Nagpur: Nearly 1,000 farmers, including many women, staged a day's hunger strike and sit-in protest demanding minimum support price for cotton and waiver of farm loans in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, an NGO leader said here Saturday.
The protest at Yavatmal came in the wake of rains eluding the Vidarbha region where farmers had sowed cotton and soyabean twice and many were now resorting to a third sowing, incurring heavy debts.
According to NGO Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) chief Kishore Tiwari, over 800,000 farmers in the region have become victims of little or no rain as the cotton sowing season is in full swing.
"They sowed seeds bought from loans early June. But after the crop rotted without rains, many again availed loans for a second sowing late June, which met the same fate. Some are now going for a third sowing, hoping rains will revive in July, but so far the sky is clear," Tiwari told IANS.
Lack of rainfall has destroyed the cotton and soyabean seeds sown in over two million hectares in farmlands across Vidarbha, even as the spectre of drought looms large, he said.
Seeking fresh credit facilities, food, health and education security, and a halt to the ongoing import of cheap cotton into the country, the farmers' meeting Saturday warned of a sustained agitation and indefinite hunger strike outside the collectorate from Aug 1 if their demands were not met.
A drought-like situation, lack of credit facilities, failure of the monsoon and other factors are forcing farmers in the state, especially Vidarbha, to commit suicide, Tiwari said.
Last year, Maharashtra topped the list of farmland suicides with a whopping 3,146 deaths. There have been 60,768 farmers' suicides in the state since 1995, as per the latest National Crime Records Bureau report.