According to government records, 422 farmers had committed suicide till last week, expressing their inability to bear crop losses and a financial quandary made acute by water scarcity and an agrarian crisis.
On Wednesday, the revenue department revealed that of the 422 suicides, in 252 cases, farmers ended their lives due to inability in repaying huge agricultural loans. Of the 252 suicides, 77 took place in Beed, which is the home district of former Union minister Gopinath Munde, 48 in Nanded, which is the home district of former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, 34 in Parbhani, 27 in Aurangabad, 19 in Hingooli, 18 in Latur, which is the home district of former Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, 15 in Jalna and 14 in Osmanabad.
Marathwada is reeling under scarcity for a third consecutive year due to scanty rainfall.
Besides, crops were damaged in some districts due to untimely showers.
Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti (VJS), a non-government organisation tracking farmer deaths, claimed last week that the number of farmer suicides in the cotton belt had gone up to 1,022 this year.
VJS President Kishore Tiwari said that seven suicides by debt-ridden farmers were reported in the past few days from Vidarbha.
A senior government official told Business Standard the spate of farmers suicides was a matter of worry especially when CM Fadnavis had appealed to the farmers last week to not lose heart.
He had assured them the government’s assistance and relentless efforts to get a Rs 4,500-crore financial package from the Centre.
Fadnavis had announced a slew of decisions such as waiving electricity bills, a fee waiver for Class X and XII students in drought-hit areas, restructuring of crop loan and stay on recovery of loan.
On November 18, the government had declared a drought-like situation in a record 19,069 of the total 39,134 villages where aanewari (crop yield) fell below 50 paise.
Farmers suicides have posed a serious challenge to the BJP government — trying to expand its nine-member cabinet by including former ally Shiv Sena — as the opposition parties, Congress and Nationalist Congress Parties, have stepped up their attacks.
The winter session of the state Assembly, scheduled to begin on 8 December, would be an acid test for the new government facing an angry opposition, galvanised by the farmer deaths.