Four Vidharbha farmers kill themselves on their biggest day of the year

September 1st, 2008 - 2:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Nagpur, Sep 1 (IANS) Four debt-trapped Vidarbha farmers ended their lives last weekend on the day of Pola - the year’s biggest religious festival for farmers in Maharashtra, according to reports received here Monday.The farmers were anguished by their inability to celebrate Pola in even a symbolic manner, said the reports, reviving sad memories of the Pola day two years ago, when two farmers had committed suicide.

The four suicides this weekend were reported from Soneri village of Amravati district, Muktapur of Nagpur district and Pendhri and Kona of Yavatmal district on the day farmers in the region worship their bullocks with great gusto and rejoice in the midst of the emerging kharif harvest.

Five more debt-trapped farmers in this region had killed themselves just a day before that, already casting a pall of gloom on the festival despite the central government’s unprecedented Rs.710 billion farm loan waiver.

While a tragic story hangs by each suicide, that of 32-year old Rajesh Wange of Soneri village is most striking. Owner of a seven-acres farm, three of them irrigated, Rajesh had taken a loan of Rs.51,000 from a credit cooperative society which he could not repay. He needed more money as everything had been spent on re-sowing and repeated farming operations necessitated by a 45-day-long dry spell. On top of it, his soyabean crop suffered severe damage due to an attack of spodoptera pest (army worm).

Rajesh drank poison at home Saturday afternoon while his family had joined the rest of the village right in front of his house, with their bedecked bullocks ready for the Pola show. Coming to know of the suicide, the villagers abandoned the festivities.

Villagers of Muktapur in Nagpur district also abandoned their Pola as one of them, Pramod Chowre, committed suicide even as the celebrations there were about to reach a crescendo.

Shamrao Kumre, 37, of Pendhri village and Vitthal Upre, 30, of Kona village in Yavatmal district were the two others to cut short their lives on the day of the farmers’ signature festival.

The five farmers who committed suicide a day earlier were Sanjay Gond of Ibrahimpur and Shamrao Waghmare of Sawargaon in Buldana district, Devidas Petkar and Tulsiram Nagose respectively of village Wadha and Chora in Chandrapur district and Narsinglu Rukmawar of village Mandvi in Yavatmal district.

The suicides of Gangaram Meshram and Anil Shende of Yavatmal district on Pola day in 2006 had stirred the conscience of the country.

That was the year that saw the maximum number of suicides in Vidarbha and elsewhere mocking the Rs.37.50 billion relief package of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. That year, cotton, the region’s main cash crop, fetched a record low price of Rs.1,700 per quintal.

In 2008, while a whopping Rs.170 billion loan waiver has been announced, only a small proportion has so far been disbursed as the cooperative banks are facing a cash crunch. The ongoing monsoon in the region has been punctured by two dry spells - one that lasted 45 days in June-July followed by another, which is still on, with a brief spell of rainfall in between.

The vagary has been compounded by an unprecedented attack of the spodoptera pest that damaged standing crops spread over at least 150,000 hectares.

Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti leader Kishor Tiwari told IANS he apprehended more suicides in the days to come as enough funds were not being provided for loan disbursal and the farmers hit by the army worm attack were not being bailed out quickly enough.

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