Economics India

Friday, April 14, 2006

Farmer Suicides In India: New Findings and Debatable Solutions!

We wrote earlier in this blog about high incidence of farmer suicides in India, especially in rain-fed, cotton-growing areas of Gujarat and Maharashtra and the possible causes of and the solutions to this tragic situation. Between 2001 and 2005, some 8927 farmers committed suicides in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, not counting Maharashtra.

This high incidence of farmer suicides is beginning to receive attention from the Press, the state and national governments and financing agencies. A recent survey report issued by Daily Sakal, published from Pune (India), reported in the last blog on this subject, covered 120 cases of farmer suicides in two districts of Maharashtra (Yeotmal and Amravati) and reported that some 40% of the farmers who committed suicide were in the age-group of 36-45 and the majority of them (73%) were educated, of which 5% were college graduates. Only 23% of those committed suicides in the two districts were illiterate. This tells us a lot -- even educated farmers are cornered both socially and financially and have no way to get out of the trap except by suicide -- this is a serious situation especially when most religions in India strongly despise "suicide", however serious one's personal problems may be!

A recent study published by NABARD’s Department of Economic Analysis and Research observed that the plight of farming communities in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra was worsened by concerned state governments' inefficiency. According to NABARD study, the government extension machinery has failed completely. This meant that private players took over extension services, which in view of their vested interest in selling farm inputs, led to all kinds of malpractices -- the prime reason considered to be behind farmer suicides.

The failuare of the public extension system is seen as a major embarrassment for the state governments as the subject falls within their constitutional mandate. The NABARD study further notes that government extension machinery was not visible in providing information, while the extension services provided by private traders focussed on selling particular brands of inputs to farmers, led to a supply-induced demand. The NABARD report says inputs supplied by private dealers were not certified, often leading to spurious or poor quality, especially for seeds and pesticides for cotton. The NABARD study also reflects the conclusions of three other studies conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR) and the National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management.

Other factors which contributed to farmer losses and eventual suicides included adverse weather, lack of or poor marketing infrastructure, low output prices, crop failures, and credit-related aspects. NABARD has since launched a mass counselling in one of the districts of Maharashtra, which has reported a large number of farmer suicides in recent times. NABARD would include bankers, agricultural experts, psychiatrists and priests in its mass counselling drive. This drive aims at restraining farmers from taking the extreme step of committing suicides. Such exercises will likely be repeated in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala as well.

The NABARD and other reports raise a number of questions concerning productivity and profitability of agriculture in India, especially in rain-fed areas, but the answer is not necessarily in reviving the government extension system which has been in shambles for the past several decades due to lack of budgetary funding, inadequate skills, the absence of serious research on crops grown in rain-fed areas and poor research-extension linkages. Instead, ways must be found to make extension services available through modern methods of communication and information systems through public-private partnerships and keeping vested interests in marketing of inputs out of the extension business. The ICAR and various agricultural universities need to strengthen research and make it available in "adaptable" forms to farms. This is an important subject for another day.

4 Comments:

  • It is good to know that some one is paying attention to farmer suicides in India. NABARD's public education program should be backed by some kind of a social safety net, managed by communities, to help those in heavy debt -- to ward of confiscation of their assets and consequent bankruptcy and establish a debt waiver or debt rescheduling arrangement and interest rate reduction. Local village governments can play an important role in this area.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:19 PM  

  • The plight of farmers reminds me always of the movie Mother India. the creators of that movie were geniuses. Green Revolutions have come and gone, and we are still not sure how to improve agriculture. Sometime we see that lack of irrigation is a problem and sometime we have people like Medha Patkar who do not see the benefit of irrigation. Also we have environmental gurus from the international organizations who are also confusing people. See what is happening in Nepal and one wonders why Arun Project was stopped by the World Bank. Why international organizations indirectly promoting chaos and communism?

    One has to say long live Mother India and Do Bigha Jameen thinkers.

