Aug 12, 2009

'I know now why farmers kill themselves'

It is a familar story. As drought sinks in, and the government realises the magnitude of the crisis, the focus now shifts to human suffering. For nearly three months now, the government as well as the media had measured the gathering drought only in terms of reduction in GDP, and the slump in agriculture growth. I got tired of answering questions about how much would be the fall in GDP from the impending drought. I know how difficult it was to draw the media to the bigger story (as they say in media parlance) of human suffering in the countryside.

Finally, the media has begun to talk about it. I think the media has now realised the gravity of the situation. I see the shift. I am now asked about the human impact of the grave tragedy that the farmers are faced with. Maybe it is because the media has to look for a new angle. Whatever be it, the tragedy should be measured in terms of the human suffering rather than the GDP decline or the set back to the FMCG sector which is not anymore as optimist as it used to be at the beginning of the year. In fact, the other day when I was asked a question whether the drought would not mean that the trade and industry would not be able to sustain itself at times of economic meltdown since the purchasing power of rural India is down, I replied that the plus side of drought is that the rural population have been saved from the hawks in the business sector who in any case were looking to swoop on the countryside and rob the poor of whatever they have in their pockets.

Anyway, there is a moving story in the Indian Express: 'I know now why farmers kill themselves' (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/-I-know-now-why-farmers-kill-themselves-/501050). Datelined Bhagalpur in Bihar, the report brings out how the farmers in the drought-hit parts of Bihar now see and understand what makes farmers in Vidharba regions of Maharashtra take to suicide. Another report in The Times of India tells us that the farmer suicides have begun in Andhra Pradesh. The report is reproduced below.

My colleague Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture in Hyderabad tells me that 60 farmers have committed suicide in the month of July. By Aug 10, another 16 had taken their lives. In Vidharba, Kishor Tiwari informs that four farmers have taken their lives in the past one week alone. That such a deadly drama continues to be enacted in the farms despite a number of committees and relief measures speaks volumes about the criminal apathy that prevails among the urban elite and the policy makers. The tragedy is that no one is keen to come to grips with the reasons that lead to this neverending saga of human suffering.

Drought fallout: Andhra farmer commits suicide
Roli Srivastava | TNN

Piskalgutta Tanda (Nizamabad), Aug 12: The dying paddy seedlings on Govind Nenawat’s farm land claimed his life last week. The 25-year-old debt-ridden Lambada tribal farmer committed suicide on August 6 by hanging from a tree that stands tall in a deceptively green stretch of this village in Gandhari mandal.

Nizamabad is among the 14 districts in Andhra Pradesh that has received ‘deficit’ rainfall and Piskalgutta tanda (meaning village) has not seen a drop this monsoon. Govind’s suicide is the first in this district. It’s never been as bad, say villagers. They could scrape through even during the bad monsoon year of 2003, when the 600-odd acres of farmland owned by this tanda’s farmers gave some yield. ‘‘But this year is different. There is no rain,’’ says Badawat Devi Singh, a local farmer. Nenawat had got married last year and was even constructing his own small house. His wife, Radha, is seven months pregnant. Over the past rainless month, Nenawat had increasingly become worried. With a debt of Rs 2 lakh on his head that he raised for seeds, pesticides and to build his house, he knew he couldn’t repay the loan this year with his crops failing. ‘‘His two-acre agricultural land would have given him a yield of anywhere between Rs 25,000 and Rs 40,000,’’ says Devi Singh, another farmer.

The heavily-pregnant Radha now walks for over a mile every day to see the tree her husband hung himself from after sharing with her that his debt was unmanageable. The two major crops, apart from paddy, grown by farmers here are maize and soya.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Over and above drought once the ASEAN FTA is signed we will see more suicides and hunger from Kerala too. Now in the last 3 years it has come down , thanks to the effort taken by the state govt, however inadequate it is and many a times against the policies of the central govt.

Usha
Thanal, Kerala