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Sunday 15 January 2012

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 Hol

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.

Palash Biswas

  1.  Video | Farmers suicide haunts West Bengal | India Videos | - India ... Jan 2012 - 2 min
    Several farmers, unable to tackle inflation, have committedsuicide in West Bengal.
  2. Rising farmer suicides in West Bengal appalling: Left - The Hindu

    7 Jan 2012 – The frequency of incidents of farmers committing suicides is "unimaginable" in West Bengal, State Left Front chairman Biman Bose said here on ...
  3. Farmer suicide deaths make harvest in the backwaters of Bengal

    4 Jan 2012 – Yet another farmer having committed suicide now in Burdwan district, the rice bowl of West Bengal, taking the toll to nine in the last two months.
  4. Operation Barga - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Unlike in other Indian states, West Bengal has hardly seen any farmer suicides or starvation deaths arising from crop failure. Operation Barga and the ...
  5. West Bengal farmer commits suicide after failing to repay loan - The ...

    16 hours ago – A 38-year-old farmer Tapas Maji committed suicide at Purbasthali under Burdwan district on Saturday.
  6. Indian Agrarian Crisis - West Bengal

    Farmerssuicide on rise in Bengal; parties blame each other. Published By Ramoo On... Rising farmer suicides in West Bengal appalling: Left. Published By ...
  7. Trinamool | MP | West Bengal | Farmers Suicide | Mamata Banerjee ...

    1 day ago – Bengali singer turned Tinamool Congress MP Kabir Suman has left WestBengal government under shame with his song on farmers suicide.

Suicide blame on paddy

- Govt gets procurement tips as farmer hangs himself
Calcutta, Jan. 14: A farmer in his mid-thirties killed himself in a Burdwan village early this morning, a mountain of debt driving him under after he was apparently forced to sell paddy to middlemen at a lower price.
Tapas Majhi's suicide comes at a time three Bengal agencies tasked with procuring paddy directly from farmers and mill owners have been able to meet just 10 per cent of their target because of lack of funds and inadequate procurement centres.
Hours after the 35-year-old hanged himself, Union food secretary Bhushan Chander Gupta met officials of the state food and supplies department to discuss ways to speed up procurement. Among the suggestions Gupta made was involving primary agriculture credit co-operative societies (PACCS) to expedite the process. (See chart)
Villagers in Chandipur, where Tapas lived, said he went to a neighbouring village early today and hanged himself from a tree.
A 25-cottah land was the main source of income for his family of four.
Elder brother Gadadhar said Tapas had been forced to take a loan to buy seeds and fertilisers. "Even then he couldn't farm the entire plot that he owned. Some days back he told me he had run up around Rs 30,000 in debt."
Tapas's suicide was the seventh by a Bengal farmer since 2011, six of them in Burdwan, the state's rice bowl.
Gadadhar said his brother was "forced to sell" paddy to "middlemen at a lower price as the government is not procuring paddy. Even if he had got the minimum support price, he would have got a little more money."
According to officials in the food and supplies department, the state has managed to procure just 2 lakh tonnes of paddy, though the target is 20 lakh tonnes till September.
Several months are left before September but the real test will come sooner, in February-March — the peak procurement season. If the procurement volumes do not swell by then, agrarian Bengal will be staring at a crisis.
"The state government depends on agencies like Benfed, Confed and ECSC (Essential Commodities Supply Corporation) to achieve the procurement target. As these agencies failed to set up procurement centres in remote pockets because of lack of funds, the state could only procure 10 per cent of its target. If the PACCS were involved, the process could have gained momentum," one official said.
Trinamul leader and industries minister Partha Chatterjee denied any link between the suicide and the low procurement volume. "We have made enquiries. He committed suicide because of family problems. This has nothing to do with farming," Chatterjee said.
Chief secretary Samar Ghosh said no report had linked the farmer suicides to debts. "We have received some reports but in none of the cases the cause has been attributed to these factors," Ghosh said at Writers' Buildings.
But Ghosh admitted that Benfed and Confed could not start the procurement process on time because of lack of funds. To meet its procurement target, the state requires around Rs 840 crore — part of which will be borne by the Food Corporation of India — but only about Rs 60 crore has been allotted so far.
Of the 20 lakh tonnes of paddy, 9 lakh tonnes will be procured directly from farmers. The rest will be collected as rice from mills, mostly by the FCI.
At his meeting with the officials, the Union food secretary suggested involving the primary farm credit societies. "I have suggested that PACCS should be involved in the entire procurement process as almost every village in Bengal has such societies. If the PACCS are involved, farmers can sell their produce in their village itself," Gupta said.
"The PACCS can be given 2.5 per cent commission for procuring paddy on behalf of the state government. The model has been successfully implemented in Punjab and Haryana."
Senior officials said only 500 of the 27,000-odd PACCS in the state had been involved in the procurement process so far.

