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Young Punjab farmers wilt in agrarian crisis

A recent study by the Indian Council for Social Science Research of the growing number of farmers’ suicides in Punjab has revealed that the agrarian crisis is hitting farmers and labourers below the age of 35 the hardest.

“Nearly 48.6 per cent of farmers who have committed suicide in Punjab in recent years are below 35 years of age, while the percentage is as high as 57.5 per cent in case of agricultural labourers,” says the recently conducted study “Agrarian distress and farmers suicides in North India”.

Further, 41 per cent of the suicides were of farmers between 36 and 55 years of age. The remaining 10.4 per cent were above 56 years.

Among agricultural labourers, 57.5 per cent of the suicides were of those below the age of 35, while 32.8 per cent of those between 36 and 55 years. Suicides of those above 56 years stood at 9.7 per cent, the study added.

The joint study by Lakhwinder Singh, Kesar Singh Bhangoo and Rakesh Sharma of Punjabi University, based on a survey of 1,392 rural households from three agrarian, suicide-prone districts of Malwa region — Bathinda, Sangrur and Mansa — has also examined factors that have pushed some to suicide while other farmers have overcome the pressure. The sample for the survey was based on census-based reports of the Punjab government on farmers and agricultural labourers’ suicide that had showed that more than 7,000 farmers and agricultural labourers committed suicide in the State during 2000-2010, due to agrarian distress and indebtedness.

According to the study, in the controlled group (farmers and agricultural labourers on the brink of economic stress), around 51.6 per cent of farmers aged between 36 and 55 revealed that they were on the edge of suicide as their ability to tolerate and combat the agrarian crises was diminishing rapidly.

Women hit

“We found that a majority of deceased group were below 35, that is a young group, and found to be highly distressed. This reflects that burden of agrarian distress has been faced by the young and middle-aged farmers. The distress was so cruel that it also engulfed the women of the households of farmers and labourers and even few women committed suicides due to economic distress,” Prof. Singh told, The Hindu. The study says the manifestation of agrarian distress is widespread in Punjab but the Malwa region is the epicentre.

The study also points out other reasons such as consistently lower prices of agricultural produce disproportionate to the prices of farm inputs, mounting indebtedness from both institutional and non-institutional sources resulting in a debt trap, exploitation of farmers by moneylenders, non-availability or inferior quality of inputs.

“Young farmers do not foresee a secure future in agriculture; besides they do not find prompt help from the government or philanthropists...they find themselves helpless,” Prof. Singh said.

Notably, 56 farmers in Punjab committed suicide so far this year due to agrarian reasons, Minister of State for Agriculture Parshottam Rupala told the Rajya Sabha last week.

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2022 8:46:21 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/Young-Punjab-farmers-wilt-in-agrarian-crisis/article14546145.ece