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Monsoon failure leads to suicides in Vidarbha

By Arunkumar Bhatt

MUMBAI, JULY 14. Ramchandra Premchandra Chavan, 36, of Pusad taluka in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra DIG hanged himself yesterday as his second sowing failed for want of rains and he lost hope of coming out of debt.

Two days earlier, another farmer, Gangadhar Namdeo Ambhure, 27, of Narkhed in Nagpur district, had consumed pesticide. Lack of rain and sowing failure has touched off a spate of farmers' suicides in the region. So far, 18 farmers have ended their lives. Sources put the toll at 22 for the quarter ending June 30. According to official figures, 190 farmers have taken their lives between April 2001 and March 2004. The figure for the last quarter is being awaited from the Commissioner of Nagpur Division.

Of these, only 64 families have received the assistance of Rs. 1 lakh from the State Government, admits the Revenue Department's Deputy Secretary, Suresh Kakani, who is in-charge of relief and rehabilitation.

Mr. Kakani told The Hindu that the next to kin was paid the amount in view of the Government's assurance on the floor of the House that it would help the families if Government policy was directly or indirectly responsible for the suicide. But three conditions had to be fulfilled: the person who committed suicide must be a farmer; he should have been indebted to a cooperative or nationalised bank and must have faced pressure of recovery from the lending bank.

When a suicide occurs, the District Collector examines documentary evidence such as the post-mortem report, loan papers, recovery notices etc., to ascertain if the conditions are fulfilled and submits his report to the Divisional Commissioner who in turn vets it and submits it to the Revenue Department.

The department recommends the payment of the aid money to the Chief Minister for the amount is paid out of the Chief Minister's Relief Fund, a registered trust. Mr. Kakani said the payment is released in a week after receiving the report from the commissioner. There is no provision for waiving of the outstanding loan or writing off the debt, he added.

But how tardy and unfriendly the procedure is can be seen from the fact that only 30 per cent of the affected families have received the assistance. The suicide, its cause and the recovery officers' pressure can be disputed or denied.

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