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JEEVALEBANAH STEPHEN (10/PELA/005) MARIA BENJAMIN (10/PELA/006) RAKHI LALWANI (10/PELA/029)
The large number of suicides by farmers in various parts of the country is perhaps the most distressing phenomenon observed in India over the last decade. Every suicide has a multiplicity of causes. But when you have nearly 200,000 of them, it makes sense to seek broad common factors within that group. Within those reasons, Dr. Nagaraj has repeatedly pointed out, the suicides appear concentrated in regions of high commercialisation of agriculture and very high peasant debt. Cash crop farmers seemed far more vulnerable to suicide than those growing food crops. These suicides, which reached almost epidemic proportions in certain pockets of the country, were first picked up and reported by an alert press around the late 1990s.
Official reports initially denied the farmer suicides Major reporter of these suicides - the Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu, P. Sainath The public concern that these reports led to forced some of the state governments like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra to set up enquiry commissions to go into this phenomenon in the respective states. The databases that either the press or these enquiry commissions depended on were somewhat uncoordinated and sporadic: they were either impressionistic, or based on data collated by activist sources like the Kisan Sabhas, or small scale surveys conducted by the enquiry commissions. Initially it was believed that most of the suicides were happening among the cotton growers
All farmers as a professional category were suffering, irrespective of their holding size More than 17,500 farmers a year killed themselves between 2002 and 2006, according to experts Close to two-thirds of these suicides have occurred in five states -Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Punjab accounting for just about a third of the country’s population but two-thirds of farmers’ suicides. The rate at which farmers are killing themselves in these states is far higher than suicide rates among non-farmers. 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
While the number of farm suicides increased since 2001, the number of farmers has fallen
According to government data, over 5,000 farmers committed suicide in 2005-2009 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. Cases in Kerala were about 905, Gujarat 387, Punjab 75 and Tamil Nadu 26.
shocking as it is. the worst figure for farm suicides in six years.936. the state of Chhattisgarh reported 1. is in fact an underestimation of the actual number of farm suicides in the country during this period. are put together from the police records from different states. as we have noted above. . These data published by the National Crime Records Bureau. We would believe that even this number.500 farmers committed suicide due to debt and crop failure At least 17. according to data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The number of farmers who have committed suicide in India between 1997 and 2007 now stands at a staggering 182.368 Indian farmers killed themselves in 2009. (Table 1) In April 2009.
4) . They do the bulk of work in agriculture – but are just “farmers’ wives.g. From the experience of field visits it was seen that police often adopted a rather strict and stringent definition of a farmer in identifying a farm suicide. 3. The title to land was taken as the criterion for identifying the farmer and this often left out a genuine farmer from the count.” This classification enables governments to exclude countless women farmer suicides. women farmers are not normally accepted as farmers (by custom.g. E.” (Table 2. a tenant farmer who leased in land and hence did not have a title to the land could be denied the status of a farmer. E. land is almost never in their names). so also a farmer if the title was in his father’s name. They will be recorded as suicide deaths – but not as “farmers’ suicides.
AIDS.g. physical trauma Overwhelming single circumstance – social humiliation e. mental aberration and debilitating diseases .when they fall sick or after marriages – financial resources depleted Accident or illness when there were loans Illness– psychiatric factors. extra marital affairs.CAUSES Social Roots of Distress: No loans – farmers had taken no loans from institutions or private sources .
Family history – found in 8. no health service provider. extremely aggressive and bad tempered. Chronic illness – serious drain on family resources – like cirrhosis of liver caused due to alcohol consumption. . Poor medical facilities and lack of counseling – expenditure on medicine and treatment with doctors who had no qualifications for a particular disease. quarrelsome and abusive. Research has also pointed to a certain types of technological change as having played an instrumental role in the problem. and no information available. In the absence of any responsible counseling either from the government or society there were many farmers who did not know how to survive in the changing economy.3% of the cases Personality disorders – excessive spending on marriages.
Inadequate irrigation facility Non availability of quality input material in time . : A 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 suicides wherever farm chemicals were in widespread use. E. They are dependent on agents for information. Farmers did not have access to extension machinery of the government in giving sound information on how to deal with pests and declining productivity of land.g.
Farmers in Maharashtra preferred cultivation of ‘white gold’ – risky – non availability of quality seeds Lack of non-farm opportunities Unwillingness to adapt to scientific practices Insufficient power supply Inconsistency of rainfall during monsoon .g. E.
