Agri Business

Farmers suicides will continue as problems are deep-rooted

KV Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on July 24, 2014

The news of 11,772 farmers committing suicide did not hit the headlines when the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) released its data for 2013 early this week. The gravity of the problem somehow didn’t get the attention it deserved. Perhaps, we are quite used to the numbers since they have always remained north of 10,000 in the last few years.

Those who closely follow developments in Indian agriculture know quite well that this is only to be expected. When you don’t address the fundamental problems in farming, suicide numbers will keep increasing.

That the farming community is in deep distress is no news and the reasons are well known. They are starved for affordable credit. They are enticed to grow crops that are not suited to their lands, keeping them in the perennial debt trap. They are not in a position to hire labourers, a tribe that has become quite scarce in rural areas. There is neither any post-harvest mechanism nor a farmer-friendly marketing setup to help them sell crops.

When these fundamental issues are not addressed in agriculture, you can’t expect a dramatic improvement in the lot of farmers.

The four cotton-growing States of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh accounted for more than half of the 12,000 deaths in 2012. The 2013 figure is a tad lower but it indicates our failure to recognise a serious problem.

“The MSPs (minimum support prices) announced by the Government continue to be very low and far below expectations. Take, for example, safflower. It is far lower than the market price. You can protect the interests of farmers only by putting in place an effective procurement policy that is complemented by remunerative prices,” says Vijoo Krishnan, Joint Secretary of All-India Kisan Sabha.

Agricultural economist KR Chowdhary feels that the number of suicides is more in the cotton belt because the crop is being grown in vast unsuitable stretches. “(The land) is not tolerant to drought. Cotton grows only in areas with assured irrigation and other favourable weather conditions. There are about 50 types of pests that attack cotton but the protection that Bt technology promises is limited. The cost of inputs has skyrocketed and prices are not remunerative,” he says.

“If you don’t address these issues, you will continue to face the same consequences,” he warns.

Published on July 24, 2014

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