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Page last updated at 09:23 GMT, Monday, 5 May 2008 10:23 UK

No let up in India farm suicides

By Prachi Pinglay
BBC News, Mumbai

India farmers
Thousands of farmers commit suicide in India every year

The rate of farmer suicides in India's Maharashtra state has gone up in recent years despite expensive relief schemes, a government report says.

It blames poor implementation and lack of co-ordination between government agencies for the failures.

Thousands of farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra in recent years, saddled by debts they could not repay.

The state and the federal government together pledged more than $1bn to provide relief to farmers in distress.

Some 10,000 farmers a year are estimated to commit suicide in India.

'Distressed'

The report, prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, says there have been "serious efficiency lapses in implementation of the relief schemes".

"Considering the deficiencies noticed in the various components of the packages, underutilisation of available funds, important areas of agrarian distress not being covered under the packages, and coverage of only a fraction of distressed farmers, reduction in farmers' distress in Vidarbha region does not inspire confidence," the report says.

In 2005, the Maharashtra state government announced a relief package for "farmers in distress" after the number of suicides went up from 146 in 2003-2004 to 455 the next year.

Indian farmer
Many farmers borrow money at high interest rates from money lenders

In 2006, the central government also announced a "special rehabilitation package" which covered the six most affected districts in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra and 25 other districts from four different states. Vidarbha is the area of Maharashtra where the farmer suicide problem is worst.

But, according to official records, the deaths in Vidarbha region increased to 1,414 between April 2006 and March 2007.

The report says there were more than 600 deaths in the first six months of 2007-2008.

According to official records, in 2006, 1.3m of 1.76m farmers in Maharashtra were declared "distressed", of which 434,000 were declared under "maximum distress".

But the implementing agency did not ask for this data, resulting in inefficient and erratic execution of relief, the report says.

The report also blames the government for not spending funds on educating farmers about the rights.

Nearly 75% of farmers were unaware of the "ban on illegal money lending" and many farmers continued to pay high interest rates despite these debts being declared illegal, the report says.

There have been also instances of banks claiming higher interest rates than permitted, it adds.

In many cases, banks did not give out fresh loans to farmers which meant they ended up without having enough seeds and other farming assistance. The worst-hit states for farmer suicides are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra.


SEE ALSO
More India farmers commit suicide
07 Apr 08 |  South Asia
World Bank loan for India farmers
27 Jun 07 |  South Asia
India's poor villagers wait in hope
01 Feb 06 |  South Asia

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