Krishi Desh

For Bharat and Bharati

Kill them all. Farmers do not deserve life. (forget good/bad)

Posted by संदीप नारायण शेळके on January 11, 2010


While reading on the internet about farmer suicides I came across P. Sainath’s very thought provocative article; which has enough information to understand the situation which forces Bharatiya farmers towards suicide. I’ve consolidated the statistics and probable reasons of farmer’s suicide (massacre) from this article on Counter Punch and from other resources like NCRB.

*************** The Largest Wave of Suicides in History:  P. SAINATH ********************

The Spate of Suicide in Bharatiya Farmers:

  • Number of farmers who have committed suicide 1997 and 2007  –  is staggering 182,936.
  • Nearly 2/3 suicides have occurred in 5 states (out of 28 states & seven union territories).
  • Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh
  • These states account for just about 1/3 of the country’s population but 2/3 of farmers’ suicides.
  • Farm suicides have also been rising in some other states of the country very rapidly example Odisa.
  • As many as 8 million people quit farming between the two censuses of 1991 and 2001.
  • Also the large-scale survey shows that given a chance almost 40% farmers are willing to quit farming permanently.
  • These suicide data is official and tends to be huge underestimate, suicide data in India is collated by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
  • Women farmers are not normally accepted as farmers. They do the bulk of work in agriculture – but are just “farmers’ wives.” This classification enables governments to exclude countless women farmer suicides. Which will be recorded as suicide deaths – but not as “farmers’ suicides.”
  • The spate of farm suicides accompanies India’s embrace of the brave new world of neo-liberalism.
  • The farmer suicide risen in every five years:
    • 1997 – 2001,   78,737 (or 15,747 a year on average).
    • 2002 – 2006,   87,567 (or 17,513 a year on average).
    • 2001 onwards, one farmer took his or her life every 30 minutes on average.
    • The 2007 figures (detailed below) place that year, too, in the higher trend.

  • What do the farm suicides have in common?
    • Those who have taken their lives were deep in debt.
    • Peasant households in debt doubled in the first decade of the neoliberal “economic reforms,” from 26 per cent of farm households to 48.6 per cent.
    • In Andhra Pradesh 82 per cent of all farm households were in debt by 2001-02.
    • Those who killed themselves were overwhelmingly cash crop farmers – growers of cotton, coffee, sugarcane, groundnut, pepper, vanilla. (Suicides are fewer among food crop farmers – that is, growers of rice, wheat, maize, pulses.)
    • The brave new world philosophy mandated countless millions of Third World farmers forced to move from food crop cultivation to cash crop (the mantra of “export-led growth”).
    • For millions of subsistence farmers in India, this meant:
      • Much higher cultivation costs,
      • Far greater loans,
      • Much higher debt, and
      • Locked into the volatility of global commodity prices.
    • Global commodities sector dominated by a handful of multinational corporations, with vested interest in profit-making only.
    • The extent to which the switch to cash crops impacts on the farmer can be seen in this:
      • Cost Rs. 8,000 ($165 today) roughly to grow an acre of paddy in Kerala.
      • Whereas for vanilla, the cost per acre was (in 2003-04) almost Rs.150,000

  • Seed Cost – an exploitation of the needy by Govt and Corporate?
    • Giant seed companies displaced cheap hybrids and far cheaper and hardier traditional varieties with their own products.
    • A cotton farmer in Monsanto’s net would be paying far more for seed than he or she ever dreamed they would. Local varieties and hybrids were squeezed out with enthusiastic state support. (Why did state support such thing? Who were the scholars consulted before this decision? Aren’t the agricultural experts also accountable along with the agriculture ministry?)
    • In 1991, a kilogram of local seed cost Rs.7 – 9 in today’s worst affected region of Vidarbha, Maharashtra.
    • By 2003, Rs.350 for a bag with 450 grams of hybrid seed. i.e. Rs.780/Kg
    • By 2004, Monsanto’s partners in India marketed a bag of 450 grams of Bt cotton seed for between Rs.1,650 and Rs.1,800 ($33 to $36). This price brought down dramatically overnight due to strong governmental intervention in Andhra Pradesh, where the government changed after the 2004 elections. The price fell to around Rs.900 ($18) – still many times higher than 1991 or even 2003.
  • Inequality among the “Emerging Tiger” nations of the developing world.
    • The predatory commercialization of the countryside devastated all other aspects of life for peasant farmer and landless workers.
    • Health costs, for instance, skyrocketed.
    • Many thousands of youngsters dropped out of both school and college to work on their parents’ farms (including many on scholarships).
    • The average monthly per capita expenditure of the Indian farm household was just Rs.503 (ten dollars) by early this decade. Of that, 60 per cent roughly spent on food and another 18 per cent on fuel, clothing and footwear. (Just imagine a young IT pro spends Rs. 500 for movie on weekend, of course pro earns it, so has right to spend it. But the situation can boom-rang anytime)

