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Last Updated: Friday, 14 July 2006, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
Indian farmer suicide toll rises
By Zubair Ahmed
BBC News, Mumbai


Indian cotton farmer and his sons at Yavatmal outside Nagpur
Many farmers have been hit hard
Up to 35 poverty-stricken farmers have committed suicide in India's Maharashtra state despite a government relief package, officials say.

Many cotton farmers in the state are heavily in debt and hundreds have killed themselves in recent years.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently announced aid worth nearly $815m (444m) for the farmers.

But the federal relief has yet to reach those in need and activists say the farmers need immediate assistance.

Earlier this week, a court asked the Maharashtra state government to explain why the farmers were still taking their lives despite the federal government's help.

It asked the administration to give details of relief packages and post a list of beneficiaries on its website.

Long wait

State officials say they have released more than $222m (121m) in aid over the past year to debt-ridden farmers.

But the federal relief package, announced by Mr Singh earlier this month, is largely meant for projects which will take three to five years to complete.

More than 600 farmers have committed suicide in the state's Vidarbha region since June last year.

Campaigners say the farmers are forced to borrow money from money-lenders to buy seeds and then are thrown into crisis after crops fail because of drought.

In addition to relief, the farmers are seeking an end to the free market regime introduced last year following the World Trade Organisation agreement.




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