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Maharashtra tops farmer-suicides list

Nagpur: With 3,146 distressed farmers ending their lives last year, Maharashtra has topped the list of farmland suicides in the country, an activist said on Friday. Citing the latest National Crime Records Bureau report, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) chief Kishore Tiwari said there have been 60,768 farmers' suicides in the state since 1995.

"These are not mere suicides or homicides. It is a genocide perpetrated by the wrong policies of the state government over the years, especially the last 15 years' rule of Congress-Nationalist Congress Party," Tiwari told IANS.

He said it was a matter of "shame" that the Congress-NCP failed to address the distress and despair among the farmers. He said the NCRB report has exposed as untrue government claims that last year farmland suicides dropped by 50 percent.

"With 60,768 suicides in the state, topping the number of suicides among all states in the country, it is high time the Centre intervenes," said Tiwari, whose NGO has been documenting the Vidarbha crisis since 1995.Describing the gravity of the situation, he said the NCRB figures of 300,000 farmland suicides till date revealed that every fifth farmer who ended his/her life in the country is from Maharashtra, with the maximum incidence from Vidarbha in the eastern part of the state.

Several expert panels and committees have studied the situation in Vidarbha and concluded that unpredictable rains with intermittent dry or wet droughts lead to crop failures. Besides, increasing cost of inputs and cultivation practices, mono-culture or dependence on a single crop only, poor awareness of agronomics, and lack of proper farm credit availability lead to an increased hold of private moneylenders, which leads to suicides.

Tiwari said that following a court order in 2006 in a VJAS public interest litigation, the state government carried out a door-to-door survey of over two million cotton farmers. The survey revealed that of the 1.70 million people covered, more than one-fourth were under "maximum distress" and the rest were in "medium distress", leaving barely 10 percent who were relatively well-off.

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