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The Crisis

45% of farmers want to quit farming.

farmer_looking_for_rainThe reasons for such a figure demands attention,specially when it is concerned with the major contributors of an economy which is agriculture dependent and is  the world’s second fastest economy, that is India

The fact that the farmers face too many hardships for what they earn is an established one, but during the last decade the problems of farmers of our country have proved to be fatal, resulting in serial suicides in many parts of the country.

Suddenly farming has emerged as a not so respectable profession, one that involves high risk. Consequently, a major shift from farm sector employment to non-agri sector has been noticed.

Ironical it may sound , but it takes only a few minutes to find tens of articles, blogs and forums discussing in theory the agri-crisis, farmer suicides, unreachable bailout packages, exploitation and what not, splashed over the internet and across news- papers , magazines alike.

The crisis in figures.

At least 17,368 Indian farmers killed themselves in 2009, the worst figure for farm suicides in six years, according to data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Far from being a sudden outbreak, the trends have gone from worse to worst for over a decade now, the national average of farm suicides have been increasing in spite of declining agrarian population every year.

National Avg19971998199920002001200220032004200520062007200820091300014000150001600017000YearAverage No. of suicides per year

Fig. The Rising trends of Yearly average of Farm Suicides in India

A major chunk of this average comes from only 5 of 29 states of the country. The share of the Big 5 States, or ‘suicide belt’ — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in 2009— remained very high at 10,765, or around 62 per cent of the total farm suicides in the country in the year. Maharashtra had maximum cases of farm suicides for the tenth successive year, reporting 2,872 suicides in 2009.

While the population involved in agriculture sector dropped from around 67 to 58.4 percent in last two decades, the GDP contribution of the agrarian sector came crashing down from 32.6 to a mere 16 percent. More than half of the population of the country has witnessed a major shift of bank credit to the urban sector, diminishing budget share and as a result of so many more factors, reduced profits, worse living standards, and increased competition to fight with owing to inflated influence of global economies on Indian policies (eg: Import duties were brought down considerably in late 90s to encourage globalization, which resulted in competition from tea farmers of indonesia and malaysia. The prices had to be lowered and hence the profits.)

So What plagues the system?

The problems that have crippled the agriculture sector are systemic as well as technical. Numerous reports and surveys have revealed that…


    • Inadequate infrastructure in most parts of the country in terms of power and irrigation facilities, banks and schools, telecom and road network drag the rural development graph downwards.Fig. Depicts the Vicious Circle of Isolation, Ignorance, Illiteracy, Indebtedness and Insecurity: which invariably leads to the suffering farmer’s death.
    • No Awareness or Lack of Unbiased Awareness about farm inputs result in excessively reduced yields and massive crop failures. (Case Study: Mass Suicides in Vidharbh Region, Maharashtra, reasons explained by Madam Vandana Shiva) When Vidharbha famers bought Monsanto BT Cotton seeds they were not informed that the claimed results required Monsanto Ltd. manufactured fertilizers only.However, even after using the specified fertilizers the crops failed.. Monsanto argued that the quoted results were for well irrigated areas only and that it was mentioned on the packets. The farmers who could not even read or write their own names were expected to read the instructions on the seed and fertilizer packets.This resulted in 1044 suicides in Vidharbha region (Maharashtra) alone in 2006 and the numbers have only increased since then.
    • Loans at Unreasonable interest rates/conditions, and their procedures are too complex for the minimally educated farmers, and hence many take loans from the un-organized sector (small-scale private financing institutions), at times at astronomical interest rates.Reports time and again have been stating the dire need of a proper network of micro financing institutions to safeguard the farmer economics and make accessible the benefits of such initiatives by govt and private companies for the benefit of both sides.
      drought_farmerFor instance in a report submitted by IGIDR,Mumbai (January 2006) to Maharashtra government about farmer suicides in the state(Yavatmal,Washim,Wardha) mentioned that a prevalent and conventional form of giving farm loan by private money lenders is through mortgaging of land or through sale of land with a verbal (not legal) promise that it will be sold back to the debtor after the loan is repaid. Land seizure/mortgage incidents were reported to be quite frequent.Interest charged by private moneylenders was found to be around Rs.25 to Rs.50 for a loan of Rs.100 that is to be repaid in 4-6 months time, further the annualized rates extended from Rs.60 – Rs70 per Rs 100 loan. While the micro finance institutions charged Rs 10 to Rs 35 based on low to high risk area for the same farmer. Also the loans given by private money lenders are not covered under the Govt. bailout packages and loan waivers hence the farmers don’t get benefited from the timely Govt Relief Measures.
  • Low grade quality of farm inputs, unregulated release of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and other vital inputs of varied qualities has been a matter of concern, the information provided to farmers is biased more than less often, which ends up in higher cost per unit of production and lower yield per unit of land and money.The IGIDR report mentioned that “There is also the question of spurious quality of seeds”. Instances have been reported when the plant grew and hence necessary expenses were a incurred for fertilizers and pesticides, but these plants did not flower.


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