Despite the central government's unprecedented Rs.600 billion ($15 billion) loan waiver, farm suicides continue unabated in Vidarbha with as many as 20 of them reported from different districts of the region in the last 72 hours.
While the latest, of a 65-year-old farmer, was reported from village Kondala in eastern Vidarbha's Chandrapur district Saturday, 18 of the 20 suicides occurred in the region's western part, comprising Yavatmal, Amravati, Buldana, Akola and Washim districts.The Kondala farmer, Rambhau Kale, who jumped in a well Friday midnight, had taken Rs.95,000 in loans from two banks - the district cooperative bank and land development bank, besides some amounts borrowed from relatives, his family sources said.
'Besides being worried about the loan, the old man was also depressed because of his ill health and mounting medical bills,' Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) president Kishor Tiwari told IANS, quoting Rambhau's son Vitthal. Returning from a private hospital in the sub-district headquarter of Warora Friday morning, Rambhau reportedly told his son that he would 'die in debt'. Rambhau owned 10 acres of arid land and, therefore, was not eligible for the loan waiver, which is applicable only to farmers owning up to five acres. 'The optimism expressed by political leaders in the state including Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh that the five-acre cap would be raised to 15 acres for the un-irrigated regions to cover farmers like him apparently didn't boost Rambhau's morale', Tiwari said.
Another of Vidarbha's baffling suicides was that of Babanrao Jeughale of village Varvand in Buldana district who Friday jumped onto a burning haystack. Son of a former moneylender, the 48-year-old Jeughale had sold four acres of land two years ago to raise money for his daughter's marriage.'Babanrao's second daughter is now marriageable and the prospect of having to sell off another chunk of land for her wedding had left him dejected,' his younger brother Dattatray told reporters. With a bank loan of over Rs.40,000, the farmer had yet another worry - of raising money to pay donation for his HSC-pass third daughter's admission to a D Ed (Diploma in Education) college or terminating her education, Dattatray said.
The 20 suicides, reported between Friday and Sunday, have taken the toll in Vidarbha since the announcement of the union budget to 116 and since Jan 1 this year to 282, the VJAS leader told IANS. Tiwari said, the loan waiver, even after raising the five-acre land holding cap, would not by itself end the complex agrarian crisis. 'Farmers, particularly the cotton cultivators in Vidarbha, must get remunerative prices for their produce. Also, a regulatory mechanism to reduce their input costs must be devised,' he said. Indo Asian News Service Nagpur, Maharashtra, India, 2008-04-13 20:45:02 (IndiaPRwire.com)