Issue: farmer suicides in india

A PRECARIOUS SITUATION

Vast areas of rural India are currently facing a crisis that few outside of the subcontinent are aware is even occurring. Yet whether or not the world watches, the crisis deepens. At the center of this emergency are the thousands of Indian peasant farmers who have taken their own lives over the last fifteen years. Although an exact figure is hard to come by, one common estimate is that roughly 200,000 farmers have committed suicide between 1993 and 2010i. States hardest hit from this pandemic include Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Kerela and Panjab; since 2003 things have gotten much worse in all three places.

INTERRELATED TRAGEDIES

"Why?" people ask, is this happening. Like many other crises currently facing the world at this moment (genocide in Sudan, the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, etc.) there is no one single, complete answer to the painful riddle of farmer suicide in India. For rather than a single solitary cause, the reasons that an Indian farmer would take his own life are linked with several larger and deeply interrelated issues affecting India's society, environment and economy as a whole, including:

Vastly increasing rates of rural inequality across much of India. With the advent of industrial farming in India, beginning in the late 1960s, agricultural landholdings across the nation began to be moved into the hands of fewer and fewer large farmers, and out of the hands of the majority: small, peasant farmers. While this shift has been a boon for large agricultural endeavors, it has brought massive upheaval and chaos to traditional, agrarian society in many parts of India. In Panjab, for example, according to the state government's own 2004 Human Development Report, the move toward larger and larger farms in the Panjab has meant "dual processes of pauperization and proletarianisation"ii over its small and marginal farmers, without new opportunities for them opening up elsewhere in the society.

Severe ecological collapse both in soil and water systems due to a variety of factors, but intimately linked with the introduction of "high-yielding variety" (HYV) seeds into India during the so-called Green Revolution of the 1960s and 70s. With industrial farming practices spreading across India without regard to local ecologies and climates, entire areas that were formerly used for growing locally appropriate crops at an ecologically sustainable output were replaced with HYV "mono-crops" such as rice, wheat, or cotton. As such, Panjab became one of India's largest rice producing states, despite the fact that rice was never grown there on a large scale historically. As these regions' soils have eventually given way under years of industrial pesticide and fertilizer use, ever larger --and costlier-- amounts of these chemicals have been needed simply to maintain former yields. In addition to these chemical needs, thirsty HYV seeds require enormous amounts of water just to grow at all. To supply this water, industrial-scale irrigation technologies are needed. Few farmers can afford these technologies, and many go into un-recoupable debt trying to pay them off. In either case, as with chemicals, the long-term damage that industrial irrigation does to the land is vast. As water levels drop, formerly productive areas either go barren, or the farmers --the few who can actually afford it-- dig ever deeper "tubewells" to pull up the last drops of water that their land can supply, destroying their sole means of income in the process.

Skyrocketing levels of debt among Indian farmers, often at greater percentages for small-scale farmers.
Farmer debt in India ties together the first two issues, rising inequality and ecological damage, but also stands on its own as perhaps the primary factor motivating Indian farmers to end their lives. The levels of debt in rural India right now are truly astonishing. For example, in Panjab the average level of indebtedness-as of 2004-among farmers was about 120,000 rupeesiii ($2,716 USD) this despite the fact that the average per-capita income in India in 2004-2005 as a whole was only 23,222 rupees ($525 USD). In fact, the 2004-2005 per-capita income in Panjab's wealthiest city, Chandigarh, only came to 67,370 rupeesiv ($1,525 USD). In other words, Panjabi farmers' debt levels are nearly twice as much as their urban neighbors' income for an entire year.

LEARN MORE!

In order to understand the farmer suicide crisis currently taking place in India, it is helpful to know a bit about the larger historical and global context from which it arose and where India's headed now.

Latest News on Farmer Suicides: 'Monsanto uses Indian farmers to contaminate world with GMO crops' - RT (blog)
Monsanto's GMO Creations Caused 291000 Suicides in India - RINF Alternative News
SC issues notice to Gujarat on farmers' suicides - Times of India
Farmer suicides: Telangana Congress meets Sonia - Times of India
TDP flays KCR govt for farmer suicides - Times of India

Films: Harvest of Grief by Anwar Jamal
Nero's Guests by Deepa Bhatia
Seeds of Suicide by Chad Heeter
Harvesting Hunger by Krishnendu Bose
Seeds of Dissent by Pankaj Rishi Kumar
Mere Desh Ki Dharti by Sumit Khanna
Where Farmers Fear by Chandan Bhaduri

Books: Everybody loves a good drought, stories from India's poorest districts
By: P. Sainath

Farmers Suicide, Facts & Possible Policy Interventions
By: Meeta And Rajivlochan

Deepening Democracy, challenges of Governance and Globalization in India
By: Madhu Purnima Kishwar

Reports: Development Report #15:A bitter harvest: Farmer suicide in India
http://www.foodfirst.org/en/node/1611

India Farmer Suicides- A Lesson for Africa's Farmers
http://www.foodfirst.org/node/1626/print


iMalika Chopra, The Huffington Post 2009
ii2004 Human Development Report: Panjab (The Government of Panjab w/ UNDP; 2004) 41.
iiiH.S. Shergill, "Rural Credit and Indebtedness in Panjab" (Institute for Development and Communication; 1998; Chandigarh) 64-66.
ivFrom a report by India's Central Statistical Organization, August 2006. (www.rediff.com/money/2006/aug/10capita.htm)

Official Selection - 2nd Chennai International Documentary & Short Film Festival  2014 Official Selection - Madurai Film Festival 2013 Best Social Entrepreneur - Third World Independent Film Festival 2012 Honorable Mention - Bayou City Inspirational Film Festival  2012 Official Selection - Punjabi International Film Festival 2012 Official Selection - DC South Asian Film Festival 2012 Official Selection - Chicago International Social Change Film Festival 2012 Official Selection - UNSPOKEN Human Rights Film Festival 2012 Official Selection - North Carolina Indian & South Asian Film Festival 2012
Official Selection - Jeevika Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival 2013 Official Selection - Women's International Film & Arts Festival 2012 Official Selection - India International Film Festival of Tampa Bay 2012 Official Selection - International SURGE Film Festival 2012 Opening Night Film Sikhlens Film Festival 2011 Official Selection Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival 2011 Opening Night Film Sikh International Film Festival 2011 Official Selection Chagrin Documentary Film Festival 2011 United Nations Global Wake-Up Film Festival 2011
Site designed and hosted by LikeRock