May 1 is celebrated as Maharashtra Day across the state. However for five families it's not meant to be that. There are reports that five farmers including one woman farmer have committed suicide in the Vidarbha region of the state in the last 24 hours. Three farmers were from Yavatmal, one each from Washim and Amravati districts. According to statistics released by a Farmer advocacy group Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) the five farmers - like thousands of other farmers - were waiting for relief aid declared in December 2011 by Maharashtra chief minister but hadn't received anything till date.
Ramdas Dhale of Chincholi village in Yavatmal district who killed himself, the VJAS says, was a debt trapped farmer who owned over Rs 3 lakhs taken as a bank loan and from a money lender.
Last week, in Yavatmal district, another farmer killed himself by drinking pesticide. In his alleged suicide note, he asked co-farmers not to vote for the Congress and the NCP accusing them of failing to bring relief to distressed farmers.
According to VJAS, the administration officially admitted that standing crop on nearly 90 lakhs hectares were damaged due to poor monsoon and a dry spell in September. Out of this, 40 lakh hectares was the cotton crop. They say the government then went on to declare a relief amount of Rs 2000 crore and cotton growers were assured minimum Rs.8000 relief aid per family. However many farmers say they haven't received anything till date which has resulted in this fresh spurt of suicides. VJAS adds that the state administration hasn't even prepared list of farmers who suffered crop failure.
Maharashtra's agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil told NDTV that farmer suicide figures have been decreasing and that Rs 1,300 crore of the sanctioned Rs 2,000 cr had already been disbursed.
Patil said, it took time to prepare the list as they had to confirm farmers who were eligible for relief.
The issue farmers say is connected with the Union Textile Ministry's ban on cotton exports that lead to a surplus in the domestic market and a subsequent crash in prices. Farmers say the returns they are getting for the market doesn't even cover the cost of production. Faced with severe losses and loans to pay, many farmers have taken the extreme step.
However, after pressure from Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and the Gujarat and Maharashtra governments, on Monday Union Minister for Textiles Anand Sharma said in New Delhi that the restrictions on cotton exports have been lifted and would be reviewed every three weeks.
About 332 farmers have killed themselves in Maharashtra since January this year