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INDIAN FARMS BECOMING KILLING FIELDS

TIME TO REORGANIZE ABOUT ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINTS AND


CAPACITY OF NATURAL RESOURCES TO REGNERATE IN INDIA
Marginal Land Holdings, their neglect of potential benefits of ecological footprints, their
carrying capacity to natural-resource-regeneration, their tendency towards growing higher
proportion of cash-crops, helplessness for greater indebtedness, slowly budding neo-liberal
model of capitalism, distinct aggregate-level institutional changes pursuant to liberalization of
Indian economy, thereafter whimsical public investment alterations, input subsidies, organized
credit and external trade have led to escalation of highly volatile cost of production, reducing
the price of produce in completive market thereby becoming the major cause resulting in
colossal rate of farmers suicide. This is the high time, should we not rethink about better
alternatives in the backdrop of present vicious circumstances ? ....A K Singh IFS

46 farmers commit suicide every day in India.


Every year 17,000 farmers on an average are
reported to have been killing themselves. Since
1995 and almost more than 3 Lakhs farmers
have committed suicide till date and more than
1 crore die per year in India from malnutrition,
diseases and other non farming vocations
accumulating to about 17 crores since then.
Poor rate of returns on agricultural production
and lack of non farm sector opportunities have
heightened the perils of farmers in terms of
yield of cultivation, in the form of constantly
increasing price rise, in the dearth of quality
input, in deficiency of modern tools and
technology and in exploitative credit delivery.
Monsoon failures, genetically modified crops,
marginal land holdings, land-reforms-deficit,
high debt burden, governmental policies, health
and hygiene of life and livestock, middle man
conflicts and family problems all these add to
the gradually growing suicides by the one of
largest farmers community in the world.
Higher rate of land taxes, colonial
protection of money landers, exploitative
British agrarian regime had been frustrating
amid frequent occurrence of droughts,
famines and deprivations which used to cause
widespread revolt, death and starvation of
farmers. P Sainath started reporting about
farmers suicides from 1990 onwards quoting
the figures from National Crime Bureau,
Ministry of Home Affairs which publish
suicides statistics for India. Prof K Nagaraj of
Madras Institute of Development in his paper

2012 Farmers Suicides In India claims there


are clear trends either towards decline in
cultivation, and towards an increase in
marginalization of cultivation as an activity
which has led to deep agrarian crisis that the
country has witnessed. Survey of 2003
reported that as many as 40% of farmers did
not like farming and they were of the opinion

that given a choice they would take up some


other non farming career, finding it
unprofitable, risky and suicidal.
A research study of Jonathan Kennedy and
Lawrence King from Globalization and Health
2014, on the political economy of farmers
suicides in India concludes that there had been
a significant increase in the percentage of
marginal farmers in India who started cash
crop production and remained indebted which
led to enhanced farmers suicides. Four states
of Kerala, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and

Karnataka had some of the highest proportions


of marginal farmers with higher rate of
suicidal rates whereas Punjab, Gujarat and
Rajasthan had both low proportion of marginal
farmers and among the lower rates of suicides.
They further suggest that despite more than six
decades of trying, the majority of Indian states
have been unable to enact meaningful land
reforms, largely due to the strength of rural
elites at the local level. Thus while
redistribution of land is desirable, it has
perhaps not been realistic one, moreover the
states intervention to stabilize the price of cash
crops and relieving of indebted farmers is not
adequately effective enough at reducing
suicides among the farmers in India.
In an another study by Srijit Mishra- Farmers
Suicides and Agrarian Crisis in India he
opines that most common reason is
indebtedness of farmers who were harassed for
repayment of loan as the creditors insisted on
immediate repayment on loans which quite
often resort to sale of their assets. Reason for
which can be attributed to the crop failure due
to loss in sowing of the seeds with delay in
rainfall, some times untimely excessive rains
during harvest which leads to reduction of
yield and price shock simultaneously with glut
in the market causing widespread death and
destruction among the Indian peasantry.
Wherever the crop insurance covered food
grains and major cash crops that came under
regional level had a difficulty to operate with
larger number of individuals. The regions that
have greater need for insurance would have
lesser chances of being compensated. At times
farmer is not aware that he is insured because
the premiums are directly deducted from their
crop loans.
In his one of the article-Lets bake in India
first in Times of India Chetan Bhagat cries
that we have failed the farmers so much that
they survive at natures mercy, we have kept
the Indian farmers poorer due to our fakesocialist, ill conceived policies and devious
execution. If we really cared about our
farmers, we would give them access to the

