What Kills A Farmer In India?

Posted on August 12, 2011 in Society

By Anushri Saxena:

The recipe is relatively simpler than the ones shown on televised cookery shows. Broadly, here are the ingredients-

  • Unrelenting social norms,
  • Unfair financial practices by lenders,
  • Bad weather conditions,
  • And in the backdrop: A negligent government

It is wedding time for the daughter or sister of our farmer. She has finally found a suitor by God’s grace. And it becomes obligatory to carry out all rituals and ceremonies with as many offerings. Past savings are utilized; if need be, a loan is also readily applied for.

Due to endless formalities and delay in getting hold of the money, our weak farmer turns with hope to money-lenders or landlords, who in turn take advantage of his desperate state as well as lack of awareness and charge him as high as 60% of interest on the borrowed money.

Now, it gets even more necessary for him to harvest his crop as quickly as possible to repay the loan and the sky-rocketing interest on it. Moreover, to fend for his family and buy seeds for the next season. Eventually, He gets impatient to reap his crop as the harvest period approaches.

After slogging away at fields under the harsh sunlight, a farmer only wishes for the rain god to shower his blessings on his fertile fields. However, a sudden change of mind of our finicky rain god costs our dear farmer a huge fortune! And, finally a poisonous pesticide bottle is all he sees.

Farmer Suicides

Farmer suicides did use to take place earlier, but since the beginning of the last decade more and more farmers have given up on their lives. Farmers are not aware of the various financial reliefs available to them by the government, and hence, agree to the ridiculous interest rates of private moneylenders.

They lose their savings on social events such as marriages, and with a failure in their harvest they are left with a crippling bankruptcy. Eventually, despondency takes a toll over them.

This is the story of over 60% of India’s total population — the farmers! Mainly in four agrarian states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh (including Chhattisgarh), this practice has spread like wildfire.

In a 2007 report by Mr. P. Sainath from The Hindu, it was recorded that on an average there had been one suicide every fifty-three minutes between 1997 and 2005.

Farm Loan Waiver Scheme Does No Good

Government took actions in response to the alarming reports of suicides from all over India. On 7th April 2008, the government came up with a new scheme where the debts of these farmers were waived off. It was an expensive decision where the banks, to which the farmer owed money, were duly compensated with a staggering Rs. 1.5 billion in total, by the government.

Despite the new development, in May 2008, nine more farmers ended their lives; serious efficiency lapses (improper identification of target groups) and poor implementation of the scheme had done lesser good to the cultivators.

Land Acquisition Bill

Further increasing the disparity amongst surviving families of deceased farmers, the government let Multinational Corporations lay their hands on the agrarian lands in wake of the booming industrial sector. In 2009, farmers and their families protested for three days against such forcible acquisition of cultivable land.

Political Clashes

In another response to the above bill, the year 2011 saw a four-month sit-in protest at Greater Noida which constituted the death of two policemen and two villagers, public vehicles set on fire and a Congressman siding with the villagers against the state government.

Mr. Rahul Gandhi, Member of Parliament, grabbed the media attention by joining the hartaal early in the morning and sympathized with families by having a part of lunch of the already-deprived families. He accused the local police of Uttar Pradesh for sexually assaulting the women apart from leaving the farmers to die and turn into dust. However, his claims have not been proved right. Yet, the difference of opinion between Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party has widened.