The alarming condition of farmers in the State of Maharashtra can be linked to socio-economic aspects. Farmers fall into debts because have to face a scarce crops productivity (GM seeds, water management, etc.) which increase the risk of their profit and high cost of life (education, health, daughter marriage, etc.).
This creates a vicious cycle and most of the time farmers suffer from mental distress. Often they might see the suicide as the only solution for their families. The poor farmers without a farm live a miserable life. They work on daily wages on the farms of others.
Their wages are too low. They belong to the class of have-nots, although they are the very backbone of our agriculture. They have a handful of children and a bagful of debts. They are the worst victims of our society.
33,000 Suicides From 2009
1 Farmer’s Suicide Every 30 Minutes
It is estimated that more than a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide in the last 16 years—the largest wave of recorded suicides in human history. A great number of those affected are cash crop farmers, and cotton farmers in particular. In 2009 alone, the most recent year for which official figures are available, 17,638 farmers committed suicide—that’s one farmer every 30 minutes.
Very often Indian agriculture depends on nature because irrigation facilities don’t cover the entire land. Some regions are affected by floods for half of the year, and completely dry for the rest of the agricultural cycle. There are canals and storage facilities (lakes, dams…) under construction by the government, but it is not sufficient to solve the current situation. In Maharashtra, there is the 40 % of dams built by the government in India. But from some interviews to the local community, it emerged that this 40 % has been not built in the right locations: often they are situated where there is no necessity.
The GM seeds introduced in India are modified in order to prevent pests’ attacks to the crop. GM seeds have been strongly criticized for being not productive, international reports state the real improvement of production if seeds are correctly used. GM seeds need indeed a correct dosage of water and pesticides. In case of incorrect use or in presence of a pest not sensible to the genetic modification, GM seeds fail in the production. GM seeds are in general more expensive than non-GM seeds, but their higher cost is supposed to be positively balanced by lower costs of pesticides. Moreover, GM seeds are not reproducible: farmers cannot save the seeds for the next season and he has to buy them again every year.
In a country like India, socio-cultural factors are relevant. Families have to face high expenses mainly related to health care, in particular farmers lack good healthcare services and have to bear huge costs for hospitalisation. Other sources of debts include the expenses for children education and the costs for daughter’s marriage. The expenses incurred to host the ceremony and mainly the dowry that they need to pay to the groom’s family. These issues represent a relevant burden on the family’s resources, as farmers have no other income but agriculture products. Generally, farmers take a loan from private money lenders (“Saukar”) for this activities and the interest rate is very high, so high that it normally cannot be paid on time by the farmer.
Low minimum support prices
Another revealing data is that Indian government this year is offering $226 per tonne as minimum support price for wheat whereas Pakistan, with similar agro-climatic conditions, is giving about $320 dollars per tonne for wheat. In Indian rupee terms, India is offering about Rs.1400 per quintal and Pakistan Rs.2000 per quintal of wheat. Ironically, the price offered by the Pakistan government to its farmers approximates the promise Narendra Modi made during his election campaign which is part of the BJP manifesto—50% profit margins over the cost of production.