world and allow them to benefit from


globalization. Why the campaign bake in India
can not be a revolution ushering in a
manufacturing transformation ? He further
yells, the irony is that with more than half a
population involved in farming, why cant we
provide for the kitchens of the entire world ?
Why do we see our farmers bonded labors,
locked into producing only for India ? Why do
we
hate
agricultural
multi
national
corporations so much that we dont let them
get near our farmers ? Why do we allow
Indian middlemen and crooks to suffocate the
farmers and feel that a global corporate sector
will be their worst enemy ?
Though no empirical data could establish the
relation ship between genetically modified Bt
cotton crops and the rising trends of farmers
suicide in India in one of the study by Gilbert
2013 article published in Nature magazine, yet
the Anti-biotech activists in India repeat their
claim that there are evidences of link between
Bt cotton and farmers suicides, a claim that is
perpetuated by mass media.
India is the country situated in one the
subtropical region on globe where per unit
capita productivity of land is proved to be
highest in the world. Farmers keep exploring
the income only from their cultivation, which
needed close monitoring and dependence
ranging from fertilizer, seeds, water irrigation,
use of tools and technology, adequate power
supply, credit-financing to multiple other agro
climatic favorable factors including support
from the various stake holders. In most of the
cases ecological foot prints,-the requirement of
the natural capital from the land remains
untapped whereas there is an immense
ecological capacity to regenerate. Farmers are
only reaping the fraction of it. Economic value
of natural capital of their small piece of
agricultural land and the worth of ecosystem
services which is naturally harnessed but not
reaped by farmers largely remain unknown
along with the nutrient cycling which his land
provides to the maximum carrying capacity of
sustainable agriculture.

In harvesting seasonal fast growing short term


cash crops the options for growing sea food,
wild fruits, spices, condiments and medicines
remain largely untouched despite the natural
availability of plenty of raw materials like
firewood, organic matter, fodder and natural
manures, hydro power, biomass fuel together
with availability of moisture and water in the
vicinity of farmers agricultural land. Potential
productivity in terms of handicrafts, wooden

jewelry, pets, decorations and souvenirs like


orchids, butterfly, aquarium, fish and shells
together with agricultural cultivation is hardly
contemplated by our farmers. Larger wide
spectrum of carbon sequestration, the benefit
arising out of it together with climate
regulation,
waste
decomposition
and
purification of water are the ecosystems
services which are rendered by the nature free
of cost are largely remain indistinct and
incomprehensible. Although environmental
awareness is rapidly improving in our
contemporary world, ecosystem capital and its
natural flow are still poorly understood in
larger part of the north India and the threats
continue to impose, and we suffer from the so
called tragedy of commons.
In
knowledgeable society of Kerala surrounding
ecosystem services of estuarine and coastal
ecosystem are being harnessed on longer term
basis without having to do any extra effort to
gather them, together with coconut, arecanut
orchards, spices and condiments, medicines
and bio-fuels, beaches, boating, backwater
sports rendering ecotourism services and

economically
benefiting
from
natural
ecosystems which in the due course of time
become redundant as we conform to part of
natural ecosystems. Now the question arises as
to how to convince the farmers and their
leaders about the potential benefit which arise
out of the natural resource development in the
surroundings of his field ? How to regenerate
the agriculture land with its maximum carrying
capacity on a sustainable basis taking into
account the diversified factors which if
enhanced create immense income and wealth
generation for the poor farmers who have been
committing suicide depending upon the small
piece of land only for cash crop cultivation ?
A K Singh is the member of Indian Forest Service
working in the Ministry of Forest and
Ecology and Environment Government of
Karnataka looking after restoration of
environment in mining affected areas.
Views portrayed here are personal and
opinionated.
Contact
9481180956,
aksinghifs@gmail.com

References:
1. P. Sainath: 10 Farmers a Day. The Death Toll In
Indian Agriculure.
2. G C Daily 1997 Natures Services: Societal
Dependence on Natural Ecosystems, Washington.
3. Marsh G P 1864 Man and Nature New York.
4. Lewis , Alig 2009, Empirical Methods for
Modelling Landscape Change, Ecosystem Services and
Bio-Diversity
5. Gibson,Williums and E Ostrom 2005, Local
Management and Better Forests World Development
6. Pretty J 2003, Social Capital and Collective
Management of Natural Resources
7. Chetan Bhagat, Lets Bake in India first. Open up
the agriculture sector to help our farmers and economy.
8. National Crime Records Bureau: Accidental
Deaths and Suicides in India, 1997-20006, Ministry of
Home Affairs, Government of India.
9. Durkheim Emile 1979 Suicide: A Study in
Sociology, London and Henley.
10. Patel, Vijaykumar, Thakur, Gururaj & Jha: Suicide
Mortality in India: A national survey 2012
11. Directorate of Economics and Statistics. Ministry
of Agriculture Land Use Statistics at a Glance.
12. Srijit Mishra : Risks, Farmers Suicides and
Agrarian Crisis in India, Is there a way out ?