Indian Farmers: Suicide Epidemic

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Akhil Verma, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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Agriculture is one sector which engages nearly 70 percent of the population for their livelihood. The recent wave of farmer suicides in the country is definitely a cause of concern for a fast developing country like India. States which seem to have been most affected are Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh & Gujarat, with Maharashtra being the epicenter since last few years. Suicide numbers vary with different governments but according to one estimate every day at least ten farmers are committing suicide in the country.

There are many reasons which are forcing the farmers to take this extreme step. Bankruptcy or indebtedness is the main cause, followed by family issues, failure of crops, drug abuses and alcoholic addiction. Farmers in the country depend on rain fed agriculture as most parts do not have proper irrigation facilities due to decades of groundwater abuse, flawed water policies and poor monsoons. Frequent droughts lead to crop failure due to which they struggle to repay the high cost of seeds, fertilizers & pesticides. Farmers are caught in a vicious debt circle where they borrow more & more to repay the interest on previous loans in hope for a better future. In the end, they are left at the mercy of the moneylenders.

Government cannot be a silent spectator as the situation has gone alarmingly bad. Following steps could be taken to improve the situation. The dependency of agriculture on nature should be reduced. This can be done by increasing the efficiency of irrigation departments in different states through digitizing & auditing. Making institutional finance available to every farmer, pooling of the lands of small farmers, developing alternative sources of income & guiding farmers on economical methods of cultivation could be some of the steps to address the problem. Relief packages are often encouraging suicides as they are seen as a means to provide support to the family. Such packages should be given as a benefit to farmers to enable them to sustain their livelihood rather than as a relief to families of farmers who commit suicide. It is high time & government should act fast to prevent this suicide epidemic among distraught farmers.

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