Now it is Mamata Raj, which witnesses Farmers` suicide spree! Free Market Economy has Killed the Rural World. Farmers`s suicide in Maharashtra, Andhra and elsewhere is very common. But the land of Land Reforms is now inflicted with the Continuous Holocaust.
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West Bengal farmer commits suicide after failing to repay loan
KOLKATA: A 38-year-old farmer Tapas Majicommitted suicide at Purbasthali under Burdwan district on Saturday. Maji's body was found near his house by the villagers during the day. Maji used to live in Sahapur-Chandipur village under Purbasthali in Burdwan district. Burdwan district police officials said that Maji had allegedly committed suicide after he failed to repay the loans he had taken to tilt his 25 bighas of land. Only on last Friday, another farmer from Malda district, Haridas Ratno killed himself for the same reason. Like Maji, Ratno also had failed to repay theloan he had borrowed to cultivate his land. More than 19 farmers in West Bengal had committed suicide. Most of these farmers had borrowed money from private lenders and failed to repay their loans as they could not sell their products in the market. Both the opposition CPIM and ruling Congress in West Bengal have raised their voices against such cases of suicides. The opposition leader and CPIM MLA, Surjya Kanta Mishra has complained on Saturday that the state government was not sincere about solving the problems of the farmers. ""The chief minister is busy attending a festival in the state's sea town of Digha and she is not at all bothered about the pathetic plight of the farmers,"" Mishra complained. The Congress, which is also a part of Mamata Banerjee's government, has also raised their voice against the farmer suicide issue. West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) president and Congress Rajya Sabha MP from the state, Pradip Bhattacharjee had alleged that the government could not purchase rice directly from the farmers by providing them the minimum support price for rice fixed up by the Centre. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/et-cetera/west-bengal-farmer-commits-suicide-after-failing-to-repay-loan/articleshow/11489167.cms
|Farmers' suicide in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra state: A myth or reality?|
Incidence of farmers ending their lives in Vidarbha region had hit epidemic proportions recently. We adopted the psychological autopsy approach to offer some insight into the reason why these individuals resorted to such a drastic step. Suicide in farmers is public health problem and we suggested some immediate and serious interventions to prevent suicide.
Keywords: Farmers, suicide, psychological autopsy, debt
"Jai Jawan , Jai Kisan" - Lal Bahadur Shastri
This slogan of a visionary prime minister had lost its potential over the time. After the independence, according to Gandhiji's vision of Gram-Swaraj, villages and specially farmers were to be the main focus of any development plan of India. As years passed, by agriculture as an industry lost its importance for policy makers of India. This over the time caused severe distress among the farmers leading to recent dramatic rise in the number of suicides among farmer community. Every day in national newspaper invariably there is news related to farmers' suicides.
India consisting of 16% of world's population sustains only on 2.4% of land resource. Agriculture sector is the only livelihood to the two-third of its population which gives employment to the 57% of work force and is a raw material source to large number of industries. Despite of portrayal of farming as a healthy and happy way of life, agriculture sector experiences one of the highest number of suicides than any other industry. Farmers' suicide is not only reported in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, but also from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, and Karnataka. Many enquiry commissions were formed and recommendations were implemented especially in Punjab.  The problem of suicide is not only reported in India, but also reported in different parts of the world like England and Wales. 
In 1990s, India woke-up to a spate of suicide among farmers community. The first state where suicides were reported was Maharashtra with particular reference to Vidarbha region. A look at the figures given out by State Crime Records Bureau makes it evident that farmers as a professional category is suffering from this problem of high-suicide rates. Approximately 3.4 million cotton farmers occupy the Vidarbha region (includes Akola, Buldana, Washim, Amravati, Nagpur, Chandrapur, Gondia, Bhandara, Yavatmal, Gadchiroli, and Wardha districts) and 95% of them struggle with massive debt, according to the Vidarbha Jan Aandolan Samiti (VJAS; Local Farmers' Support Network).  Incidence of farmers ending their lives in this region had hit epidemic like proportions recently.
