Suicidal tendency among the Indian farmers: How much we know about it
Posted by Ramoo on January 24, 2007
SuhanIndia is considered as a fast moving economy with good potentials in human development and massive industrial advancement. Despite this economic achievement, desperate farmers in some region s of the country are committing suicide with the hope of getting relief from their enormous debt and ill-fated life. It’s gradually turning into an epidemic in India, where farmers find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty with frequent drought and but on the other hand the outside world sees India as the next Asian Tiger.
Since 1997, more than 25,000 farmers have committed suicide across the country, many consuming the chemical that was supposed to make their crops more productive. Machinery, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and hybrid seeds , all of which originated in the West, on the contrary spell disaster here rather than prosperity as Indian farmers witness the other side of globalization very closely. The tragedy unfolds largely from crop failure, drought, pests, and pesticides that small farmers don’t have the means to face. The tendency is higher in Warangal District of Andhra Pradesh which is a suicide belt consisting districts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Apart from this region, Royalaseema, Anantapur, Vidarbha area in East Maharashtra and in certain other districts in northern Karnataka also face the tragedy.
The government of India has taken decisions on macro-economic policies, approved plans for big dams, ports and roads, established Social Economic Zones, cut taxes on computer accessories, and undertaken big development projects. But these farmers got very little benefit from the government , as for they do not get what they actually need and deserve. The modest list of government’s response includes free electricity for agriculture, waiver of electricity dues and Rs.150, 000 as financial assistance for the relatives of the farmers who committed suicide in 2006 is in no way to redress the problems of the farmers.
Government support price for the farmers is too low; a recent study done by the Government of Andhra Pradesh reported that more than 55 percent of the farmers are not getting the ‘Minimum Support Price’. For instance, In Anantapur district, about 90% of the holdings are small and marginal. They are under immense pressure owing to the vagaries of market and non-institutional forces that control credit and output. Most of the farmers are very much tied in the hands of the traders and middlemen who often take advantage of their poverty and desperation. This depresses the price that farmers should get for their output. Additionally, cost of cultivation has increased manifold since 1990s. In 2006, the government-sponsored cotton marketing federation purchased 13, 00,000 quintals of raw cotton from its 100-odd procurement centres, while the private traders have purchased 68,00,000 quintals till December 31. On the other hand, farmers in the region have produced over 220,00,000 raw cotton only in 2006. Poor farmers sometimes look for a helping hand from the agricultural or commercial banks; but these institutions give loan at very high interest rates and ask for collateral, which the farmers fail to produce.
Several non-governmental organizations including banks, research centers are trying to implement strategies aiming at increasing these farmers’ income by 3 to 4 times through better co-ordination and synergizing the available resources. They through several studies found out that the government apathy, the absence of a safety net for farmers, lack of finance and lack of access to information related to agriculture are the major causes for the desperate condition of farmers.
Less expensive, lower-risk organic farming methods might offer a solution for the cotton-growing crisis in India. But without a change in agriculture policy and practices, thousands more Indian farmers are likely to continue to take their own lives.
‘Fastest growing free market democracy’ a slogan that the Indians use to glorify them is not implacable for most of the Indians; 44% of the population still lives below the international standard of $1 per day, and as many as 86% live below $2 per day. It is probably necessary for the policy makers to go into the depth of the problem with an open mind and search for a genuine solution. More public and private investments in the rural areas along with introduction of micro-credit could be considered as a long term solution. Lowering interest rates will also be important to make cheaper credit available. Side by side, the government should take steps to make fertilizer, pesticide and seeds easily available to the poor and really deserving farmers. Free counseling to handle the problems and educating the farmers in modern methods of cultivation would definitely restore confidence among the farmers, which in turn would reduce the frustration among them.