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India is an Agrarian country with around 60% of its people directly or indirectly depend upon Agriculture.

Agriculture in India is often attributed as gambling with Monsoon because of its almost exclusive dependency on Monsoons. The failure of these monsoons leading to series of droughts, lack of better prices, exploitation by Middlemen have been leading to series of suicides committed by farmers across India.[1] Statistics Farmers in India became the centre of considerable concern in the 1990s when the journalist P Sainath highlighted the large number of suicides among them. Official reports initially denied the farmer suicides but as more and more information came to light the government began to accept that farmers in India were under considerable stress. On figures there was much debate since the issue was so emotive. The government tried to underplay the cases of farmer deaths, intellectual supporters of the farmers preferred to inflate them. More than 17,500 farmers a year killed themselves between 2002 and 2006, according to experts who have analyzed government statistics.[2] Others traced the increase in farmer suicides to the early 1990s.[3] It was said, a comprehensive all-India study is still awaited, that most suicides occurred in states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Punjab.[4][5][6][7][8] The situation was grim enough to force at least the Maharashtra government to set up a dedicated office to deal with farmers distress.[9] In 2006, the state of Maharashtra, with 4,453 farmers suicides accounted for over a quarter of the all-India total of 17,060, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). NCRB also stated that there were at least 16,196 farmers' suicides in India in 2008, bringing the total since 1997 to 199,132 . [10] According to another study by the Bureau, while the number of farm suicides increased since 2001, the number of farmers has fallen, as thousands abandoning agriculture in distress.[11] According to government data, over 5,000 farmers committed suicide in 20052009 in Maharashtra, while 1,313 cases reported by Andhra Pradesh between 2005 and 2007. In Karnataka the number stood at 1,003, since 2005-06 till August 2009. According to NCRB database number of suicides during 20052009 in Gujarat 387, Kerala 905, Punjab 75 and Tamil Nadu 26. [12] In April 2009, the state of Chattisgarh reported 1,500 farmers committed suicide due to debt and crop failure.[13] At least 17,368 Indian farmers killed themselves in 2009, the worst figure for farm suicides in six years, according to data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
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[edit]History In the 1990s India woke up to a spate of farmers suicides. One of the major reporters of these suicides was the Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu, P. Sainath. The first state where suicides were reported was Maharashtra. Soon newspapers began to report similar occurrences from Andhra Pradesh.[15] In the beginning it was believed that most of the suicides were happening among the cotton growers, especially those from Vidarbha.[16] A look at the figures given out by the State Crime Records Bureau, however, was sufficient to indicate that it was not just the cotton farmer but farmers as a professional category were suffering, irrespective of their holding size. [17] Moreover, it was not just the farmers from Vidarbha but all over Maharashtra who showed a significantly high suicide rate.[18][19]The government appointed a number of inquiries to look into the causes of farmers suicide and farm related distress in general. Subsequently Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Vidarbha and promised a package of Rs.110 billion (about $2.4 billion) to be spent by the government in Vidarbha. The families of farmers who had committed suicide were also offered an ex gratia grant to the tune of Rs.100,000 (about $2,000) by the government. This figure kept on varying, depending on how much criticism the government was facing from the media and the opposition parties for being uncaring towards the farmers' plight. Such a high figure was ironic considering that the net average income of a family of farmers in this region was approximately Rs.2700 (about $60) per acre per annum. The economic plight of the farmer might be illustrated with the fact that a farmer having as much as 15 acres (61,000 m 2) of land, and hence considered a well-off farmer, had an income of just a little more than what he would have earned were he to merely get the legal minimum wage for all of the 365 days of the year. Little wonder that despite government efforts at pumping in more money into the suicide belt the suicide epidemic among farmers remained unabated through 200607. The problems of the farmers were quite comprehensive. There was little credit available. What was available was very costly. There was no advice on how best to conduct agriculture operations. Income through farming was not enough to meet even the minimum needs of a farming family. Support systems like free health facilities from the government were virtually non-existent. Traditionally support systems in the villages of India had been provided by the government. However, due to a variety of reasons the government had either withdrawn itself from its supportive role or plain simple misgovernance had allowed facilities in the villages to wither away.