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Farmer-the most endangered species

Desparate Indian Farmers Kill themselves in ‘Free’ Market Economy

Posted by Ramoo on February 19, 2007….

Siliconeer, News Feature, Siliconeer Report, Posted: Feb 19, 2007

You watch “I Want My Father Back,” Suma Josson’s poignant documentary film on the misery of small-scale farmers in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region, and it breaks your heart.
Academics may argue about economic statistics, ideologues can engage in polemical debates, but Suma Josson has actually been there, and documented the suffering first hand.
I Want My Father Back was screened recently in the Bay Area at the University of California at Berkeley, Fremont and Santa Clara in association with the India Relief and Education Fund (, a 12-year-old Bay Area organization, which works towards increasing awareness about social justice issues in India.
Whether it’s an inconsolable father sadly going over the modest belongings of his daughter who committed suicide, or a son crying his heart out as he reminisces about his father’s suicide while his grandfather’s creased face is immobile in stoic silence, you realize that the policies that can do this to ordinary, decent people is nothing short of criminal.
Step back and think about it for a moment, and your disquiet is even greater. There are many questions but no answers. Why is the Indian media AWOL on this issue? Where is the public outrage?
The statistics are staggering. From 1998 to 2006, over 100,000 farmers have committed suicides. In Vidarbha, 3,000 farmers have taken their lives in the 1999-2006 period. Since June 2005, 2-3 farmers have been committing suicides every day.
Yet you wouldn’t know that from the Indian media. Reports of farmer suicides and protests do appear in fits and spurts, but most of the media appears focused on the glitzy malls, the phoren fast-food chains, the luxury cars, the call centers and the hip lifestyles o the rich and famous.
So what’s going on here?
The farming crisis did not happen in a day, the film argues. It is the result of decades of wrong policies.
It all began with the Green Revolution in the 1960s, says environmental activist Vandana Shiva. “The Green Revolution is neither green nor a revolution,” she says in the film. “It was a means to open new markets for fertilizers.”
Fertilizers, pesticides and now genetically modified seeds have transformed Indian farming. In the traditional farming method, farmers used to plant multiple crops, food along with cash crops.
Now it’s different: it’s about capital intensive farming and monocrop, and buying seeds from pesticide sellers. The upshot of all this is that small-scale farmers are obliged to borrow heavily from moneylenders to grow cash crops.
If you think that’s bad, you don’t even know the half of it. The real fun begins when the farmer takes his crops to the market to sell it. Thanks to the arm-twisting of the U.S. dominated multilateral organizations like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization — and if truth be told, the appalling spinelessness of the Indian political masters — Indian farmers are locked in a bizarre, unequal battle.
While subsidies for inputs and government procurement programs for the Indian farmer are jettisoned, he is pitted against the farmers of the affluent West who are formidably fortified by generous government support. Some free market, this.
Take cotton. The 25,000 cotton farmers in the U.S. get a subsidy $230 per acre. It should come as no surprise that in this kind of “free” market, from being a traditional exporter of cotton, India has become the world’s third largest importer of cotton.
What happens to the cotton farmer is shown in harrowing detail in the film. Up to their neck in debt, facing plummeting prices for their crops, they are committing suicide in droves.
According to UNICEF, one third of the world’s hungry children live in India. “Our leaders who talk about Shining India, Superpower India, they should be drowned in a palmful of water along with this figures,” fumes Shiva. “(We are a nation of) 70 percent farmers, (with) plenty of sun and water. The soil is good. In such a nation farmers are committing suicide. Children are dying of hunger. This is totally unacceptable.”
Kishor Bhoer, a farmer in Vidarbha, is more blunt: “It’s either suicide or the Naxalites (militant Leftists).”

One Response to “Desparate Indian Farmers Kill themselves in ‘Free’ Market Economy”

  1. Thanks dear

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