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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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Survey Shows That More Women Support Live-in Relationships in India

For long the concept and topic of live-in relationships has been taboo in India but the times are changing with a number of women coming out in its support, according to a survey.

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Hindu marriage. Pixabay

For long the concept and topic of live-in relationships has been taboo in India but the times are changing with a number of women coming out in its support, according to a survey.

Inshorts, a news app, conducted a poll in the second week of May capturing the views of 1.4 lakh netizens — 80 per cent being in the age group of 18-35 years, read a statement.

Women
representational image. pixabay

According to the survey, more than 80 per cent millennials think that live-in relationships are still considered a taboo in Indian society while more than 47 per cent Indians are of the opinion that marriage is better when choosing between marriage and lifelong live-ins.

More than 80 per cent Indians said that they do support live-ins as a way of life. Out of these, 26 per cent millennials went a step ahead and said that they would choose lifelong live-ins as an option over marriages.

On the other hand, 86 per cent Indians are of the opinion that lust is not the sole reason behind live-ins and more than 45 per cent say that it is more of compatibility testing before marriage.

Night-owl women not for long-term relationships: Study
Couple. pixabay

In the report, 45 per cent respondents have also said that since Indian society constantly judges unmarried couples staying together, any move by the judiciary to support this will not have any effect on their mindset.

Also Read: Night-owl women not for long-term relationships: Study

Azhar Iqubal, CEO and Co-founder, Inshorts said: “Live-in relationships, even after being legally recognised by the government, is a forbidden subject of discussion in Indian households. Our current survey was focused on capturing the sentiments of our Indian youth on such delicate issues.” (IANS)