Saturday, 2 June 2012

Sky high suicides of Indian farmers

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Over the past 16 years, more than 250,000 (yes the figure is correct) Indian farmers have taken their own lives mainly due to financial hardship. Sky News reported the startling story back in November 2011 and highlighted the relatively large debts incurred when farmers have changed to expensive modern seeds. If the crops fail the resulting debt leaves them utterly despairing and are driven to suicide.

Farming crisis in India
Cotton picking
The issue has been raised by charities and voluntary groups such as the Baba Nanak Educational Society but the Government of India has taken little serious action. Even though India is fast becoming one of the new wave of superpowers in the world, 60% of its population still eke out a living in the countryside.
I have started a new petition to lobby the Indian Prime Minister, World Health Organisation and the UK Government. Please add your voice to the campaign to end the misery of those farmers and their families left distraught and feeling alone in the rural areas of India.
A UN report, International Farmers Suicide Crisis confirms that suicide rates amongst people in rural areas is higher than in urban areas and suggests the reasons why:-

  • Financial Stress - constant financial pressure related to the “Farm Crisis” and ongoing drought and flood which add to the economic problems
  • Loss of independence and control: many of the issues are not within the farmer’s control – disease, weather, government policy, but the debts are personal
  • Sense of Loss: repeated sense of hopelessness, loss of crops, loss of land, loss of income, loss of community, loss of family farm, loss of a way of life
  • Geographical remoteness and the potential for social isolation
  • Untreated Mental Illness: Lack of access to mental health services in rural areas and the stigma attached to treatment
  • Depression arising from exposure to agricultural chemicals/pesticides may increase 
  • the risk for mood disorders and ultimately suicide

Indian Prime Minister with the widow of a farmer who took his own life
The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh admitted in 2007:

“Rates of growth of agriculture in the last decade have been poor and are a major cause of rural distress. Farming is increasingly becoming an unviable activity.”

So after five years with the suicides continuing at the rate of one every 30 minutes, it is time to act. Current and past agricultural policies have failed and the sooner the India Government takes this issue seriously the sooner real help can be given to alleviate the suffering and prevent further tragedies.

The Government of India and the State Governments should:-

a) create new emergency relief funds to alleviate immediate financial demands that are easily accessible and not means tested
b) set up a parliamentary commission to investigate the causes and propose long term solutions
c) introduce new programmes to raise awareness of the problems facing farmers and provide mental health support in local communities to eliminate the stigma of financial debt and give meaningful practical advice to farmers and their families
d) develop new agricultural policies of long term support for farmers to produce a viable agricultural sector in India


  1. The most important factor affecting the lives of the 120 million Indian farmers is the weather. Having recently returned from agrculture intensive Andra Pradesh and listened to many representatives from the farming community and their political representatives, it seemed to be the forcoming monsoon season that was going to make the most difference to their livelihoods in the short term.

    Evie Soames

  2. Only wish the someone from Govt of India can read this!


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