Yavatmal (Maharashtra), May 14: A farmers’ watchdog body on Thursday castigated the state government’s plans to conduct physiological and psychiatric counselling in a renewed bid to reduce farmland suicides in Maharashtra. Terming it as a ‘madness survey’, the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) chief Kishore Tiwari feels it is yet another excuse to deprive farmers of any further financial help. (Read: Smriti Irani to hold ‘Kisan Panchayats’ in Amethi)

“Health Minister Deepak Sawant has sparked off a new controversy by announcing ‘madness survey’ of distressed farmers, besides another minister promising to give mega subsidy for urine collected from multiplexes in Mumbai to replace chemical fertilisers,” Tiwari told IANS. On Wednesday, Sawant announced a pilot project in five sub-regions of the worst-hit Yavatmal and Osmanabad districts for comprehensive physiological and psychiatric counselling of farmers.

Aanganwadi activists and members of Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) would be involved in the programme and the five regions were selected after a detailed study of the suicide figures and patterns, Sawant told mediapersons. “We have to admit that mental health is an issue but it can be treated,” Sawant said, adding that they would also ascertain the debt burdens of the farmers in the process.

Tiwari said after Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse’s insensitive remarks that the government has no solution to curb farmland suicides, non-tribal farmers ending their lives lacked ‘morality,’ and getting Israeli experts, the health minister has added fuel to the fire by attempting to declare the farmers ‘mentally unsound’.

“We are shocked by these hostile steps to address the agrarian distress…The real need is to examine the ‘mental health status’ of the ministers and babus by psychiatrists instead of sending them (psychiatrists) to Yavatmal or Osmanabad,” Tiwari fumed.

He said the Bharatiya Janata Party governments at the centre and in the state have been misleading the people on the grave issues confronting farmers around the country, besides the more than 50 million drought-hit rural people in Maharashtra, which was due to wrong economic policies, faulty crop selection and natural disasters.