Farmers' suicide a big issue in Vidarbha

The family members of Dhananjay Nawate, the farmer from Pandharkawada, who ended his life near Pandharkawada. Photo: Mrityunjay Bose

In the last three decades, Yavatmal district and its neighbouring areas, have seen a spate of suicides, which has prompted observers to dub it the epicentre of the agrarian crisis.

One of the last farmers to commit suicide was 52-year-old Dhananjay Nawate, who had a loan of nearly Rs 3.5 lakh and a four-acre land in Pahapal village in Kelapur tehsil, nearly 10-12 kms away from Pandharkawada town, where last month, prime minister Narendra Modi addressed a meeting of self-help groups of women.

"He was tensed because of loans but never showed signs of deep stress or distress," said Gajanan, his 21-year-old son, who worked in a local medical shop.

Nawate leaves behind his wife Chaya, son Gajanan, two married daughters - Sheetal Andre and Sonali Dhatrak and two grandchildren.

Around 10 days ago, he visited the home of Sheetal, gave 10-Rupees to his two-year-old grandchild, blessed them and left. Next day, when Sheetal spoke her mother, the latter said that her father had not returned. On inquiries, some villagers said that last evening he was seen near the farm. Relatives were summoned and they rushed there only to see the dead body and a suicide note, in which he blamed the government.

Family members told this visiting DH correspondent that he was expecting good yield, but could get just 7 quintals of cotton and 23 kgs of tur-dal. "He had taken loans for the marriage of daughters and was expecting to square off, but could not," said a relative.

"He consumed pesticide," said veteran farmers' activist Kishor Tiwari, the chairman of Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban Mission, a task force of the Maharashtra government.

Tiwari, who is the founder of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, said this year (January-March) itself, the region has seen 36 suicides, of which 14 rare in Yavatmal.

Asked about the suicides, union shipping and transport minister Nitin Gadkari, a senior BJP leader, admitted that farmers' suicide is an issue.

"It is not a problem of 5 years...its a problem of 50 to 60 years...when he came to power, our focus was clear...increase infrastructure in the hinterland and create infrastructure facilities," he said.

When prompted to comment on the issue, veteran Congressman and former union minister Vilas Muttemwar said that Congress president Rahul Gandhi made it clear that 'annadata' is the focus.

"We will not lie, we will work," he said.

Meanwhile, Prahar Janshakti Paksha led by firebrand Independent MLA Bacchu Kadu has fielded Vaishali Yede, a widow of a farmer, from Yavatmal-Washim.

The lady from Rajur village is taking on sitting Shiv Sena MP Bhawna Gawli, a four-term MP and former state Congress chief and ex-minister of state for home Manikrao Thakre, one of the seniormost legislators.

"I am your daughter, keep me in your prayers and thoughts...Crops have been failing for three to four years now and the crisis is deep," said Vaishali, when she meets people to seek votes. 

Vaishali, who is an Anganwadi worker, shot into fame when she was asked to inaugurate the 92nd Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan when local groups had opoosed Nayantara Sehgal.

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Farmers' suicide a big issue in Vidarbha

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