Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The next government of Maharashtra will face several pressing problems. A very high cost of living and the country's record of suicides among farmers top its list of priorities, this according to a local source.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the source, anonymous for security reasons, looked at the contradictions that characterise the Indian state on the day its voters go to the poll to elect a new state assembly.
With a GDP of US$ 150 billion (2011) and a population of more than 112.3 million people, Maharashtra is India's richest state and one of its most populous.
Its capital Mumbai, which is the country's financial hub, has 19.74 million residents, followed by Pune with more than 5 million people.
"From a development point of view, large cities and urban areas are doing well and are growing," the source told AsiaNews. "Nevertheless, the cost of living is way too high. This contributes to the tragedy of suicides among farmers."
"Climate change, which affects crops," is another major reason.
"Farmers take out loans from certain individuals, who provide micro-credit. But most of the time, however, it is usury. With high debts, farmer prefer suicide to wipe the slate clean."
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in 2013 Maharashtra topped the list for the number of suicides among farmers, with 3,146 people taking their own life.
From February to May this year, 559 farmers committed suicide, a rate of three per day.
To cope with this situation, the state government in 2008 passed the Money Lending (Regulation) Act to regulate private loans. In 2010, it introduced an aid package.
"Suicides, however, have not diminished," the source told AsiaNews, "a sign that we need a different kind of support from the state."
At present, it is impossible to predict who will lead the new government. Recently in fact, both the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the democratic socialist Congress Party have broken off with local regional parties, with the right-wing Shiv Sena in the BJP's case and the Nationalist Congress Party in the case of Congress.
"It is unlikely that Congress will obtain an absolute majority," a source told AsiaNews. "Having already won the general election, the BJP looks very strong, thanks to its leader's charisma, Prime Minister Narendra Modi."
"Nevertheless, the Shiv Sena is very popular in Maharashtra, thanks to its policy of promoting and supporting Marathi identity. These elections are a test for everyone."
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis raises the prices of agricultural products and announces new loans. Farmers protest from June 1st. In Madhya Pradesh, the chief minister sets new prices for grain. Small farmer's demands are that Premier Modi keeps his promises. The agricultural issue is a potential bomb for politics.
Five farmers died in clashes with the police in Madhya Pradesh. Farmers’ action began in Maharashtra. Both states are governed by the BJP. Overproduction has led to the collapse of prices. Protesters throw milk, onions and potatoes in the streets. “[W]hat the agriculture sector today needs are the long-term policy measures”.
Monsoon rains shortfall in the past two years have hit India’s rural population and crops very hard. Water resources are at their lowest level in ten years. In Maharashtra, 28,000 villages are without water. The situation has led to desperate acts, such as suicide among farmers.