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Farmer Suicides: How state governments distort numbers to mitigate the issue

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By Vasudha Kaul

With the recent suicide of Gajendra Singh, a farmer from Rajasthan, the concern over abysmally high farmer suicides in India has come to focus again. The article attempts to understand what and why of this issue.

The occurrence of farmer suicides is universal. In 2014, farmer suicide was the leading cause of death of US farmers, in the UK there was one farmer suicide per week, Australia had 2000 and France recorded 150 farmer suicides that year. But the Indian numbers are overwhelming.

courtesy: allindiayouth.com

Records from National Crime Records Bureau show that at least 300,000 Indian farmers have taken their lives from 1995-2013.

The question to be asked is if, as the government and private organizations such as Monsanto claim that unsolvable personal and climatic reasons have led to the high number of farmer suicides or is there a problem that can be actively addressed.

Many authors and activists claim that this number is a highly skewed and conservative estimate.

In 2011, the Chhattisgarh government declared zero farm deaths, even when their 2010 count was 1567.

Many states and UTs such as West Bengal and Pondicherry have followed suit and declared zero figures.

The state governments try to distort these statistics in an attempt to highly minimize the extent and intensity of the problem. Even with the skewed numbers, the rate of farmer suicide has increased from 2001 to 2011.

With the advent of 1991 and the liberalization efforts, there were no national barriers to the free movement of capital, which severely affected the already vulnerable, Indian agrarian sector, as it became a victim of global crests and troughs of prices.

P. Sainath, one of the leading authors and activists in this arena, claims there was a constant rise in the farmer suicides from 1995, even with other conditions such as the weather being constant. In addition to this, the type of seed grown by the farmer often depends on government’s insistence via policies and initiatives, which promote diversification leading away from the food crops and towards the export-intensive cash crops.

Hence farmers, are limited in the range of crops they can grow. This was exacerbated by the introduction of genetically engineered/ modified (GM) seeds especially that of the transgenic Bt. cotton in India, which has led to the formation of the cotton belt.

The ‘Cotton Belt’ is the area extending from Hyderabad north to Nagpur and east to the state of Gujarat, where almost 250,000 cotton-growing farmers have committed suicide since 1997.

These factors lead to an increase in the input cultivation cost. This soaring input cost is not supported from the government’s side by institutionalized credit, which then leads to farmers taking loans from the private moneylenders often creating a debt trap forcing them to suicide.

Personal problems are cited as a major reasons of farmer suicides in government reports. There is no discussion of the fact that the same social values are changing, albeit in different degrees, in other occupations or even in urban areas.

While suicide rates are increasing in all spheres of life, the question of the appalling increase in farmer suicide in India is left unanswered. Since the source of the agrarian problem is defined simplistically, the remedial methods are also temporary. Any method that provides temporary relief is necessary but is not a substitute for inclusive policy intervention to deal with the crisis.

Gajendra Singh, in his own way, attempted a social protest. But the nature of protest has changed from large-scale farm mobilizations to suicide, which often falls on deaf ears. Comprehending this change will be an important factor in understanding the ways to mitigate this issue.

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(Vasudha Kaul is a graduate student at The University of Oxford and is reading in Modern Indian Studies.)

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Twitter Lite: A Data-Friendly Version of Twitter Now Available in India

The micro-blogging platform, while releasing second quarter earnings, reported $711 million in revenue -- an increase of 24 per cent year-over-year

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Twitter Lite
Data-friendly Twitter Lite now available in India. Pixabay

The micro-blogging platform has made its data-friendly Twitter Lite Android app available in 21 more countries, including India, which can be downloaded from Google Play Store.

Built for 2G and 3G networks which are still in use in several parts of India, Twitter Lite has an install size of 3MB, saves data and space and loads quickly on unreliable networks.

“While using the app on 2G or 3G, you’ll notice that content will load quickly on Twitter Lite. We want to make sure you can see what’s happening no matter what network you’re on,” Twitter said in a statement late on Monday.

Twitter Lite is now available in the Google Play Store in more than 45 countries.

After a successful trial in the Philippines, Twitter rolled out the data-friendly Lite Android app in 24 countries in December 2017.

By enabling data saver mode, users can control which images and videos load on their phones.

“You can still load all the content at any time by hitting ‘Load image’ or ‘Load video’, helping you save money and data in real time,” said Twitter.

Twitter
Twitter Lite is now available in the Google Play Store in more than 45 countries. (VOA)

The “Bookmarks” feature allows users to save important Tweets for later.

“Twitter Lite supports push notifications, allowing you to keep up with what’s happening around the world,” said the micro-blogging platform that currently has 335 million users.

The night mode feature gives timeline a darker theme — easier on eyes and to read even during the day.

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“Threaded Tweets are now available on Twitter Lite. We’ve made it easy to create a thread by adding a plus button in the composer, so you can connect your thoughts and publish your threaded Tweets all at the same time,” said the statement.

Twitter in July reported a drop of one million users in the second quarter of 2018 — with monthly active user count going down from 336 million in the last quarter to 335 million.

The micro-blogging platform, while releasing second quarter earnings, reported $711 million in revenue — an increase of 24 per cent year-over-year. (IANS)