    A Concerend South Asian

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:37 AM  

  • In India the cotton farmers’ suicides trend is increasing year after year that too among the middle age group and educated farmers.... needs lots of attention no doubt……

    Constraints
    It is also noted that the extension missionary has failed completely in the recent study published by NABARD from the posting.
    Due to zero budget lot of Extension workers posts are left unfilled, the information transactions need to have reciprocal response among farmers’ extension workers and the research workers as well the policy makers
    The cotton crops cultivation scenario is changing rapidly.
    Suddenly we talk about Genetically Modified cotton issues under biotechnology policy. But the break up components under Integrated Cotton Development Scheme has the routine subsidiary components. The Transgenic cotton is basically targeted towards pest resistance and not towards the yield.
    Rain fed cotton farmers should be advocated definitely with an alternate crop strategy in case of any eventualities.
    Farmers are said to be the best entrepreneurs and they put more than what they have into their fields and believe they can take twice that they have put into the crop and their expectations fails they try to loose heart and later their money then respect and their expectations and repeated failures make them loose heart it is not only the extension staff but also the weather parameters outbreak of many boll worms if not one the other could cause de-vesting effect on the crops fail

    Some suggestions

    • Lack of staff and their culture of work need fine tuning(either carrot or stick method to be followed to gear up the missionary
    • Awareness campaigns through dramas dances about the cultivation practices, the aftermath of the families after a farmers suicide can be taken up and intensified
    • Major Content may be shared about the cotton scenario cultivation practices Step by step Scientific management of cotton cultivation precision farming techniques
    May be given via ICT Centers or through regular intensive trainings all through the crop cultivation like what they do in IPM Integrated Pest management trainings for cotton
    • Local specific Pest Resistant strains to be researched
    • The psychological counseling as given to the disaster preparedness of Tsunami hit villages may be taken as some models and Disaster preparedness and how they can overcome the short comings may be administered
    • This issue has to be taken up with a mission mode approach in the states were there are serious suicide commitment rates and all the states need to include lots of training and relearn the cotton cultivation as a short term course and for the extension staff it should be made mandatory
    • The cotton farmers self help group may be formed and the messages as well the finances may be tackled
    • Lots of NGOs to be encouraged for this mission also as they have proved their efficiency in the Tsunami disaster management
    • Education policy should include at least one bravo story about the Cotton cultivation loss and how one could overcome such inclusions may bring in long term awareness among the future citizens.
    • Youth of the same villages may be selected and trained under mission mode to help the cotton farmers not only on cultivation aspects but also on the psychological aspects
    • The extension or research department has to necessarily lay a demonstration trial managed by efficient hands either NGO/Research wing of the extension departments
    • The cotton Mission mode to be under the direct supervision of the Respective Collector on the respective Joint directors of agriculture.
    • Steering committees to be framed and some cotton savers to be identified among the villages to have a constant eye over the farmers
    • Large boards may be kept up in the religious premises stating some positive slogans on the cotton yield and god will take care of the rest type of feelings may invoke some positive ness among the farmers
    • Suicide is more a tendency and repeated constant attitude in the tempo may definitely yield results
    • Immediate first aid has to be taken up followed by all other methods to overcome this suicidal tendencies
    • The crop with very highly improved strains needs more fertilizer there by very luscious which no doubt invite pest hence bio control measures also to be a very important remedy but not that alone that too immediately it may work very well on papers but not in the fields Biological control is a very good method as good as talking only the truth is it possible all the time?
    • The older cotton pest and disease resistance strains may be genetically tested and the responsible genes may find some modification

    I have worked as an extension worker myself. The intension which I have shared here may be right, some may be already in practice and some may be new and some may be possible and some may look ridiculous. But ultimately the expectations of the farmers and their lives should be taken care off that is my ultimate sincere prayer

    I Pray, the almighty to give our cotton farmers the tenacity to withstand all the ordeals they have to face in growing cotton.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:37 PM  