[20] Causes Research by various investigators like Raj Patel,[2] Nagraj,[18][19] Meeta and Rajivlochan,[21] identified a variety of causes. India was transforming rapidly into a primarily urban, industrial society with industry as its main source of income; the government and society had begun to be unconcerned about the condition of the countryside; moreover, a downturn in the urban economy was pushing a large number of distressed non-farmers to try their hand at cultivation; the farmer was also caught in a Scissors Crisis; in the absence of any responsible counselling either from the government or society there were many farmers who did not know how to survive in the changing economy. Such stresses pushed many into a corner where suicide became an option for them [22] Research has also pointed to a certain types of technological change as having played an instrumental role in the problem. One study from the Punjab showed dramatic misuse of agricultural chemicals in farmer households in the absence of any guidance on how to correctly use these deadly chemicals and linked it to the rise in farm suicides wherever farm chemicals were in widespread use.[23] Important research in Andhra Pradesh showed the very rapid change in seed and pesticide products to have caused "deskilling" in the cotton sector.[24] [edit]GM crops

There have been claims of genetically-modified (GM) seeds (such as Bt cotton) being responsible for the farmer suicides.[25][26][27][28] A short documentary by Frontline (U.S. TV series) suggested that farmers using GM seeds promoted by Cargill and Monsanto have led to rising debts and forced some into the equivalent of indentured servitude to the moneylenders.[29] A report released by the International Food Policy Research Institute in October 2008 provided evidence that the introduction of Bt cotton was not a major factor in farmer suicides in India.[30] It argues that the suicides predate the introduction of the cotton in 2002 and has been fairly consistent since 1997.[30][31] Other studies also suggest the increase in farmer suicides is due to a combination of various socio-economic factors.[32] These include debt, the difficulty of farming semi-arid regions, poor agricultural income, absence of alternative income opportunities, the downturn in the urban economy forcing non-farmers into farming, and the absence of suitable counseling services. [32]
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Responses to Farmers suicides Vidarbha was in the media for a spate of farmer suicides in recent years ostensibly because of the falling Minimum Support Price for cotton. The problem is complex and root causes include lopsided policies of the World Trade Organisation and developed nations' subsidies to their cotton farmers which make Vidarbha's cotton uncompetitive in world markets. Consequently Vidarbha is plagued by high rates of school drop outs, penniless widows left in the wake of suicides, loan sharks and exploitation of the vulnerable groups.[34] The Indian government had promised to increase the minimum rate for cotton by approximately Rs 100 ($2) but reneged on its promise by reducing the Minimum Support Price further. This resulted in more suicides as farmers were ashamed to default on debt payments to loan sharks. "In 2006, 1,044 suicides were reported in Vidarbha alone that's one suicide every eight hours."[35] In April 2007 a development consulting group named Green Earth Social Development Consulting produced a report after doing an audit of the state and central government relief packages in Vidarbha.[36][unreliable source?] The report's conclusions were: Farmers' demands were not taken into account while preparing the relief package. Neither were civil society organisations, local government bodies, panchayats etc. consulted. The relief packages were mostly amalgamations of existing 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 except in Karnataka. 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. The report concluded quite alarmingly that the loan burden of the farmers would double in 2008. To attract attention a variety of catch phrases were coined such as SEZ or (Farmers) Special Elimination Zone states.[37] The government set up a dedicated group to deal with farm distress in 2006 known as the Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavlamban Mission, based in Amravati [9] A group to study the Farmers Suicides was also constituted by the Government of Karnataka under the Chairmanship of Dr Veeresh, Former Vice Chancellor of Agricultural University and Prof Deshpande as member.[38] [edit]In popular culture "Summer 2007" by producer Atul Pandey, focused on the issue of farmer suicides in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region, as did the 2009 Bollywood film Kissan.