Thirty-five years ago, it was on 19 March 1986 that the first mass suicide by a farmers family in Yavatmal district was recorded. Sahebrao Karpe Patil, a farmer, a former panchayat member of Chil Gavhan village had committed suicide along with his wife and four children. The family had traveled from what was then a relatively remote village in Yavatmal to Pavanar in nearby district, where Vinoba Ashram is located. The farmer couple committed suicide by consuming pesticide, first feeding their children the poisonous food. On Delhi’s borders, over 250 farmers associated with the ongoing agitation are said to have lost their lives over the past few months. Quite a few of them are said to have committed suicide, others died due to exposure to harsh winter, illnesses and accident.
Farmers suicide in India refers to the national catastrophe of framers committing suicide since the 1970’s, often by drinking pesticides, due to their inability to repay loans mostly taken from private landlords and banks. The National Crime Records Bureau of India reported that a total 294,438 Indian farmers had committed suicide since 1995. Out of these 60,750 farmers suicides were in state of Maharashtra since 1995 and the remaining in Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chattisgarh, all states with loose financial and entry regulations.
India is an agrarian country with around 70% of its people of depending directly or indirectly upon agriculture. Agriculture had 15.4% share in economy of India in year 2017. Around 41.49% of total labor are associated with agriculture in the year 2020. Farmer suicide account for 11.2% of all suicides in India. Activists and scholars have offered a number of conflicting reasons for framer suicides, such as anti farmer laws, high debt burdens, poor government policies, corruption in suicides, crop failure, mental health, personal issues and family problems.
Causes of farmers suicide
- Crop failure
- Inability to sell the crops grown
- Disappointing realization of prices
- Family problems Sense of loss and depression
The indebtedness of farmers is one of the main reasons driving them to commit suicide. The problem starts with the availability of timely credit. The banking sector is not ready to provide credit or loan to agriculture for avoiding risk. From 1991 to 2001, the indebtedness of farmers has grown by two times. Agriculture credit became a low priority, with some committees suggesting withdrawal of credit support to farmers. Credit for housing and buying a car is available at a 9% to 11% rate of interest while a crop loans to the farmers are 17%. This shows the lack of government support for the farmers.
The impact on COVID-19 on farmers
The coronavirus disease has impacted not only physical health but also mental health and well-being globally. These impacts can be critically higher among marginalized individuals and populations like farmers in India. Suicidal behavior is not new among farmers in the middle of COVID-19 lockdown, who had debts and could find laborers during the lockdown leading to helpless situation of committing suicide. Every year, Indian farmers face risks such as low rainfall, price volatility and rising debts. But risks from the COVID-19 pandemic are putting new challenges in front of a sector that is already under threat. The nation wide lockdown came at an unfortunate time farmers, as it was the harvest season for the winter crop (rabi).
The government of India needs to take measures to prevent this issue. The government must provide proper institutional financial support to farmers, a good crop insurance scheme in cases of crop failure, and provide genuine relief to the affected farmers because, every farmer who commits suicide, the country is falling one step down. So, we need to save our farmers from this misery as they are the ones who feed us.
WE NEED A HAPPY FARMER FOR A HAPPY NATION.