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Death of India’s Farmers and Farming in India?

A peer silence has surrounded the  National food security (NFS) in last few months which will resulting into a huge loss. The one who grow the food is the only one who never gets it. Everywhere and Everything  is about the suicide of the farmer,11% of the total farmers commit suicide every year. Farmers are the holy cows of every country. Data from the recently held National sample survey organisation(NSSO) survey show that close to 60 per cent of rural household are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. more than half of them are at risk of defaulting on their debts with either banks or informal moneylenders. There are so much of debt burden on the farmers and its resulting vunerability at the household level as primary factor for farmers suicide.

If we consider the recent suicide of a farmer from Dausa, Gajendra Singh,save the tragedy for his family-the very public venue ,the occasion of public rally,politicians are playing their cards and the media focus on trivialities.The tragedy is being dexterously milked without addressing the grave issue of farmer suicides in India,which occurs at approximate rate of about 1500  per annum.This example shows the poliltical front that farmer have no option left except suicide.Another recent case is of a rubber farmer from kerela blamed falling rubber prices and the lack of government support in his suicide note.The unfortunate incident is not an isolated one in India.Many small farmers are getting low prices for their produce  because of increased global production and lower demand for various commodities.In order to compete, many farmers turned to high-cost seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, believing in easier returns. Modified seeds cost nearly twice as much as ordinary ones, necessitating larger loans.There has been minimal financial support from the government for small farmers. ƒMany small farmers don’t qualify for bank credit, forcing farmers to turn to moneylenders, who charge up to 20% interest on a four-month loan.As collateral, farmers often sign away the title to their land.The benefit of India’s 2008 farmer relief package remains to be seen.

Recent reports from food and Agriculture organisation(FAO) show that declining food price index in most common commodities such as sugar,cereals and meat.For example in case of Rice and Wheat farmers,more than half the produce is consumes at the household level and the rest mostly sold to traders at much lower price.Climate change in Agriculture is other big challenge, failure of whole cotton crop especially in Maharashtra due to flood.Maharashtra continues to face challenge of dealing with rising cases of farner suicides.It has reportedly 204 farner suicides in the 1st four month of this year which is nearly half of  what the state had reported in 2013.If we only talk about Maharashtra total suicide held in 2011 is 608,2012 is 642and in 407.

“The cotton belt is where the suicides are taking place on a very, very large scale. It is the suicide belt of India.”– Vandana Shiva, Agricultural Economist, 2006

In a 2014 study a prevalence of three factors accounted for almost 75 per cent of Farmers suicide –land ownership of less than 10,000 square metre,excessive relianceon cash crops,and a debt of Rs.300 or more.This is the heartbroken bleak current scenario of  Indian Farmers.There are many reasons of commiting suicide like,Financial Stress -constant financial pressure related to the “Farm Crisis”and ongoing drought and flood which add to the economic problems.Loss of independence and control: many of the issues are not within the farmer’s control –disease, weather, government policy, but the debts are personal.Sense of Loss: repeated sense of hopelessness, loss of crops, loss of land, loss of income, loss of community, loss of family farm, loss of a way of life.Geographical remoteness and the potential for social isolation.Untreated Mental Illness: Lack of access to mental health services in rural areas and the stigma attached to treatment.Depression arising from exposure to agricultural chemicals/pesticides may increase the risk for mood disorders and ultimately suicide.More than 100,000farmers have taken their lives since 1997.86.5 percent of farmers who took their own lives were financially in debted.Their average debt was about $835.On average, there has been one farmer’s suicide every 32 minutes since 2002.

There are many types of schemes,policies,subsidies,laws,insaurance which is there to improve the living standard of farmers.Subsidies are main focussed outcome for the farmer which exists everywhere even in US and Europe.Infact ,benefits extended  to the agricultural class  in the west are significantly  more than in India.According to World Trade Organisation filing,India’s total farm subsidy stands at $56 billion;this caters to approximately 120 million Indians who are engaged in full time or part-time cultivation.In opposite,the US pays out an average farm susidy of approximately $20 billion to some 2 million farmers and EU pays 58 billion pound over 27 million farmers.If we compare the subsidy amount of these 3 countries then there is a wide gap between them and as always India shares the lowest position.

Admittedly,the government has had several schemes for decades now to help farmers modernise their holdings.Unfortunately,the high initial investments required,in combination with negative incentives,such as input subsidies(fertilizer,pesticide,water,electricity),have meant that small farms could not reap the benefits of these schemes and remained unmechanised ,without micro-irrigation,and with por crop storage facilities.Thus ,small holdings continue to be unviable and input subsidies that politician eagerly announce do little to chanhe this fact.In essence,government assistance does not usually reach the neediest segement.It is also a myth that frequent bank loan waivers alleviate the penury of small farmers.As a 2012 government report reveal that 85% of the farmers who held less than .1 hectares of land had loans pending to moneylenders,while those owning over 10 hectares,only 21% resorted to borrowing loans from the unorganised sector.We make tall claims of improved technology for agriculture by pushing stark realities of increasing indebtedness, growing poverty, resulting human suffering and hunger from the public glare. We are, therefore, in reality, the cause behind hunger and the resulting farmers suicides. Behaving like an Ostrich is surely not going to eclipse hunger and death from the politico-economic radar screens.

“Rates of growth of agriculture in the last decade have been poor and are a major cause of rural distress. Farming is increasingly becoming an unviable activity.-Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, 2007

The recent attempt by Gujarat government to reintroduce the Farm Income Insaurance Scheme(FIIS) can reform agricultural insaurance and prevent farmlevel distress.FIIS also provides the government an opportunity to streamline some recently announces initiatives such as assessing soil or the farmers health through soil health card,and rationalizing fertilizer and water usage by insuring only the efficient cost of production.There are many programmes or the policies which are introduced by the government but they are not completely fruitful because of lack of knowledge and unskilled nature. It requires policy makers, agricultural scientists, academicians and even the civil society groups to first accept the fundamental flaws that force farmers to the gallows. And then it needs determination – both political and scientific — and there is no reason why farmers distress cannot be turned into a scourge of the past.

The suicides which are happening are the cumulative result of corruption,inefficiency,and lack of access to finance keeps small farmers in a high risk category,where just a medical emergency or a marriage-even the poorest in India cannot abandon extravagant marriage ceremony-can tilt the balance from borderline sustenance to debt,poverty and finally suicide.

By:: Himani Padalia

The Hindu paper articles

  • Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics
  • Mathew, B. (2004). Suicide for survival. Retrieved from: countercurrents[dot]org/gloshiva050404.htm on Oct. 14, 2007
  • Radhakrishnan, P. (2004). Suicides in India some sociological reflections. Retrieved from www.countercurrents.orgon Oct. 14, 2007
  • Youtube – The Newshour debate(23 April 2015)
  • Defra, UK. Sustainable Farming and Food Strategy –indicator data sheet -Farmer Suicide Rates 1993-2005

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