Source AP ©

11 Indian farmers commit suicide after failing to repay bank loans

At least 11 farmers have committed suicide over the past two days in a western Indian state after failing to repay bank loans because of crop failures.

Three farmers hanged themselves with ropes while the rest consumed pesticide in seven cotton-growing districts of Maharashtra state, said Kishore Tiwari, president of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, or People's Movement.

State government officials were not immediately available for comment.

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," said Tiwari. "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 US$815 million (EUR640 million) aid package for six drought-hit Maharashtra districts announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

India's agriculture sector is heavily dependent on annual monsoon rains.

Erratic rainfall and crippling water shortages over the past six years have ruined crops and left farmers indebted.

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