Sunday, April 6, 2008

Shocked by farmer suicides in India

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission has said that about 86,900 farmers in India committed suicide between 2001 and 20005, i.e. 48 per day, over these 5 years. These suicides were principally because of their inability to pay back loans.

Now, in the budget of 2008, the Government has declared that the loans of farmers will be waived off at a cost of $15 billion., However, 17,000 committed suicide per annum, for 5 years. But, those were not election years, so the suicides continued. And, seven farmers have continued committing suicide daily, even after the announcement of waiver of loans.

India’s problems cannot be solved by well meaning budgets. Quick, fix-it, scotch tape solutions can win elections, not stop suicides. It is generous of the government to write-off loans. But we need to study in depth: why were the farmers unable to pay back their loans? Did they have adequate knowledge about which crops to grow, how to nurture them? What help was provided by technical institutes and agricultural ministry, to maximize their yields? Did they get fair market prices for their produce? Who guided the farmers in their work and dealings? We boast of computers being installed in villages, yet cannot educate our farmers on how to run farms via television? What counseling was undertaken by local authorities, to prevent farmers from taking the extreme step of taking their lives?

India, is facing an agricultural slow-down, with increase in agricultural production of 2.6 per cent, and a 15-25 per cent escalation in food prices, could generate violence. A country which prided itself in self-sufficiency of food grains, could face a shortage. The number of Indians below the poverty line, decreased from 50 per cent in 1972 to about 25 per cent now. So, more Indians, are eating more food. India’s educated middle class is eating better quality foods. The nation of 1.1 billion, is adding 15 million people every year. Wheat prices have already increased by 100 per cent. It is time to grow more wheat, rice, potatoes and onions.

But, a nation, whose farmers commit suicide because they cannot return paltry sums of loan moneys to their banks, is in deep trouble indeed. India must wake up to the fact that the high rates of GDP growth, must go back to the poor of the country, in the form of better quality of life and health.
With warm regards,
Yours sincerely,
Rajendra K Aneja

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