Agrarian suicides…a growing concern?

I’m going to apologize in advance for the dark tone of this topic, especially on a Friday evening, but something my mother mentioned stuck with me and I felt the need to air my disappointment. I’d heard of agrarian suicides as a child, but to find them still prevalent in a country that now ranks among the top 5 world economies was downright depressing. Yes, I’m talking about farmer suicides in my home country, India. Of the approximately 8 million people that commit suicide worldwide each year, 17% are Indians and of this, 11.2% are farmer suicides. These numbers are appalling!

India is considered an agrarian nation. Over 60% of its population is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. Over the years, the number of farmer suicides has risen so much that since 1995, the National Crime Records Bureau, an office of the Ministry of Home Affairs Government of India, has begun collecting and publishing farmers suicide statistics as a separate metric. Various reasons have been cited for these deaths ranging from crop failure due to weather or other natural calamities, to inability to pay loan sharks, to failed irrigation techniques resulting in arid farmlands. There are also some non agrarian reasons like property disputes, dowry for a daughter’s wedding or illness preventing the farmer from tilling the land that have resulted in the farmer taking his own life.

Fortunately, the social awareness created by the local media and social networking sites has fueled the state authorities to provide some degree of assistance to these misfortune-stricken farmers and their families. Help has been forthcoming in the form of concessions on power bills, forfeiting interest on loans or financial aid to the families of those with household deaths, to name a few. While this has alleviated the stress to some degree, it has yet to sufficiently address some of the core issues on hand like irrigation, affordable loan programs and treatment centers to help farmers and families deal with depression.

To complement the government assistance, famed Bollywood actors like Nana Patekar, Amir Khan and Akshay Kumar (to name a few) have also joined the foray. Because of this attention, the common Indian citizen has slowly but surely begun to recognize the simple fact that the hand that grows the crops that feeds a whole nation, sometimes needs a helping hand too. It brings me immense joy to see people reach out to aid those in need. There just might be hope for these crop growers as the nation rallies together to better their conditions.

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