  • In India the cotton farmers’ suicides trend is increasing year after year that too among the middle age group and educated farmers.... needs lots of attention no doubt……

    Constraints
    It is also noted that the extension missionary has failed completely in the recent study published by NABARD from the posting.
    Due to zero budget lot of Extension workers posts are left unfilled, the information transactions need to have reciprocal response among farmers’ extension workers and the research workers as well the policy makers
    The cotton crops cultivation scenario is changing rapidly.
    Suddenly we talk about Genetically Modified cotton issues under biotechnology policy. But the break up components under Integrated Cotton Development Scheme has the routine subsidiary components. The Transgenic cotton is basically targeted towards pest resistance and not towards the yield.
    Rain fed cotton farmers should be advocated definitely with an alternate crop strategy in case of any eventualities.
    Farmers are said to be the best entrepreneurs and they put more than what they have into their fields and believe they can take twice that they have put into the crop and their expectations fails they try to loose heart and later their money then respect and their expectations and repeated failures make them loose heart it is not only the extension staff but also the weather parameters outbreak of many boll worms if not one the other could cause de-vesting effect on the crops fail

    Some suggestions

    • Lack of staff and their culture of work need fine tuning(either carrot or stick method to be followed to gear up the missionary
    • Awareness campaigns through dramas dances about the cultivation practices, the aftermath of the families after a farmers suicide can be taken up and intensified
    • Major Content may be shared about the cotton scenario cultivation practices Step by step Scientific management of cotton cultivation precision farming techniques
    May be given via ICT Centers or through regular intensive trainings all through the crop cultivation like what they do in IPM Integrated Pest management trainings for cotton
    • Local specific Pest Resistant strains to be researched
    • The psychological counseling as given to the disaster preparedness of Tsunami hit villages may be taken as some models and Disaster preparedness and how they can overcome the short comings may be administered
    • This issue has to be taken up with a mission mode approach in the states were there are serious suicide commitment rates and all the states need to include lots of training and relearn the cotton cultivation as a short term course and for the extension staff it should be made mandatory
    • The cotton farmers self help group may be formed and the messages as well the finances may be tackled
    • Lots of NGOs to be encouraged for this mission also as they have proved their efficiency in the Tsunami disaster management
    • Education policy should include at least one bravo story about the Cotton cultivation loss and how one could overcome such inclusions may bring in long term awareness among the future citizens.
    • Youth of the same villages may be selected and trained under mission mode to help the cotton farmers not only on cultivation aspects but also on the psychological aspects
    • The extension or research department has to necessarily lay a demonstration trial managed by efficient hands either NGO/Research wing of the extension departments
    • The cotton Mission mode to be under the direct supervision of the Respective Collector on the respective Joint directors of agriculture.
    • Steering committees to be framed and some cotton savers to be identified among the villages to have a constant eye over the farmers
    • Large boards may be kept up in the religious premises stating some positive slogans on the cotton yield and god will take care of the rest type of feelings may invoke some positive ness among the farmers
    • Suicide is more a tendency and repeated constant attitude in the tempo may definitely yield results
    • Immediate first aid has to be taken up followed by all other methods to overcome this suicidal tendencies
    • The crop with very highly improved strains needs more fertilizer there by very luscious which no doubt invite pest hence bio control measures also to be a very important remedy but not that alone that too immediately it may work very well on papers but not in the fields Biological control is a very good method as good as talking only the truth is it possible all the time?
    • The older cotton pest and disease resistance strains may be genetically tested and the responsible genes may find some modification

    I have worked as an extension worker myself. The intension which I have shared here may be right, some may be already in practice and some may be new and some may be possible and some may look ridiculous. But ultimately the expectations of the farmers and their lives should be taken care off that is my ultimate sincere prayer

    I Pray, the almighty to give our cotton farmers the tenacity to withstand all the ordeals they have to face in growing cotton.
    Akilakalai

    By Blogger akilakalai, at 4:13 PM  

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