Alarming Rates of Farm Suicides in India

20 Nov

A latest report by Prof. K Nagaraj of the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) and published in The Hindu revealed that within 1997 to 2005, the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh (including Chhattisgarh) accounted for 43.9 per cent of all suicides and 64 per cent of all farm suicides in the country.

In another article for the Counterpunch dated 17/18 Nov by the same writer, P. Sainath commented that 150,000 Indian farmers were estimated to have committed suicide within that period. That works out to an average of one Indian farmer passing away every 32 minutes.

Professor Nagara who culled the data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) said the estimated figure “is a bottom line estimate” as it excludes people such as tenant and women farmers.

The cause, according to Professor Nagaraj is the domination of highly diversified, commercialised agriculture; water stress; compounded by dissipating state investment in agriculture. As these costs increase, lack of regulation pertaining to the sector worsened the problem.

US and EU subsidies to their growers also cause prices to drop while large corporations engaged in price rigging.

“From the mid-’90s onwards,” points out Professor Nagaraj, “prices and farm incomes crashed. As costs rose – even as bank credit dried up – so did indebtedness. Even as subsidies for corporate farmers in the West rose, we cut our few, very minimal life supports and subsidies to our own farmers. The collapse of investment in agriculture also meant it was and is most difficult to get out of this trap.”

In an article for Znet, “The Suicide Economy Of Corporate Globalisation”, Vandana Shiva attributed the causes to what Professor Nagaraj mentioned – rising production costs and decreasing selling prices.

The writer accused the World Bank of its structural adjustment programs that forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations such as Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta.

Farmers are compelled to purchase these patented seeds which cannot be saved and which required fertilizers and pesticides. Seeds which used to be free and which can be saved became a cost which farmers had to buy annually, thereby, causing widespread poverty and debt.

Planting only corporate seeds also mean that one type of crop is grown which indirectly spells the disappearance of traditional and diverse crops such as legumes, millets, and oilseeds. Planting only one type of crop also increases the risks of crop failure.

The free trade WTO rules in agriculture also allows dumping which cause prices to drop while EU and US subsidises its own agricultural sector.

In short, neoliberalism does kill, in this case, the Indian farmers who are driven to debt… …


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