Nagpur: A farmer with five children has ended his life near here, taking to 61 the farmer suicide toll in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region after Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram's "historic loan waiver budget" of February 29.
Shrikrishna Kalamb, a 48-year-old farmer from Babhulgaon in Akola district, about 250 km from Nagpur, is among 14 farmers in Vidarbha who committed suicide in the past three days and 124th in the last three months.
Father of five daughters, two of whom are in the marriageable age bracket, Kalamb had a little over five acres un-irrigated land left with him after he sold small bits from time to time to meet contingencies.
GOOD INTENTIONS: Finance Minister P Chidambaram announced the loan waiver on February 29.
A Rs 37,000 loan from a farmer's cooperative society did not qualify for waiver because of the two-hectare (five acres) ceiling stipulated in the central government's loan waiver proposal. Family sources however said Kalamb was more worried about a loan he had taken from an acquaintance.
In the suicide note he left behind Monday, Kalamb compared his sudden decision to die with last week's un-seasonal rains that inflicted huge damage on crops in Vidarbha and described his act of suicide as an offering to god like "kanhola" - a rice flour puri hung before god amidst a floral arrangement.
Sudhakar Pote of Selu-Murpad in Wardha district, who too committed suicide by hanging himself Monday morning, owned 16 acres and was not eligible for the loan waiver.
Two others, Vijay Akre of Jamtha and Shankar Tayde of Hingna-Balapur (two villages in Akola district) ended their lives a day earlier though they owned respectively four and two-and-a-half acre agricultural land and were eligible for the relief.
Ten more farmer suicides were reported from different parts of Vidarbha Sunday and Monday.
While United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi's promise to take up the issue of raising the two-hectare loan waiver ceiling for un-irrigated regions has soothed the frayed tempers in suicide prone Vidarbha, the absence of sops to cotton growers in the state budget has dismayed people.
"There is not a word in state Finance Minister Jayant Patil's budget about the guarantee price of Rs.2,700 to cotton which Sonia Gandhi and both the constituents of the ruling Democratic Front (Congress and NCP) had promised in their 2004 election manifesto," said Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti president Kishor Tiwari.
"A complete loan waiver coupled with food and health security, incentives for low-cost organic farming and food crop cultivation are necessary to ease the agrarian crisis," Tiwari told IANS.
There have been 80 suicides in January this year followed by 86 in February and 54 till date this month. Only a comprehensive solution can arrest the frightening trend, the farm activist added.