We have studied the status of farmers' suicide in Vidarbha region on the request of Wardha district administration. We adopted the psychological autopsy approach to offer some insight into the reason why these individuals resorted to such a drastic step. 
In India, however, problems in identifying the population base and in the certification of death has meant that the true magnitude of the problem is yet to be realized. 
Several studies undertaken in India have revealed the incidence of suicides to vary from 8 to 43 per 100,000 population  with a pronounced State-to-State variation, the highest being in Kerala (27 per 100,000) while the lowest is in Manipur (0.02% of total suicides). Due to its medico-legal nature, information on suicides is available from national, state, and city crime record bureaus in various parts of India. Majority suicide studies are based on police records with very few from the hospital records and nil from population settings. Given the inadequacies of police reporting - analysis and misclassification bias (suicides, homicides, and accidental deaths) - the numbers may be an under reporting of the situation.
Since long time, Indian farmers have been facing a number of socioeconomic problems, such as harassment by moneylenders, inability to repay debts following crop loss, inability to get medical treatment for the family, etc. The problem is compounded by lack of positive and cooperative support from banks especially in the face of inclement weather and market fluctuations. Economic plight of farmers might be illustrated with the fact that a farmer having as much as 15 acres of land and hence considered a well off farmer in Vidarbha, with an average income of Rs 2700 per acre per annum, had an income just little more than what he would have earned the legal minimum wage for all 365 days of the year.
Agriculture is the main stay of the state of Maharashtra. Total irrigated area which had been used for cultivation is 33,500 sq kilometers. Average annual profit from cultivation in the state of Maharashtra is the lowest of all Indian states, lagging far behind the state with the highest - Jammu and Kashmir (Rs. 4363 vs. Rs. 22,770). The reasons for such a pathetic state of farmers include below average rainfall, heavy load-shedding, lack of small irrigation projects, poverty, pressure of private moneylenders and banks, ignorance of ancillary occupations for raising income, employment problem of the farmers' children, decreasing interest of the young generation in farming, rapid urbanization, apathy and lack of political willpower toward welfare and development of the region, etc. Cumulative effect of all these is evident on the psyche of the people of Vidarbha in general and farmers in particular. Farmers are hence prompted to turn to local moneylenders (sahukars) who charged them a much higher rate of interest. In fact moneylenders proved to be the most common and easy source of loans for the farmer (28.4%) followed by loans procured from relatives (22.93%) while only 3.94% turned to land development banks.
In a country of 70 million farmers, it is 10 in every 100,000 farmers committing suicide. This is higher than the total national suicide rate.  The number of farmers committing suicide in India is more than twice of the total number of suicides being committed in the top 100 countries on the suicide list! This indeed is worrying factor. The Government's measures including waiving off loans, construction of dams, and other assisting measures have not produced positive results so far.
In India, the national data show that suicide rate was 9.7/lakh population in 1995.  The population of Vidarbha is 12 lakhs, so number of suicide should be around 116 per year. But according to Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti,  suicides in Vidarbha is 600 in 2007 till June, 1065 in 2006, 572 in 2005, 620 in 2004, 170 in 2003, and 122 in 2002. These figures definitely suggest suicide rate in Vidarbha is high since 2002 in comparison to national suicide figure. A total of 7000 farmers have committed suicide during the last 3 years. That is an average of over six farmers committing suicide per day! More than 2190 per year!!  Farmers' suicides in Vidarbha in the last 3-4 years have already crossed 2500 causing a great anxiety. 
Wardha district in particular is also facing this problem with increasing number of claims for government ex gratia grant on steady rise.  In 2008 till April alone there were 26 claims, as compared to 29 in 2004, 26 in 2005, 154 in 2006, and 128 in 2007. Subsequently Hon. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Vidarbha and promised a package of Rs. 11,000 crores to be spent by the government in Vidarbha. The families of farmers who had committed suicide were also offered an ex gratia grant to the tune of Rs. 1 lakh by the government. This figure kept on varying, depending on how much pressure the government was facing from the media and the opposition parties for being uncaring toward the farmers' plight.
