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Sent: Wednesday, October 05, 2011 10:44 PM
Subject: [Green-Letters] The Largest Wave of Suicides in History
(Excerpted from an article by P. Sainath in 'The Land' Summer
The Largest Wave of Suicides in
The number of farmers who have committed suicide in India between 1997 and 2007
now stands at a staggering 182,936.
Close to two thirds of these suicides have occurred in five states (India has 28
states...).. Maharastra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh account for just about a third of the country's population but two thirds of farmers' suicides.
The rate at which farmers are killing themselves in these states is far higher
than suicide rates among non-farmers. ...the count of farmers taking their lives is rising even as the numbers of farmers diminishes... As many as 8 million people quit farming
between...1991 and 2001.
These suicide data are official and tend to be huge underestimates... the states
where these (figures) are are gathered leave out thousands from the definiton of 'farmer'...For instance, women farmers (are not counted) ..they are 'just farmers' wives'.....
The spate of farm suicides, the largest sustained wave of such deaths recorded in
history, accompanies India's embrace of the brave new world of neoliberalism. The rate of farmers' suicides has worsened particularly after 2001, by which time India was well down the WTO
..path in agriculture.....in the 5 years after 2001, one farmer took his or her life every 30 minutes on average....
Those who took their lives were deep in debt.....82 percent of all farm
households in Andhra Pradesh were in debt by 2001-2. Those who killed themselves were overwhelmingly cash crop farmers....Suicides are fewer among food crop farmers....The brave new world
philosophy mandated countless millions of Third World farmers, forced to move from food crop cultivation to cash crop....For millions of subsistence farmers in India, this meant much higher
cultivation costs, far greater loans, much higher debt, and being locked into the volatility of global commodity prices....(and) dominated by a handful of multinational corporations.....
With giant seed companies displacing ...far cheaper and hardier traditional
varieties with their own products, a cotton farmer in Monsanto's net would be paying far more for seed than he... ever dreamed he would. Local varieties..were squeezed out with enthusiastic state support.....
The predatory commercialization of the countryside devastated all other aspects
of life for peasant farmer and landless workers. Health costs..skyrocketed..60 percent of income was spent on food...
Farmers spending so much on food?!...millions of small and marginal Indian
farmers are net purchasers of food grain. They cannot produce enough to feed their families and have to work on the fields of others and elsewhere to meet the gap. Having to buy some
of the grain they need on the market, they are profoundly affected by hikes in food prices. Hunger among those who produce food is a very real thing....the average poor family has about 100
kg less today than it did just ten years ago...
Even as incomes of the farmers crashed, so did the price they got for their cash
crops, thanks to obscene subsidies to corporate and rich farmers in the West, from the US to the EU....Life was being made more and more impossible for small farmers...(and) from the late 90s,
the suicides began....