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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 July 2006, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
India aids farmers after suicides
Indian cotton farmer and his sons at Yavatmal outside Nagpur
Many farmers have been hit hard
The Indian government is giving aid worth nearly $815m (444m) to crisis-hit cotton farmers in the western state of Maharashtra.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the package after a two-day tour of the Vidarbha region which has seen cotton crop failure and falling prices.

Hundreds of farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra in recent years.

Under the package, farmers will have debts cleared and will get access to seeds and interest-free loans.

Projects for improving irrigation and support for families who cannot survive on farming alone are also included.

Similar packages will be drawn up for the states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka, which have also seen a wave of suicides among farmers.

Estimates for the overall number of deaths among farmers in the four states since 2001 range from 3,600 to 18,000.

'Deep impression'

Mr Singh said that meeting the families of farmers who had committed suicide, as well others who were reeling under heavy debt, had left a deep impression on his mind.

Addressing the media after his two-day tour of Vidarbha, he said it was necessary to take steps to provide immediate relief to the farmers there.

Nine farmers took their lives the day before the prime minister's arrival, according to rural campaigners.

The economic package, which will go to six of the worst affected districts in the region, will come as a relief to many in Vidarbha, the BBC's Monica Chadda reports from Nagur City.

The package includes projects for providing alternative means of livelihood to those who cannot survive on farming alone.

Two-thirds of India's population make a living from the land.

Although agriculture makes up just a fifth of India's economy, a vast majority of Indians depend on farming for their livelihood.

See India's PM announce how the farmers will be helped

India's poor villagers wait in hope
01 Feb 06 |  South Asia

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