10/15/2014, 00.00
INDIA
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With suicide among farmers in the background, Maharashtra goes to the polls

Voters choose a new state assembly today. The next government of the richest and most developed Indian state will have to tackle high inflation and economic difficulties in rural areas. Between February and May this year, three farmers have taken their own life each day.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The next government of Maharashtra will face several pressing problems. A very high cost of living and the country's record of suicides among farmers top its list of priorities, this according to a local source.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the source, anonymous for security reasons, looked at the contradictions that characterise the Indian state on the day its voters go to the poll to elect a new state assembly.

With a GDP of US$ 150 billion (2011) and a population of more than 112.3 million people, Maharashtra is India's richest state and one of its most populous.

Its capital Mumbai, which is the country's financial hub, has 19.74 million residents, followed by Pune with more than 5 million people.

"From a development point of view, large cities and urban areas are doing well and are growing," the source told AsiaNews. "Nevertheless, the cost of living is way too high. This contributes to the tragedy of suicides among farmers."

"Climate change, which affects crops," is another major reason.

"Farmers take out loans from certain individuals, who provide micro-credit. But most of the time, however, it is usury. With high debts, farmer prefer suicide to wipe the slate clean."

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in 2013 Maharashtra topped the list for the number of suicides among farmers, with 3,146 people taking their own life.

From February to May this year, 559 farmers committed suicide, a rate of three per day.

To cope with this situation, the state government in 2008 passed the Money Lending (Regulation) Act to regulate private loans. In 2010, it introduced an aid package.

"Suicides, however, have not diminished," the source told AsiaNews, "a sign that we need a different kind of support from the state."

At present, it is impossible to predict who will lead the new government. Recently in fact, both the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the democratic socialist Congress Party have broken off with local regional parties, with the right-wing Shiv Sena in the BJP's case and the Nationalist Congress Party in the case of Congress.

"It is unlikely that Congress will obtain an absolute majority," a source told AsiaNews. "Having already won the general election, the BJP looks very strong, thanks to its leader's charisma, Prime Minister Narendra Modi."

"Nevertheless, the Shiv Sena is very popular in Maharashtra, thanks to its policy of promoting and supporting Marathi identity. These elections are a test for everyone."

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