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NHRC asks Centre & Maharashtra to explain 639 farmer suicides despite loan waiver

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It has questioned the authorities’ ability to implement schemes for the farmers. Maharashtra had announced a Rs 34,000 crore loan waiver last year.

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Monday issued a notice to the Centre and the government of Maharashtra, citing 639 farmer suicides between March and May 2018. It has taken suo motu cognisance of the deaths, and asked for a detailed report.

Invoking the “right to life” and impact on families, the NHRC sent notices to the agriculture secretary at the Centre and the Maharashtra chief secretary, calling for detailed reports “specifically mentioning the status of implementation of the schemes for the farmers and relief to the aggrieved families”.

The NHRC noted that 13,000 farmers ended their life in the last four years, out of which 1,500 killed themselves in the last year alone.

In its notice, the statutory body said despite “several schemes, including crop insurance and loan waiver by the central and state governments, the forlorn story of poor farmers generally remains the same”. It also questioned the authorities’ ability to implement various schemes for the farmers, and also asked for an ‘action taken’ report regarding recovery of mortgaged lands of farmers.

“There is a need for the central and state governments to see that the schemes announced by them are implemented in true spirit, to achieve the target so that such tragic deaths of the farmers could be averted,” the notice stated.

Last year, the BJP-led government in Maharashtra headed by Devendra Fadnavis had announced a Rs 34,000 crore farm loan waiver, which was to benefit 89 lakh farmers. By March 2018, the state government declared that loans totalling Rs 13,782 crore had been waived, while the banks had been “permitted” to grant another Rs 23,102.1 crore worth of waivers under the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana. Fadnavis’s government has been power since 2014.

A perennial tragedy

The NHRC noted that this not the first time such incidents have come to its attention. In 2012, the NHRC took notice of the multiple farmers’ suicides in the Vidarbha region — 528 farmers had reportedly killed themselves in Vidarbha between January and September that year.

In 2017, the NHRC had issued another notification, citing instances of farmer suicides across Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

The NHRC has also taken into account various news reports about the information provided by Maharashtra revenue minister Chandrakant Patil in the state assembly, in response to questions raised by opposition ministers. The BJP’s own estranged ally, the Shiv Sena, had cornered it after the waiver was declared. It asked the government for statistics regarding the disbursal of the allocated amount.

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  1. Heart rending. A problem all over the country, so it is not as if one political party can be singled out for callousness or neglect. The proportion of cultivated land in Maharashtra that is irrigated is about 18%, compared to a national average of 45%, and almost universal irrigation in Punjab and Haryana.

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