DNA special: Erratic monsoon causes spike in farmer suicides
DNA / Yogesh Pawar / Sunday, September 2, 2012 9:00 IST
The erratic monsoon has led to pest attacks and fungal infestation on as much as 50% of the cotton, soya and paddy crop, aggravating Vidarbha’s agrarian crisis.
A fallout of this is a rise in farmer suicides, including five in the last 72 hours, taking the toll to 50 deaths in August alone and 526 in 2012 so far.
Mounting debt, fear of crop failure and volatile market prices ofproduce are being cited as the reasons for the suicides of Manikrao Kukade, 65, Vithal Bhongare, 55, Shaym Sahare, 53, Daulat Kakde, 60, and Chakradhar Choudhary, 32.
Expressing concern over the delay in providing relief to the farmers, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti chief Kishore Tiwari said, “The Rs2,275 crore in aid that the state government is demanding is for completion of 105 irrigation projects — 35 in Vidharbha, 40 in Marathwada, and 30 in the rest of Maharashtra — by July 2013.
‘Drought relief’ seems like a clever ploy to get funding for projects that have come under the scanner due to cost escalations and irregularities in land acquisition.”
According to him, the state government has formulated drought relief measures without assessing ground realities. “The entire process seems ad-hoc, and norms for selection of affected blocks in the 123 talukas that the government has decided on seem to have been done on the whim of certain vested interests in the ruling Congress-NCP combine.”
The Union cabinet had earlier expressed its inability to take a call on both the demand of premature drought assessment sought by state government, as well as the Rs580 crore it wants for construction of cement check dams. The latter, interestingly, is not even covered under the National Drought Relief Fund.
Many agronomists feel the state government’s priority should be core issues like credit, the ground water crisis, and minimum support price for main cash crops of cotton, soya and sugarcane.
“If we do not raise our voices in time, it is very likely that the politicians will siphon off thousands of crores in the name of relief packages by floating relief intervention strategies which suit their own convenience. It seems tough to believe that they will do this when farmers are dying in such large numbers. But past experience shows us that their corruption does not know niceties like sensitivity,” lamented Tiwari.