NCRB data over the last few years shows that the number of farmers' suicides in the state has remained more than 3,500 in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2019.
Numerous welfare measures launched by various governments are failing to check farmer suicides in Maharashtra it seems. As many as 3,927 farmers died by suicide in 2019 in the state, the highest in the country, according to data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
NCRB data over the last few years shows that the number of farmers' suicides in the state has remained more than 3,500 in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2019. The data from the two missing years has not been provided by the NCRB.
According to a report by The Indian Express, the years present various reasons for the high number of farmers taking the extreme step. For instance, in 2014, more than 4,000 farmers died by suicide, and that was attributed at that time to severe drought and hailstorm, which had led to crop loss.
A senior official of the state agriculture department told the newspaper that Maharashtra has been at the "forefront" of pushing agricultural reforms.
"The state had in 2006 enforced agricultural reforms, including contract farming, under the then Congress-NCP government. But, of the 1.56 crore farmers in the state, not more than 50,000 have, so far, taken up contract farming," the official said.
Even in recent years, subsequent governments have introduced farm welfare schemes, including the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojna launched by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in 2017 and the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Shetkari Karj Mukti Yojana of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, both related to farm loan waiver. Despite these, however, the NCRB numbers paint a bleak picture.
According to Kishore Tiwari, president of Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban (VNSS) mission, the state task force on farm distress, the main reason for farmers' suicides is "financial crisis".
"When farmers fail to get a price for the farm produce which is more than what he has invested, it upsets the calculations and pushes him into debt trap," he said.
"The financial institutions that are supposed to extend credit at low interest to farmers are not very cooperative. Especially, small and marginal farmers bear the brunt more as they have no agriculture allied work to help them tide the financial losses due to failed crop," Tiwari added.
Former state agriculture minister Anil Bonde said that a lasting solution is based on "assured income" and "higher production"."Unless agriculture is based on assured income and higher production, farmers cannot escape the debt trap," Bonde said.