Farmer suicides in Maharashtra have risen for the first time in four years. The state recorded 2,808 cases in 2019, as per revenue department data, higher by 47 than in 2018. The rise is significant because since 2015, farmer suicides have been falling in the state: From 3,228 in 2015, to 3,052 in 2016, to 2,917 in 2017, when the previous BJP-led government declared a loan waiver. The number declined by over 150 the next year, to rest at 2,761.

The declining trend was broken in 2019, which was a harsh year for farmers in the state. The arid Marathwada region had a rain deficit in the monsoon and western Maharashtra was lashed by floods in July-August which damaged 4 lakh hectares of crop. And just when the kharif harvest was underway, unseasonal rains struck, impacting 93 lakh hectares of crop. The Maha Vikas Aghadi government, which took charge in November 2019, declared a new loan waiver a month later.

Vidarbha tops with 47% of suicides

Of the 2,808 cases reported in 2019, the highest was from the cotton belt of Vidarbha, which accounted for 1,286, or 47% of the suicides. Marathwada recorded the second highest number, 937. North Maharashtra reported 491cases while the sugar belt of Western Maharashtra reported 93. The Konkan had only one case.

The district with the highest number of cases was Yavatmal in Vidarbha, which reported 286 cases, followed by Buldhana (271) and Amravati (265), also located in Vidarbha. The highest number of cases in Marathwada was from Beed district (226).

Activists say that beyond loan waivers and compensation for crop loss, the state needs to make farming more profitable. “The cost of farming inputs and labour is so high that a farmer cannot survive a bad season. The economics of farming are tilted against farmers,” said Vidarbhabased activist Vijay Jawandhia.