[39] Prior to this "The Dying Fields", a documentary directed by Fred de Sam Lazaro was aired in August, 2007 on Wide Angle (TV series). In 2006, A documentary by Indian film maker Sumit Khanna titled "Mere Desh Ki Dharti" , did a comprehensive review of the way we grow our food. A well researched and in-depth understanding of the agrarian crisis, it won the national award for the best Investigative film. In 2009, the International Museum of Women included an examination of the impact of farmers' suicides on the lives of the farmers' wives and children in their exhibition Economica: Women and the Global Economy. Their slideshow "Growing Debt" and accompanying essay by curator Masum Momaya entitled "Money of Her Own" showed how many widows were left with the burden of their husbands' debts, and were forced to work as indentured servants to repay the debt. The widows were also unlikely to remarry, because other men in the community were unwilling to take on the widows' debts for themselves.[40] The 2010, award winning film Jhing Chik Jhing is based around the emotive issue of farmer suicides in Maharashtra. It looks at how the farmer has very little in his control and looks at the impact of indebtedness on his family.[41] Though the number of farmers suicides in Maharashtra registered a fall of 930 in 2009, the state with 2,872 suicides continued to be the worst in the country, 10th year in a row, according to the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. The data released in December 2010 confirms a rising trend, with at least 17,368 farmers killing themselves in India in 2009, up by 1,172 from 2008. At least 1,27,151 people in the country lost their lives by committing suicide in 2009, indicating an increase of 1.7% over the previous years figure (1,25,017). The rate of farmers suicides was thus higher at more than 7% over the

previous year, and over four times the general suicides rate, the data reveals. This means that among all professionals, farmers remain most vulnerable. Forty-eight out of 348 suicide deaths in the country every day, the data shows, were of farmers. On an average, around 47 farmers killed themselves every day since 2004, from when the numbers spiked. This comes to one farmer suicide every 30 minutes. Maharashtras figure of farmers suicides was 590 more than that registered in Karnataka, the second worst. Experts say the trend, despite the existence of special packages in some states, is disturbing given that it is but one indication of the several that there is no let-up, whatsoever, in the agrarian distress. Between 2003 and 2007, Maharashtra breached the 4,000 mark in farmer suicides thrice. Over 12,000 farmers committed suicide in the state in tBetween 2003 and 2007, Maharashtra breached the 4,000 mark in farmer suicides thrice. Over 12,000 farmers committed suicide in the state in this period. The 2009 data in the NCRBs annual report on Accidental deaths and suicides released last month brings the allIndia tally since 1997 to a staggering 2,16,500. Add the incomplete data of 1995 and 1996 reported by a few states 24,449 suicides; the total soars to 240949 - or about a quarter of a million. An institution within the Union home ministry, the NCRB is tracking farmer suicides data since 1995, but it was in 1997 that all the states began reporting the figure of suicides among farmers. The data, however, does not desegregate the region-wise situation, so how many farmers in Vidarbha killed themselves in 2009 cant be known. But a recent note by the divisional commissioner to the chief minister of Maharashtra says that 1,004 farmers committed suicide in the six worst-affected districts of western Vidarbha that year, a marginal decline over the previous few years, but still a third of the states actual figure. Of that, only 263 suicides were due to agrarian distress, the note says. That is, only about a fourth of the total suicides were due to indebtedness, where the debts were from formal sources like the banks or the primary agriculture societies. The government does not take into account private debts. In the region, 55% farmers do not fall in the formal credit network; they borrow from private sources. The note mentions that despite special packages - the CMs Rs1,075-crore package announced in 2005 and the PMs Rs3,750-crore package in 2006 besides the Centres loan waiver scheme - the suicides show only a marginal decline. In 2010, western Vidarbha logged in 1,060 suicides, of which 213 cases were due to agrarian crisis. The note says that 7,104 farmers committed suicide in the six districts between 2001 and 2010, and 2,429 or a third were found eligible cases for the Rs1 lakh ex-gratia to the family members. The figure excludes suicides by women farmers. The six districts have a very high SMR (suicide mortality rate or the number of suicides per 1 lakh population) of between 30 and 60 as against the states average of 13.2 and 10.9 for the country. his period. Though 18 of 28 states reported higher farmer suicide numbers in 2009, some, like Jammu & Kashmir or Uttarakhand, saw a negligible rise. But the share of big five states that have been reporting a very high farmer suicides rate for nearly a decade now - Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh - continued to be high, with 10,765 suicides or 62% of the total. Maharashtra has seen 44,276 farmer suicides since 1997, or over a fifth of the total suicides. This year its logged 2,872 suicides, down by 930 compared to 2008. Karnataka, with 2,282 in 2009, saw the highest rise of 545 of all states. Andhra Pradesh recorded 2,414, 309 more than the previous years tally, while Madhya Pradesh, 1,395, and Chhattisgarh, 1,802, saw a marginal increase. Inaddition to these states, Tamil Nadus tally almost doubled from 512 in 2008 to 1,060 in 2009. Prevention of Farmers