India is an agrarian country with around 60% of its people directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. The occupation is so volatile because of its dependence on the monsoon season that it is often compared to gambling. The failure of enough rainfall can lead to a series of droughts, lack of better price and exploitation by middlemen, eventually causing a series of suicides by farmers across the country.
The rate of farmer suicides throughout the world is higher than that for the non-farming population. In the Midwest of the US, suicide rate among male farmers is twice as that of the general population. In Britain, farmers are taking their lives at the rate of one per week. In India, one farmer takes their life every 30 minutes.
All over the world, the impact of an industrial approach to boost crop yields has stripped many male farmers of their self-sufficiency and thrown them into despair.
1) Financial Stress: Constant financial pressure because of ‘farm crisis’ and the ongoing drought and floods add to the economic problems of farmers.
2) Sense of Loss: Farmers experience a repeated sense of hopelessness, crops, land, income, community, family farm and a way of life.
3) Loss of independence and control: There are many issues not within the control of farmers: diseases, weather and government policies, but debts that they end up with are personal.
4) Untreated mental illness: This is due to lack of access to mental health services in rural areas and the stigma attached to its treatment. Moreover, far workers can experience depression due to exposure of agricultural chemicals/pesticides. This may lead to an increase of risk of mood disorders, and sometimes, suicide.
6) Price drop: Prices in agriculture are volatile, and sometimes reach below the farmers’ cost of production. Meanwhile, the prices of inputs including seeds, fertilisers and pesticides have gone up.
7) Debt cycle: With limited resources available, farmers depend on borrowed money to purchase seeds and other inputs and continue farming on their land. A drop in their farm income quickly lands farmers up in front of moneylenders, and they end up owing more than they own.
8) Isolation: Geographical remoteness and the potential of social isolation is common among farmers.
9) Decrease in yield: Chemicals and drought lead to zero yield. The overuse of chemical fertilizers cause the soil to become infertile. This, coupled with a reduction in the genetic variety of crops, and three years of drought lead to zero yield. With less crops to sell, farmers get further caught up in their debt cycle.