India is an agrarian country with around 70% of its people depending directly or indirectly upon agriculture. Several farmers in India commit suicide each year. It is sad but true that the cases of farmer suicides in India have increased over the years.
There are a number of reasons that contribute to it. These include the erratic weather conditions, debt burden, family issues and change in government policies among others. A number of factors are said to be responsible for this. As of 2017, farmer suicides have occurred in large numbers in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand.
Inability to pay debt, damaging of crops due to erratic weather conditions such as droughts and floods, unfavourable government policies and inability to meet the demands of the family are some of the major reasons for farmer suicides in India. Most farmers are the sole earners of the family. They face constant pressure to fulfil the demands and responsibilities of the family and the stress caused by the inability to meet the same often leads to farmer suicides.
A 2012 study, did a regional survey on farmers suicide in Maharashtra and applied a Smith’s Saliency method to qualitatively rank the expressed causes among farming families who had lost someone to suicide. The expressed reasons in order of importance behind farmer suicides were – debt, alcohol addiction, environment, low produce prices, stress and family responsibilities, increased cost of cultivation, private money lenders, and crop failure.
As much as 79.5% of India’s farmland relies on flooding during monsoon season, so inadequate rainfall can cause droughts, making crop failure more common.
The National Crime Records Bureau of India reported in its 2012 annual report, that 1,35,445 people committed suicide in India, of which 13,755 were farmers.
The government appointed a number of inquiries to look into the causes of farmers suicide and farm related distress in general. A special rehabilitation package was launched to mitigate the distress of these farmers. The package provided debt relief to farmers, improved supply of institutional credit, improved irrigation facilities, employed experts and social service personnel to provide farming support services, and introduced subsidiary income opportunities through horticulture, livestock, dairy and fisheries.
Nearly 70% of India’s 90 million agricultural households spend more than they earn on average each month, pushing them towards debt, which is now the primary reason in more than half of all suicides by farmers nationwide, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of various government data.
Farmers need protection through protective legislation as nothing is typically
done to help them settle their debts or tackle the unprecedented price rise that leads them to commit suicides. Minimum Support Price mechanism for agricultural produce should appropriate with consideration increase in agricultural inputs. Focus on increasing agricultural productivity with sustained growth and lower costs of production. The government must set up exclusive agricultural zones where only agricultural activities should be allowed.
Many state governments in India have taken special initiatives to prevent farmer suicides. Groups have been dedicated to help farmers in distress and funds have also been raised to provide monetary help.
Farmer suicide is a grave issue. While the government has launched several packages to help the farmers in distress these have not helped much in putting an end to farmer suicide cases. It is high time the government of India should recognize the sensitivity of the issue and work towards it in a way that this problem comes to an end.