Prime Minister Narendra Modi was very wrong-sighted and adamant for passing the Land-bill until RSS taught him he is driving on wrong side. Pressure from all sides forced Modi to stall the Land Acquisition Bill. Some young youth stood for reservation bill, workers came on the road, army personnel had to protest for one rank one pension, finally all the pressure tactics compelled Modi to function. One more addition to the new revolution is actor Nana Patekar who picked up a mike and read out names of farmer suicide widows. With a gentle touch of his hand on their shoulder, the 64-year-old doled out cheques worth Rs. 15,000 followed by a quick namaste. Helping farmers, Patekar says, is now his life’s mission. In a move that would make him appear to be a misfit in Bollywood, Mr Patekar spends his weekends in Maharashtra’s suicide belts of Marathwada and Vidarbha. He is urging people to come forward and help farmers, he himself began to help them. I am sure this will definitely send a message to the Modi government.
Narendra Modi termed the problem of farmer suicide as “widespread” and “age old” in Parliament this month as he called on law makers to find cross-party solutions to the issue. He has announced a higher relief package for farmers, which is yet to delivered and executed. All announcements remained in his speeches. At the same time, he has directed banks to restructure agricultural loans and also asked insurance companies to proactively settle the claims. He realized that the helping farmers at this time of distress is the government’s responsibility, and also guaranteed the nation, stating that a team of central ministers had been sent to the affected areas to assess the crop damage. But so far no survey is done in many states of India. There is no concrete follow up to what he said. Once the rains are over, the relief is distributed, and the nation’s attention shifts to measuring the loss in crop production and the resulting impact on food inflation, farmers will once again be forgotten. This has been the mockery of farming all these years, and it is deliberate for the cautious neglect and apathy that agriculture continues to bleed.
In the past 20 years, more than 3 lakh farmers have committed suicide, two farmers every hour and I am not sure how many more have to give away their lives. Suicide rates among Indian farmers were a chilling 47 per cent higher than they were for the rest of the population in 2011. In some of the State’s worst hit regions by the agricultural disaster, they were well over 100 per cent higher. The new Census 2011 data reveal a shrinking farmer population. And it is on this reduced base that the farm suicides now occur. Apply the new Census totals to the suicide data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and the results are grim. Sample: A farmer in Andhra Pradesh is three times more likely to commit suicide than anyone else in the country, excluding farmers. The odds are not much better in Maharashtra, which remained the worst State for such suicides across a decade. Nationwide, the farmers’ suicide rate (FSR) was 16.3 per 100,000 farmers in 2011. That’s a lot higher than 11.1, which is the rate for the rest of the population, slightly higher than the FSR of 15.8 in 2001. In Maharashtra, for instance, the rate is 29.1 suicides per 100,000 farmers (‘Main cultivators’). Which is over 160 per cent higher than that for all Indians excluding farmers. In as many as 16 of 22 major States, the farm suicide rate was higher than the rate among the rest of the population (RRP) in 2011.
The data for 2011 are badly skewed, with States like Chhattisgarh declaring ‘zero’ farm suicides that year. The same State reported an increase in total suicides that same year but claimed that not one of these was a farmer. What happens if we take the average number of farm suicides reported by the State in three years before 2011? Then Chhattisgarh’s FSR is more than 350 per cent higher than the rate among the rest of the country’s population. In 2011, they logged over two-thirds of them. Given this attention, even the dismal all-India figures tend to make things seem less terrible than they are. Our Prime Minister and chief ministers are speaking loud on the subject but no one actually is doing anything to address the issue on priority.
Numbers may not reveal the problem. What would be of real interest is cause of suicide. Also this problem should focus on the need to build lakes, ponds, canals and other manmade irrigation systems. Commercial forestry should be permitted which is bound to increase green cover and thereby increase rainfall. Instead of fighting with each other for water and creating a political issue out of it we should focus our energies in conservation of water and on ways to increase green cover. One way is also to utilise manpower in the form of armed forces and NCC to engage them in tree plantation activities on a regular basis.