Farmer suicides in Maharashtra have nearly doubled in the last four years of the Bharatiya Janata Party led government, despite a surge in the overall expenditure on the agriculture sector.
The biggest factor behind the situation, according to the government as well as experts, has been the paucity of rainfall, which has impacted output and costs. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said his government had been trying to improve the situation for farmers, but it would remain a matter for concern as long as farmers continued to die.
According the state’s relief and rehabilitation department Data, between January 2015 and September 2018, 11,225 farmer suicides were recorded though the numbers have been showing a slight dip with each passing year.
Comparison to first four years of the previous Congress-NCP government in the state (January 2010 to December 2013) saw 6,028 cases of farmer suicides. Overall, since 2001, 28,928 farmers have committed suicide in the state, as on 30 September 2018.
To control the situation and under pressure from protesting farmers and opposition parties, Fadnavis’s government had rolled out a Rs 21,500-crore farm loan waiver for 47 lakh eligible farmers last year.
As per the state’s annual economic survey, the rainfall in 2014-15 and 2015-16 was 70.2 percent and 59.4 percent of the normal level. The situation improved in 2016-17 and 2017-18, with the state recording 94.9 percent and 84.3 percent rainfall.
The highest number of farmer suicides since 2001 was recorded in 2015, the first full year of the Fadnavis government, when parts of the state were gripped by a severe drought.
This year rain was missing some parts of the Maharashtra, the state government has declared a drought-like situation in 180 talukas across Marathwada, Vidarbha and northern Maharashtra.
The number may drop further in 2018, with the government having recorded 1,965 cases in the first nine months. However, the state has received only 77 per cent of its average rainfall between June and September.
A total of 3,263 farmers ended their lives in distress, with 1,541 of these cases — about 47 per cent — being from Vidarbha (Amravati and Nagpur divisions), and another 1,130 from the Aurangabad division, which lies in the water-scarce Marathwada region.
Over the next two years, the number of suicides dipped slightly. In 2016, the government recorded 3,080 cases, while the corresponding figure for 2017 was 2,917 — the second and the third highest respectively since 2001.
Speaking to The Print Sunday, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said his government had had to constantly tackle drought-like conditions, but that any farmer suicide was always going to be a matter of concern.
“The numbers are reducing, but I don’t think suicides can be an indicator (of performance). Instead of going into the figures and saying the cases have increased or decreased, till the time such incidents are taking place, it will always be a matter of concern,” Fadnavis said.
Barring the year 2016-17, his government had continuously faced drought, and expressed faith that it had handled the situation well, and would continue to do so, he added.