Good news: Vidarbha suicides fall 50%

Seven years after the suicide spiral in Vidarbha's six cotton-growing districts touched a record 1,449 in 2006, here's something to celebrate the new year with: the number of deaths fell to about half that number in 2013.

The year gone by recorded only 752 suicides , although that number could rise by a few due to some late reporting. It also reflects a markedly improving suicide-to-population ratio considering the significant growth in population in these seven years.

The 2013 number has to be seen in relation to that of 2006 since meticulous reporting of all suicides — farmers and non-farmers — in the countryside began that year.

The overall figures, generally reported as farmers' suicides, actually include suicides by men, young girls and boys and housewives from farmer and non-farmer households although suicides in farmer households are much higher.

The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, which maintains its own suicide-count, has recorded 824 suicides for 2013 from all 11 districts of the region, including the five that grow paddy.

The record low in the number of suicides comes in a year that saw unprecedented havoc caused by rains in the region, killing hundreds of people and thousands of cattle and hurting farming in over 15 lakh hectares.

The turnaround in the six cotton and soyabean producing districts of Wardha, Yavatmal, Amravati, Akola, Washim and Buldana, has coincided with concerted government interventions through the chief minister's and Prime Minister's packages - often dubbed failures - as also with the massive spread of Bt cotton, which now covers more than 95 per cent of the region's cotton area and which activists have been blaming for an "increase" in suicides.

Almost all these districts have registered the drop consistently from 2006, barring 2010 which saw an increase.

The drop has been most significant in Buldana (305 to 120) and Washim (185 to 56), two of the most backward districts of the region. In Amravati, it has gone down to 159 from 270 and in Wardha to 79 from 143. Yavatmal, which routinely registered the highest number of suicides, marked a drop to 219 from 359.

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