Nagpur, May 25 (IANS): A record 1,306 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra during the one-year period of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in office – between May 20, 2014, to May 25, 2015, a farmers’ watchdog body said here on Monday.
This figure is around 40 percent higher than the same period between May 2013-May 2014, said Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti chief Kishore Tiwari.
While there are various views about Modi’s one year in power, most of them being optimistic, it is not true of the Maharashtra farmers, particularly in Vidarbha – which is the epicentre of Indian farmland suicides in the past 10 years, said Tiwari.
“Official statistics say 1,306 farmers ended their lives as the NDA-II marks its first year in power. In fact, the trend has been increasing and the first 140 days of 2015 (from January 1) recorded the highest ever 448 suicides, indicating serious distress prevailing in the five million agrarian community of the state,” Tiwari told.
He said last year’s crises, including extensive damage to Kharif and Rabi crops, severe climatic changes resulting in bouts of droughts and floods coupled with hailstorms, and market recessions, have spurred the suicide rates in the state.
“There is no interest among farmers in the ongoing celebrations of PM Modi’s first anniversary in the dying fields of Vidarbha and other parts of the state where over three million cotton farmers and two million tribal families continue to battle starvation,” he said.
In the past 10 years, he pointed out, Vidarbha has hit international headlines with more than 11,000 debt-trapped cotton farmers’ suicides and now Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has sought help from Israel to arrest the trend.
The state farmers had celebrated with joy when Modi was swept to power and he assured a solution to their (farmers’) problems within 100 days of taking office by proposing some revolutionary formulae.
“Now it is already a year, but the NDA-II seems to have forgotten all its promises on the basis of which the farmers voted for them en masse. The healing touch never came, there was no waiver of old loans or sanction of new loans,” Tiwari lamented.
Though the Maharashtra government has declared that 23,811 of the state’s 39,453 villages, or around 60 percent, are affected by drought with more than 12 million hectares of farmlands damaged, little is being done to address the situation.
The last union budget spoke of mega investments for infrastructure, but failed to tackle the core issue of direct relief packages to the farmers, especially the cotton cultivators who were throttled by the global open market economy and mismatched demand-supply situation, Tiwari said.
“Most other promises of the government for farmers turned out to be a ‘kisan jhumla’ and farmers continue to end their lives. On the eve of Modi’s one year in office being celebrated, at least 10 farmers have committed suicide in the past three days alone,” Tiwari said.