Vidarbha is home for approximately 3.4 million cotton farmers and 95% of these are struggling with the massive debt. Most of the villages in Vidarbha are badly in need of basic social infrastructure like all-weather roads, drinking water, regular electricity, primary health care, and basic education. Majority of suicide cases are from cotton growing areas. The cotton farmers in India paying more prices for inputs like seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, electricity, water, and labor whereas the price of cotton has gone down along with decreased productivity. In contrast to this picture in India, US Government is giving USD 4.0 billion to cotton farmers and asking for further liberalization of cotton trade in USA.
As discussed earlier, some of the important contributing factors for farmers' suicide in this region are:
In Vidarbha (basically a low rainfall area), the major crop is cotton, jowar (Barley), and pulses and people rely more on dry farming. Irrigated farming is insignificant and seen only in very few pockets where major rivers provide water for the whole year.
With the cumulative effect of these reasons coupled with environmental antagonism and exploitation of the farmers in all sectors made them pessimistic toward life resulting into development of suicidal tendency in them. The remedial measures undertaken by the government did not show any immediate positive effect in the attitude of the farmers. In April 2007, an NGO named Green Earth Social Development Consulting  brought out a report after doing an audit of the state and central government relief packages in Vidarbha.
The report's conclusions were:
Awareness regarding the package was also pretty low. The report concluded quite alarmingly that the loan burden of the farmers will double in 2008.
The Department of Psychiatry, Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sewagram, had conducted a study on farmers who committed suicide between January 2005 to March 2006 in Wardha district (having 11 talukas). Verbal autopsy was implemented as a tool of investigation. It is a recognized vital tool in suicide investigation and planning intervention strategies. A structured enquiry form consisting of 52 questions was developed. It consisted both close and open-ended questions. Family members of farmers or landowners who had committed suicide during the above specified period were interviewed. The interview included a case history taken by trained doctors and it revealed a glimpse into the causes and circumstances behind these deaths. After the interview, the family members were given counseling.  Counseling centers are open in few talukas.
Farmers are in severe distress and there is an urgent need for increased public awareness among farmers regarding agricultural policies both financial and those extended by the government. If given an option, 40% farmers said that they would like to quit agriculture and take up some other carrier. It is a complex task and requires more than just throwing money at it. Surely, other measures will be needed to set the rural economy on track. Marketing and storage infrastructure will have to be built. New crop patterns that answer to emerging needs will have to be introduced. Better rural credit delivery system will have to be evolved. Self-help groups need to be encouraged.
Finally, suicide should not be viewed as only mental health problem, which is a common notion among people. The various factors which play are: (1) chronic indebtedness and inability to pay interest accumulated over the years, (2) economic decline leads to complications and family disputes, depression, and alcoholism, etc., (3) compensation following suicide (death) helps family to repay debt, (4) grain drain, and (5) the rising costs of agricultural inputs and falling prices of agricultural produce.
In the Indian situation, the causes are multifactorial, cumulative, repetitive and progressive, leading an individual to a state of helplessness, worthlessness and hopelessness, obviously influenced by his social strengths, and weaknesses along with his mental health status.
Religious leaders have a major role to play in suicide prevention since all religions discourage the act of suicide. In this context, especially support provided by Hindu religious values in India is a strong protection against suicidal behavior. So indeed, it is very difficult and needs courage to commit suicide especially by farmers. Blaming only moneylenders, as if they have become plastic bags of rural economy is not the solution. We need to address actual reasons of suicide. There should be a committee, not only of agriculturists, economists, but also psychiatrists and social workers as well. Forming self-help group in every 4–5 villages will help. Suicide in farmers is a public health problem having no borders. It needs immediate and serious intervention.
Farmers' suicides in India
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
India is an Agrarian country with around 60% of its people directly or indirectly depend upon Agriculture. Agriculture in India is often attributed as gambling with Monsoon because of its almost exclusive dependency on Monsoons. The failure of these monsoons leading to series ofdroughts, lack of better prices, exploitation by Middlemen have been leading to series of suicides committed by farmers across India.
