LUCKNOW, India (AP) — Authorities in northern India have banned the sale of a cheap variety of hair dye after debt-ridden farmers were found to be drinking it to end their lives, an official said Friday.
At least 11 farmers have died from swallowing the hair dye in a drought-hit region of Uttar Pradesh state in the past three months, said Rajiv Agarwal, a senior state official.
Two-thirds of India's 1.1 billion people depend on agriculture, and most have been left out of India's economic boom. In parts of western and southern India, the dire economic state of farmers has been blamed for thousands of suicides in recent years.
The hair dye leads to kidney failure, said Ganesh Kumar, principal of the Maharani Lakshmi Bai Medical College.
"We have banned the sale of the cheap dye made locally in Uttar Pradesh state," Agarwal told The Associated Press.
The state's rugged Bundelkhand region has been battling a severe drought caused by the failure of monsoon rains for the past four years.
"The farm lands have turned barren. An exodus of people has begun — the young have migrated to nearby cities, leaving behind women and elderly people," Agarwal said. The region is about 200 miles southwest of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.
Last month, India's federal government announced plans to cancel debts due on or before Dec. 31, 2007, for poor farmers with land holdings of up to five acres. The move is expected to benefit about 4 million farmers.
Poor farmers often borrow money from banks or private lenders to buy seeds and meet family expenses. Some commit suicide after failing to repay the loans because of crop failures.