Farmer Suicides and Agrarian Distress

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“The peasants have started to flex the political muscles that their economic betterment has given them ... They have acquired the capacity to launch the kind of sustained struggle they have. It is going to be difficult to [...] contain them...because they command the vote banks in the countryside to which every party seeks access...A new specter of peasant power is likely to haunt India in coming years.”

Editorial in Times of India, Feb 3 1988, following farmer agitations for higher prices and subsidies in Western Uttar Pradesh

“Agriculture [in India today] is an economic residue that generously accommodates non-achievers resigned to a life of sad satisfaction. The villager is as bloodless as the rural economy is lifeless. From rich to poor, the trend is to leave the village...” Dipankar Gupta, The Vanishing Village

“Rates of growth of agriculture in the last decade have been poor and are a major cause of rural distress. Farming is increasingly becoming an unviable activity.”
Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

India is primarily an agricultural country. More than 60% of its population directly or indirectly depends on agriculture. Agriculture accounts for approximately 33% of India’s GDP. Agriculture in India is often imputed to ‘gambling with monsoon’. Farmers are heavily dependent on the monsoons for their harvest. If the monsoons fail, they leave the farmer under a heap of debt with no harvest, their only source of income. Unable to bear the heavy burden of debt, they see suicide as the de2003-2008. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), there have been nearly 2 lakh farmer suicides since 1997. However, indebtedness is not the only reason for suicides. The suicides are a manifestation of the growing agrarian distress in India. It is clear from the current crisis, that the agrarian interest is marginalized in the...
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