“Don’t become a farmer.” Those were the last words that a farmer in a Telangana village said to his young son, shortly before he killed himself.
Seven-year-old Vamshi’s father came to see him at his school in Rayavaram village of Medak district three weeks ago. He took the child to a tea-stall, bought him a bun and tea, gave him rupees five and told him to study hard. And then emphatically said that he must never be a farmer.
At the school gate on their return, they met Vamshi’s teacher Krishna. “He wished me and asked me ensure Vamshi studies well. Then he said goodbye to his son and went away. Hardly half an hour later, we got the news that he had hanged himself to death,” said Krishna.
In neighbouring Thimmakapally village, Bhulakshmi says she is happy her older son Sriramulu has migrated to Hyderabad, even if she will not get to see him for months now. Her husband, a farmer, drank poison and ended his life in December.
Ravi, her younger son says he too would like to go away, but is unable to do so right now as the family has big loans to repay. “Whatever we grow, we suffer losses. The loans only grow, never reduce,” he says. In his statement of anguish he speaks for many farmers of the area in dire straits.
The recent Economic Survey pointed out that the share of agriculture and allied sectors in the national gross domestic product (GDP) declined from 15.2% during the eleventh Plan to 13.9% in 2013-14. And yet it still accounts for 55% of total employment in the country. Experts say agriculture has become an unsustainable livelihood option.
School teacher Puliraju too says no parent wants his child to be a farmer. ”Even a labourer earns more because of schemes like NREGA, whereas a farmer is eternally indebted. If this perception and trend is not stopped, India will end up with a food shortage problem in the coming years,” he says.