This refers to the article, “Farm suicides: a 12-year saga” (Jan. 25). The fact that a “very high number of farm suicides still occur within a fast decreasing farm population” is alarming. The exodus from farming to non-farming businesses — punctuated by natural calamities — is the main reason for skyrocketing prices.
It is painful that close to two lakh people have committed suicide in the farm sector alone in the last 12 years. That eight million quit farming is another pointer to the fact that the occupation is becoming non-viable and this figure can be staggering by the time the 2011 census figures are released.
For a large section of people, suicide is the best option as that at least gives eternal peace. To add fuel to the fire, India has no viable population policy. We in India are adding 25 million people every year, which makes us more vulnerable to famine and suicides. We are on the path to failure, thanks to incompetence at various levels.
P. Sainath has brought out the stark reality that loan waiver has failed to reduce suicides. He has shown how misleading reading a ‘trend’ into a single year’s dip or rise could be. The waiver dealt only with bank credit and ignored moneylender debt leaving small farmers — with little or no access to institutional credit — in a hopeless situation. It is bureaucratic apathy and political insensitivity which have exacerbated the situation.
Vaibhav C. Ghalme,
Suicides in such phenomenal scale cannot just be dismissed as a psychological problem or mass hysteria. The central issue is debt trap. Small and marginal farmers, especially those who take land on lease from others, are not eligible for institutional credit and crop insurance. They end up on the doorstep of usurious moneylenders. The noose tightens with the drastic shifts in the market-driven cropping pattern. The policy of removal of Quantitative Restrictions under the WTO regime has wreaked havoc on and exposed farmers to the volatility of international market and prices. Market-driven mono-cropping has damaged soil fertility and created ecological imbalances.
Large public investment in irrigation and rural infrastructure, rejuvenation of cooperative credit, the marketing and processing system, strengthening of agricultural extension services and sympathetic administration working closely with the farming community are the need of the hour.