Friday, November 18, 2011


Mumbai, India (The Hindu) - The country has seen over a quarter of a million farmers’ suicides between 1995 and 2010. The National Crime Records Bureau’s latest report on ‘Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India’ places the number for 2010 at 15,964. That brings the cumulative 16-year total from 1995 - when the NCRB started recording farm suicide data - to 256,913, the worst-ever recorded wave of suicides of this kind in human history.  Maharashtra posts a dismal picture with over 50,000 farmers killing themselves in the country’s richest State in that period. It also remains the worst State for such deaths for a decade now. Close to two-thirds of all farm suicides have occurred in five States: Maharashtra, Karnataka, A.P., Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.  The data show clearly that the last eight years were much worse than the preceding eight.

On average, the number of farmers killing themselves each year between 2003 and 2010 is 1,825 higher than the numbers that took their lives in the earlier period from 1995 - 2002.  Which is alarming since the total number of farmers is declining significantly. Compared to the 1991 Census, the 2001 Census saw a drop of over seven million in the population of cultivators (main workers). In other words, farm suicides are rising through the period of India’s agrarian crisis, even as the number of farmers is shrinking.  The total number of suicides (all groups, not just farmers) is increasing.  As Dr. Nagaraj has repeatedly pointed out, the suicides appear concentrated in regions of high commercialisation of agriculture and very high peasant debt. Cash crop farmers seemed far more vulnerable to suicide than those growing food crops.

The suicides appear concentrated in regions of high commercialisation of agriculture and very high peasant debt, particularly in the Big 5 States (Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh) where their percentage of all farm suicides has gone up.  Among the causes of the crisis, we have the predatory commercialisation of the countryside;  the withdrawal of bank credit; the shifting of millions from food crop to cash crop cultivation; the corporate hijack of every major sector of agriculture including, and especially, seed.

All the cotton we can spin now is genetically engineered Bt cotton, under the control of one company, Monsanto. ... The takeover of Bt cotton has pushed farmers into such deep debt that they are now committing suicide. We have had 250,000 suicides in the last decade in India. We can’t see that happen with the growers of corn, of tomatoes, of onions, of rice. We have only had experience with one crop - cotton - and we have seen what it does. It devastates Nature. It devastates farmers. It devastates agriculture. We have to defend life. That’s why we have to save seeds. We have to defend our freedom. That’s why we have to save seeds. ... In India, they said that the cotton that had been genetically engineered would provide 1,500kg per acre. But the company, after lying to farmers, pushing them to suicide, had to admit that it is only 500kg per acre.  Our varieties exceed this!

Dr. Vandana Shiva:
Interview by Bhavani Prakash
From Eco Walk the Talk

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