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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.

Farmers' suicide in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra state: A myth or reality?
PB BehereAP Behere
Department of Psychiatry, Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sewagram - 442 102, District Wardha, Maharashtra, India

Click here for correspondence address and email
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
How to cite this article:
Behere PB, Behere AP. Farmers' suicide in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra state: A myth or reality?. Indian J Psychiatry 2008;50:124-7

How to cite this URL:
Behere PB, Behere AP. Farmers' suicide in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra state: A myth or reality?. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2008 [cited 2012 Jan 15];50:124-7. Available from:

   Introduction  Top

"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. [1] The problem of suicide is not only reported in India, but also reported in different parts of the world like England and Wales. [2] 

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). [3] 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. [4] 

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. [5] 

Several studies undertaken in India have revealed the incidence of suicides to vary from 8 to 43 per 100,000 population [5] 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.

   Farmers' Suicide  Top

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.

   Magnitude of the Problem  Top

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. [6] 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. [1] The population of Vidarbha is 12 lakhs, so number of suicide should be around 116 per year. But according to Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, [3] 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!! [7] Farmers' suicides in Vidarbha in the last 3-4 years have already crossed 2500 causing a great anxiety. [8] 

Wardha district in particular is also facing this problem with increasing number of claims for government ex gratia grant on steady rise. [9] 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.

   Why Farmers in Vidarbha ?  Top

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: 

  • absence of adequate social support infrastructure at the level of the village and district,
  • uncertainty of agricultural enterprise in the region,
  • indebtedness of farmers,
  • rising costs of cultivation,
  • plummeting prices of farm commodities,
  • lack of credit availability for small farmers,
  • relative absence of irrigation facilities,
  • repeated crop failures,
  • dependence on rainfall for farming,
  • rural living and easy access to poisons, and
  • lack of political will and insight in the region.

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 [10] brought out a report after doing an audit of the state and central government relief packages in Vidarbha.

The report's conclusions were:

  • Farmers' demands were not taken into count while preparing the relief package. Neither were civil society organizations, local government bodies, panchayats, etc. consulted.
  • The relief packages were mostly amalgamations of exiting schemes. Apart from the farmer helpline and the direct financial assistance, there was scarcely any thing new being offered. Pumping extra funds into additional schemes shows that no new idea was applied to solve a situation where existing measures have obviously failed.
  • The farmer helpline did not give any substantial help to farmers.
  • 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 pretty low. The report concluded quite alarmingly that the loan burden of the farmers will double in 2008.

   Our Experience: Verbal Autopsy on Farmers Suicide in Wardha District  Top

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. [4] Counseling centers are open in few talukas.

   Discussion  Top

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.

Future Task

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.

   References  Top

1. The Punjab State Co-op. Apex Bank Ltd. Department of Co-Operation, Government of Punjab. Suicides in Rural Punjab, 1998.  Back to cited text no. 1    
2. Hawton K, Fagg J, Simkin S, Harris L, Aslog M. Methods used for suicide by farmers in England and Wales. Br J Psychiatry 1998;173:320-4.  Back to cited text no. 2    
3. Available from:[cited on 2006 Jul 30].  Back to cited text no. 3    
4. Behere PB, Rathod M. Report on farmers' suicide in Vidarbha. Wardha: Report submitted to Collectorate; 2006.  Back to cited text no. 4    
5. Gururaj G, Isaac MK. Psychiatric epidemiology in India: Moving beyond numbers. In Mental Health: An Indian perspective 1946-2003. Pub Ministry of Family Welfare and Health, Government of India; 2004. p. 37-61.   Back to cited text no. 5    
6. National Crime Records Bureau [NCRB]. Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India. Ministry Of Home Affairs. New Delhi: Government of India; 1999.   Back to cited text no. 6    
7. Desai PT. India Today, Farmers suicide. Delhi: Living Media India Ltd; February 27, 2006.   Back to cited text no. 7    
8. Deshpande SH. Hitwada. Farmers of Vidarbha at crossroads, Guest Column. Thursday, June 7, 2007.  Back to cited text no. 8    
9. Available from: Official website of Wardha district: List of farmers suicide in Wardha district. [cited on 2008 April 30].  Back to cited text no. 9    
10. Available from: http://www.Green Earth Social Development [cited on 2007 May 4].  Back to cited text no. 10;year=2008;volume=50;issue=2;spage=124;epage=127;aulast=Behere

