Farmers’ Suicides in India – Reasons and Responses
In India, agriculture is the main industry. Nearly 70% of the people in India is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture, making it a country with a mostly agrarian economy. The vast majority of people in India still rely on agriculture for their living, despite the secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy expanding quickly. India is now self-sufficient in the production of food grains for everyday use thanks to the Green Revolution. The farmer’s community must be given priority attention if the nation is to experience full economic development. The Indian economy is said to be supported by agriculture, which has been practiced there for centuries. Despite the fact that they provide the country with food, farmers’ living conditions are appalling. The agrarian crisis was among the worst catastrophes to strike our nation in the previous few decades.
It is concerning that farmer suicides are on the rise in India. Rising farmer suicides are attributed to unpredictable monsoons, unpaid loans, rising debt, poor agricultural procurement rates, low crop yields, and successive crop failures. While external variables, such as uneven rainfall, hailstorms, droughts, and floods, have a negative impact on crop production, internal issues, such as pricing rules and insufficient marketing facilities, cause post-yield losses. The majority of them became bankrupt, and the pressure of their huge debt repayment and other family obligations drives them to commit suicide. The state with the most damage is Maharashtra.
Historical accounts of discontent, uprisings, and high mortality rates among Indian farmers, particularly those who grow cash crops, date back to the 19th century. Suicides caused by the same, though, were uncommon. In 2021, 5,563 farm laborers committed suicide, according to the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) most recent statistics. From 2020 to 2019, there was a 9% increase in suicides, and a 29% increase from 2019. Of the 5,121 suicides by agricultural laborers there were 442 girls and 5,121 males in 2021. According to the study Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India, Maharashtra reported 1,424 suicides, followed by Karnataka (999) and Andhra Pradesh (584). The data are available at a period when more farmers are working as farmers and the average agricultural household is more dependent on wages than on the farm. In the meantime, there has been a significant rise in the percentage of daily wagers among suicide deaths in the nation in 2021. Daily wage earners made up the largest profession-wise group of suicide victims in 2021, accounting for 25% of all suicides in the nation (42,004 suicides). The number of 42,004 suicides represents a significant increase from the 33,164 daily gambler suicide deaths recorded in 2020.
Reasons for India’s Farmers’ Suicides:
- Natural disasters: Due to factors like excessive rain, floods, droughts, delays in the rain, heavy cyclones, etc., farmers are unable to harvest both qualitative and quantitative output from their farms as a result of global warming, deforestation, and other man-made factors. Farmers frequently struggle to recoup the cost of their goods. These factors make agriculture a guaranteed loss-making venture. The marginal and small farmers, however, are without an alternative sources of income. They continually give agriculture their whole attention. They become insolvent as a result of ongoing losses, and the frustration of this drives them to take their own lives.
- Water level fall: Sufficient irrigation infrastructure is required for the sector to expand sustainably. Water shortages lead to the discontinuation of irrigation and watershed development projects since there is no institutional system in place to conserve the rainwater. Therefore, farmers must continue to miss out on the advantages of the good rainfall.
- Low Productivity and Monsoon Uncertainty: Changes in the monsoon have an impact on farmers’ livelihoods and agricultural output. Due to the uneven distribution of arable land and the unpredictable nature of the monsoon, the majority of farmers are marginal farmers. Farmers commit suicide as a result of finding it impossible to meet family needs.
- Farmers’ debt as a result of crop failure: The growing disparity between the expense of cultivation and the cash received from the prices of produce has made agriculture unprofitable. For all crops, the average difference between cultivation costs and receiving prices is a significant percentage. However, the returns from agriculture were out of proportion to the investment; as a result, farmers were unable to use their agricultural income to pay for the expense of cultivation. Agriculture-related social structures make the issue even worse. Farmers who work as renters from time to time and who cannot support their families due to high daily expenses that exceed their income or who are unable to meet their needs commit suicide.
- Costly methods used in modern agriculture: Following the green revolution and the development of new technology, farming has been much simpler and more productive thanks to hybrid seeds, insecticides, pesticides, and farm growing techniques. But since they are so expensive, these breakthroughs and technologies are out of reach for poor small and marginal farmers.
- Reduced agricultural subsidies: Agricultural subsidies may also encourage producers to misuse fertilizers and pesticides, which could have a severe influence on the environment by causing soil degradation, groundwater depletion, and other issues. Due to market volatility, the government eliminated various sorts of subsidies. Agriculture has suffered as a result of subsidy reductions and fertilizer regulation. It raised input costs and decreased the profitability of agriculture.
