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Need to Prevent the Farmers Suicides
Dr. Banarsi Lal and Dr. Pawan Sharma9/23/2017 10:40:54 PM
Agriculture sector plays a pivotal role in the Indian economy. Farmers toil tirelessly to produce food for all of us without which the life is impossible. India is an agrarian country with around 60% of its people depending upon agriculture. Farmers suicides are the most tragic and dramatic symptom of the crisis of survival faced by the Indian farmers. The recent incidents of farmers' suicides have become a matter of grave concern. Farmers' suicides account for 11.2% of all suicides in India. From the last two decades the trend of farmers' suicides has been on the rise. Farmers' suicide is an extremely worrying situation across the nation and needs immediate attention. There are several reasons for farmer suicides such as high debt burdens, crops failure, floods and droughts, chronic illness, marriages of daughters, family problems, high cost of cultivation, low farm produce prices, private money lenders, absence of alternative income opportunities etc. It has been observed by the various studies that suicide victims are motivated by more than one cause. According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India 5,650 farmers committed suicide in 2014. The highest numbers of farmer suicides were reported in 2004 when 18,241 farmers committed suicide. It has been observed that the southern Indian states have ten times higher rates of suicides than the northern states. The most common causes for suicide in India's southern states are a combination of social issues such as interpersonal and family problems, financial difficulties and pre-existing mental illness. Suicidal ideation as culturally accepted in south India is as in some high-income generating countries. Small and marginal farmers accounted for about 72.4 per cent of total farmers' suicides.
The National Crime Records Bureau of India in its 2012 annual report reported that 1, 35,445 people committed suicide in India, of which 13,755 were farmers (11.2%). Of these, 5(Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala) out of 29 states accounted for 10,486 farmers' suicides (76%). In 2011, a total of 1, 35,585 people committed suicide, of which 14,207 were farmers. In 2010, 15,963 farmers in India committed suicide as total suicides were 1, 34,599. From 1995 to 2013, a total of 2, 96,438 Indian farmers committed suicide. During the same period, about 9.5 million people died per year in India from other causes including malnutrition, diseases and suicides that were related to non-farming profession. In 2012, Maharashtra state with 3,786 farmers' suicides, accounted for about a quarter of the total India's farmer suicides (13,754).Farmer suicides rates in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar - two large states of India by size and population have been about 10 times lower than Maharashtra, Kerala and Pudducherry. A state with population of 205.43 million Uttar Pradesh was having 745 farmers' suicide cases in 2012. In 2014 there were eight farmer suicides in Uttar Pradesh. In Jammu and Kashmir 10 farmers suicide cases were reported in 2012.According to IFFRI study number of suicides during 2005-2009 in Gujarat were 387, Kerala 905, Punjab 75 and Tamil Nadu 26.While 1802 farmers committed suicide in Chhattisgarh in 2009 and 1126 in 2010, its farmers suicide dropped to zero in 2011.
It has been observed that suicide deaths in India among unemployed persons and persons in professions other than agricultural work were about three times more than the farmers. Suicide among the farmers in India is not more frequent than any other profession. Farm suicides per 100,000 farmers can be reliably calculated from 2001 because accurate data on number of farmers in the country and states is available from 2001 Census of India. The farm suicide rate was 12.9 suicides per 100,000 farmers, which was higher than the general suicide rate at 10.6 for 2001 in India. By gender, the suicide rate was 16.2 male farmer suicides per 100,000 male farmers compared to 12.5 male suicides per 100,000 for general population. Among women, the suicide rate was 6.2 female farmer suicides per 100,000 female farmers compared to 8.5 female suicides per 100,000 for general population. It is estimated that the total number of farmers in India are about 600 million.
In 2006, the Government of India identified 31 districts in the four states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala with high relative incidence of farmers' suicides. A special rehabilitation package was launched to mitigate the problems of these farmers. The package provided debt relief to farmers, improved supply of institutional credit, improved irrigation facilities, employed experts and social service personnel to provide farming support services and introduced subsidiary income opportunities in horticulture, livestock, dairying and fisheries. The Government of India also announced ex-gratia cash assistance from Prime Ministers National Relief Fund to the farmers. The State government of Maharashtra, one of the most farmers' suicides affected states, passed the Money Lending (Regulation) Act, 2008 to regulate all private money lending to farmers. The bill set maximum legally allowed interest rates on any loans to farmers.
The State Government of Maharashtra made it illegal, in 2010, for non-licensed moneylenders from seeking loan repayment. The State Government also announced for the formation of village farmer self help groups that will disburse government financed loans. A low rate crop insurance program whose premium will be paid 50% by the farmer and 50% by the government and a launch of alternate income opportunities such as poultry, dairy and sericulture for farmers in high suicide prone districts. The government further announced that it will finance a marriage fund under its Samudaik Lagna with 10 million per year per district, for community marriage celebrations where many couples get married at the same time to minimise the cost of marriage celebrations - a cause of suicides among farmers. In 2013, the Government of India launched a Special Livestock Sector and fisheries package for farmers' suicide-prone regions of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala. The main objective of package was to diversify income sources of farmers.
Indian agriculture suffers from certain factors such as low crop productivity, lack of irrigation facilities, lack of credit facilities, a distorted market, chain of middlemen, laws that stifle private investment, prices fluctuations, poor infrastructure, inappropriate research etc. Thus the approach with mere emphasis on credit in isolation from the above factors will not help agriculture. Pro-active role in creating and maintaining irrigation facilities and other agriculture infrastructure is necessary to reduce farmers' problems in India.
Farmers' suicide is a global phenomenon. Studies in countries like Sri Lanka, USA, Canada, England and Australia have identified agriculture as a high stress profession that is associated with a higher suicide rate than the general profession. This is particularly true among small scale farmers and after periods of economic distress. It has been observed that farming populations in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States have the highest rates of suicide of any industry and there is growing evidence that those involved in farming are at higher risk of developing mental health problems. There are a wide range of reasons behind farmers' suicide globally including mental health issues, physical environment, family problems, economic stress and uncertainties. Significantly higher suicides rate among farmers than general population have been reported in developed countries such as the UK and the US. The farmers' suicides problem has assumed a serious concern for a fast developing country like India as the toll is increasing year after year. It is essential to take preventive measures to control this crisis. There is need of financial literacy, education, counseling and medical services for the farmers. The production risk particularly due to crop failure should be taken care of. There is urgent need to speed up agricultural marketing reforms to ensure fair deal to the farmers. Also there is also a need to keep a close watch on level and trends of indebtedness of the farmers.
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