Mumbai: Not much has changed for the aggrieved farmers who expected things to take a positive turn post the announcement of farm loan waiver by Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. And, the proof of this is over 2,414 farmer suicides in the state between January 1 and October 31 this year show, Mint reported.
The highest number of suicides — 907 — was reported in the Amravati division, which accounts for five districts in Vidarbha, according to the data reported by the six divisional commissionerates across the state.
It was followed by the Aurangabad division in Marathwada with 789. Vidarbha and Marathwada region account for 19 of the total 36 districts in Maharashtra, where severe agrarian crisis prevails.
Of the 2,414 farm suicides reported till October end, the government has given ex-gratia of Rs 1 lakh to 1,246 families, who were considered “eligible”. While the government rejected financial assistance in 728 cases terming them “ineligible”, another 409 cases are being probed.
“The farm suicide cases are probed using the parameters determined by the government. What we look at is whether a suicide has been committed directly due to agrarian distress or otherwise. Other reasons like ill-health, depression, failure to arrange daughter’s marriage which are fairly routine causes of suicides do not get counted as agrarian distress,” an official from the relief and rehabilitation department which compiles the data told the paper on condition of anonymity.
Even though it is too early to map the impact of the biggest farm loan waiver of Rs 34,020 crore as the disbursement of the loan is still going on, the data suggests that farmers continued to commit suicides even after the farm loan waiver was announced on June 24 that came into effect from October 31.
Until November 25, around Rs 6,500 crore farm loan was credited to the bank accounts of more than 15 lakh farmers.
The scheme claimed to benefit over 89 lakh farmers out of 1.34 crore farmers in the state. Out of the received 77.26 lakh applications, nearly 20 lakh names were cancelled due to several reasons such as lack of correct Aadhaar numbers as well as eligible criteria laid down by the government.
In October, PTI had reported the debt write-off is unlikely to cost over Rs 25,000 crore owing to several “filters” applied for the selection of beneficiaries.
The final list of eligible beneficiaries under this schemes lists 56 lakh farmers.
Before the farm loan waiver was announced the farmers had been protesting for various demands including increased minimum support price (MSP), interest free-credit, a pension scheme for farmers aged 60 and above, pay higher prices for milk, fully subsidised micro-irrigation equipment and uninterrupted power supply.
The farm loan waiver has not yet made the desired impact because the government was not addressing the core concerns, a Vidarbha-based farm activist Vijay Jawandhiya told the paper.
“Cotton farmers are selling the crop for Rs4,300-4,500 per quintal this year, a drop of nearly Rs 1,000 per quintal compared to the price last year. Better minimum support prices for the farm produce is the real concern for farmers. In Gujarat, since the BJP is fighting an important election, the BJP government there has declared a bonus for cotton growers over and above the MSP. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi has still not kept the promise he made during the election campaign in 2014 that farmers across India would be paid an MSP which factored in an additional payment of 50% over the MSP as profit. Measures like loan waiver are a short-term oxygen and necessary but the core concern is making farming profitable,” Jawandhiya said.
The continued incidents of farmer suicides raise questions on implementation of the scheme as well as the level of trust of farmers community in the government.
A minister on condition of anonymity told the paper that the government departments tasked with the implementation “had let the scheme down”.
“One thing is absolutely clear about this farm loan waiver, which is that the government staff and bankers are not going to make money since there is not going to be any pilferage. But just as the online system has bared several problems and bogus accounts, it has also caused delays. Since there is no money to be made, there is no incentive for government staff and bank officials, especially the cooperative banks, to speed up the implementation,” the minister said.