Farm suicides continue despite loan waiver

NAGPUR: Despite state government’s agriculture loan waiver scheme, there has been no change in the trend of farmers’ suicides in Vidarbha. In the first six months of the year, 428 farmers have committed suicide in six affected districts of the region.

The loan waiver scheme, which originally covered 35 lakh farmers, has further been expanded by extending the cut off date of loan defaults to be covered.

The state has identified Akola, Amravati, Yavatmal, Buldhana, Washim and Wardha districts as farmer suicide prone. Out of the 428 suicides so far, the state government has cleared 144 cases as that caused by farm crisis, 119 have been rejected and rest are under scrutiny. If a suicide is declared as that due to agrarian crisis, the deceased’s kin get a compensation of Rs1 lakh.

Over the years, Yavatmal has recorded highest number of farm suicides. In 2018, the toll has been the highest in Buldhana at 110, out of which 37 have been cleared. In Yavatmal, it is 85 suicides in all, 11 cases have been cleared and rest are under scrutiny.

A committee headed by district collector scrutinizes each case. Factors like crop failure, inability to repay loans, land holding and pressure by lenders to repay are considered. Debt is considered one of the major reasons for farmers’ suicide. Once bank loan is defaulted, farmers do not get fresh credit and have to depend on private financiers.

The state government has been monitoring farmers’ suicides since 2001. In the year 2001, 32 suicides were declared to have been committed on account of agrarian crisis. In 2017, the number had crossed 600. Since 2011, the number of suicides for which farm crisis has been blamed has doubled.

This year, the highest number of suicides were in January at 97, out of which 41 have taken place due to agricultural distress. In June, there have been six suicides in the first week itself. The cases are under scrutiny.

Kishore Tiwari, chairman of Vasantrao Shetkari Swavalamban Mission, said this is because despite waiver, banks have still not started disbursing fresh credit to the farmers leaving them fund starved.

Devanand Pawar, an activist of Shetkari Nyaya Hakka Samiti at Yavatmal, said a large number of farmers have not been covered under the waiver scheme. Even those covered did not get the entire benefit. Banks have also adjusted fresh loans granted to farmers against their earlier dues of restructured loans. The farm loans are restructured during times of crop failure by extending the tenure. At the time of granting fresh credit after waiver, dues for such restructured loans have been adjusted leaving only a small amount in the farmers’ hands, he said. Pawar said he is collecting papers of such cases and would soon move the court.

The waiver scheme, which was introduced last year, continues to be under implementation. The process of the state government sending the list of eligible farmers and the amounts to clear their dues to banks is still continuing. The latest list was released on June 6.

[ Jun 9, 2018]