Why are farmers taking their own lives?

Despite various farmer welfare schemes, including populist loan waivers, there is a disturbing news – increase in farmer suicides. According to a recent report released by the Centre for Science and
Environment, as many as 10,881 persons engaged in the farm sector died by suicide in 2021, the count being highest over the preceding five years. The research think-tank has observed that “Despite the Centre promising to double farm income, the number of farmers dying by suicide has been rising”. In fact, the data released by the Ministry Statistics and Programme Implementation confirms that the farmers’
income rose by 30 per cent while their debt surged by around 58 per cent between 2013 and 2019.

A parliamentary panel on agriculture had, in a report tabled in Parliament, also revealed that the government was far from achieving its 2022 goal of doubling the farm income. The panel said the average monthly agricultural household income was just Rs 10,218.  Maharashtra reported the highest number of 4,064 suicides, followed by Karnataka (2,169) and MP (671). In Punjab, 270 farm-related deaths were witnessed in the year as per the report but the farmers’ leaders allege that the governments often try to downplay the poor condition of the farming community in the state, which ushered in the Green
Revolution.  However, compared to 2020, nine states witnessed an increase in suicides in 2021, with Assam alone seeing a nearly 13-fold increase. It is obvious that the Centre’s grand goal of doubling the
the income of farmers, who put in sweat and blood to produce food grains, still remains a dream.

According to a study by Punjab Agricultural University, at least 83 per cent of the suicides took place due to debt and the farmers who ended their life owned less than five acres of land. They make up for
45.61 per cent of the total suicides, while small farmers (owning land between 2.47 acres and 5 acres) account for 30.53 per cent of cases. The study has found that most of the victims were in the prime of
their youth as 72 per cent of the victims were in the age group of 15- 35 years.

It found that the major reasons for farmers’ suicides were änti-farmer laws, poor government policies, indebtedness, rising input costs, declining incomes, costly healthcare and education, high interest
rates, corruption in disbursal of subsidies, crop failures, disturbed mental health and distress sale of crops. Then the minimum support price sometimes does not even cover the cost of production and in some
cases even it is not ensured.

Looking at the dismal scenario, the government must take immediate steps to come to the aid of the agrarian sector on which more than 70 per cent of people are directly or indirectly dependent!