As many as 228 farmers in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, which is facing drought this year, have committed suicide due to agrarian distress in ten month period ending January, Parliament was informed today. "228 farmers in the six identified suicide-prone districts of Vidarbha region committed suicide due to agrarian distress during the last ten months till January 31, 2013," Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha. However, number of farmer suicide cases due to agrarian reasons in these areas have shown a decline from 346 in 2011 from 565 in 2006, he said.
In entire Maharashtra, total number of farmer suicides declined from 1,035 in 2006 to 485 in 2011. To a separate query on alleged corruption in implementing Prime Minister's package announced for Vidarbha region, Pawar said the state government has issued detailed guidelines in December 2009 for selection of beneficiaries, who would be entitled for the rehabilitation package. The new guidelines were framed following recommendations by a committee set up to enquire irregularities in selection of beneficiaries under the rehabilitation package, he said, adding that the package entailed distribution of milch animals to farmers in identified districts of Vidarbha region. Replying to a query on the condition of farmers in Assam, Pawar said disproportionate pressure of population on agriculture, small holdings and imperfect market conditions and periodic floods, among others, adversely affect the income of farmers, including those in Assam. The Centre has been taking several initiatives to improve the situation of farmers in the state. To avoid crop loss due to floods, government is promoting submergence tolerant varieties of rice like Swarna sub 1, he said. Government is also extending assistance to the state for implementation of flood and erosion control measures like construction of embankments and plugging of breaches, he added.