Farmer Suicides – Disturbingly Regular

Farmer suicide rates have been a major cause of concern in the ‘agricultural land’ of India. It is a matter of great agony and infact an ironical turn of times that farmers languish in such a deplorable state .It is a mockery of their contribution to the nation.

Death and devastation stalk the region of Bundelkhand, UP which has  constantly been featuring the appalling news of recurrent suicides and the like in the wake of a severe drought affecting the region, coupled with malpractices and irresponsible behavior on the part of the authorities since quite some time now. Always revered for their courageous role in the freedom struggle, the grim condition today has compelled the farmers to grapple with their basic needs.

Due to extensive damage to the major Kharif crop, the staple source of income for the farming families has been denudated. Resultantly, it has forced them to migrate to neighboring cities where the extremely demanding and harsh conditions of the jobs hamper the sustainability,, further hindering their return to their respective villages. Families live in constant deprivation as the major source of income is completely squashed. One of the most disastrous and flabbergasting examples of the extent of suffering endured by these villagers came to the news when few months back one migrant rickshaw puller in the city from the village had to sell off two kids in the Banda district.

Hunger and malnutrition exist on massive scale in these villages, people thriving on salt and chutney. Such harsh conditions lead to under-nutrition, chronic hunger and even hunger deaths of farmers and their families. A hunger death happens when there is constant deprivation of food to an organism on such scale that even the bare minimum level of nutrients required for the regular survival and metabolism energy is not provided. After a certain period of time when the stored food reserves of the body are also depleted,, the organism can no more remain alive and functional to meet the needs of the body and the energy requirement for any work; as trifle as perhaps as sitting or perhaps even turning sides while sleeping can; result in death..

These compelling conditions have posed a grave threat for the parents who have to live under the constant dread of meeting their family needs and solving their problems. The indebtedness to the banks and moneylenders keeps on increasing rapidly and becomes so heavy now that it becomes impossible for them to pay back their dues. Thus, in the face of such grim conditions, it becomes extensively difficult for them to recover from the recurrent losses of crops. The water crisis heightens the problems of the farmers. Farm animals are sold off by the farmers; sometimes the suffering can be so grim that the farmers are even ready to sell them off for free as that is an better than having to see them die in front of their eyes . Farm animals are sometimes left to fend for themselves as the farmers have little or perhaps nothing to offer.

It is worthwhile to mention that it is not an unprecedented circumstance of droughts impeding a primarily agro based life of the region or so to say, of the many regions which report similar tragedies. There have been times when a certain part of a district gets rains and the other part doesn’t. In these conditions,, it is not impractical or demanding on the part of the residents or the farmers to be expecting certain amount of residual measures adopted by the government to help the people continue with their lives rather than be jeopardized due to nature and its erratic uneven distributions.

Unexpected weather problems as very strong hailstorms, sudden eruption of a land in a certain part of village lead to massive scale destruction of already very meagerly available produces. However,, even after repeated periods of awakening created about the mal effects of disturbing practices such as deforestation and likewise, these ecologically devastating practices are carried on in full swing in the villages. Mining practices have completely denudated the under ground water resources and the water table has receded really low, damaging water aquifiers terribly. Indiscriminate uses of fertilizers and pesticides have also deteriorated the soil effectiveness. Tank and canal systems of water management have long been ignored and overused or at times encroached upon. They remain laden with silts, weeds and thus, are clogged. Also, the irrigation needs of tail end villagers are largely overlooked and the demands of the prosperous farmers and their villages are looked into.

The already prevailing adverse conditions are further accentuated by the misappropriation of the funds allocated for providing the districts with better irrigation facilities. Mass level corruption from the top to bottom levels and across departments have left the villages at the mercy of their own fate. Dams of highly dubious merits have been constructed. In addition,, forest department have claimed lands given to landless people, thereby driving them to take loans of amounts unsuited highly to their capacities of pay backs. Then there is the issue of the unscrupulous authorities. Only Rs 10 Crore of the actually allocated Rs. 25 Crore were invested on NREGS when the funds were already deficient.

The story is not so heavily lopsided. There are opportunities available like community kitchens for the poor, setting up of tube wells and facilities of government loans being available at moderate rates which have been helpful in alleviating the suffering of the poor. However, the dream of bringing respite is farther ahead. Still a lot has to be done and that to at the earliest for anything concrete to materialize.

Arpita Chakroborty

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