  • Farmers are number one food buyers?
    • Millions of small and marginal Indian farmers are net purchasers of food grain.
    • They cannot produce enough to feed their families and have to work on the fields of others and elsewhere to meet the gap.
    • Having to buy some of the grain they need on the market, they are profoundly affected by hikes in food prices, as has happened since 1991, and particularly sharply this year.  (We have seen “Dal – Rs.110/Kg, Sugar Rs.40/KG” which made a decent (Rs. 15k/month) salary earner think twice before buying)
    • Hunger among those who produce food is a very real thing.
    • Additionally, fact is that the “per capita net availability” of food grain has fallen dramatically among Indians since the “reforms” began:  from 510 grams per Indian per day in 1991, to 422 grams by 2005. (That’s not a drop of 88 grams. It’s a fall of 88 multiplied by 365 and then by one billion Indians. That is 3,21,20,000  tons of food grain shortage compared to 1991)
    • As Prof. Utsa Patnaik, India’s top economist on agriculture, has been constantly pointing out, the average poor family has about 100 kg less today than it did just ten years ago
    • The élite eat like it’s going out of style.
    • For many, the shift from food crop to cash crop makes it worse. At the end of the day, you can still eat your paddy. It’s tough, digesting cotton.
    • Even the food crop sector is coming steadily under corporate price-rigging control.
    • Speculation in the futures markets pushed up grain prices across the globe earlier this year. (Why do we need commodities trading at the hands of people who don’t have any idea about it? In the name of free trade we are killing traditional farmers. Our farm produce must have given higher preference, but unfortunately it did not happen and we see the results now 200000+ farmer suicides.)

  • Cash Crunch – All is for Urban Dwellers:
    • The neoliberal model that pushed growth through one kind of consumption also meant re-directing huge amounts of money away from rural credit to fuel the lifestyles of the aspiring elites of the cities (and countryside, too).
    • Thousands of rural bank branches shut down during the 15 years from 1993-2007.
    • Even as incomes of the farmers crashed, so did the price they got for their cash crops, thanks to obscene subsidies to corporate and rich farmers in the West, from the U.S. and EU.
    • Their battle over cotton subsidies alone (worth billions of dollars) destroyed cotton farmers not merely in India but in African nations such as Burkina Faso, Benin, Mali, and Chad.
    • India kept reducing investment in agriculture (standard neoliberal procedure).
    • Life is being made more and more impossible for small farmers.
    • As costs rose, credit dried up. Debt went out of control. Subsidies destroyed their prices. Starving agriculture of investment (worth billions of dollars each year) smashed the countryside.
    • India even cut most of the few, pathetic life supports she had for her farmers.
    • The mess was complete and from the late-’90s, the suicides began to occur at what then seemed a brisk rate.
    • In fact, India’s agrarian crisis can be summed up in five words (call it Ag Crisis 101): the drive toward corporate farming.
    • The route (in five words): predatory commercialization of the countryside. The result: The biggest displacement in our history.

  • Corporate Farming on the horizon:
    • Corporations do not as yet have direct control of Indian farming land and do not carry out day-to-day operations directly.
    • But they have sewn up every other sector, inputs, outlets, marketing, prices.
    • And now are heading for control of water as well (which states in India are busy privatizing in one guise or another).

