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Nana Patekar and the farmers of Maharashtra
For over a decade, farmer suicides in India have been a serious public policy concern. More recently, this has led to a shrill media outcry and much politicking and though they are nothing new anymore in India, they still make television news as well as media news. According to figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, the total of number of suicides committed by farmers for agrarian reasons in the last three years stands at 3313.

Maharashtra is by far the epicentre of the crisis, with over 10,000 recorded farm suicides between 2011 and 2013. Telangana, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala are the four other key states where farmer suicide responses have taken place.

In the 20 years since the Indian government first started keeping track of farmer suicides, about 300,000 farmers have ended their own lives. According to the 2011 census, the suicide rate for farmers is 47 per cent higher than the national average.

Suicides are characterised by a prior history of difficulties and, in most cases, mental illness that renders the person vulnerable to suicidal behaviour, for which we need to have a deeper understanding of factors that trigger and contribute to suicides. Response to the crisis of farmer suicides is narrowly focused.

In 2006, the Government of India identified 31 districts in the four states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala with high relative incidence of farmers suicides. A special rehabilitation package was launched to mitigate the distress of these farmers. The package provided debt relief to farmers, improved supply of institutional credit, improved irrigation facilities, employed experts and social service personnel to provide farming support services, and introduced subsidiary income opportunities through horticulture, livestock, dairying and fisheries.

The Government of India also announced ex-gratia cash assistance from Prime Minister's National Relief Fund to the farmers. Other measures have followed, some initiated by central and state governments, the effectiveness

One initiative stands out though. It may be small and low key and not at all ostentatious, but within its modest parameters is living out what it means "being human". We all know Nana Patekar for being the amazing actor that he is, but here is a side of him that most of us might not be aware of.

The veteran actor is associated with the cause against farmer suicides in Maharashtra. Not only does he extend financial aid to each of the suffering families, he personally visits them, initiates conversation and has even made himself accessible to them at all times.

According to the India Philanthropy Report of 2015, philanthropy is growing in India and at a steady pace. However, the report largely mentions billionaire industrialists giving out of their plenty. What stands out here is the generosity of a comparatively "small" star with a big heart who has reached out to touch those who no one has.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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