Farmer Suicides in India
Throughout India, as far back as the 1970’s or earlier, a national issue has emerged in agriculture. Farmers, for many different reasons, have committed suicide, making many news headlines and affecting not only the families of the lives lost, but also many others.
According to the 2021 State of India’s Environment, greater than 28 farmers and farm laborers die by suicide every single day. Some are in debt from banks and cannot pay for them, others are addicted to alcohol or other drugs, low produce or crop prices, stress from family, increased cost to cultivate goods, or even crops failing to grow.
Generally, farmers are not not treated correctly for the work they do, in a tough market especially if crops aren’t growing well. The stress of not knowing if crops will grow, if the market will charge enough for the year’s work, paying back banks, and more adds to this number increasing.
While this problem is widespread, with Maharashtra, Punjab, and the South being the states most frequent to see farmer suicides. In places with higher rates of general suicides, farmers’ suicides are higher as well. Luckily, however, the rate of farmers committing suicide has lowered from 10,348 in 2018 to 10,281 in 2019, dropping even more in the past 10 years.
Some may ask, why is this specific profession causing so many suicides, and how does it affect the general population? As mentioned before, there are various stressors involved in growing crops for a nation with over 1 billion people. Many farmers lease their land from a bank, get out loans but are unable to repay them, or live in extreme poverty with poor education, keeping families stuck in a cycle of barely scraping by. Not only this, but being dependent on sometimes unpredictable monsoons for water is another source that could render some or all crops for others useless. Since clean water is hard to come by, caused by lots of pollution in natural bodies of water, monsoons and rain water are truly essential for crop growth.
India is the second largest producer of wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane, silk, fruits and vegetables, and plenty of other pivotal crops to society. They represent 8.6% of vegetables and 10.9% of fruit grown in the world, being huge producers. Since a farmer is generally their own boss, some will work from sunrise to sunset, tirelessly working to ensure food and cash from crop growth for their family.
It is mentally and physically taxing on farmers, and much needs to be done as a nation to save people’s lives. Laws were being passed by the government degrading the buying and selling of grown goods, being exploited by corporations, undermining the workers. An open market not controlled by the government is necessary to give farmers some control over their own goods, as well as middle men in the operation being regulated but also not undermined so that both can survive. With all of the goods being exported from India, the government needs to give some power to the people or some way to support them so that their farmers can once again live without fear of not being able to make a living. Additionally, mental health awareness and prevention options for those feeling suicidal should be provided, as no plans or prevention methods have been put in place to stop these workers.
All occupations, no matter how tough it can be, should not feel enough pressure to consider committing suicide. Having to feed and export their goods to billions of people at a somewhat low price, farmers of India are struggling. They need to pay off their loans, make enough money for their entire family to survive on, and hope that the monsoon season is good for them. In all of India, the shocking number of 28 farmers committed suicide a day. To put an end to this, mental health awareness needs to not only be talked about, but also prevented. The Indian Government cannot undermine the livelihoods of farmers to make a profit, and actually making laws in favor of these workers will help create more jobs and goods for those in the field of agriculture for decades to come.