Financial roots of distress Indebtedness through use of costly Bt Cotton was the main cause for farmers suicide Rural indebtedness – amount spent on consumption needs was immense – “Farmer is born in debt and dies in the same condition” Bank action – confiscation notices for land sent from bank. Agriculture not the primary source of income – farmers have other businesses for which they take loans as well. Crop failure – inexperienced farmers under social or marital pressure. civil suit of recovery and use of force to pay cash which resulted in farmer taking more loans and people refusing to give more loans. .
Landlessness due to debt Minimum Support Price has not been available to all farmers. particularly the small and marginal farmers. expenditure on health A downturn in the urban economy was pushing a large number of distressed non-farmers to try their hand at cultivation Non-remunerative prices Dominance of middlemen in Agricultural Marketing Structure. . Thrift – not ready to spend on a daughters’ marriage. Harassment by money lenders – moral torture because of heavy dependence on money lenders.
High cost of production Globalization Exorbitant rate of interest and other terms and conditions of loans availed from money lenders Huge expenditure on children's education Familial difficulties making agriculture a difficult occupation – loan repayment pressure due to family abandonment .
agriculture pricing policy and cropping pattern. Policy changes to focus on farmers rather than on seed and fertilizer corporations Set up of a commission with statutory powers that takes decisions on issues such as genetic modification technology and its impact on Indian agriculture.REMEDIES There is need for major review of agricultural policy to meet the changing needs of both producers and consumers. Facilities should be given to farmers in order that they may achieve self-sufficiency in agricultural production. . Provision of modern equipment for improved agricultural productivity.
Establishment of Helpline for farmers . with farming activities. Dissemination of information such as agricultural prices and methods of low-cost organic farming Ensuring extension support and convergence at district level Promotion of agro-processing industries through cooperative system Diversification/crop rotation in agricultural production in changed scenario. poultry etc. Adoption of Non-Farm activities with allied agricultural activities. Encouraging the farmers to adopt allied activities like dairy. fishery.
medium and minor irrigation projects sanctioned Effective watershed management construction of check dams construction of rain water harvesting structures .Provision of assured irrigation facilities Integration of surface and groundwater irrigation schemes Micro Irrigation – all districts to be covered under Scheme of Micro Irrigation for propagation of Drip and Sprinkler Irrigation Completion of all major.
Financial Short-term suggestions/ Recommendations for immediate relief and rehabilitations: Immediate (adequate) compensation given on a priority basis to families of victims Ex-gratia payment for families to meet loan repayments and live with some level of dignity Comprehensive insurance safety net .
Long-term recommendations: Fundamental policy changes to factor in the fluctuating production cost in the Minimum Support Price mechanism Adoption of upgraded technology inputs along with provision of infrastructure inputs like: power at subsidized cost supply of quality inputs like seeds. fertilizers. tractors credit provision through all nationalized banks Insurance against natural calamity .
etc. dairying. livelihood support system through: Complete credit cover through institutional credit sources Debt relief by restructuring overdue loans and interest waiver Subsidiary income opportunities through horticulture. fisheries. . livestock.For the rehabilitation of distressed farmers and their family members the Central as well as State Government should announce special packages Central Rehabilitation Package Establishment of sustainable and viable farming.
Prime Minister visited the Vidarbha region in July 2006 and announced a package of Rs.3750 crores to the families of the farmers in Maharashtra.g. Ex-gratia assistance from PMNRF (PMs National Relief Fund) – Rs. Better extension and farming support services and improved marketing facilities E. 50 lakh per district – Maharashtra Fresh credit to farmers. Loan waiver proposed in Budget 2008-09 E.g. .
Disbursing crop loan through Farmers Self Help Groups. Enhanced subsidy on crop insurance premium Financial assistance (for land development) to acquire farm equipment. inputs like seeds/ pest control measures & biofertilisers Financial assistance for mass community marriages . Limiting the interest payable to the original principal amount.State Rehabilitation package Ban on illegal private lending and legalizing of licensed moneylenders.
.g. Government of Maharashtra announced the special package of Rs. Central Government and Financial Institutions.1075 crores for the affected families E. there is a need for a joint initiative by State Government. Thus. for the upliftment of the farmers.225 crores).Package of the State Government E.g Rescheduling of the outstanding crop loan and subsidy on interest to the indebted farmers (Rs.
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