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Maharashtra announces psychological health plan to tackle farmer suicides

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For representational purpose only. Photo Credit-cslra.in

By NewsGram Staff-Writer

Mumbai: In order to fight the epidemic of farmer suicides, the Maharashtra government on Friday announced a socio-psychological plan to provide psychological assistance and counseling that may go a long way in preventing farmers from committing suicide.

For representational purpose only. Photo Credit-www.deccanchronicle.com
For representational purpose only. Photo Credit-www.deccanchronicle.com

Maharashtra had been a bed of farmer suicides for last 15 years especially in Marathwada and Vidarbha regions. Vidarbha has seen a rise in the farmer suicides in the last few months. In 2014, a total of 721 farmers committed suicide. But, in 2015, within the first six months, at least 446 farmers have committed suicide.

A Times of India report has quoted the State health minister Dr Deepak Sawant as saying: “We carried out an audit of the suicides committed in the first six months of 2015 and found that there is a small window period in which most farmers who killed themselves were in an indecisive phase on whether to take the step or not. We want to identify this phase in a farmer’s life and intervene effectively.”

The health plan aims to achieve its objective by hiring more psychiatrists and psychologists in the suicide-prone zones, training community health workers, and hiring counselors on a contract basis, as per the TOI report.

The community health workers including Anganwadi workers and accredited social health activists (ASHAs) will conduct a screening test using questioners to assess and analyze the mental health of the farmers.

For the past few months, the government is running a pilot project in Yavatmal and Osmanabad districts and the program is scheduled to be implemented in 12 other districts by October.

The government resolution (GR) states that it would undertake an expansion of psychiatry and psychology departments in the nine district hospitals and five sub-district hospitals.

The overall expenses, as per the estimation of GR, is expected to be around Rs 23.82 crore.

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With The Elections Coming Up, Indian Government Promises Farmers Their Income Support

The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers.

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Farmers, India
An Indian woman helps her farmer husband irrigate a paddy field using a traditional system, on the outskirts of Gauhati, India, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

With an eye on wooing voters ahead of what is expected to be a tough national election, India’s Hindu nationalist government announced cash handouts of billions of dollars for poor farmers.

In the annual budget presented in parliament Friday, interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said 120 million farmers with less than two hectares of land would get an income of $85 a year.

Goyal announced that the measure, which will cost about $10.5 billion, would be implemented with immediate effect. “This will pave the way for them to earn a respectable living,” he said. “Such support will help them avoid indebtedness.”

India, Farmers
Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, center, holds a briefcase containing federal budget documents with Junior Finance ministers Shiv Pratap Shukla, center right, and Pon Radhakrishnan, left, upon their arrival at the parliament house in New Delhi, India, Feb. 1, 2019. VOA

Farmers complain that a sharp decline in crop prices has hurt their incomes and driven millions into debt. Rural experts said they were not sure whether the measure will assuage disgruntled rural communities that have been demanding loan waivers and better prices for their produce.

The government also announced a pension scheme of about $40 a month for nearly 100 million poor workers in the country’s vast unorganized sector and tax breaks for the middle classes.

The welfare measures come as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party tries to address rising discontent in the country — there is growing anger in rural areas over falling crop prices and widespread worries that his government has failed to create jobs to meet the needs of the country’s huge young population.

The Bharatiya Janata Party recently lost elections in three heartland states, raising concerns it could struggle to win a majority in the upcoming elections. Modi had sailed to power in 2014 on the promise of creating millions of jobs.

Modi, India, Farmers
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, is garlanded by BJP leaders on the first day of the two-day Bharatiya Janata Party national convention in New Delhi, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

Although economic growth numbers have been good, lack of jobs has emerged as the biggest challenge for Modi. A report in the Business Standard newspaper says a government survey that has not been released pegs the unemployment rate at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent.

Expressing optimism that “India is solidly back on track and marching towards growth and prosperity,” Goyal said that infrastructure projects such as building roads in rural areas will boost employment.

The opposition Congress Party slammed the income support of $85 a year announced for farmers as inadequate. Saying that it is not going to be transformational, senior party leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “₹6000 [6,000 rupees, or $84] in income support for farmers boils down to ₹500 [500 rupees, or $7] per month. Is that supposed to enable them to live with the honor and dignity?”

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The Congress Party is also trying to woo voters with the promise of a minimum income for the poor if it wins the upcoming general election. The BJP has dismissed the pledge as unaffordable, while economists have expressed concern that the “competitive populism” by India’s two main parties ahead of general elections could strain the country’s finances.

The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers. (VOA)