Farmers’ Suicides in India:
India is classified as an agrarian country, which means that around 70% of the people residing in the nation are directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture for their survival. Most of the country’s rural areas support a very self-employed approach towards their livelihood; this essentially means that the Indian rural sector depends on their own farmlands for their survival. Hence, farmer suicide issues become very essential to discuss as they directly influence the nation’s sentiment towards the topics. The Central Government has had a troubled time dealing with the issues and they have rolled out many policies but they haven’t had a significant effect. Since the year 2013, there have been over 12000 suicides which reported every year, these numbers seem very worrying. All in all, farmer suicides account for approximately 10% of all the suicides in India. There is no denying that the menace of farmer’s suicides exists and runs counter to the aspirations of reaping benefits of our demographic dividend.
There are seven states in India which account for approximately 87.5% of total suicides in the farming sector in the country. The major states which account for these suicides are Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. There are different sects of farmers which are affected by the farmer’s suicides and these sects need to be addressed by the government. They need to formulate certain laws which would help them counter such problems. The problem has started affecting the different areas of farmers too, as both the marginal as well as the small farmers are committing suicide. The different states have been affected by the problem, the worst hit has been to Maharashtra, no matter how many reforms have been introduced there, the pictures which these suicides have painted are very depressing as well as an eye opener for the general public as it has the Indian society directly affected. There is a need to understand there have been laws which have tried to have some positive impact on the solution, but it has become essential for the government to come up with different techniques which are suited better for the new age and problems. Punjab was the state which was very positively affected by the Green Revolution; however, in today time irony remains at its finest as there have are over 4500 farmer suicides in Punjab. Between the time period of 1995 and 2015, Mansa, a district in the state of Punjab has recorded 1334 farmer suicides alone, the numbers seem to increase substantially and comes out as a cry for help for the farmers of the nation.
The issues for the farmer’s suicides fall in a spectrum of monsoon failure to personal issues, every different region has a different problem and it requires individual action as the problems posed are fairly unique. Some of the problems are as follows:
- The surge in input costs
The farmer of the nation has been burdened with the inflated prices of the agricultural inputs, the overall increase in the cost of cultivation for wheat especially at present in three times the amount it was in 2005. The cost of chemicals and seeds has become expensive for the already in debt farmer, a farmer requires certain fertilizers, crop protection chemicals and other things for a proper harvest at the end of the agricultural year. The cost of the agricultural has also seen an increase in prices, items such as tractors, pumps, and other machinery are very essential for every farmer, however, it becomes quite a daunting task for the small and marginal farmers to buy this equipment. The labor costs have gotten costlier too in recent times and the MNREGA is responsible for the hike in labor prices.
- Failed Loan Repayments
The NCRB claims that 2474 suicides of the 3000 farmer suicides in 2015, the farmers have been victims of unpaid loans from the local banks. One should not focus on the aspect of the local banks harassing the farmers; instead one should look to focus on the different policies which should be made in order to counter the bigger issue of loan repayments. There is a strong correlation between the farmer suicides as well as debt repayment as Maharashtra and Karnataka have recorded 1293 and 946 respectively have also seen the most amount of unsuccessful debt repayments by the farmers of the states.
- Water Crisis
Maharashtra as well as Karnataka have been water deficient areas and also have one of the highest suicide rates of farmers. It is believed that without proper water manifestation techniques the farmers have been suffering a lot as they don’t get provided with a sufficient amount of water for their crops. The failure to meet the production demands at the end of the harvest has always been the major reason behind the farmer suicides. The issue generally arises due to the continued failure of monsoons. Inter-state water disputes also have an important role to play as with bureaucracy in play, the farmer and common folk are bound to suffer.
Countering the Problem
The problem has certainly attracted the eyes of the government and has constantly come up as an issue in the recent elections, there were many manifestos in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections which highlighted certain relief packages for the farmers. However, it becomes essential to understand the difference between feasible techniques in comparison to the manifestos; most of the “promises” proposed in the manifestos seem distant in the near future.
Some packages which were provided by the government were lauded by the policy analysts but did not prove of much importance to the farmers. For instance, one such program has been the 2006 Relief Package which was aimed at 31 districts of the four states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala which have a relatively high number of farmer suicides. Another one was the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008; it has said to have benefitted over 36 million farmers at a cost of Rs 65000 Crore. The main aim of the policy was at writing off part of the principal as well as the interest of the loans which the farmers had already collected. In 2013, the Government of India launched the Special Livestock Sector and Fisheries Package for the farmers which were in the same suicide-prone districts; the main aim of the package was to diversify the income sources for the farmers.
The state governments have also taken upon themselves to introduce many other new initiatives but it still remains an uphill task to initially put an end to these suicides and secondly actually improve the conditions set for the farmers in order to prevent such accidents in the future.
The Way Ahead
There are many other ways which could help the farmers of the nation to be a bit more stable in this time of crisis. Policies look to play a very important role in the solving of problems, there should be a proper exercising of power by the government over all the entities which are involved directly or indirectly in the problem. Proper policies of integrated pest management to prevent pest damage needs to be an approach to start with, it should integrate biological, chemical, mechanical as well as the physical methodology that should be used to prevent crop damage. Vietnam’s no spray early rule seems to be a good inspirational starting point, it essentially cut the pesticide requirement by 50% and India could definitely use a tactic like that. The fertilizer industries should also be kept in check as their costs need to be cut down, this can be done through internal funding as opposed to external borrowing and that should lower the input costs. Scientific and technological advancements should seek to help the farmers in need as they have to gather any resource which they can gather in this time of need. The government should focus on policies which would help import modern technological inputs which are provided by foreign entities on a subsidized fee. Subsidies should be routed towards capital generation and entrepreneurial Custom Hiring Centers (CHC) and the implementation of such steps should be ensured in the correct fashion. The Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) must be encouraged in the agricultural sector which has particularly towards capacity building and skill development techniques. There should be direct funding involved through the government to the farmers in order to solve their sorrows.
The community should come forward as a whole to counter such an issue as it is not merely a farmer’s issue now but the issue of the whole nation. The awareness factor becomes very essential as it is very important to make the farmers understand that suicide isn’t the solution but at this hour everyone needs to come together and present a united front. They should create model approaches towards the solutions which they want the farmers to follow and they should make them realize that we are all here for them and that even if one farmer commits suicide it is a serious problem.