectares of crop getting affected but in terms of number of farmers, Gondia occupied the top spot with 24,477 farmers suffering huge losses in 7092.87 hectares of land.
Bhandara also recorded damages in 1,581.53 hectares and the number of affected farmers stood at 11,718.
Oranges, Mangoes, Banana, Papaya crops were damaged in 2,340.87 hectares and abut 3,416 horticulturists were affected, Deputy Commissioner of Revenue, Pradeep Dange said. (With inputs from PTI)