India is an agriculture-centric country. In simpler terms, almost 2/3rd of the Indian population either directly or indirectly depends on farming as its primary source of livelihood. However, the plight of the farmer is quite horrific and suicide rate among the farmers is alarmingly high. An ordinary farmer in the newly formed state of Telangana, recently took his own life. Before bidding adieu to the world, he gave one last fatherly advice to his son,
“Don’t become a farmer.”
These were the last words that a farmer in a tiny hamlet in Telangana village, in Maharashtra, India said to his young son, shortly before he killed himself, reported NDTV. The boy, named Vamshi is mere seven-years old and may not have fully understood the plight of his father, but the farmer was well aware that there wasn’t any other option, to at least get the mounting burden of debt off him.
The days of the farmer are quite bleak in India; a country whose lion’s share of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) comes from agriculture. The irony isn’t lost on the average farmer. The statistics are quite startling. On an average about 40 farmers commit suicide per day. A total of 296,438 farmers have killed themselves in India since 1995, reported BBC. The actual numbers are said to be higher than whatever is registered in the state record books.
The situation is unfortunately quite acute in the central regions of India. Owing to mounting debts and uncertain monsoons, farmers are routinely pushed to take the extreme steps. Often they don’t realize that their children might be dragged in child-labor and their wives could be forced into the flesh trade to recover the loan amount. Owing to limited literacy, these ‘loans’ usually come with a very high rate of interest that is quite higher than the principal amount.
Despite the criticality of the situation, the local government hasn’t strongly pushed scientific irrigation techniques, nor have they effectively promoted organic farming methodologies that would allow farmers to limit their expenses incurred in procuring expensive fertilizers and pesticides, reported Daily News And Analysis.
The depressing situation becomes quite apparent from the statement of a school teacher. Teaching in a state run government-aided school, Puliraju witnesses the horrors every day. He says,
“No parent wants his child to be a farmer. Even a laborer earns more because of schemes like NREGA, whereas a farmer is eternally indebted. If this perception and trend is not stopped, India will end up with a food shortage problem in the coming years,”
While Vamshi’s father could just be one of many similar cases of suicide, agriculture in India may soon become an unsustainable livelihood option where ironically over 70% of population resides in villages and depends on the occupation.
[Image Credit | George Lerner, Sahara Samay, Prashant Panjiar]