Skip to main content

580 farmers' suicides in Marathwada till Aug 15, up from 542 last year, as farming turns "riskier" in era of climate change

By Moin Qazi*
Even as India celebrated its 70th year of independence, the number of suicides of beleaguered farmers in Marathwada, the drought prone belt of Maharashtra, touched a new high. In the last seven and half months ending with August 15, 580 cultivators have committed suicide. At the end of July, the toll stood at 531 and it has gone up to 580 in just 15 days.
The total suicidal deaths in Marathwada in the entire 2016 were 542, and the figure for 2015 was 354. Thus in seven and half months this year the number of suicides has gone up by 38 in comparison to the figure for the entire last year .The tragedy is all the more serious since 2016-2017 had good rainfall and better agricultural prices to support a successful harvest.This is certainly symptomatic of a deep malaise.
Many farmers drink toxic pesticides as a way out of backbreaking debt, with the government in some cases guaranteeing monetary aid to their surviving families. That provides a perverse incentive for suicide, rewarding people who end their lives by paying family compensation, but only if they die.
In Maharashtra, probably the richest state in India In the past decade, thousands of farmers in India — mostly in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat — have hung themselves or taken pesticide. Over the past few years, Maharashtra has topped the list of “suicide states”.
A 21-year-old student, the daughter of a Maharashtra farmer, Sheetal Yankat decided to end her life by jumping into a village well. In her suicide note, she wrote: "My parents are extremely poor and have been unable to raise money for my marriage. I am committing suicide because I don't want my parents to come under a debt burden. The economic condition of my family has worsened over the last five years because of the failure of crops.”
She added, “My two sisters got married somehow, with very simple marriage ceremonies. My father is trying his best for my marriage. But since the middlemen are not able to lend money, my marriage got delayed for two years. Therefore, I am ending my life with the hope that my father will not be burdened by any more debt and perhaps my death will also end the dowry practice."
Several studies have shown that almost 58 to 62 percent farmers sleep on empty stomachs. . While the policy emphasis has been on increasing crop production, the more important issue of whether this is accompanied by a rise in farm incomes has been simply pushed under the carpet.
The reasons for the gloom on the farm are all there for everybody to see.
Farming is an inherently risky occupation, with annual incomes often held hostage to weather, and it's getting riskier in the era of climate change
The University of California, Berkeley suggests India will see more such tragedies as climate change brings hotter temperatures that damage crops and exacerbate drought. For every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming above 20 degrees C (68 degrees F) during the growing season in India, there are 67 more suicides on average, according to the findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS. An increase of 5 Celcius on any one day was associated with an additional 335 deaths. In total, it estimates that 59,300 agricultural sector suicides over the past 30 years could be attributed to warming.
The message "is that farming is an inherently risky occupation, with annual incomes often held hostage to the weather, and it's getting riskier in the era of climate change," according to Vikram Patel, an Indian psychiatrist and mental health expert with Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Experts said the study's findings should raise alarms, especially with India's average temperatures expected to rise another 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F) by 2050. That will bring more erratic weather events, more drought and stronger storms.
Farming has always been considered a high-risk profession, and a single damaged harvest can drive some to desperation. With agriculture supporting more than half of India's 1.3 billion people, farmers have long been seen as the heart and soul of the country. But they've also seen their economic clout diminish over the last three decades. Once accounting for a third of India's gross domestic product, they now contribute only 15 percent of India's $2.26 billion economy.
Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan used to say that the biggest reforms would be when farmers are moved out of agriculture, to meet the ever-growing demand for cheaper labour for the infrastructure industry. As of today, we believe in “uttam kheti, madhyam vyapar and neech naukri”, he said. 
India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said in 1947, “Everything can wait, but not agriculture.” What India is witnessing today is exactly the reverse. All the other sectors in the Indian economy are surging ahead. Agriculture is the only one which is moving in the opposite direction. Within this self-perpetuating cycle of misery, wrapping a noose around the neck are all-too-friendly exits for farmers. 
While their deaths might bring personal escape, they leave behind crippling emotional, financial and physical burdens, inherited by those left to farm the dust: women who live to rebuild ther lives and that of their families on the debris left by their broken-hearted husbands.
---
*Contact: moinqazi123@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Green revolution "not sustainable", Bt cotton a failure in India: MS Swaminathan

