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Suicides among farm workers rose 18% in 2020:

GS Paper 3:

Topics Covered: Agriculture related issues.

 

Context:

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has released a report on Suicides among farm workers.

 

Highlights:

  1. The number of agricultural labourers who died by suicide in 2020 was 18% higher than the previous year.
  2. Overall, 10,677 people engaged in the farm sector died by suicide in 2020.
  3. However, suicides among landowning farmers dropped slightly during the pandemic year.
  4. Landless agricultural labourers, who did not benefit from income support schemes such as PM Kisan, may have faced higher levels of distress during the pandemic.
  5. The worst among the States continues to be Maharashtra, with 4,006 suicides in the farm sector, including a 15% increase in farm worker suicides.
  6. Other States with a poor record include Karnataka (2016), Andhra Pradesh (889) and Madhya Pradesh (735). Karnataka saw a dismal 43% increase in the number of farm worker suicides in 2020.

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Issues faced by agriculture sector:

Despite record production of certain major agricultural produce and rise in exports, India’s farm sector faces some underlying challenges such as low crop yield, monsoon dependency, low share of exports in global markets, lag in farm mechanisation, burden of loans and farmer suicides. All this puts a load on the already struggling industry, limiting its growth.

 

Causes of Farmers Suicides:

There is no consensus on what the main causes might be but studies show suicide victims are motivated by more than one cause however the primer reasons being the inability to repay loans.

  • Major causes reportedly are bankruptcy/indebtedness, problems in the families, crop failure, illness and alcohol/substance abuse.
  • Disguised unemployment on farms remains high. Fragmentation of land holdings has left far too many farmers with farms that are too small to be remunerative.
  • Low access to credit, irrigation and technology worsens their ability to make a comfortable living. A tenth of our farmers are landless.
  • They use rented land, but the inadequacies of land-leasing mechanisms make it difficult for them to raise production.
  • Most of the suicides have occurred in areas of cash crops like cotton and sugarcane, which is high input, high output gambling, not based on the principle of sustained and resilient high yield.

 

Challenges ahead:

  1. Irrigation reaches less than half of India’s overall farmland, a picture that has not changed much over the past decade, and more than 60% of our farmers are susceptible to rainfall anomalies.
  2. Rain-fed farming yields are typically less than half those of irrigated farmland.
  3. Though India has caught up with global levels of fertilizer use, this is neither efficient nor environmentally sustainable. Both add to the cost of cultivation.
  4. Research on high-yielding crops has plateaued after an initial burst during the Green Revolution and farmers have to resort to patented seeds to draw more out of their scanty acres.
  5. Initiatives like the eNAM are helping integrate the farmers’ produce directly with the market, however, cutting the role of intermediaries is still lagging behind.

 

Insta Curious:

Do you know about the Swaminathan Commission? What were its objectives? What were its recommendations? Reference: read this.

Sources: the Hindu.