300 farmers in Maharashtra were killed in November while the parties disputed power

MUMBAI: saw a sharp increase in farmer suicides last November, 300 cases that month, the first time in four years. Farmers' suicides had crossed 300 cases in a month several times in 2015.

The outbreak in the cases occurred immediately after non-seasonal rains hit the state from October, destroying almost 70% of the kharif crop. The last time the state touched or crossed 300 farmer suicides in a month was in 2015.

Between October and November of last year, the number of cases increased by 61%, shows the latest data from the revenue department. The state recorded 186 farmer suicides in October. Cases increased by another 114 in November.

The drought-prone belt registered the highest number of 120 cases in November 2019, while, generally seeing the highest number of farmer suicides, it registered 112 cases.

As a result of the increase in cases that month, the suicides of farmers in the 11-month period between January and November 2019 were higher than those of the same period in 2018. During this period in 2019, the numbers totaled 2,532, compared with 2,518 in 2018.

Non-seasonal rains hit a million farmers in the state, along with the population of Sweden. This represents two thirds of the state's farmers. Most of the affected farmers or 44 lakh of the total figure are from Marathwada.

The government is also in the process of providing compensation to farmers. So far, Rs.5,552 million have been distributed to those affected, authorities say. The government of Maha Vikas Aghadi also announced a loan exemption in December 2019. The previous government led by BJP had declared a loan exemption in 2017 that led to the resignation of loans worth Rs 18,000 crore to 44 lakh of farmers.

Activists say that beyond loan exemptions and compensation, the state needs to make agriculture more profitable. “The cost of agricultural inputs and labor is so high that the farmer cannot survive a bad season. This is the main reason for suicides. Farmers must be able to earn more through the sale of products. The agriculture economy leans against farmers, says Vijay Jawandhia, an activist based in Vidarbha.

Last year, the Marathwada region had a rainfall deficit. Western Maharashtra was hit by floods in July and August that damaged 4 lakh hectares of cultivation. And just when the kharif harvest was underway, non-seasonal rains hit, impacting 93 lakh hectares of crops.