While the state celebrated Diwali in style, there was a pall of gloom over the families of five farmers in Vidarbha. The distressed farmers took the extreme step of ending their lives in the last 48 hours, after being unable to buy their family sweets and clothes for the festival.
Among the victims, three were from Wardha and two were from Yavatmal, taking the total death toll to 683 in 2013, as of date. Officials identified the five as Ashok Sathe (Yavatmal), Bharat Ade (Yavatmal), Ramesh Wadatkar (Wardha), Devidas Thakare (Wardha) and Vithalrao Ladhi (Wardha). While one of them hanged himself, the other four consumed pesticide.
According to Kishore Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, who has been recording the deaths of farmers for nearly a decade, the figures did not reflect the entire picture and merely reflected how dire the conditions are in the area. “We record deaths that come to the fore. Even the government has said that the actual deaths are much more than what the official count shows,” said Tiwari.
Tiwari added that farmers in the area were depressed and the government’s lax attitude was the reason why suicides were on the rise again. Explaining the farmers’ plight, Tiwari added, “It rained very heavily this year owing to which crops failed. Taking cognisance of the issue, the CM had promised them Rs 2,000 crore. Even Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar assured them a package of Rs 900 crore. But the farmers haven’t seen a single penny, driving them to suicide.”
Tiwari added that the financial strain had left farmers in a situation where they weren’t even able to buy sweets or new clothes for their families. Faced with utter hopelessness and desperation, these farmers took the extreme step of killing themselves. Only the government could improve their conditions, Tiwari further stated.
2013: 683 (till date)