11,995 farmers have committed suicide in the state of Maharashtra between January 2015 until the end of 2018. This is a sharp 91% increase in the number of suicides from 6,268 between 2011 to the end of 2014. Most of the farmer suicides were caused due to credit, crop losses and bad loans. In the last four years, three of the years witnessed deficient rainfall. This created drought-like conditions in the region.
The Vidarbha region of the state witnessed 5,214 suicides and the Marathwada region had 4,699 suicides in the last four years. Most of these suicides are attributed to moneylenders and the farmers being rendered penniless thus being unable to pay back the loans or raise money to grow crops again. Of the 12,000 farmer suicides in the past four years, only 6,888 farmers which are about 57% of the total suicides had kin eligible for the ex-gratia financial assistance of Rs. 1 lakh from the government.
The figures were provided by Mr Deshmukh, the Maharashtra Relief and Rehabilitation minister. The minister also went on record to say that the state had witnessed another 610 suicides in the first three months of 2019 alone. The government which has found itself in the midst of election season this year has failed to fulfil their promise of “tanker-free Maharashtra” with the water levels in the state dipping to an alarming 6.11%. The government administration has spent Rs. 8,946 crores on their government schemes and has allegedly completed work in 18,649 villages but the high farmer suicide rates seem to have no end in sight.
In 2017 the government in hope of impeding the suicide rates had rolled out a loan waiver scheme, but according to data tabled in the state assembly, 4,500 of 12,000 suicides occurred after the rollout of the loan waiver scheme. The farmer suicides have not been rising in just the past few years but there have been a total of 3 lakh suicides between 1995 and 2013 which gives an average of about 40 suicides per day across the country.
Since 2015 the National Crime Records Bureau has also modified its method of recording statistics for the farmer suicides, deaths in this category are only counted if the person who committed suicide owns the land. This has led to the misrepresentation of data and has caused several sections of the society such as Adivasis, women and Dalits from being under-represented in the statistics. The farmer suicides that do not fulfil this criterion are recorded as “other”. This slander of data is being used to mislead the public and downplay the disturbing apathy that the farmers are faced with.
The first documented farmer suicide in the state was committed on March 19, 1986. 32 years on things haven’t gotten any better. Rather the farmer suicide rates have drastically multiplied. The farmer crisis has been turned a blind eye to and even the Rs 34,000 crore crop loan waiver provided no respite to the farmers of the state that is plunged in an agrarian crisis. Data seems to point to the fact that this tragedy can be attributed to factors such as bad debts, inability to repay loans, crop failure, lack of water to irrigate fields, lack of appropriate market prices and crop damage due to hail storms.
The conduct of the current government that is supposed to be presenting the people facts and work with them to overcome this crisis has instead opted to present us with skewed data and cut corners from the very job that they have taken an oath to perform with integrity. Maharashtra is witnessing one of the worst droughts and with several villagers struggling even to get access to drinking water, the situation seems to be only getting worse.