Maharashtra agrarian crisis: Farmer distress unabated by loan waiver; experts blame low profitability
Maharashtra continued to record a high number (2,917) of farmer suicides in 2017. About 60 percent of the cases were reported after the announcement of the farm loan waiver.
Maharashtra continued to record a high number (2,917) of farmer suicides in 2017, a report by The Times of India stated. According to the report, about 60 percent of the cases of farmers ending their own life were reported after the government announced a historic farm loan waiver scheme in June.
However, Kishor Tiwari, who heads a state government task force on agrarian distress, said the scheme was not to be blamed for the farmers' suicides. "The rise in the number of farmer suicides after June cannot be said to have a correlation with the farm loan waiver. It took place because crops began to fail in August, which in turn was due to a variety of factors — such as irregular rainfall and pest attacks. The broader conditions which lead to despair among farmers continue to prevail. The task force is working with the government to address various issues, such as high input costs and the absence of adequate credit mechanisms," he said.
Nitin Khadse, a farmer-activist from Yavatmal district, said, "This year too, there has been a high incidence of farmer suicides. Pest attacks such as the pink bollworm (which affected cotton) had a huge negative impact on yields. Furthermore, many farmers have not received their loan waivers and are still in the dark about whether or not they will receive fresh loans."
Activist Vijay Jawandhia blamed low minimum support prices as a possible reason for the agriculture sector's lack of profitability. As a report in The Indian Express pointed out, the minimum support prices of major crops only partially match the criteria laid down by the MS Swaminathan Commission, which recommended that they should be 'at least 50 percent more than the weighted average cost of production. The recommendations with regard to prices are not met if the cost of production takes into account paid-out expenses like seeds, fertilisers and labour, unpaid family labour and land and other fixed assets.
Speaking about the reason why governments are reluctant to increase MSPs, Jawandhia said, "In an ideal scenario, MSPs should increase every year similar to how salaries in government jobs increase. However, if the government begins to do this, then it will set a precedent and will have to do it every year. That is why the government prefers to announce loan waivers rather than make farming profitable in the long run."
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