- Insufficient education: Farmers are unable to give their children the required education because of their poverty. As a result, the farmers’ sons also become farmers, and this pattern continues. They suffer as a result because they are uninformed of the programs or do not know how to use the government advantages that are available to them.
- Lack of transit systems: It is the main barrier to effective marketing. There are no highways connecting the rural areas to the market. Transport issues result in a large amount of wasted agricultural product.
- Lack of essential infrastructure: The lack of suitable social support infrastructure at the village and district levels, uncertainty surrounding the region’s agricultural sector, and lack of infrastructure amenities like power and clean drinking water have an impact on the farmers’ mental and physical health. They occasionally start abusing drugs and drinking more. All of these items drew deadly illnesses and caused them to perish.
- The economic policies of India: India’s economic policies are typically driven by urban consumers, as seen by the necessity to enact price restrictions in the event of a price increase and to remove them once the price is under control. Such regulations reduce profit margins and harm farmers’ ability to escape the debt cycle.
Government responses to India’s Farmer Suicides:
The following is a summary of some of the significant debt alleviation and debt cancellation programs announced by the government:
- Relief package for 2006: It targeted primarily at 31 districts in the four states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Karnataka that have a high relative incidence of farmer suicides.
- 2008 agricultural debt relief and waiver program: Over 36 million farmers benefited from the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme in 2008, which cost 65000 crore rupees ($10 billion). With this money, the farmers’ interest and a portion of their loan principal would be written off.
- 2013 package to diversify income streams: For the farmers in the Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Kerala regions that are prone to suicide, the Indian government introduced the Special Livestock Sector and Fisheries Package in 2013. The package was designed to help farmers diversify their sources of income.
- Maharashtra assistance program, 2010: In 2010, the Maharashtra State Government declared it unlawful for unlicensed moneylenders to demand loan payback. A low cost crop insurance scheme, whose premium will be covered by farmers and the government equally, as well as the introduction of other sources of income for farmers in areas with a high risk of suicide, such as poultry, dairy, and sericulture, were also announced by the State Government. The government also said that it would allocate $10 million year per district under the SamudaikLagna to support a marriage fund for community wedding celebrations, which are a contributing factor in farmer suicides.
- Regional projects: Several Indian state governments have started their own programs to lessen farmer suicides. In order to address farm hardship, the Maharashtra government established the Vasantrao Naik ShetiSwavlamban Mission in Amravati in 2006. The Government of Karnataka also established a group to investigate farmer suicides, which was led by Dr. Veeresh, a former vice chancellor of an agricultural university, and included Prof. Deshpande as a member.
- The central government has implemented a number of initiatives in recent years, including the PM Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), PM Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), electronic National Agricultural Market (e-NAM), Soil Health Card, and Neem-coated urea, among others.
- Pradhan Mantri Kisan-Samman Yojana: A farming household is entitled to 6,000 rupees in annual cash aid from the central government under PM KISAN. Direct bank deposits of the funds are made into the beneficiaries’ accounts in three equal instalments of Rs 2,000 each. An electronic database linked to Aadhaar that has information on all farm households whose names appear in land records is used to conduct the scheme. 12 crore farmers nationwide benefit from the PM KISAN Yojana.
As an agrarian economy, India has seen an increase in farmer suicide over the years, thus we need to prevent it for a variety of reasons. To overcome a helpful remedy for farmer’s suicide, institutional support is required. The government must provide favorable conditions for small and marginal farmers to get timely and adequate support through lending to farmers, with a focus on helping these farmers acquire modern equipment for increased agricultural productivity. To provide all qualified farmers with Kisan credit cards, giving them access to short-, medium-, and long-term loans from all institutions. crop rotation and diversification in agricultural productivity in the new environment. adoption of updated technology inputs, as well as the subsidized provision of infrastructure inputs like power, the availability of inputs like seeds, fertilizer, and tractors, and the provision of credit through all nationalized banks. The Indian government must take action to stop this problem. Because every time a farmer commits suicide, the nation takes a step backwards, the government must offer farmers adequate institutional financial support. Government should provide a good crop insurance program in times of crop failure, and genuine relief to the affected farmers. Since they are the ones who provide us with food, we must rescue our farmers from their plight.