Farmers’ Continuous suicides
It is estimated that around 60% of Indian population is dependent on agriculture. Agriculture plays a pivotal role in the development of the Indian economy. However, due to recent climate change and inefficient policies of the government, the rate of suicide among farmers is increasing, particularly in Deccan states.
This unfortunate development has caused tremendous socio-economic and political pressure among the policy makers of India. It is crucial that we arrest the rate of suicide among farmers completely, but, before that, one needs to understand problems plaguing Indian farmers in the 21st century. Some of the problems leading to suicide among farmers in India are:
- High debt of farmers with banks;
- The continuously increasing expenditure;
- The Minimum Support Prices do not cover the complete cost of growing a crop;
- Lack of physical infrastructure such as roads;
- Modern techniques of agriculture are yet to be adopted among Indian farmers;
- Land reforms still not completely to the benefit of farmers;
- Value addition to Indian farmers is not possible due to absence of food parks;
- Losses incurred by farmers due to unavailability of scientific godowns;
- Climate change leading to frequent droughts which has pushed Indian farmers into much more pain;
- Migration of Indian farmers to urban centres have created a shortage of labour in agricultural sector;
- Unavailability of a comprehensive insurance scheme!
Some of the suggestions to solve these problems include:
- Provide more interest free loans or complete farm loan waiver wherever required;
- Policy makers should reduce the cost of inputs to agriculture such as fertilizers, seeds etc.;
- The Minimum Support Price should cover all the crops in India and should be increased than the current rate;
- Improve physical infrastructure in rural areas;
- Incentivize farmers to adopt modern scientific techniques such as drip irrigation, sprinkler irrigation etc.;
- Provide more funds to Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to conduct research;
- An insurance scheme with wide coverage and minimum premiums covering all the risks;
- Implement the recommendations of M.S.Swaminathan Committee;
- Allow private investment in agriculture;
- Provide more funds to the local panchayats to address problems at the local level itself;
- Establish world class mega parks, scientific godowns throughout the country!
The budget, both at the central and state levels should spend significantly on Indian agriculture. Programmes such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) should be implemented successfully to provide alternative employment to famers during non-agricultural season. Importantly, the government should collaborate with the international agencies to not only improve economic status of Indian farmers but also the social status of Indian farmers. Education, health facilities should be provided in rural areas genuinely.
More importantly, government should establish counseling centers in rural areas, particularly for farmers to help them to discard the thought of suicides. Banks should be directed to adopt a ‘farmer friendly’ approach with farmers. Government should also completely stop the dependence of farmers on private money-lenders who charge high rates of interest for farmers, thereby pushing them into further debt.
A committee should be established at the national, state and district levels at the earliest to monitor all the governmental programmes related to agriculture and address any problems that may arise due to its implementation. This committee should also be empowered to implement programmes to arrest the rate of suicide among farmers. These committees should consist of agricultural experts, famers’ representatives to make it more efficient.
With sustained and willful effort at the individual, societal and institutional level the suicide rate among farmers can be stopped effectively.