MUMBAI // More than 160 farmers in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region have killed themselves in the first three months of the year, a farmers' advocacy group announced yesterday.
Situated in central India and known for its orange orchards and cotton fields, Vidarbha is home to two thirds of the state's mineral resources, three quarters of its forest resources and several wildlife sanctuaries. But poverty and malnutrition remain high in its 11 districts.
As of the end of March, 168 farmers had committed suicide this year, according to police reports.
"This averages 56 deaths a month, defining the many years of agrarian crisis of the region, not to mention the apathy of the administration," said Kishor Tiwari, president of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, a farmer advocacy group.
Rising costs of cultivation and falling returns were the main reasons farmers decided to kill themselves, Mr Tiwari said.
The trend, however, is not new and is mirrored across the country, although Maharashtra consistently provides some of the highest numbers of suicides.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), one farmer kills himself every 37 minutes in India. About 14,000 farmers committed suicide in 2011.
A NCRB report showed that from 1995 to 2011, 270,940 farmers committed suicide in the country.
Of these, nearly 20 per cent were from Maharashtra, where 53,818 suicides were reported.