Reinforcing claims of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, a new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge and University College London reveals that the state has high levels of cash crops but lowest levels of farmer suicide rates in India.
The study, published in the journal Globalisation and Health, found that Kerala had the highest male suicide rate in India, and claims that there is a ‘suicide epidemic’ in marginalised areas of Indian agriculture that are at the mercy of global economics.
Modi has often claimed achievements in Gujarat’s agriculture sector that includes low suicide rates of farmers.
Lead author Jonathan Kennedy told HT: “With regard to Gujarat there has obviously been some debate about how big the problem of farmers’ suicides is over the past weeks. Our research does not mean to say that farmers’ suicide is not a problem in Gujarat”.
Tracing a link between proportion of cash crops and suicide rate, the study reveals that Gujarat and to a lesser extent Rajasthan have high levels of cash crops and low suicide rates. Both states have among the lowest proportion of marginal farmers.
The analysis of 18 states found that the three states with the highest suicide rates are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. The study says that suicide rates tend to be higher in states with greater economic disparity.
The study found farmers at highest risk to have three characteristics: Those who grow cash crops such as coffee and cotton; those with ‘marginal’ farms of less than one hectare; and those with debts of Rs. 300 or more.