If you’ve recently spent any time on the news, you’ll know we’re dealing with a terrifying farming crisis. As of 2017, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, we’ve already had over 17,000 farmer deaths by suicide! And no, farmers are not collectively losing their minds. They’re simply fighting an unfair war of inadequacy- the heavy burden of loans, lack of water, inadequate market rates, failure of crops and lack of Government intervention and support to name some.
Farming has been identified as a high-stress occupation by many countries and deaths among farmers are prevalent globally.
A farmer commits suicide, assuming it to be the solution to all his problems. The aftermath, however, is his wife and children having to bear the burden of his debt. They end up in forced labour to repay the debts. To make things worse, a widow doesn’t remarry because men in the community are unwilling to take on the debt that comes with the widow. This has been covered very well in an Essay, ‘Money of Her Own’ by Masum Momaya.
Protests In 2017
In May and June of 2017, protests turned into riots when the Government had to resort to shooting protesters, most of whom were farmers. These near Civil war conditions could have been prevented if the National Commission on Farmers (2006) was effectively implemented. Some of the worst affected States are Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa among others. The States of South India is 10 times more affected as compared to the States of North India, with respect to farmer suicides.
- Investment in new technology is critical.
India is shifting from an agrarian society to a service oriented sector. More people are shifting from an agricultural profession. To keep up with demand, we need technology to ensure the process caters to the scale and efficiency required.
- Promote farmers markets to remove middlemen.
Farmers can sell their produce directly at open markets. These farmers markets should be regulated online which will also help make agriculture an organized sector.
- Eliminate the real-estate mafia
The real-estate mafia should be prevented from selling land to real-estate agents based on fertility. These agents market and advertise the land at exorbitant rates. We don’t need a real estate bubble in the agricultural sector just yet.
- Access to information
Most information is put out there in the form of initiatives, programs, and schemes although, the farmers more often than not, are unaware of such incentives. The long term solution would be through farmer education in a medium that information reaches farmers in the fastest and most efficient way possible.
- Alternate income
An alternate source of Income for farmers should be made available through training, education, and development. You give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. An alternate source of income can be generated by growing another crop or set of crops, undertaking seasonal labour, small business operation (papad, jute bags, etc.).
- Better water management practices.
Several farmers already adopt several water management practices, but at the rate of water consumption, it is about time we evaluate our existing water management practices and implement the one that works best for a particular demographic.
- PMFBY: In 2016, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) was launched by the Central Government as a crop insurance policy for farmers to protect against droughts, floods or any other calamity.
- The government has also launched the Energy Efficient Irrigation Scheme to give pumps to farmers (INR 75,000 Crore cost) and the return would be reaped in the energy saved with the use of these pumps.
- The Center has launched several schemes and programs for farmers with respect to credit, drought management, digital marketing of agriculture, horticulture, natural resource management, seeds, trade, etc.
- At the State level, State Governments have enacted several policies and schemes for farmers, although most farmers aren’t aware of such initiatives.
The plants and animals considered essential to our survival over the past 11,000 years have come to be worshiped because of their importance. One good example, the cow. But for a long time now, farmers have been disrespected, underappreciated and unfairly treated. It really has gone too far. And if the sheer volume of suicides does not alarm you, the critical future of the agricultural industry should.