Farmers in India became the centre of considerable concern in the 1990s when the journalist P Sainath highlighted the large number ofsuicides among them. Official reports initially denied the farmer suicides but as more and more information came to light the government began to accept that farmers in India were under considerable stress. On figures there was much debate since the issue was so emotive. The government tried to underplay the cases of farmer deaths, intellectual supporters of the farmers preferred to inflate them. More than 17,500 farmers a year killed themselves between 2002 and 2006, according to experts who have analyzed government statistics. Others traced the increase in farmer suicides to the early 1990s. It was said, a comprehensive all-India study is still awaited, that most suicides occurred in states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Punjab. The situation was grim enough to force at least the Maharashtra government to set up a dedicated office to deal with farmers distress.
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 . According to another study by the Bureau, while the number of farm suicides increased since 2001, the number of farmers has fallen, as thousands abandoning agriculture in distress. 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. According to NCRB database number of suicides during 2005-2009 in Gujarat 387, Kerala 905, Punjab 75 and Tamil Nadu 26. In April 2009, the state of Chattisgarh reported 1,500 farmers committed suicide due to debt and crop failure. At least 17,368 Indian farmers killed themselves in 2009, the worst figure for farm suicides in six years, according to data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
In the 1990s India woke up to a spate of farmers suicides. One of the major reporters of these suicides was the Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu, P. Sainath. The first state where suicides were reported was Maharashtra. Soon newspapers began to report similar occurrences from Andhra Pradesh. In the beginning it was believed that most of the suicides were happening among the cotton growers, especially those from Vidarbha. A look at the figures given out by the State Crime Records Bureau, however, was sufficient to indicate that it was not just the cotton farmer but farmers as a professional category were suffering, irrespective of their holding size. Moreover, it was not just the farmers from Vidarbha but all over Maharashtra who showed a significantly high suicide rate. The government appointed a number of inquiries to look into the causes of farmers suicide and farm related distress in general. Subsequently Prime Minister Manmohan Singhvisited Vidarbha and promised a package of Rs.110 billion (about $2.4 billion) to be spent by the government in Vidarbha. The families of farmers who had committed suicide were also offered an ex gratia grant to the tune of Rs.100,000 (about $2,000) by the government. This figure kept on varying, depending on how much criticism the government was facing from the media and the opposition parties for being uncaring towards the farmers' plight. Such a high figure was ironic considering that the net average income of a family of farmers in this region was approximately Rs.2700 (about $60) per acre per annum. The economic plight of the farmer might be illustrated with the fact that a farmer having as much as 15 acres (61,000 m2) of land, and hence considered a well-off farmer, had an income of just a little more than what he would have earned were he to merely get the legal minimum wage for all of the 365 days of the year. Little wonder that despite government efforts at pumping in more money into the suicide belt the suicide epidemic among farmers remained unabated through 2006-07. The problems of the farmers were quite comprehensive. There was little credit available. What was available was very costly. There was no advice on how best to conduct agriculture operations. Income through farming was not enough to meet even the minimum needs of a farming family. Support systems like free health facilities from the government were virtually non-existent. Traditionally support systems in the villages of India had been provided by the government. However, due to a variety of reasons the government had either withdrawn itself from its supportive role or plain simple misgovernance had allowed facilities in the villages to wither away.
Research by various investigators like Raj Patel, Nagraj, Meeta and Rajivlochan, identified a variety of causes. India was transforming rapidly into a primarily urban, industrial society with industry as its main source of income; the government and society had begun to be unconcerned about the condition of the countryside; moreover, a downturn in the urban economy was pushing a large number of distressed non-farmers to try their hand at cultivation; the farmer was also caught in a Scissors Crisis; in the absence of any responsible counselling either from the government or society there were many farmers who did not know how to survive in the changing economy. Such stresses pushed many into a corner where suicide became an option for them 
Research has also pointed to a certain types of technological change as having played an instrumental role in the problem. One 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 farm suicides wherever farm chemicals were in widespread use. Important research in Andhra Pradesh showed the very rapid change in seed and pesticide products to have caused "deskilling" in the cotton sector.
