Farmer’s Suicides

More than 17,500 farmers a year killed themselves between 2002 and 2006, according to experts who have analyzed government statistics. It was said, a comprehensive all-India study is still awaited, that most suicides occurred in states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Punjab.

In 2006, the state of Maharashtra, with 4,453 farmers’ suicides accounted for over a quarter of the all-India total of 17,060, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in its report Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India, 2006, totaling to ‘36,428 farmers’ suicides since 1995. According to another study by the Bureau, while the number of farm suicides increased since 2001, the number of farmers has fallen, as thousands abandoning agriculture in distress. According to government data, over 5,000 farmers committed suicide in 2005-2009 in Maharashtra, while 1,313 cases reported by Andhra Pradesh between 2005 and 2007. In Karnataka the number stood at 1,003, since 2005-06 till August 2009. In the last four years, cases in Kerala were about 905, Gujarat 387, Punjab 75 and Tamil Nadu 26.

In the initial years when farmers distress came to attract public attention it was said that indebtedness and use of Bt Cotton were the main cause for farmers suicide. Here it is important to notice that in the context of Indian history the moneylender is considered to be a particularly evil person and the farmer an unwitting subject of his machinations. Moreover, in recent times there has been a considerable ideologically driven movement against the use of BT crops. As a result the initial causes indebtedness and Bt Cotton were easily accepted to be the causes of farm suicides.

P. Sainath, a journalist who covered the Covering farmers' suicides in India, later won the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award.

In April 2007 an NGO named Green Earth Social Development Consulting brought out a report after doing an audit of the state and central government relief packages in Vidarbha. The report's conclusions were:

· Farmers' demands were not taken into count while preparing the relief package. Neither were civil society organisations, local government bodies, panchayats etc consulted.

· The relief packages were mostly amalgamations of exiting schemes. Apart from the farmer helpline and the direct financial assistance, there was scarcely anything new being offered. Pumping extra funds into additional schemes shows that no new idea was applied to solve a situation where existing measures had obviously failed.

· The farmer helpline did not give any substantial help to farmers

The basis for selection of beneficiaries under the assistance scheme was not well-defined. Also, type of assistance to be given led to problems like a farmer needing a pair of bullocks getting a pump set and vice versa (or a farmer who has no access to water sources being given pump sets).

Awareness regarding the package was also fairly low.

The report concluded quite alarmingly that the loan burden of the farmers would double in 2008.

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