Important Cause of Farmer Suicide

Another important cause of farmer suicide in both regions has been the heavy indebtedness of farmers. In Punjab, the National Sample Survey Organization has estimated the level of debt as the highest among all Indian states. The Punjab Agricultural University conducted a study estimating the level of debt in the farming sector of the state around Rs 21,064 in 2006, out of which Rs 13,047 came from non-institutional sources (Singh et al. 2014). The Andhra Pradesh analysis of cotton cultivation made by Parthasarathy and Shameem in 1998, referring to the district of Warangal, also highlights the rising indebtedness as the main reason for the hardship of farmers (Mohanty 50).

The indebtedness of Andhra Pradesh and Punjab escalated with the removal of institutional credit. Indeed, the scaling back of state support that followed the Indian economic liberalization importantly contributed to the farmer suicide phenomenon. The ending of institutional credit with the Narasimham Committee on Banking Reforms post-1991 and the redefinitions of priority lending, abruptly reduced credit opportunities for farmers. For instance, in Andhra Pradesh the proportion of bank lending to agriculture fell from 43% in 1998 to 26.7% in 2003, covering only one-third of the credit needs of the farmers. The government, which was supplying inputs at a subsidized price earlier, failed to meet the needs of Andhra Pradesh farmers. Logically enough, farmers were left to finding inputs at a price dependent on market forces. Even more to their disfavor, the lack of institutional credit resulted in the exploitation of “small and marginal farmers” from Andhra Pradesh by moneylenders. These ‘marginal farmers’ with landholdings of less than one hectare, who cultivate capital-intensive cash crops, were most likely to have debts, which created a positive feedback loop of indebtedness, and eventually led to suicide (Reddy 147).

Besides indebtedness and abrupt ending of institutional credit, special emphasis should be placed on the consequences of such a tragic phenomenon. There is here the need to consider what happens to the family after a farmer commits suicide. The act of committing suicide accentuates the agony of the family of the deceased, as shown in Kamuri’s key analysis on women farmers and agricultural laborers of Andhra Pradesh. Women farmers have made a crucial contribution in the agrarian economy of Andhra Pradesh through the process of cultivation of grain crops, doing more than 2/3rd of the total manual work. However, women farmers are adversely affected since they are usually denied land titles, as well as subsidized inputs (Kamuri 59). For those reasons, the situation is worsen on women with regard to farming suicide in Andhra Pradesh. Similarly, Sainath’s study notices that a significant number of women farmers of Andhra Pradesh have also taken their lives alongside their husband farmers (Kamuri 60). Here, I should mention the imprecision of data with regards to women suicides falling into two categories, both the farmers wives and farmers on their own. One potential explanation to such gender differences in suicide rates

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