There have been claims of genetically-modified (GM) seeds (such as Bt cotton) being responsible for the farmer suicides. A short documentary by Frontline (U.S. TV series) suggested that farmers using GM seeds promoted by Cargill and Monsanto have led to rising debts and forced some into the equivalent of indentured servitude to the moneylenders.
A report released by the International Food Policy Research Institute in October 2008 provided evidence that the introduction of Bt cotton was not a major factor in farmer suicides in India. It argues that the suicides predate the introduction of the cotton in 2002 and has been fairly consistent since 1997. Other studies also suggest the increase in farmer suicides is due to a combination of various socio-economicfactors. These include debt, the difficulty of farming semi-arid regions, poor agricultural income, absence of alternative income opportunities, the downturn in the urban economy forcing non-farmers into farming, and the absence of suitable counseling services.
Responses to Farmers suicides
Vidarbha was in the media for a spate of farmer suicides in recent years ostensibly because of the falling Minimum Support Price for cotton. The problem is complex and root causes include lopsided policies of the World Trade Organisation and developed nations' subsidies to their cotton farmers which make Vidarbha's cotton uncompetitive in world markets. Consequently Vidarbha is plagued by high rates of school drop outs, penniless widows left in the wake of suicides, loan sharks and exploitation of the vulnerable groups.
The Indian government had promised to increase the minimum rate for cotton by approximately Rs 100 ($2) but reneged on its promise by reducing the Minimum Support Price further. This resulted in more suicides as farmers were ashamed to default on debt payments to loan sharks. "In 2006, 1,044 suicides were reported in Vidarbha alone - that's one suicide every eight hours."
In April 2007 a development consulting group named Green Earth Social Development Consulting produced a report after doing an audit of the state and central government relief packages in Vidarbha.[unreliable source?] The report's conclusions were:
- Farmers' demands were not taken into account while preparing the relief package. Neither were civil society organisations, local government bodies, panchayats etc. consulted.
- The relief packages were mostly amalgamations of existing schemes. Apart from the farmer helpline and the direct financial assistance, there was scarcely anything new being offered. Pumping extra funds into additional schemes shows that no new idea was applied to solve a situation where existing measures had obviously failed.
- The farmer helpline did not give any substantial help to farmers except in Karnataka.
- The basis for selection of beneficiaries under the assistance scheme was not well-defined. Also, type of assistance to be given led to problems like a farmer needing a pair of bullocks getting a pump set and vice versa (or a farmer who has no access to water sources being given pump sets)
- Awareness regarding the package was also fairly low.
The report concluded quite alarmingly that the loan burden of the farmers would double in 2008.
To attract attention a variety of catch phrases were coined such as 'SEZ' or (Farmers) 'Special Elimination Zone' states.
The government set up a dedicated group to deal with farm distress in 2006 known as the Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavlamban Mission, based in Amravati  A group to study the Farmers Suicides was also constituted by the Government of Karnataka under the Chairmanship of Dr Veeresh, Former Vice Chancellor of Agricultural University and Prof Deshpande as member.
In popular culture
"Summer 2007" by producer Atul Pandey, focused on the issue of farmer suicides in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region, as did the 2009 Bollywood film Kissan. Prior to this "The Dying Fields", a documentary directed by Fred de Sam Lazaro was aired in August, 2007 onWide Angle (TV series).
In 2006, A documentary by Indian film maker Sumit Khanna titled "Mere Desh Ki Dharti" , did a comprehensive review of the way we grow our food. A well researched and in-depth understanding of the agrarian crisis, it won the national award for the best Investigative film.
In 2009, the International Museum of Women included an examination of the impact of farmers' suicides on the lives of the farmers' wives and children in their exhibition Economica: Women and the Global Economy. Their slideshow "Growing Debt" and accompanying essay by curator Masum Momaya entitled "Money of Her Own" showed how many widows were left with the burden of their husbands' debts, and were forced to work as indentured servants to repay the debt. The widows were also unlikely to remarry, because other men in the community were unwilling to take on the widows' debts for themselves.
