Two Maharashtra farmers to return state awards over farmers' suicide

Nagpur: Accusing the Maharashtra government of failing to curb farmers' suicides, two farmers from Vidarbha region, honoured with prestigious awards instituted by the state, on Thursday announced that they would return their prizes.

The farmers' decision comes in the backdrop of several writers, artists, historians, scientists and other eminent personalities returning their awards over other burning issues in the country.

70-year-old Moreshwar Zhade from Wadona and Hemant Shendre from Sawargaon, both in Chimur taluka of Chandrapur district in Vidarbha are recipients of 'Sheti Nishtha' and 'Krish Bhushan' awards given by the state government. "Maharashtra government has completely failed to curb the rising suicides by farmers in the state. Therefore, we have decided to return our awards to the Divisional Commissioner, Nagpur on Friday," they told reporters in Nagpur.

"We had won prizes for increasing productivity. But over the years, our incomes are shrinking, leaving us under debt burden and poverty," they said. Zhade, who holds 15 acres of farmland, had received the 'Sheti Nishtha' award for good farming practices. In 2002, he was given 'Krishi Bhushan' award by the state Agriculture Department. "I was given a medal and certificate. I will return them to the Nagpur Divisional Commissioner on January 22," said Zhade.

Shendre, who is in his fifties, had won 'Sheti Nishtha' and 'Krishi Bhushan' awards in 2004 and 2010 respectively. "I won the coveted award for high production of 117.59 quintals of paddy in one hectare," Shendre, who owns 12 acres of farm, said. Shendre said although the award carried cash, now he was in no position to return the cash to the government. "There was a cash component of Rs 10,000, but now I am in no position to return that amount. So, I will give back only the certificates and medals," said Shendre.

Shetkari Sanghatana leader Ram Newle was also present at the press conference.

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