Nagpur (Maharashtra), May 9: A farmers' advocacy group from Vidarbha on Saturday locked horns with Maharashtra Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse over his remarks that the government has no solution to stop farmland suicides.
"We are shocked by Khadse's insensitive statements on such a sensitive issue which is a matter of concern for not only Maharashtra, but farm communities in India and the whole world," Kishore Tiwari, president of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), told IANS.
Reacting to Khadse's view that tribals don't commit suicides as they are "morally strong", Tiwari claimed that every second farmer is a tribal in Vidarbha and this can be verified from official records.
Following a meeting with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and other officials to discuss ways and means to stop farmland suicides, Khadse declared that no solutions were available.
"There are no concrete solutions to completely stop farmers suicides in the state... Even after counselling, there is no guarantee it (suicides) will stop," Khadse told mediapersons on Friday.
Tiwari said: "It is mockery of the very issue of farmers 'genocide' by Khadse. As per official records, more than 50 percent of the victims are from ST and SC which have always been denied institutional credit, exploited by private moneylenders and have no access to government welfare schemes."
He challenged the minister to visit the homes of Yavatmal district's tribal farmers Madhukar Pendore (Runjha village), Ramesh Godam (Joginkawade), Kavdu Vetti (Mangurda), Tanba Todsam (Boregaon), who ended their lives in 2015.
"Then he will realise what nonsense he is talking based on the misleading advice given to him by officials. Is this the reason why Fadnavis travels abroad and is bringing Israeli experts to stop farmers crises?" Tiwari demanded.
Khadse blamed the unseasonal rains, hailstorms and recurring droughts as the main factors behind farmers suicides.
Tiwari said the agrarian crisis became critical owing to introduction of new seeds and new cultivation methods, cash crops replacing sustainable drought-prone food crops around the state since 1998.
He pointed out how more than a dozen commissions, committees, expert panels and research groups have submitted comprehensive reports and recommendations to curb farmland suicides and yet Khadse feels there is no solution.
"He must immediately resign," he demanded.
The VJAS reiterated how the BJP leaders wooed the farmers for their votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly elections by making tall promises, and in one year the government has shrugged off responsibility by saying there is no solution.