Rajasthan Government Says Not All Farmer Suicides are Due to Crop Loss; Opposition Disagrees

Family members of Manoj, a 28-year-old farmer from Ramgarh village, who killed himself on Monday night.

Rajasthan: Even as concerns rise about whether Rajasthan, that never reported suicides by farmers despite four years of drought, is turning into a state of farmer suicides, the state government is in damage control mode saying that the agricultural crisis isn't necessarily responsible for 11 farmers killing themselves in the last 45 days.

Opposition leaders say it's the state government's mismanagement of compensation funds, following March's unseasonal rains that destroyed Rs 1700 crores worth of crops in the state, which is leading to the present crisis. "The government needs to give enough compensation to the farmers so that at least rehabilitation is possible. And, farmers loans should be waived," says opposition Congress leader Ashok Gehlot, who's also the state's former chief minister.

But the state's BJP government argues that it would be "overstating the case" to say that all the recent suicides have been due to crop loss. "Rs 700 crore in compensation have already reached the bank accounts of farmers," says Rajendra Singh Rathore, the government spokesman, who's also Minister of Health and Parliamentary Affairs  "We have to see what suicide is due to which reason," he adds.

Still, in Fatehgarh village in Ajmer district, 22-year-old Mahendra Singh Rawat killed himself on Sunday, allegedly because he didn't get any compensation after revenue officials underestimated his crop loss.

Mahendra lost 30 percent of his crop of cumin and barley due to the unseasonal rains. His family had noticed he was slipping into depression. "He would say all the money we have put into the land has gone waste, but I would tell him, 'Don't worry, we will earn more, why are you getting tense,' " says Mahendra's ailing father, 46-year-old Magan Singh. His son had 3.7 acres of land, but he'd also hired several farms to grow crop on, as he had to support his parents, an eight-year-old brother and his wife.

Manoj, a 28-year-old farmer from Ramgarh village in Alwar district - who hanged himself on Monday night --  faced a crisis similar to that of Mahendra Singh's. He had hired 3.15 acres of land to farm, but with most of his crop destroyed after the unseasonal rains in March, and saddled with a loan of Rs 70,000, Manoj was more than worried. Bharti, his shattered wife, says that because they have a disabled daughter, Manoj was also worried about how he would pay for her medicines.

"We had taken five bighas of somebody else's land on hire to farm, then the crops got destroyed, and my husband was often tense after that," says Bharti, breaking down as she speaks. "His mind would wander. I often consoled him saying, 'don't worry, we will manage somehow.' but then this happened," Bharti says.

Ultimately though, even as the government and the opposition in Rajasthan quibble over why these 11 people killed themselves, it's many of the state's 68 lakh farmers and their families who continue to suffer.