  • किसानोने  भर  दी इंडिया में  जान, इंडियाने  लेली  किसानो  कि  जान:
    • The largest number of farm suicides is in the state of Maharashtra.
    • Home to the Mumbai Stock Exchange and with its capital Mumbai being home to 21 of India’s 51 dollar billionaires and over a fourth of the country’s 100K dollar millionaires.
    • Mumbai shot to global attention when terrorists massacred 180 people in the city in a grisly strike in November.
    • In the state of which Mumbai is capital, there have been 40,666 farmers’ suicides since 1995, with very little media attention.
    • Mumbai have 21 billionaires and a 25k millionaire just to make sure media does not notice the massacre (by neo-liberal policies and development) of 40,666 farmers since 1995.

  • Farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra:
    • It crossed the 4,000-mark in 2007, for the third time in four years, according to the NCRB, that is 25.48% of total national suicides.
    • As many as 4,238 farmers took their lives in the state in 2007, the latest for which data are available, accounting for a fourth of all the 16,632 farmers’ suicides in the country.
    • That national total represents a slight fall from the 17,060 farm suicides of 2006. But the broad trends of the past decade seem unshaken.
    • Farm suicides in the country since 1997 – 2007 are total 182,936.
Year MH Total Bharat Total
1995 1083 -
1996 1981 -
1997 1917 13622
1998 2409 16015
1999 2423 16082
2000 3022 16603
2001 3536 16415
2002 3695 17971
2003 3836 17164
2004 4147 18241
2005 3926 17131
2006 4453 17060
2007 4238 16632
Total 40666 182936

Source: FinalReport_SFM_IGIDR_26Jan06 : report is accepted by Govt of Maharashtra, NCRB data.

  • The five worst affected states:
    • Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh
    • These states account for two-thirds of all farmers’ suicides in India. Together, they saw 11,026 in 2007.
    • Maharashtra alone accounted for over 38 per cent (4,238).
    • Andhra Pradesh saw a decline of 810 suicides against its 2006 total (1,797).
    • Karnataka saw a rise of 415 over the same period (2,135).
    • Madhya Pradesh posted a decline of 112 (1,375).
    • Chattisgarh’s farm suicides mean an increase of 110 over 2006 (1,593).
    • Specific factors in these states nourish the problem.
      • These are zones of highly diversified,
      • Commercialized agriculture where cash crops dominate.
      • Water stress has been a common feature, and gets worse with the use of technologies such as Bt seed that demand huge amounts of water.
      • High external inputs and input costs are also common, as also the use of chemicals and pesticides.

In the end I’ll say this mindless deregulation lit a lot of pyres and dug a lot of graves. So what are we doing? Are we ready to support initiatives to discuss these issues in public and support others who are fighting for farmer’s cause? Aren’t we indebted by the farmers for the food produced by them?

“कृषितोनास्ति दुर्भिक्षं” – Dearth of farming is famine.

Welcome your thoughts and comments….


जय भारत!

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11 Responses to “Kill them all. Farmers do not deserve life. (forget good/bad)”

  1. Dear Sandeep

    Thought provoking article. The figures are shocking.

    The quagmire of bad policies has clearly come home to roost. All loans must be insured. That is a basic solution. In addition, many other issues need to be investigated. Please continue with your research on the causes.

    You’ll note though that there is a bit of a socialist flavour in some of your arguments:

    – “re-directing huge amounts of money away from rural credit to fuel the lifestyles of the aspiring elites of the cities”.

    I’m not sure this is a credit problem at all. This is simply a problem of under-insurance or lack of insurance. Second, I don’t think a government must decide where to direct credit. Let the market forces pull credit to the party who will pay the most. If a farm is viable, the farmer will pay a reasonable amount. If not viable, the farmer would move and get an alternative job. This may sound heartless but it is not. In a genuine free market (with social minimum) this leads to rapid growth and creation of wealth.

    – “Why do we need commodities trading at the hands of people who don’t have any idea about it? In the name of free trade we are killing traditional farmers.”

