Nagpur, Aug 29 (IANS) Suicides by distressed farmers has assumed epidemic proportions in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region in western India, with eight of them reported Sunday preceded by six Saturday.
Taking the toll since Aug 15 to a menacing 60 (796 since June 2005) is farmer Parasram Raghoji Kannake, 65, of village Sawla in Amravati district. Parasram's body was found floating in a farm well Sunday, two days after he went missing.
Holding a hectare of land, the elderly man had a long unpaid loan of State Bank of India besides a recent loan from a credit cooperative society, informed sources in Dhamangaon told IANS on telephone.
Parasram's suicide is the third in Dhamangaon tehsil since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited it July 1.
Chintaman Maruti Sahare, 40, of village Pimpalkhuti in Kalamb tehsil of Yavatmal district and Namdeo Shankarrao Jichkar, 30, of village Hatgaon in the same district are two other debt-ridden farmers who ended life Sunday.
Married two years ago, Namdeo had sown his newly inherited five-acre land for the first time this season but became despondent when recent floods washed away his labour. He committed suicide by consuming poison.
Owner of a good 12 acres, Chintaman too ended his life in a similar way, worried over a large unpaid loan, the sources said.
For 50-year-old Anant Champat Jadhav of village Lonadi in Yavatmal district, the frustration over repeated crop failure and the responsibility of marrying off two daughters proved too much to bear.
The incidence of steeply rising suicides instead of coming down, well after the process of disbursal of monetary relief got underway, has perturbed the media and bureaucracy alike.
While farmers complain of tardy, hurdle-filled pace of relief disbursal and inadequate loans, Amravati Divisional Commissioner S.K. Goyal told IANS that the money already disbursed was Rs.500 crore ($107 million) more than what was given away last year.
'The main reasons for distress suicides are the same today as they were when the relief packages were announced - high cultivation costs, heavy burden of loans and vagaries of monsoon in the rain-fed farming,' Goyal said.
Pointing out to thousands of farmers who are bravely fighting equally daunting odds rather than giving up like some hundreds, Goyal said the media highlighting of cases of suicides might be contributing to the pervasion of the psychology of deprivation.
Another top official told IANS that bringing down the cost of cultivation and the consequent need to incur loans should be the focus of effective relief.
'Farmers in rain-fed Vidarbha should look at their poorer counterparts in tribal areas of Bihar and Orissa who are not committing suicide because they are doing low-cost farming without taking loans', he said.