Farmer Suicides and the Agrarian Crisis

Sharp shrieks could be heard from the mud courtyard. Slowly the shrieks, turned into loud sobs. Vijay came rushing into Daya Prasad’s house, only to be shocked at what he saw. Daya Prasad’s body lay lifeless, his mouth foaming and his eyes turned up. Radha, his wife and his 5-year-old daughter, Mohini, sat next to his dead body, shaking him, trying desperately to bring him back to life. Daya Prasad was no more. Neighbours gathered around to know what was going on and pitch in to help. In this small little village in Maharashtra – the suicide of a farmer was a regular affair. Many children had grown up not knowing who their father or their grandfather was. Yet another widow and orphaned children had been left to fend for themselves.


Termed as the Agrarian crisis, this spate of suicides started right in the early 90s and continues till now. According to official government statistics, nearly 3 lakh farmers have committed suicide in India between 1995 and 2014. These suicides happen mostly in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Suicides are not restricted to farmers alone but also to farm labourers. Through regimes of different political parties, nothing has changed for the farmer. Farmer suicides make up for almost 11.6% of the total suicides in India with pesticide consumption and hanging being some of the most commonly used methods.


The primary reasons being cited for this series of suicides are often debated upon by activists, however some of the reasons identified are –

  • Unpredictable weather conditions sometimes bringing in drought like situations and extreme water shortage
  • Climate change leading to insecurity about crops with crop losses or shortfall of crops being faced by farmers
  • A massive surge in agricultural input costs leading to an increase in the cost of cultivation
  • Huge loans due to an increase in agricultural expenses and an inability to payback those loans due to inflated interest rates
  • Using unsustainable cropping practices which result in land losing its fertility and thereby becoming barren in a few years
  • Lack of awareness of organic methods of farming

Whatever, the reasons, farmer’s widows and children are left to fend for themselves and sometimes have to repay of the loans as well. There are no proper rehabilitation facilities for the widows and children of these farmers.


However all is not lost. There are many activists who are working towards creating awareness around the agrarian crisis in the country. One such attempt by a group of passionate people came out in the form of the feature film – Mitti. The film a docudrama based on several real life incidences from across the country. Mitti is a completely crowd funded project that was a direct result of a collaboration between 2 speakers from TEDxHyderabad 2015 – Dr. G. V. Ramanjaneyulu, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Anshul Sinha, an Independent Filmmaker. It took a year’s worth of research to put this movie together. The film portrays 25 major issues that have pushed farming into crisis and possible solutions to each of those issues. As a country we desperately need to realise what is wrong with our approach towards farming and what we can do to change that approach.

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