MUMBAI, India – At least 11 farmers have committed suicide in the past two days in a western Indian state after failing to repay bank loans because of crop failures, an activist group said Thursday.
Three farmers hanged themselves, while the rest swallowed pesticide in seven cotton-growing districts of Maharashtra state, said Kishore Tiwari, president of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, or People's Movement.
Despite the government lowering interest rates on loans and helping more farmers borrow money, many farmers have been unable to meet their commitments.
"The farmers' deaths were due to distress at crop failure and worry that there was no money for the coming sowing season," Tiwari said. "Many have defaulted on bank payments. When they can't pay back bank loans, farmers are killing themselves."
The farmers have been demanding that the government write off their loans.
Mounting debt and poverty has triggered thousands of suicides by farmers in Maharashtra and the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in recent years.
The government has described the farmers' debts as a national problem.
The deaths this week came despite a $815 million aid package for six drought-stricken Maharashtra districts announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
India's agriculture sector is heavily dependent on annual monsoons.
Erratic rainfall and crippling water shortages in the past six years have ruined crops and left farmers indebted.