17,368 farm suicides in 2009

Wife of a distressed farmer (portrait in background) who committed suicide in Waniyavatnal, Maharashtra. At least 17,368 farmers killed themselves in 2009, the worst figure for farm suicides in six years. File Photo: P. Sainath
The HinduWife of a distressed farmer (portrait in background) who committed suicide in Waniyavatnal, Maharashtra. At least 17,368 farmers killed themselves in 2009, the worst figure for farm suicides in six years. File Photo: P. Sainath
Worst figure in six years
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). This is an increase of 1,172 over the 2008 count of 16,196. It brings the total farm suicides since 1997 to 2,16,500. The share of the Big 5 States, or 'suicide belt' — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — in 2009 remained very high at 10,765, or around 62 per cent of the total, though falling nearly five percentage points from 2008. Maharashtra remained the worst State for farm suicides for the tenth successive year, reporting 2,872. Though that is a fall of 930, it is still 590 more than in Karnataka, second worst, which logged 2,282 farm suicides.
Economist K. Nagaraj, author of the biggest study on Indian farm suicides, says, "That these numbers are rising even as the farmer population shrinks, confirms the agrarian crisis is still burning."
Maharashtra has logged 44,276 farm suicides since 1997, over a fifth of the total 2,16,500. Within the Big 5, Karnataka saw the highest increase of 545 in 2009. Andhra Pradesh recorded 2,414 farm suicides — 309 more than in 2008. Madhya Pradesh (1,395) and Chhattisgarh (1,802) saw smaller increases of 16 and 29. Outside the Big 5, Tamil Nadu doubled its tally with 1,060, against 512 in 2008. In all, 18 of 28 States reported higher farm suicide numbers in 2009. Some, like Jammu and Kashmir or Uttarakhand, saw a negligible rise. Rajasthan, Kerala and Jharkhand saw increases of 55, 76 and 93. Assam and West Bengal saw higher rises of 144 and 295. NCRB farm data now exist for 13 years. In the first seven, 1997-2003, there were 1,13,872 farm suicides, an average of 16,267 a year.
In the next six years 1,02,628 farmers took their lives at an average of 17,105 a year. This means, on average, around 47 farmers — or almost one every 30 minutes — killed themselves each day between 2004 and 2009.
Lower their average
Among the major States, only a few including Karnataka, Kerala and West Bengal avoided the sharp rise these six years and lowered their average by over 350 compared to the 1997-2003 period.
In the same period, the annual average of farm suicides in the Big 5 States as a whole was more than 1,650 higher than it was in 1997-2003.

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 AgricultureAgriculture 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.[1]




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.[2] Others traced the increase in farmer suicides to the early 1990s.[3] It was said, a comprehensive all-India study is still awaited, that most suicides occurred in states of Andhra PradeshMaharashtraKarnatakaKerala and Punjab.[4][5][6][7][8] The situation was grim enough to force at least the Maharashtra government to set up a dedicated office to deal with farmers distress.[9]
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 .[10] 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.[11] 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.[12] In April 2009, the state of Chattisgarh reported 1,500 farmers committed suicide due to debt and crop failure.[13] 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).[14]


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 HinduP. Sainath. The first state where suicides were reported was Maharashtra. Soon newspapers began to report similar occurrences from Andhra Pradesh.[15] In the beginning it was believed that most of the suicides were happening among the cotton growers, especially those from Vidarbha.[16] 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.[17] Moreover, it was not just the farmers from Vidarbha but all over Maharashtra who showed a significantly high suicide rate.[18][19] 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.[20]


Research by various investigators like Raj Patel,[2] Nagraj,[18][19] Meeta and Rajivlochan,[21] 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 [22]
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.[23] Important research in Andhra Pradesh showed the very rapid change in seed and pesticide products to have caused "deskilling" in the cotton sector.[24]

[edit]GM crops

There have been claims of genetically-modified (GM) seeds (such as Bt cotton) being responsible for the farmer suicides.[25][26][27][28] 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.[29]
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.[30] It argues that the suicides predate the introduction of the cotton in 2002 and has been fairly consistent since 1997.[30][31] Other studies also suggest the increase in farmer suicides is due to a combination of various socio-economicfactors.[32] 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.[32][33]

