Centre downplaying Maharashtra agro-crisis: VJAS

Nagpur: The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) which is documenting the Maharashtra agrarian crises since 1997 Saturday disputed central figures on the farmers suicides for the current year.

It questioned the figures given to the Rajya Sabha by union Minister of State for Agriculture Mohan Kundaria that only 800 farmers have ended their lives in India, including 724 in Maharashtra, in this period

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“In Maharashtra, the Vidarbha region alone has reported 1,088 suicides and the drought-hit regions of Marathwada accounted for another 600 suicides, besides other parts of the state,” VJAS president Kishore Tiwari told IANS.

Claiming that the central government was downplaying the crisis, he pointed out that in 2013, the state topped the National Crime Records Bureau figures with 3,146 farmers suicides, the highest in the country.

“From 1995 till date, 60,750 farmers, including many women have committed suicide due to the agrarian crises in the state, with the situation becoming worse after 2004 with an average of more than 3,500 deaths each year till now,” Tiwari said.

He said that Kundaria’s figures display “a very casual approach” of the NDA government to the agro-crisis gripping the country, and complete apathy towards Maharashtra where it is compounded by a severe drought.

Referring to the ongoing cotton farmers protest and minimum support prices situation in Gujarat, he said that the government announced a Rs.1,100 crore relief package.

However, this is not a solution to the agrarian crisis which has resulted from a policy shift of the centre since 1997, the reforms under GATT, permitting free trade and lifting of quantitative restrictions on import-export of agricultural commodities which has led to these suicides, Tiwari noted.

He recalled the assurance given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of introducing renowned agro-scientist M.S. Swaminathan’s formula for fixing MSP which should be considered before finalizing the Union Budget 2015-16.

This could make agriculture more sustainable and ensure that no farmer is compelled to leave his traditional occupation or end his life, suggested Tiwari.