Farmers Suicides in India – A Bane To Agriculture

Agriculture is India’s lifeline. We must work towards strengthening it.The Indian Farmers should live long and prosper. Their families shall flourish in all aspects of life.We should contribute our efforts and life experiences to bring out the best in them and improve their quality of life.

In the 1990s India woke up to a spate of farmers suicides. The first state where suicides were reported was Maharashtra. Soon newspapers began to report similar occurrences from Andhra Pradesh.

Suicides in general, including farmers’ suicides, are a sad and complex phenomenon. Hence, their Underlying causes need to be addressed within an equally complex societal framework.

In recent years, a large number of suicides have been reported, mostly resulting from the consumption of toxic pesticides by farmers in some cotton-growing districts of central and southern India. According to some official statistics, between 2001 and the summer of 2007, more than 4,500 cases of farmer suicides were reported in the four states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Maharashtra (Mukherjee 2007). Other sources have reported much higher figures: in particular, the National Social Watch, a coalition of civil society organizations, reports 11,387 farmer suicides in the same period in India, almost all in those four states (The Statesman 2007), while the National Crime Records Bureau reports more than 16,000 farmer suicides every year. In most cases, male farmers committed suicide after experiencing failed crops and increased indebtedness. The largest number of reported cases was concentrated in districts of northeast Maharashtra (Vidharba District), northwest Andhra Pradesh, and northern Karnataka, where cotton was increasingly planted in the 1990s in response to demand generated by the large textile industry in Mumbai (Saunders2007).

Over a lakh has been accounted and one in every eight hour is taking place. These numbers may look like the statistics of clientele build up of an upcoming BPO company, but unfortunately are the statistics of farmer’s suicide in India, the other side of an emerging Global economic giant.

Excuses like Globalization, economic transition corrections and world economic scenario etc are surreal. The problem is our urban and neo urban ruling class and their laptop economic plans, whose agenda can never grow beyond statistics and stimulations.

The crisis small farmers in India face as a result of globalization and government apathy. For the past ten years farmers have been committing suicide in Vidarbha, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka as in many other parts of India. More than 1.5 lakh farmers have committed suicide across the country in the last decade due to financial distress, as per government’s report to the Parliament of India.
The main act of this tragedy started in mid 60’s with the introduction of the Green Revolution. Earlier, farmers saved their own seeds and practiced organic farming. The money they invested on their farms was very little. But with Green Revolution farmers were asked to buy seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, forcing them to borrow, mostly from private money lenders at exorbitant interest rates. With every farming season their debt increased and over the course of years it led to a loan trap. The second phase of this tragic situation can be directly attributed to ‘globalization’. Under the WTO (World Trade Organization) regime, which favors wealthy industrialized countries, the Indian government has eliminated or reduced its support to farmers, while Indian agriculture is invaded by multinationals.

In April 2007 an NGO named Green Earth Social Development Consulting brought out a report after doing an audit of the state and central government relief packages in Vidarbha. The report’s conclusions were:

Farmers’ demands were not taken into count while preparing the relief package. Neither were civil society organizations, local government bodies, panchayats etc consulted.
The relief packages were mostly amalgamations of exiting schemes. Apart from the farmer helpline and the direct financial assistance, there was scarcely anything new being offered. Pumping extra funds into additional schemes shows that no new idea was applied to solve a situation where existing measures had obviously failed. The farmer helpline did not give any substantial help to farmers.
The basis for selection of beneficiaries under the assistance scheme was not well-defined. Also, type of assistance to be given led to problems like a farmer needing a pair of bullocks getting a pump set and vice versa (or a farmer who has no access to water sources being given pump sets)
Awareness regarding the package was also fairly low.
Thus, suicides are supposed to be the last steps of desperation, apparently driven by growing burden of debt. Its time that we, the people call up on the power for solutions. We do not want anymore farmer suicide.

By: Prof.Jasmeet Kaur