A High Farmer Suicide Rate And A Pro-Farmer Budget: Where Is The Government Going Wrong?

Amidst restrained economic growth, precarious socio-political conditions and huge farm distress, the NDA government presented its last full length budget prior to 2019 elections with a firm and strong vision. The budget is not even one month old and still the atmosphere all around is echoing with the extravagant plan and proposals of Jaitley’s fiscal estimate.

The ruling government left no stone unturned to make its last budget farmer-friendly. The word ‘agriculture’ was the base on which the entire financial plan was constructed. It was entirely a pro-farmer budget aimed  at strengthening the agricultural sector.

Though the 2018-19 budget was primarily concerned with satisfying farmers, but the considerable increase in the number of farmer suicides either due to irregular weather conditions and family issues, or due to the inability to pay huge debt is a matter of concern for an agricultural economy like India. The unfortunate incident of farmers’ suicide is challenging government’s incessant efforts to revive the conditions of farmers and is standing as a major hindrance in the path of its far-reaching goal which the Modi government is trying to accomplish.

As per the records issued by the National Crime Records Bureau of India, the cases of farmers’ suicides in the country are very high. Suicide cases are relatively high in Maharashtra, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Shantivan in Beed district of Maharashtra lament the ‘series of unfortunate events’ and is home to almost 120 children who have lost either one or both of their parents to farm loan-related suicide.

“Every time I open the door, I see my father’s body,” says 14-year-old Nikita Surwase, pointing at the iron shaft on the ceiling. As per the a report by The Hindu, Nikita’s father, Ashok, hanged himself as he was unable to repay his loan that he had taken to grow cotton on his 1.5 acre land in Talegaon village, Beed district, Maharashtra.

One other resident, 14-year-old Mayur Rasal, lost his father in 2009, a year that saw a large number of farmers ending their lives to escape debt. In Wardha district, which falls in the drought-prone Vidharbha region of Maharashtra, a village named Kurzhadi has reported eight farmer suicides over the past decade. In 2016, Ganesh Thackeray swallowed a bottle of pesticide that he had kept for his three acre cotton farm. He fought his extreme battle for life, but his organs collapsed one after the other, and he eventually succumbed.

Maharashtra continued to record a higher number (2,917) of farmer suicides in 2017. With the inception of 2018, the sufferings of farmers continued, an 84-year-old farmer from Maharashtra, named Dharma Patil, consumed poison at Maharashtra secretariat in Mumbai, seeking adequate compensation for his acquired land.

The pain and grief of the family of farmers is really pitiful. ‘Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches’. It is impossible for one residing in a metropolitan, to even imagine the misery and the traumatic condition of these ‘silent sufferers’. “When a child loses a parent, there is a growing sense of abandonment and separation anxiety,” says Vijayakumar, who has worked in the farmer suicide-affected district in Tamil Nadu. They become sad and silent, and it is really tough for them to overcome their physical and psychological disorder.

But at times, such cases instill a sense of responsibility and duty in these kids. Pawan Parve , from Aurangabad’s Bodhwal village, suddenly turned out to be the ‘man of the house’, after his father drank pesticide, and died in the year, 2011. At an age of 14, when children usually either study or engage themselves in all sorts of recreational activities, Pawan had a responsibility of an unmarried sister and two younger brothers on his tender shoulders. According to Pawan, he became just another farmer who had to pay off the debt. “No one cared for me,” says Pawan.

It is very necessary to evaluate and counsel these children so that they recover and move ahead in there lives.

The ceaseless cases of farmer suicides is an ignominious fact. It has become more of a factor to lash the ruling party by the opposition than a warning sign to actually do something. The root cause of farmers taking their lives is the increase in the debt burden. It is the need of the hour to establish special agricultural zones, modernize agricultural methods, educate the farmers and above all it is a major duty of the government to take strict measures against greedy money lenders.

In the words of  John F. Kennedy, “The farmers is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.” And hence, there is no doubt in saying that, farmers are indispensable, and thus for a nation to flourish, it is very necessary to keep them happy and content.

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