Farmer Suicides in India

An Indian farmer looks skyward as he sits in his field with wheat crop that was damaged in unseasonal rains and hailstorm at Darbeeji village, in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, Friday, March 20, 2015. Recent rainfall over large parts of northwest and central India has caused widespread damage to standing crops. (AP Photo/Deepak Sharma)

In the last 20 years, if one considers the ‘recorded figure’, around 3 lakh farmers have committed suicides. Firstly these numbers are just the one in the records and secondly what about the farmers who attempted suicides? The actual numbers could be much more. The one who provides us with our prime need food is the one who is getting murdered by us. Yes, it is not a suicide, but a murder. It is a murder because we, who lives on their mercy ignore their distress, and are so stoical towards their sufferings. It is indeed a matter of shame and disregard for the country to provide a cold shoulder to the farmers. Calling the country an agrarian economy, on the other hand, shows our paradoxical behavior. India being a developing nation might be doing well to develop cities and their dwellers. But giving a losing hand to villagers and farmers will lead us nowhere.

It is all a game of incentives in the development of anything. Farmers get fewer incentives for growing crops, and at the same time, the government has high incentives by not bothering them. If farmers don’t produce food, we will be supplied food through imports. So why should one take responsibility for a farmer? According to the NSSO 2014 report, the average farmer family earns Rs. 6,426 out of which Rs. 3,078 comes from farming. If we see the salary of a peon in a government office which now has been raised to 18,000 from 7,000 after 7th pay commission, then we can easily differentiate the level of a farmer and a peon. Why should a farmer earn such a low amount?

The reasons behind a farmer suicide vary from high indebtedness to their family problems and from poverty to their illiteracy. But the major reason is the mental and social stigma that they pass through. A farmer’s suicide impacts more than just his life. It adversely affects the life of his family left behind, especially the life of his child. The child grows in an environment where post the death of his father he is required to bear the responsibility. He gets pushed into the vicious cycle of debt, unprepared and warmed. There is nobody who wants his child to get into the occupation of a farmer, not even a farmer itself. Everyone needs a secured future where he gets respect and earns his livelihood. A farmer on the other side, many a time, does not have food to eat at night; secured life is an altogether different dream to them.

Recently NITI Aayog looked into the scenario of agriculture. The way forward put by the Aayog’s blueprint are liberal contract farming, direct purchase from farmers, direct sale by the farmer to customers, single trader license, single point of levy tax and many more measures, which, if implemented can entirely flip the coin. Farming crisis is turning to be an urgent issue. The Aayog has also declared to meet the agriculture ministers of the states and if required the interventions of Prime Minister could also be seen in the near future.

Customary hiring centers are bringing a new approach towards the development of agriculture sector.

Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh are some of the states which are testing and running this strategy as of now. The small farmers now can get machinery for rent and engage in the farming efficiently which not only increases employment in farming but also eases the process. There are around 1,205 farmers in Madhya Pradesh who are running custom hiring centers (CHCs) which rent their farm machinery to small and marginal farmers. This, in turn, enhances employment in rural youth by working in the centers. Mechanization has become an important part as it lowers the cost of production, which can be turned into the profit in long run. But there are many states and places where farmers are using the traditional methods and unavailability of the technology remains a hindrance to their development. Why does it take so long for the Government to take decisions for them?

The farmer crisis can no longer be ignored. National Farmers Income Commission, under which the farmers are provided a minimum monthly income, must be implemented. The reforms towards farming sector will not work until they are being formed under the light of a farmer’s perspective. The politicians and analysts who make policies for them can only work at the highest efficient level towards their distress when they are aware of the grounded reality of the agriculture sector.

Profile photo of Megha Sharma
Megha Sharma is pursuing Masters in Public Policy at Mount Carmel Carmel College jointly with Takshashila Institution in Bangalore.