    Please try to understand that the role of commodity traders is to deepen the market and to allow prices to be corrected quickly. The trader takes huge risks on his own and buys and sells commodities based on overall movement of production across the world. Without deep markets in commodity trading all farming will revert to subsistence farming and India will go back 10 steps.

    The problem as I see it is inadequate regulation (e.g. insurance) and lack of a social minimum. These two things FTI can try to help fix over the course of the years.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

  2. yogesh dhawale said

    hi sandy,

    I am working on “Pollution and population” topic. I am thinking of creating if not paper at least an informative presentation on this. If you have more pointers regarding this plz share it with me.

  3. FOREVER STUCK IN A CYCLE OF DEBT AND DEATH

    This is not going to stop until socialistic crooks are thrown into dustbin.

    Jai Bharat!

  4. [...] on CWG – Condom, Women and…संदीप नारायण शेळके on Kill them all. Farmers do not …Kill them all. Farme… on कृषितोनास्ति दुर्भिक्षं [...]

  5. [...] taluka of Buldhana district of Vidarbha region in Maharashtra.  The region (is worst hit by farmer suicides issue since 1995) faces issues such as poor electricity supply and bad roads and lack of [...]

  6. [...] Posted by संदीप नारायण शेळके on September 19, 2011 Almost everyone is aware of the suicide wave among Vidarbha cotton growing farmers since 1995. Read this, get more information about farmer’s suicide in Bharat. [...]

  7. Sir, These are few points / options by which this issue can be handled in a sensitive manner-

    1. Governments should treat each and every farmer as an important visitor.
    2. In each village, a separate cell should be established, dealing all the cases related to farming / farmers problems.
    3. Farmers complaints should not remain unaddressed, not more than for a maximum period of one month.
    4. Government should manage and distribute all the inputs directly to all farmers at fixed price.
    5. Government should also provide custom hiring services to the interested farmers, as and when required.

    6. Any false complaint made by any of the farmer shall also be brought in the notice of the Cell, if found guilty then such farmers should
    be handled by the Army for their work in the fields for a particular period of time.

    Thanks.

  8. @Dr Jain,

    Namaskar and welcome to the blog.

    I appreciate your inputs. Please can you elaborate the topics with more details so that I can use your inputs while synthesis over this topic.

    Your 4th point would create bottleneck. Since government must not interfere in production and distribution. Its for entrepreneurs to take care. Yes Govt can regulate basics say production norms, distribution and storage norms, maximum retail price.

    One thing for sure is that food growing isn’t just any production activity its life service. If doctors, lawyers are considered service professions, then food growers must be treated above them.

    Jai Bharat!

  9. Sir,
    Thanks for your kind and effective attention.

    1. Infact in each village a “Sahkari Mandli” (or a Cell) shall be formed, in which farmers of the village themselves elect their efficient working executives for solving problems and planning as well. It is the responsibility of the Mandli that the condition of each farmer is well. This cell should look into the various aspects for benefits of the farmers of that location. By this, this small area can be managed and so on. Some saving schemes, loan schemes, useful houseold items selling etc. are also can be managed. Periodically audit shall also be made for its reliable working. This cell / mandli shall manage custom hiring of coastly / important but not available implements. Mandli personals shall also organise educational counceling, health / medical camps, sports activities, recreational activities etc. for the families at nominial cost.

    2. Regarding input distribution, few local entrepreneurs shall gear up and production management and its distribution, this cell have liasioning with traders / processors / exporters for disposing the produce with minimum loss and better profit.

    Warm regards…!

    KK Jain

  10. @Dr Jain,

    Yes what you say should be taken into account. I’ve been planning one such initiative especially for Onion and Cotton growers of my area, Ashti tehsil, Beed in Maharashtra.

    What all a “Sahkari Mandli” do can evolve to larger roles once started with basic activities of input and output co-ordination.

    Will contact you for more interaction once start towards the planning and implementation.

    Jai Bharat!

  11. [...] More thank 2.5 Lakh farmers committed suicide in Bharat since 1995. [Read stats] [...]

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