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India is an agrarian country with around two thirds of its population making a living from the land. Around 66 per cent of rural laborers are dependent on agricultural activities for their income. It is estimated that more than 250,000 Indian farmers killed themselves in past sixteen years. The year 2004 recorded the highest number of farmer suicide which was 18,241. Percentage of farmer suicide is around 11.2% off all suicides in India. Why farmers are killing themselves?
According to studies, farmer suicides might have a variety of competing causes, including monsoon failure, heavy debt loads, governmental policies, mental health concerns, personal problems, and familial issues. Farmers must turn to moneylenders, who might charge up to 20–50% interest on a four-month loan because the government offers them nothing in the way of financial assistance. Many farmers committed suicide by ingesting the poisons that no longer had any effect on their crops.
The government of India took a number of steps to provide debt relief to farmers, improve supply of institutional credit, improve irrigation facilities, and introduce subsidiary income opportunities through horticulture, livestock, dairy and fisheries. Experts and social service personnel were employed to look into the causes of farmers‘ suicide and farm related distress, and to provide farming support services.
But these government relief packages have been ineffective, misdirected and flawed. The money lenders continue to offer loans at high interest rates, while income generating potential of the land the farmer works on has remained low and subject to weather conditions. The government should understand that a more lasting relief to farmer distress can only come from reliable income sources, higher crop yields per hectare, irrigation and other infrastructure security.
A more pro-active role in creating and maintaining reliable irrigation and other agriculture infrastructure is necessary to deal with farmer distress in India.