The 2010, award winning film Jhing Chik Jhing is based around the emotive issue of farmer suicides in Maharashtra. It looks at how the farmer has very little in his control and looks at the impact of indebtedness on his family.
- Farmers Suicide in Western Orissa
- Suicide in India
- The Corporation - Explains the impact of commodification and patenting life forms on independent farmers.
- P. Sainath, a journalist who covered the Covering farmers' suicides in India, later won the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award
- Peepli Live (2010 film)
- Kissan (2009 film)
- Battle in Seattle, a 2007 film that quotes the Indian suicide statistic in the end credits)
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New Delhi: With the ruling alliance partners in West Bengal bitterly targeting each other, the Congress on Thursday asked its state unit to refrain from using harsh words against the ally and also appealed to the Trinamool Congress to do likewise. ...
Hindustan Times - Jan 12, 2012
Congress in-charge for West Bengal Shakeel Ahmed described Mamata as a "valued ally" and stressed that no party leader ever said that Congress will dump Trinamool Congress after the Uttar Pradesh elections. The Congress high command also wanted the ...
indiablooms - Jan 12, 2012
Kolkata, Jan 13 (IBNS): West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee faced Opposition criticism of "doing nothing" over escalating incidents of campus skirmishes in the state, blamed largely on the student wing of her Trinamool Congress (TMC) party. ...
Newstrack India - Jan 13, 2012
Mukherjee said that senior All India Congress Committee (AICC) leader in-charge of WestBengal affairs, Shakeel Ahmed had come up with a solution over the matter, which would be discussed among the parties. "AICC in-charge of West Bengal unit, ...
NDTV - Jan 9, 2012
The simmering tension between the Congress and the Trinamool has turned explosive with WestBengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee saying that her alliance partner, who she accuses of working with the CPI-M against her, was free to leave. ...
NDTV - Jan 9, 2012
The 9 O'Clock News: Two days ago, Trinamol Congress chief Mamata Banerjee - one of the key allies in the Congress-led UPA government - showed the Congress the door. Today, more bitter words between the allies. A Congress minister today said that theirs ...
Daily Pioneer - Jan 12, 2012
Asserting that the recent war of words between the two alliance partners are on local issues like renaming of Indira Bhavan and farmers' suicides, he said on major national issues like FDI in retail and Teesta water agreement the central Congress ...
Newstrack India - Jan 12, 2012
This would also be unjust for the people of West Bengal who voted for TMC and got rid of 34 years of ill governance," Ahmad told the media here. The alliance of the TMC and the Congress had run into troubled waters on several issues like the passage of ...
Economic Times - Jan 11, 2012
Seven months ago, Bengal turned a historic corner. Mamata Banerjee ascended to power, defeating the over three-decade-old Marxist regime, reviving people's dormant aspirations and hopes. But the state was in terrible shape. Financially in the red, ...
IBNLive.com - Jan 12, 2012
Kolkata: Lashing out at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for taking a soft approach towards the ongoing incidents of assault on principals by students, CPM politburo member Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Thursday said such incidents were bound to ...
Economic Times - Jan 10, 2012
PANAJI: The famed moodswings of Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee and her partymen against the ruling Congress party seem to have got into a domino mode, spreading from Delhi to West Bengal to Goa. Less than a week after he was appointed state ...
Times of India - Jan 10, 2012
At a programme organized by the West Bengal Minorities Development and Financial Corporation at Netaji Indoor Stadium, the Trinamool Congress chief again took on the Congress and, of course, CPM. Mamata Banerjee is back to Congress bashing. ...
Times of India - Jan 10, 2012
Congress is in no hurry to end its alliance - even if it adds an ally or two - with the party seeing an "action-reaction" syndrome at work as state leaders respond angrily to Trinamool's bid to dominate West Bengal's political turf and exercise a ...