MUMBAI:The Maharashtra government has a curious explanation for its bizarrely low count of 3 farmers' suicides on account of the unseasonal rains and hailstorms which have destroyed large swathes of crops.

While the state admits 601 farmers have killed themselves between January and March, apparently only three of them wrote suicide notes mentioning the rains and hailstorms as the reason.

"Only three farmers wrote suicide notes specifically saying they were killing themselves because of the rains and hailstorms. So when the Centre asked us for data on hailstorm-related suicides, we were only sure about this number," state agriculture minister Eknath Khadse said.

Mr Khadse admitted that the TOI's recent report on 601 farmers' suicides between January and March was accurate. 'These are the state government's figures. But we cannot say for sure if the rest of the
cases were directly linked to unseasonal rains and hailstorms," Mr Khadse said.

Union Minister Radhamohan Singh mentioned the figure of 3 farmers suicides on account of the hailstorms in parliament on Monday, triggering protests from the Opposition.

Now the state government's explanation has triggered fresh outrage. "How many farmers will write suicide notes to begin with, let alone giving the hailstorms as a reason?" asked Kishor Tiwari from the Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti. "The unseasonal rain has led to massive crop losses. When a farmer who has lost crops kills himself, it should be understood that the rains and hailstorms are the reason," he said.

The state government's data shows a rising number of farmer's suicides after the drought began last year. The recent spells of unseasonal rains have led to more distress. Of the 601 farmers suicides recorded by the state between January and March, only 241 have been found to be eligible for government compensation, the state's figures show. The state declared 114 cases ineligible. So far 193 cases have been compensated, the state's data shows.

Report 15: The original version of this story appeared in The Times of India on 22 Apr 2015

More in this series:

Report 1: Nearly 80000 homeless elders go hungry
Report 2: Drought hits 90 lakhs farmers in Maharashtra
Report 3: Kharif crops hit by drought pulses take a maha pounding
Report 4: 40% rise in farmer suicides in Maharashtra
Report 5: Bitter Harvest - Where villagers dig for hours to fill a pot
Report 6: Drought migration forces aged to toil as farm hands
Report 7: The man with 48 borewells in drought-hit Marathwada
Report 8: Maharashtra's drought-hit farmers without bank accounts denied aid
Report 9: Maharashtra govt says mulling farmer insurance as opposition cites TOI’s suicide reports
Report 10: Study: Agri-corporates, not farmers, hog loans
Report 11: Direct loans below Rs 25,000 to farmers plunge to 4.3% from 23%
Report 12: Only 12% potential of Maharashtra’s 70,000 small dams used
Report 13: Unseasonal rain: 601 farmer suicides in Maharashra in just 3 months
Report 14: 'Only 3 Maharashtra farmers ended life due to unseasonal rain'
Report 16: Beef banned, but no state-run cow shelters in sight