farmers suicide

It is also important to know the history of farmer suicide. And it would be logical to know that in the context of the state of Maharashtra. In 1990, The Hindu, an English language newspaper, published a report on rural affairs. Sainath regularly reported farmer suicides. Initially, the reports came from Maharashtra and soon after, news of suicides started coming from Andhra Pradesh as well. Initially, it was believed that most of the suicides were committed by cotton growers in Vidarbha, Maharashtra. But a look at the data obtained from the Maharashtra State Criminal Accounts Office in 2010 shows that the suicide rate among farmers who grow cash crops including cotton is very high in Maharashtra.

Suicides are not only of smallholder farmers but also of medium and large landholder farmers. The state government has set up several inquiry committees to look into the matter. The then Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh had announced a subsidy of Rs 110 billion from the state government to help farmers in Vidarbha reduce their suicides. Later, farmers in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh also committed suicide due to the agrarian crisis. In this regard, in 2009, the National Crime Accounts Office of India reported 17368 farmer suicides. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have the highest number of suicides. These five states have recorded 10765 or 62% suicides.

Statistics from the last decade show that an average of 3000 farmers commit suicide in Maharashtra every year. In 2020, 2,270 farmers committed suicide. However, compared to 2019, it is 262 less. No suicide has been reported in Konkan this year. These figures are given in the RTI information requested by the State Department of Relief and Rehabilitation. However, while releasing these figures, the department has claimed that in 2020, the incidence of farmer suicides has decreased in all the divisions except Nagpur and Nashik divisions. In the state, Vidarbha is known for farmer suicides. The government also provides financial assistance to the farming family after committing suicide. However, the root cause of these suicides is not addressed before committing suicide.

This part of the state was surveyed last year. The survey sought to understand the mental state of farmers. Meanwhile, 60 per cent farmers in Vidarbha need mental treatment. The International Institute of Population Science, while conducting the survey, suggested that the government should come forward and provide expert and trained persons to provide mental counseling to the farmers in Vidarbha. The survey found symptoms of serious mental illness in 34.7 per cent farmers in Vidarbha. Of these, 55 per cent farmers were in critical condition and at the same time, 24.7 per cent farmers were going through severe depression.

The question arises as to why the farmers of Vidarbha are going through a state of mental depression. In fact, large population of Vidarbha is fully engaged in agriculture and agriculture is the only source of livelihood. In other words, the people here have no other option but agriculture. However, the livelihood of such a large population in Vidarbha depends on the monsoon.

According to statistics, 91 per cent of agriculture here is dependent on monsoons and the uncertainty of monsoon naturally affects their livelihood. However, the shadow of the crisis on agriculture in Vidarbha depends not only on the monsoon but also on the wrong policies of the government, rising costs and the indifference of the political leadership towards the issues of the farmers. Then there is a dearth of credible loan waivers in Vidarbha due to unavailability of farm loans to farmers. So even now the farmers here are going to the door of moneylenders only for money and these moneylenders are covering the trap.

Similarly, the crisis in agriculture in Vidarbha is mainly due to unseasonal rains as well as huge expenditure on cash crops like cotton and now cotton farming has become expensive. It is a matter of concern that for the second year in a row, bad weather and erratic rains have destroyed the cotton crop here. In fact, Vidarbha in Maharashtra is a leader in cotton production. Last year’s kharif crop had lost up to 60 per cent. Due to this, the budget of the farmers here has collapsed. It is clear that this financial loss will affect his upcoming season as well.

Yavatmal district in Vidarbha in particular is known for its cotton production. However, like other districts in Vidarbha, Yavatmal district has been in the news for the last several years due to farmer suicides. Because the farmer who has been stuck in the whirlpool of crisis in the agricultural sector for the last few decades has not been able to get out of it. Despite this, the farmers here are continuously sowing in their fields every year to change the present situation.

The question is how much the bumper cotton grower in Vidarbha spends per acre on his farm in anticipation of higher yields. The hard work of these farmers starts from plowing the fields to get a good crop. After the farm waste is taken out, they buy seeds, fertilizers and pesticides and pay the laborers for sowing. Cotton needs regular irrigation. Then when the crop is ready, they have to classify the cotton. After doing this, when he brings cotton from the field to the market, he has to work hard to sell the goods again. After many months of hard work and spending thousands of rupees, when a small farmer wants to sell it immediately, many times he does not get a fair price for his crop. This is because, like every year, the procurement process at the government cotton procurement center has been delayed. As a result, many farmers have sold cotton to traders at Rs 5,300 to Rs 5,400 per quintal.

Most of the cotton is grown by farmers during the kharif season. Many farmers said that he spends Rs 35,000 per acre on cotton cultivation every year. Generally, there are 1,000 plows, 500 waste weed cleaners, 750 seeds, 500 plantings, 5000 fertilizers, 5000 weeders, 5000 pesticides, 10,000 irrigations, Rs. 2,000 for 4,000 vehicles and Rs.

However, last year’s cotton growers were buoyed by bumper production, but the rains from September to November and December dashed all their hopes. The weather often deceives the farmers, then the cost of cultivation becomes more expensive, but even then the farmers are not afraid to cultivate. But even in the past, when they were sweating and preparing crops in the field, when it was raining heavily. As a result, less than half of the crop has been harvested. As a result, the farmers have been weakened due to the Asmani Sultani crisis and due to continuous losses, the farmers have become more burdened under the debt burden than before.

According to the state government’s statistics on farmer suicides in the last two years, Amravati division of Vidarbha witnessed the highest number of farmer suicides during this period. Meanwhile, Amravati division has witnessed the highest number of suicides of 1,893 farmers. Yavatmal district in Amravati division has the highest number of 295 farmer suicides. The Aurangabad division of Marathwada ranks second with 1,528 farmers committing suicide in the last two years. This is followed by Nashik and Nagpur divisions, which are in the third and fourth position respectively, with an increase in farmer suicides as compared to 2019. In Nashik and Nagpur divisions, the number of farmers who have committed suicide in these two years is 774 and 456 respectively. On the one hand, the state government’s relief and rehabilitation department is giving some reasons for the decrease in farmer suicides in 2020. It said the new coalition government in the state had given some financial relief to farmers last year as they waived their debts. Apart from this, the state government has also given relief in land revenue and electricity bills during natural calamities.

Indian agriculture is largely dependent on the monsoon and the erratic nature of the monsoon is destroying cash crops, which is considered to be the main reason for farmer suicides. The cycle of problems begins with the failure of the monsoon, drought, rising prices, excess debt. Farmers in various parts of India have committed suicide by falling into the trap of banks, moneylenders and intermediaries. One of the major reasons for farmers to commit suicide is that agriculture has become financially unreliable and farmers cannot make a living. The size of farm land is decreasing day by day – the average land holding size was 2.3 ha in 1960-61 which decreased to 1.6 ha in 2002-2003.

Following the policies of liberalization after globalization in India, farming methods have changed, especially in the case of cash crops. Due to socio-economic constraints, farmers are lacking in technical knowledge on how to grow cash crops and such farmers are likely to be involved in cultivation of Bt based cotton and other capital-intensive cash crops.

Vikas Parasram Meshram
vikasmeshram04@gmail.com


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