Though the Union Budget presented on Thursday promised to be growth- and investment-oriented, farmers of the drought-ridden Vidarbha region in Maharashtra have been completely ignored.
Farmers and activists in the state have slammed the budget for ignoring the plight of drought-affected, debt-trapped farmers.
Forty one-year-old Deviprasad Rathod of Kolejhari, Yavatmal, who attempted suicide last month after the moneylender he had borrowed from came knocking on his door, said, “Forget about any bailout package to save dying farmers who are at the mercy of weather changes and faulty agriculture technology, the government has not even made an obligatory reference to the farmers’ plight.”
Rathod, along with several others, had counted on the finance minister to help them out. Prior to the announcement of the budget, farmer rights groups had filed a petition stating that despite Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar’s claims about a rise in agricultural production, the number of farmer suicides is on the rise. As per figures from the National Crime Records Bureau, nearly 9,000 farmers have killed themselves since 2005.
The petition had urged the finance minister to focus on dying farmers in the budget, and not just on agriculture.
Ananda Pawar of the Shetkari Samman Sanghatna said, “The government’s drive to push GM cotton to benefit a multinational company has cruelly compounded farmers’ problems, pushing many to end their lives.” Talking about the budget, Pawar said, “Instead of atoning for the government’s policies, the Centre has once again mocked dead farmers and their bereaved families.”
A meagre amount of Rs778 crore has been provided for drought assistance to Maharashtra from the National Disaster Response Fund.
“This was almost wholly allocated to Western Maharashtra, and not to Vidarbha or Marathwada, where the crisis is more endemic,” Pawar said.
Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti mentioned that the CAG had exposed how the earlier mega loan of 2008 has not even reached farmers. “We expected this to be corrected, but the government has dashed our hopes,” he said.