By: Shivani Pachori & Akhilesh Dhar
“We would rather blame it on the British who robbed India of its resources, but, even after 71 years of Independence; we have failed to provide basic facilities like water and electricity to the poor farmers forget about helping them with money during the phase of failed crop”.
India, the world’s largest democracy and extensive agrarian country with around 70% of its people depending directly or indirectly upon agriculture and it contributes to 16-17% of the GDP. India is a luminary land for agriculturist with highest production of Cotton, Sugar, Jute and 2nd largest producer of rice after China. With such great achievement of country comes the bitter reality which can neither be ignored nor it should be i.e., suicides of farmers. There has been a history of farmers doing suicide in our nation for various reasons which still exist. However, the reasons have changed with the passage of time but farmers suicide statistical scenario remains uninterrupted. There is no contradiction that menace of farmer’s suicide exists and runs counter to the yearings of reaping benefits of our demographic divident. Even our democratically elected governments that desires to represent world’s largest democracy where more than half of the population is depending on farming, agriculture has been ignored at a precipitous cost to farmer’s lives.
Before the independence of our country problems such as high taxes, debt traps, and unethical and illegal policies of money lenders used to be the main reason of farmer’s suicide which drifted to government policies, personal issues, family problems, public mental health, loans, etc in 21st century. But with time the graph of such incidences have decreased from 19th century to 21st century. There was a hike in suicides between 1850-1940 where the rate accelerated to 79 suicides per lakh in Central provinces and 37 per lakh in southern provinces. We have National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) who keeps an eye on such cases of our nation. In 2014, the NCRB of India reported 5,650 farmer suicides. In recent years maximum number of suicides were committed in year 2004 i.e., 18241 farmers. When seen statistically among all the suicides in country, 11.2% of them are done by farmers.
Usually it is seen that suicide by farmers is not because of just one reason. It is often motivated by 3-4 reasons. A few causes of suicides which have appeared in recent years are use of genetically modified seed which costs more than twice of that of normal seed. Another reason is the use of lower quantity pesticides due to less investments producing a decreased yeild. According to the various reports, top 5 states in farmer’s suicide are :-
When seen it was found that 76% of the total suicide of farmers were from these 5 states out of 29. It is also found that number of deaths in southern states is 10 times than that of northern states. Between 2009-2016 , 23000 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra which backs it as the leading state in suffering farmers. NCRB data suggests that in 2474 suicides out of the studied 3000 farmer suicides in 2015 the victims had unpaid loans from regional banks. This is intelligible symptom for drawing correlations between the two. Whether or not the banks had been harassing them, however, is a long-drawn debate and needs more specific verifiable evidence. Moreover, a shift away from usual trend also revealed that of the loans taken by these farmers, only 9.8% were loans from money-lenders. Thus the pressure or muscle-power of money-lenders could be far from being a major driving force, as is otherwise perceived. Another source of strong linkages between farmer suicides and indebtedness is reflected from the spread of the two. While Maharashtra had 1293 suicides for indebtedness, Karnataka had 946. Note that both these states saw one of the highest prevalences of farmer suicides as well as indebtedness.
There was a hike in suicide cases of farmers in 2009 after which strict plans and actions were taken which resulted in 10% decrease of such cases in country with 14% decrease of them in Maharashtra which continued to decrease upto 21% in 2015 i.e., from 22 to 17 farmers each day in just Maharashtra, which is still not a less number yet less than what it was before. If an analysis is made for a decade than there is a declination of 32% from 2007-2016. According to Hindustan Times, which said “The farmers’ suicides get so much attention, but for the widows it’s a living death every day. She has nothing, she can do nothing, and she is treated as little more than a slave by even her own family.”
This news draws attention towards the aftermaths faced by the family of the farmers who has committed suicide and especially the wife. Those reasons which once urged the farmer to commit suicide are laid upon the wife who bares the consequences and certainly gets no repentance of the wrong happened with her. Wife being the pillar of family battles with state moneylenders, inlaws and communities for her rights and family. Several times they are even excluded from society and abused because of their weak conditions. They unlike their husbands do not have an option to quit as they have responsibility of their children and rest of the family yet few cases nearly 500 in numbers have been seen in 2014 of suicides of widows of farmers who have committed suicide.
Here’s the brief solution that could help in improving the state of farmers:-
The dependency of agriculture on nature should be reduced. This calls for effective management of water during seasons of good monsoons. Prevention of crop failure should be the primary aim of the Government. In most cases, it is not the lack of water but the lack of proper management on the government’s part that causes water shortage. A simple example for this is the case of the farmers in the Penna delta of Nellore District of Andhra Pradesh. Inspite of the availability of ample water for a second crop, the government decided against permitting the second crop, in view of proposed repairs and upgradation to the reservoirs. The proposal would result in draining of precious water into the sea which could be used to the benefit of the farmers. It was only after several agitations by the farmers’ organizations that the Government relented and allowed the second crop.
Water management should be made more effective through inter- state co-operation on water resources, where surplus water from perennial rivers can be diverted to those regions facing drought, as it is always seen in India, where in state there is severe drought, another state has to face worst floods, such regional imbalances can be managed by effective utilization of water resources throughout the country. Moreover, government should made institutional finance available to every farmer is another important solution to save to the farmers from debt traps of money lenders. Where institutional finance is available, it should be made easily accessible to the poorest farmers. This calls for removing of elaborate formalities and procedures for obtaining the loans.
Farmers need to be advised and guided on economical methods of cultivation which would save finances for them. The technological advancement in agriculture should be passed down to the small farmers. We must urge government to come up with pro-active solutions and the nation has to realize that farmers’ suicides are not minor issues happening in remote parts of a few states, it is a reflection of the true state of the basis of our economy.
Farming is a profession of hope. If you ate today, thank a FARMER.