Suicides In the last few years, a large number of farmers have committed suicide. Cases of suicides have been reported from states such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. The NCF has underlined the need to address the farmer suicide problem on a priority basis. Some of measures suggested include: Provide affordable health insurance and revitalize primary healthcare centres. The National Rural Health Mission should be extended to suicide hotspot locations on priority basis. Set up State level Farmers Commission with representation of farmers for ensuring dynamic government response to farmers problems. Restructure microfinance policies to serve as Livelihood Finance, i.e. credit coupled with support services in the areas of technology, management and markets. Cover all crops by crop insurance with the village and not block as the unit for assessment. Provide for a Social Security net with provision for old age support and health insurance. Promote aquifer recharge and rain water conservation. Decentralise water use planning and every village should aim at Jal Swaraj with Gram Sabhas serving as Pani Panchayats. Ensure availability of quality seed and other inputs at affordable costs and at the right time and place. Recommend low risk and low cost technologies which can help to provide maximum income to farmers because they cannot cope with the shock of crop failure, particularly those associated with high cost technologies like Bt cotton. Need for focused Market Intervention Schemes (MIS) in the case of life-saving crops such as cumin in arid areas. Have a Price Stabilisation Fund in place to protect the farmers from price fluctuations. Need swift action on import duties to protect farmers from international price.

Set up Village Knowledge Centres (VKCs) or Gyan Chaupals in the farmers distress hotspots. These can provide dynamic and demand driven information on all aspects of agricultural and non-farm livelihoods and also serve as guidance centres. Public awareness campaigns to make people identify early signs of suicidal behavior. Competitiveness of Farmers It is imperative to raise the agricultural competitiveness of farmers with small land holdings. Productivity improvement to increase the marketable surplus must be linked to assured and remunerative marketing opportunities. The measures suggested by NCF include: Promotion of commodity-based farmers organisations such as Small Cotton Farmers Estates to combine decentralised production with centralised services such as post-harvest management, value addition and marketing, for leveraging institutional support and facilitating direct farmer-consumer linkage. Improvement in implementation of Minimum Support Price (MSP). Arrangements for MSP need to be put in place for crops other than paddy and wheat. Also, millets and other nutritious cereals should be permanently included in the PDS. MSP should be at least 50% more than the weighted average cost of production. Availability of data about spot and future prices of commodities through the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCD) and the NCDEX and the APMC electronic networks covering 93 commodities through 6000 terminals and 430 towns and cities. State Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Acts [APMC Acts] relating to marketing, storage and processing of agriculture produce need to shift to one that promotes grading, branding, packaging and development of domestic and international markets for local produce, and move towards a Single Indian Market. Employment Structural change in the workforce is taking place in India albeit slowly. In 1961, the percentage of the workforce in agriculture was 75.9%. while the number decreased to 59.9% in 1999-2000. But agriculture still provides the bulk of employment in the rural areas. The overall employment strategy in India must seek to achieve two things. First, create productive employment opportunities and second to improve the quality of employment in several sectors such that real wages rise through improved productivity. The measures to do so include: Accelerating the rate of growth of the economy; Emphasizing on relatively more labour intensive sectors and inducing a faster growth of these sectors; and Improving the functioning of the labour markets through such modification as may be necessary without eroding the core labour standards. Encourage non-farm employment opportunities by developing particular sectors and sub-sectors where demand for the product or services is growing namely: (i) trade, (ii) restaurants and hotels, (iii) transport, (iv) construction, (v) repairs and (vi) certain services. The net take home income of farmers should be comparable to those of civil servants. Bioresources Rural people in India depend on a wide range of bioresources for their nutrition and livelihood security. The report recommends: Preserving traditional rights of access to biodiversity, which include access to non-timber forest products including medicinal plants, gums and resins, oil yielding plants and beneficial micro-organisms; Conserving, enhancing and improving crops and farm animals as well as fish stocks through breeding; Encouraging community-based breed conservation (i.e. conservation through use); Allowing export of indigenous breeds and import of suitable breeds to increase productivity of nondescript animals.