Counterview Desk
In a recent paper in the journal “Current Science”, distinguished scientist PC Kesaven and his colleague MS Swaminathan, widely regarded as the father of the Green Revolution, have argued that Bt insecticidal cotton, widely regarded as the continuation of the Green Revolution, has been a failure in India and has not provided livelihood security for mainly resource-poor, small and marginal farmers.
Sharply taking on Green Revolution, the authors say, it has not been sustainable largely because of adverse environmental and social impacts, insisting on the need to move away from the simplistic output-yield paradigm that dominates much thinking. Seeking to address the concerns about local food security and sovereignty as well as on-farm and off-farm social and ecological issues associated with the Green Revolution, they argue in favour of what they call sustainable ‘Evergreen Revolution’, based on a ‘systems approach’ and ‘ecoagriculture’.
Pointing out that Evergreen Revol…

Rejoinder: Inescapable to have Central Water Commission as strong technical body in India

By BN Navalawala*
This is with reference to Counterview Blog (December 5, 2018), "Modi govt 'shelves' water reforms report, shows 'no interest' in its recommendations", below mentioned are my comments/observations thereon:
A committee was constituted under the Chairmanship of Dr. Mihir Shah, Former Member, Planning Commission, for restructuring of Central Water Commission (CWC) and Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) for optimal development of water resources in the country in the backdrop of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

Some Hindu bodies in US defending BJP-RSS' divisive, violent activities: Agnivesh

Counterview Desk Last week, Washington DC saw speakers at a religious freedom roundtable, chaired by the US Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, express concern over "eroding" space for religious freedom in India. Dr Mike Ghouse, executive director, of the Center for Pluralism in Washington DC, referring to the roundtable, said in an email alert that Indian-Americans have "a moral duty to prevent India from being labeled as a Country of Particular Concern by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)".

Preventing childhood deaths: India performs worse than Bangladesh, "equals" Pakistan

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released study, “The Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report 2018”, prepared by the International Vaccine Access Centre (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has identified India among 15 other countries which are still far off the mark in achieving the targets of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD).

Karnataka: NGO Akshay Patra "not sensitive" to nutrition demands of school children

Counterview Desk
Well-known civil rights organizations, Right to Food Campaign and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, have sent a letter to the Union minister of human resource development, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, other concerned ministers and officials of the state expressing concerns regarding the mid-day meal (MDM) to school children, insisting, all contracts to the Akshay Patra for supply of MDM should be immediately terminated.

India's rewritten textbooks talk of demerits of democracy, praise Hitler, underrate Mughals

Counterview Desk
A detailed, 3,800-word review of the books rewritten under directions of the BJP rulers across India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in May 2014 has suggested that one of aims of the books is to instill a sense of doubt about India’s democratic polity among the country’s young minds. Reviewed in the prestigious US journal, “The New York Review of Books”, in its latest issue (December 6, 2018) by Alex Traub, the scrutiny insists, the effort has also been to paint Indian history from the angle of “Hindu triumphalism”, even as creating “Islamophobia”.

Govt of India "tarnishing" NGO reputation, dossier leaked selectively: Amnesty

Counterview Desk
Amnesty International India has said that a deliberate attempt is being made to tarnish its reputation by leaking a dossier, supposedly made by investigating agencies, to media without giving it access to any such information. The high profile NGO’s claim follows a Times Now report about proceedings launched by investigative agencies, including Enforcement Directorate (ED) against the rights body for “violations” of rules pertaining to overseas donations.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Four children die after poor UP Dalit, Muslim families forced to flee to forest area: PVCHR

Counterview Desk
Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) has said that the forest department police’s crackdown, allegedly without any prior notice, on Dalit and Muslim households in Dakhin Tola, Churk Bazaar, Sonbhadra district, Uttar Pradesh, beating up “children and old people, women, and men in an inhuman way”, has led to “forced displacement, starvation and discrimination”. This has reportedly affected about 350 people.

Vedanta is out but corporate loot continues in Odisha: Local activists tell NAPM yatra

By Our Representative
Lok Shakti Abhiyan leader Prafulla Samantara, winner of the Goldman Environmental (also known as Green Nobel) Prize in 2017, has regretted that though Sundergarh in Odisha, like other forest areas, is a fifth schedule area, where Forest Rights Act (FRA) and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) is applicable, but these laws are being “outrightly violated to facilitate corporate loot.”