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In India’s richest state, exam scams kill escape from farm crisis

Ganesh Kale took three dozen exams but was robbed of a fair shot because of corruption. So he tried to take his life.

Mumbai, India – Had it not been for his grandfather, Ganesh Kale might have been dead today.

In January this year, the 40-year-old woke at 6am in his remote village in India’s western state of Maharashtra and quietly walked to his 2-hectare (5-acre) farm – on which the millet crop was about to be harvested – to end his life.

Just as he was about to swallow a bottle of pesticide, his grandfather shouted at him, making Kale pause. The old man then rushed towards Kale and snatched the bottle from his hands.

“I had hit rock bottom,” he told Al Jazeera. “I couldn’t think of a reason to live.”

Kale comes from a part of India that is well familiar with suicide deaths. Maharashtra state has India’s largest economy by far. But that wealth does not reach Kale’s rural district of Beed in the western agrarian region of Marathwada, now famous for its farmer suicides. According to official estimates, the region recorded more than 26,000 farmer suicides between 2013 and 2022 – an average of seven a day.

The suicides in Marathwada have been triggered by falling crop prices, rising inflation and climate change, with the average farm household income being as low as 11,492 rupees a month ($138), according to government figures, forcing farmers to think of alternative income sources for survival.

But unlike thousands from Marathwada, the farm crisis was not the immediate trigger for Kale to try to take his life.

An exam scam was what drove him to that extreme step.

Amid the deepening agricultural crisis, tens of thousands of children of farmers have been taking online exams for various government jobs, seeking a better