[edit]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.[34]
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."[35]
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.[36][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.[37]
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 [9] 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.[38]

[edit]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.[39] 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.[40]
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.[41]

[edit]See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. a b Raj PatelStuffed and Starved, Portobello Books, London, 2007
  3. ^ 1. Meeta and Rajivlochan (2006) Farmers suicide: facts and possible policy interventions, Yashada, Pune.
  4. ^ "Drought, debt lead to Indian farmers' suicides"Associated Press. Auhust 28, 2009.
  5. ^ "Spate of farmers' suicides in India worrying WHO"The Hindu. Oct 15, 2006.
  6. ^ Waldman, Amy (June 6, 2004). "Debts and Drought Drive India's Farmers to Despair"New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  7. ^ Huggler, Justin (2 July 2004). "India acts over suicide crisis on farms". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  8. ^ Pinglay, Prachi (5 May 2008). "No let up in India farm suicides"BBC News.
  9. a b VNSS Mission
  10. ^ India together
  11. ^ "Farm suicides worse after 2001 — study"The Hindu. Nov 13, 2007..
  12. ^ "Farmers' suicides in India not due to Bt cotton: IFFRI"Mint (newspaper). Nov 11 2008.
  13. ^ "1,500 farmers commit mass suicide in India". London: The Independent. 15 April 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  14. ^ The Hindu-December 2010 column
  15. ^ Rediff News
  16. ^ Planning Commission report
  17. ^ 1. Meeta and Rajivlochan (2006) Farmers suicide: facts and possible policy interventions, Yashada, Pune, pp. 11-13.
  18. a b Macroscan reports
  19. a b Nagraj, K. (2008) Farmers suicide in India: magnitudes, trends and spatial patterns
  20. ^ M Rajivlochan (2007) "Farmers and firefighters" in Indian Express, August 28, 2007, [2]
  21. ^ Meeta and Rajivlochan (2006) Farmers suicide: facts and possible policy interventions, Yashada, Pune, pp. 75-101.
  22. ^ Behere PB, Behere AP. Farmers' suicide in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra state: A myth or reality?. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2008 [cited 2009 Oct 23];50:124-7. Available from:
  23. ^ Kaur, Raminderjeet, 2008. "Assessment of genetic damage in the workers occupationally exposed to various pesticides in selected districts of Punjab", unpublished PhD thesis, Department of Human Biology, Punjabi University, Patiala.
  24. ^ Stone, Glenn Davis, 2007. "Agricultural Deskilling and the Spread of Genetically Modified Cotton in Warangal." Current Anthropology 48:67-103
  25. ^ "Farmer's Suicides"Z Magazine.
  26. ^ "Indian Farmer's Final Solution".
  27. ^ "Rough Cut Seeds of Suicide India's desperate farmers"PBS Frontline. 26 July 2005. Retrieved 3 October 2010.
  28. ^ P. Sainath (August 2004). "Seeds of suicide – I I". InfoChange News and Features.
  29. ^ Seeds of Suicide: India's desperate farmers from the Public Broadcasting Service
  30. a b Guillaume P. Gruère, Purvi Mehta-Bhatt and Debdatta Sengupta (2008). "Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India: Reviewing the Evidence". International Food Policy Research Institute.
  31. ^ Sheridan, C. (2009). "Doubts surround link between Bt cotton failure and farmer suicide". Nat Biotechnol. 27 (1): 9–10. doi:10.1038/nbt0109-9PMID 19131979.
  32. a b Nagraj, K. (2008). "Farmers suicide in India: magnitudes, trends and spatial patterns".
  33. ^ Mishra, Srijit (2007). "Risks, Farmers' Suicides and Agrarian Crisis in India: Is There A Way Out?". Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR).
  34. ^ Deshpande and Arora. Agrarian Crisis and Farmer Suicides. Sage,. ISBN 978-81-321-0512-1(HB).
  35. ^ "The Dying Fields"Wide Angle (TV series). PBS. 2007.
  36. ^ "GreenEarth report on Impact of Relief Packages on farmers suicides in Vidarbha". Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  37. ^ "17,060 farm suicides in one year"The Hindu. Jan 31, 2008.
  38. ^ Deshpande(2002)
  39. ^ "Has Bollywood shut its eyes to movies on farmers?"The Economic Times. 29 Aug 2009.
  40. ^ "Marriage and Money"Economica: Women and the Global Economy. October 2009.
  41. ^ "Jhing Chik Jhing - a story of hope". January 2010.
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