Wanted: Farmer suicide census
Wanted: Farmer suicide censusindia Updated: Apr 15, 2006 01:52 IST
Even if the government does decide to do something about farmer deaths, it won’t know where to begin as it has no data on the number of farmers who’ve committed suicide so far. Which is why a ‘suicide census’ is a must, says the fourth report of the National Commission on Farmers.
The report puts the number of farmer deaths across six states at 30,000 — but that’s just based on media reports. It suggests that gram sabhas of states gather data for the census.
Vidarbha and Andhra Pradesh are the worst killing fields, it says, adding that over 55 per cent of farm households in Maharashtra are in debt. It warns the states not to ignore the root cause of the suicides and to act fast on its recommendations.
Warning that suicides are “not only persisting but tending to increase and spread over wider area”, the report states that while multiple factors may drive farmers to suicide, their greatest worry is the price they may fetch for their products at harvest time.
Some other factors: high interest debt from private moneylenders, soaring input costs, low output prices, scarcity of funds for non-farm expenditure. The report says that in most high-risk areas, the input dealer is the money lender, scientist, agriculture expert, counselor and buyer all rolled into one.
The report speaks of the lack of a risk mitigation mechanism — saying barely 10 per cent farmers have crop insurance cover — and of an agriculture risk fund. It says the central and state governments should make high quality inputs available at affordable prices at the right time and place.
It says that farming being the largest people’s private sector, the government must take steps to set up a Price Stabilisation Fund. While farm families are crying for additional investment, it bemoans the fact that there has been a drop in government investment.
The report, presented to the Centre on Thursday, recommends that the agricultural year 2006-07 be designated the Year of Agricultural Renewal in which technology, services and public policies be introduced to increase productivity and profitability.