Agriculture

Farmers don’t commit suicide, they make sacrifice

In India, 34 farmers commit suicide every day; but the question is what drives them to do it?

 
By Richard Mahapatra
Last Updated: Friday 09 June 2017 | 10:55:52 AM
A farmer commits suicide to insure his family against the debt burden. Credit: Amit Shanker / CSE
A farmer commits suicide to insure his family against the debt burden. Credit: Amit Shanker / CSE A farmer commits suicide to insure his family against the debt burden. Credit: Amit Shanker / CSE

By the time the Madhya Pradesh Government admitted that eight protesting farmers were indeed shot by police, 24 hours had passed by. And by that time, 34 farmers must have committed suicide in the country due to high debt and other agriculture-related issues. Is there any difference between farmers getting killed while demanding loan waiver or committing suicide to escape the burden of increasing debt?

Notwithstanding the wild public statements by ministers in charge of agriculture that attribute suicides to dominantly personal reasons, the fact remains that between 2014 and 2015 there has been a 42 per cent increase in the number of suicide by cultivators, according to the recently released report, State of India’s Environment 2017: In Figures. And 91 per cent of farmer suicides in India are recorded in six states that include Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. This date is sourced from the National Crimes Records Bureau.

The question is why do farmers commit suicide?

Debt and crop failures are the reasons for 58 per cent of the suicides among cultivators, says the new report published by the Centre for Science and Environment and Down To Earth magazine.

Looking at the level of debt of an Indian farmer, it is very clear that the income from farming would never enable him/her to be out of the debt trap. To be an agricultural household in India means more debt than a non-agricultural household.

“The incidence of indebtedness was about 31.4 per cent among the rural households and 22.4 per cent among the urban households. Indebtedness in cultivator households was higher (by about 9 percentage points) than non-cultivator households, whereas the difference among occupational categories of urban area was less (about 4 percentage points). It is also evident that debt levels of cultivator indebted households were much more than that for non-cultivator indebted households,” according to the 2013 National Sample Survey Office report on debt in India. According to this report, the average household debt of a cultivator household is Rs 103,457 when the average annual household income from farming is around Rs 73,000.

Reporting about farmers and farming across the country for the last two decades, I can argue that farmers don’t commit suicide but make a sacrifice for their families. The debt cycle is fatal. And how?

Farmers take loans from formal or informal sources to sustain farming. This is an annual affair. But as the above data shows, a farmer household has already debt to serve. They usually borrow with the hope that earnings from crops would be adequate enough to pay back. But erratic weather, less earning from agriculture due to various reasons and other emergency financial commitments for other reasons usually result in farmers not paying their loans and thus, further accumulating interests. This process usually leads to a situation where a farmer is never be able to pay back: for most of the indebted farmers the average annual income is less than half of the loan amount to be paid back.

But the pressure to pay back and fear of loan recovery agents hounding a member also impacts the whole family. To get loans, often farmers mortgage their principal property, the land and the house. According to the NSSO assessment, 91 per cent of assets of a rural household are land and the home. The fear of losing these properties is huge as it would impact the future livelihood security of the family as well.

Speaking to family members of many farmers who committed suicides it becomes evident that a farmer commits suicide to insure his/her family against the debt burden, and also to ensure that his/her loan non-payment doesn’t result in loss of the prime family assets. Only in case of death the loan is waived off by the loan granting agencies. This is the end of the debt cycle of an Indian farmer.

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  • Due to uncontrolled use of costly insecticides and pesticide the cost of crops increased which they can't get back.so farmers got money from money launder as well as from banks.Due to illiteracy in most of farmers money launder and also banks press and get back huge amounts which enhance suicide in poor farmers.

    Posted by: Dr.Rajesh Adhana | one year ago | Reply
  • कर्ज माफी सही समाधान नहीं है।जिन किसानों का पहले कर्ज माफी हुई वो फिर कर्ज के नीचे दबे है।खेती कैसे घाटे का पर्याय बन गयी इस पर विचार करने की आवश्यकता है।परम्परागत खेती को त्याग कर सन्कर बीजों का प्रयोग उनमें डाले जाने वाले महगे कीटनाशी तथा रसायनों का अन्धाधुद प्रयोग यह सब उधार मे बाज़ार में फसलों की कुमत बिचौलियों द्वारा तय किया जाना।समय पर व्यापारी द्वारा फसलों की कीमत न देना। किसानों की आत्महत्या के कारण है।जो Bank तथा साहूकार पैसा देते हैं वे भी किसानों की मजबूरी में मनमाना ब्याज उगाही करते हैं।

    Posted by: Dr.Rajesh Adhana | one year ago | Reply
  • किसान अन्नदाता है लेकिन अधिक उपज के निमित्त तथा सन्कर बीजों के उपयोग से तथा जहरीले कीटनाशको व रासायनिक उर्वरको के अन्धाधुद उपयोग से खेतों में जहरीला अन्न पैदा हो रहा है।जिसका परिणाम सबके सामने है।अब जहरीला अन्न जीवन को जीवन को नष्ट कर रहा है।

    Posted by: Dr.Rajesh Adhana | one year ago | Reply
  • All discourse about agrarian distress in India ignores the elephant in the room:
    Most of the cultivators are tenants. Rich people own most of the land in India. They do not cultivate their lands. They are absentee landlords. Tenants cultivate most of the land. Tenants have no access to crop loans or LT Loans, as they do not own the land. They source credit from informal sources at usurious rates of interest. Farm credit, input subsidies and benefits of debt waiver, interest rebate or interest waiver, subsidized farm mechanization flow only to Absentee Landlords, rich farmers and middlemen.
    Do we have the statistics on the extent of lands cultivated by tenants and how they source agricultural inputs, agricultural credit and how dispose of their produce right during the harvest at low prices?

    Posted by: AVV Prasad | one year ago | Reply
  • Very useful article

    Posted by: Divya | 10 months ago | Reply
  • I have experience dealing with Farmers in Tamilnadu--Nearer to Chennai----I find that local moneylenders charge them high interest, sometimes these farmers do not even know what interest s being paid,the moneylender picks up bags of paddy when harvested and farmer gets to know what he will be paid after a couple of weeks--Further drinking is a curse and many of them need at least Rs 120Per Day for this purpose---They also borrow money from moneylenders for household expenses at the same rate--He is in an ongoing Debt Syndrome and it accumulates---If nature does not favor him Drought/Floods Creates a big Dent in his income

    Posted by: GUEST | 9 months ago | Reply