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Maharashtra has recorded 12,021 farmer suicides during the last four years, an average of eight every day in this period. So far this year, 610 farmers have ended their lives already.

The high number of farmer suicide would be a big worry for the BJP government in the state as it gears up for the state polls due in three months, said media reports.

Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Subhash Deshmukh, while replying to a starred question tabled in the Legislative Assembly, further informed that these suicides had been reported between January 2015 and December 2018.

“Of the 12,021 cases, 6,888 cases or only 57 per cent have so far been found eligible for ex-gratia financial assistance. The state government provides an assistance of Rs 1 lakh to families of farmers who are deemed to have committed suicide on account of farm distress,” he said.

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He said further that the aid had so far been distributed in 6,845 cases.

Replying to the discussion on the Governor’s address, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had on Thursday told the House that over 50 lakh farmers would benefit from the loan waiver scheme and ₹24,000 crore will be spent for this. Of the total number, 43.32 lakh farmers have actually received benefits worth ₹19,000 crore.

Despite the loan waiver scheme and increasing expenditure on the agriculture sector, the farmer deaths in the state have not stopped.

In 2017, the state government had rolled out a farm debt waiver scheme to curb farm distress. The BJP government has also claimed that it has spent a great deal on irrigation and water conservation during these four years, but this hasn’t stopped the disturbing trend of farmer suicides, said media reports citing sources.

Maharashtra witnesses the highest number of farmer suicides in India.

Deshmukh also informed that in the first three months of 2019, 610 farmers had committed suicide. Of these, 192 were found eligible for assistance, while 96 were declared ineligible. “Rest 323 cases are pending for inquiry,” said the minister.

Deshmukh said that norms to decide whether the person committing suicide was a farmer were changed in 2006 to give compensation to the deceased. “The person committed suicide is considered a farmer, even if any person in the family has a name on farmland documents. Also the deceased person is considered eligible for compensation in case the person or any member of the family has availed loan from nationalised or cooperative banks, cooperative credit societies or licensed money lenders,” it added.

The Opposition has been targeting the Fadnavis government for the rise in farmer suicides, blaming wrong policies of the government for the worrying trend.Opposition leader Jayant Patil said, “We have always drawn the attention of the government towards agrarian crisis. Whether it is loan waiver or crop loan they are not reaching all the needy farmers. Thus, pushing them in greater financial distress leading to such extreme steps.”

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Maharashtra is witnessing one of the worst droughts, with many villagers struggling to even get drinking water. There is concern that the delayed monsoons has affected sowing and could further aggravate rural distress.

The Maharashtra government in its latest budget has promised that Rs 12,000 crore would be spent on irrigationand Rs 350 crore for micro-irrigation. The huge number of farmers committing suicides should worry the BJP because the latter had made suicides a major issue before the 2014 parliamentary and assembly polls. Maharashtra is set to go to the polls in another three months.

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