Indian Agrarian Crisis now moved to

Farmer-the most endangered species

It’s suicidal not to address real problems of farmers

Posted by Ramoo on February 21, 2007…



MUMBAI: The state government’s claim that farmers’ suicides in Vidarbha region are in decline has been called into question by the local NGOs and social activists. Though the figures for the past three months offer some solace, the slump in numbers hides the real agrarian crisis and the catastrophe could revisit Vidarbha in 2007 as well, they point out.
According to the government website that has been tracking the issue in six districts of Vidarbha, more than 1,450 farmers had ended their lives in 2006 alone. It claims that the number has come down in the recent months. “Farm suicides due to agrarian reasons have come down in past couple of months mainly because of government measures. There are non-agrarian reasons behind suicides like social problems, general rural distress, family issues, but they cannot be termed farm suicides,” said Sudhir Kumar Goyal, divisional commissioner, Amravati. This apparently is one of the six districts where the state as well as central government’s relief measures are being implemented, and Mr Goyal acts as the director of the government mission.
In December 2006, a little more than 100 suicides were reported from the six districts. This is alarming, but the previous months are no better which had reported between 115-125 suicides. In January, the number was down to 73, and 60 suicides have been reported till February 20.
Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, an NGO engaged in documenting suicide stories and extending relief to the widows of farmers who have killed themselves, thinks that the larger tragedy behind the statistics has not been addressed by the two relief packages worth more than Rs 5,000 crore announced by the Centre and the state government. “Number of suicides may have come down, but the root causes of the crisis have not been addressed so far.
Farmers in general, and cotton growers in particular, are not getting a good remunerative price which could make cotton farming a profitable venture. Very few farmers have access to institutionalised system of lending and the rate of interest on farm credit has not been slashed to 7% as promised. Finally, farmers are increasingly getting exposed to genetically modified seeds without being made aware about the technology and modern farm practices,” said Kishore Tiwari of the Samiti.
There are some who believe that even those suicides which the government claims have not taken place due to agrarian factors must be attributed to the socio-economic plight of farmers. “If a farmer does not have money to marry his daughter, is it not a reflection of his financial status? If there is low productivity, who is to blame for lack of irrigation,” asks Vijay Jawandhiya of Shetkari Sanghatana.
The decline in suicides could, however, be attributed to factors that are not entirely in the purview of the government relief. Measures like a moratorium on recovery of debt, rescheduling of loan repayment and the government’s initiative to marry off farmers’ daughters have helped, no doubt. But the fundamental issues could come back to haunt the region again when the next farming season begins post June 2007, those in the know say.

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