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Jun 10, 2007 at 01:14pm IST

Farmer suicide belt makes a killing

Vidarbha: Barely a week ago, Ramdas Chaple was discussing plans for his daughter's marriage. Today his family is mourning his death. His elder son Prashant carries gunny bags and the younger one Amit works at a pan shop for a living.

Their father like many others has fallen victim to the agrarian crisis prevalent in India's suicide belt of Vidarbha.

“We have a Rs 21000 debt.My sister has to be married off. We've had no help from the government,” says Prashant.

Almost a year ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh toured the suicide-ridden region but the Rs 3,750-crore package he announced during that visit has done little to solve farmers' problems.

Despite the package, Government data shows that 1,171 farmers have committed suicide, nearly 400 of them this year alone. Experts say the package is a complete failure

“The amount is big but what is the allotment of the package. Rs 2,600 crore for irrigation, 1.5 lakh hectares will be irrigated in next three years. This is just minuscule of Vidarbha land and 85 per cent farmers will be non-irrigated. Farmers are not given anything, only interest is waived,” says Agriculture expert, Vijay Jawandhia.

With the support price for cotton continuing to fall despite political assurances, the multi-crore packages have had little impact on the ground.

“They gave Rs 1,075-crore package but then they took Rs 1,300 crore from the farmer by cutting the bonus,” says Editor Sakal Chandrakant Wankhade.

Neither PM's nor CM's packages address the key issue of increase in support price of cotton. The rising numbers of suicides in Vidarbha despite the packages is an indicator of a much larger failure for the UPA government.

And as the deaths rise, so does the anger.

“The situation is so bleak that I feel I too should commit suicide like my father,” says Prashant.

The news isn’t likely to get any better.

“The number of suicides will go up this year because the farmers have double the debt,” says Wankhade.

May be it’s time for the Prime Minister to set off on another farm yatra to Vidarbha.