10/18/2006, 00.00
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962 farmers commit suicide in Maharashtra

Despite government pledges and funds for aid, a desperate situation continues to plague farmers in the richest state of the Indian Union.

Mumbai (AsiaNews/ICNS) – Despite government promises of aid, there is no let up in the number of debt-ridden farmers who commit suicide in Maharashtra, India's richest state. From June to date, 962 farmers decided to take their own lives in Vidarbha region alone. This was denounced by Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti, a non-governmental organization that has worked in the area for years.

The latest financial aid package was approved by the government on 29 September: it has been earmarked to "improve the situation of farmers in the poorest districts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra".

The government said the funding was intended for "loan rescheduling, interest waivers, watershed development, and basic food packages."

According to government statistics, nearly 4,000 growers committed suicide in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala in the last five years. But independent estimates put the toll much higher, as much as 18,000. The act of ultimate despair is always motivated by the victims' inability to provide the basic necessities for themselves and their families.

In July, the government promised to allocate 400 million dollars to be distributed as one-off loans, as well as reduction of interest and restructuring of debts, plus a one-year moratorium on loan repayments from farmers. Prime Minister of the Union, Manmohan Singh, said "the economic reforms package to stop suicides will take two or three months to show results".

To date, however, the situation does not seem to have changed.

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