In a letter to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on 24 April, 2015, the government of Maharashtra disclosed that 6,268 farmer suicides were “noticed in the state” between 2011 and 2014, when the Congress-NCP was in power. From January 2015 to the end of 2018, 11,995 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra, a 91 percent increase over the previous three year period.
Mumbai-based activist Jeetendra Ghadge filed the RTI that obtained the information. The division of Aurangabad, or Marathwada as it is commonly known, and the division of Amravati, which forms a major part of Vidarbha, accounted for most farmer suicides in Maharashtra.
Amravati, which comprises five districts — Akola, Amravati, Yavatmal, Buldhana and Washim — accounted for 4,384 suicides (36.5 percent). Marathwada, which consists of eight districts — Aurangabad, Jalna, Osmanabad, Beed, Hingoli, Latur, Parbhani and Nanded — accounted for 4,124 of 11,995 suicides (34 percent). In India, between 1995 and 2015, over 3 lakh farmers committed suicide, at a rate of more than 40 per day. However, since then, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) stopped publishing the farmer suicide statistics and the data recorded by authorities is a conservative estimate.
Local police stations often check if the person who committed suicide owns the land or not, which means women, Adivasis or Dalits largely remain unrepresented in the data. Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh recorded most of the country's farmer suicides between 2004 and 2014.
In 2014, when the NCRB changed the way farmer suicides are counted, senior journalist P Sainath called it a "slaughter of data". To downplay the crisis, Sainath noted, farmer suicides have been counted under the category of “others”. While pointing out that the rise in suicides by "others" in Maharashtra is a staggering 94 percent, he said authorities are “hiding corpses in other columns”. The RTI filed by Ghadge further revealed that in many cases in Maharashtra, the authorities did not approve compensation for victims' families. Between 2011 and 2014, 3,284 of 6,268 cases were found eligible: which means 48 percent of victims' families did not get compensation.
In the past four years, 6,844 families received ex-gratia payment. In other words, 43 percent of victims' families did not get any compensation. In Amravati, which recorded maximum suicides, the number of cases rejected is more than the ones approved in 2016 and 2018. In March 2015, the then revenue minister Eknath Khadse announced in the Assembly that the compensation would be increased from 1 lakh to 5 lakh. As per the RTI reply, the decision is pending.
"The situation of farmers has worsened. Loan waivers or crop insurance doesn't seem to work,” said Ghadge. “Besides, when it comes to rehabilitation of such families, the government seems to reject a majority of the proposals for compensation of just Rs 1 lakh."
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Updated Date: Feb 26, 2019 19:00:08 IST