Nine cotton growers of Vidarbha region allegedly committed suicide in the last 72 hours at a time when traders have begun raw cotton procurement from Thursday.
According to reports reaching here this evening, among the victims, three farmers each were from Yavatmal and Buldhana district while two from Akola and one from Amravati district.
Seven farmers ended lives by swallowing pesticides while the remaining two killed themselves by hanging. They were identified as : Gajanan Sawant (32) of Pangrapola village, Vithoba Munde (42), Sonuksha, Ananta Welange (40) (all Buldhana district), Dadarao Nage (48) of Lohgaon (Amravati), Gajanan Wakte (45), Palodi, Deorao Nimborkar (40) Asola (both in Akola district), Ashok Chintalwar (45), Karegaon, Ramesh Tekam (38), Manzarde and Sukhdeo Pawar (45) of Ambdi village (all Yavatmal district).
With the death these nine persons, the farmers' suicide toll has risen to 662 since January this year.
Kishore Tiwari, the convenor of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, a farmers' pressure group that has been documenting the farmers' suicide in the region, said that most of the cotton farmers were distressed because of meagre rate of raw cotton in the market this season.
"There is a need for state government's intervention in this regard. The government should provide at least Rs 6,000 per quintal. The chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had promised that he would talk with the union government for better support price for the raw cotton. However, nothing has been done in this regard," he alleged.
The minimum support price for the cotton was announced just Rs 3,300 per quintal when the rate was over Rs 6,000 last year, he pointed out.
Tiwari continued, "The government did not concede our demand of providing food security to desperate, distressed and marginal farmers even. The government needs to behave sensibly and responsibly to address farmers' woes and prevent the prevailing spate of suicide in the killing fields of Vidarbha." If the cotton growers do not get better price this season, the situation will assume drastic proportions, he cautioned.
Shravan Hardikar, the district collector of Yavatmal, admitted that one farmer from his district committed suicide on Thursday because of agrarian crisis. "I have not received the details of other farmers who have ended their lives in last three days," he added.
According to Vijay Jawandhia, the former Shetkari Sanghatana president, situation of cotton growers in west Vidarbha has worsened with the wrong policies of the state and particularly ban of cotton export time to time. The Bt cotton seeds promoted by the state have increased the economic pressure on farmers instead of resulting in higher yields of disease free crops. Already a low return and high risk livelihood, these policies that claim to reduce the risk have only increased the cost of farming. As a result, the cotton economy of the region has collapsed, resulting in mass suicide since 2001, he pointed out.
Jawandhia claimed that when the rate of cotton lint gets a rate of $5.346 per kg in USA (around Rs 8,906 per quintal), the farmers of Vidarbha was getting a meager rate of Rs 4,000 per quintal.
An average two farmers commit suicide in the region. Of them, maximum farmers are from Yavatmal district. As many as 52 farmers killed themselves last month while the figure was 11 this month.