ArticlePDF Available

Abstract

A study in two districts recording high numbers of farmer suicide-Yavatmal in Maharashtra and Sangrur in Punjab-explores the tipping point for this desperate act and finds that in addition to the shame of indebtedness, especially when borrowing from members of the family, several other factors contribute to farmer suicides. These include faulty cropping patterns, rising input costs, aspirational consumption, and the absence of non-farm sources of income.
SPECIAL ARTICLE
Economic & Political Weekly EPW MAY 27, 2017 vol liI no 21 77
Lives in Debt
Narratives of Agrarian Distress and Farmer Suicides
Ajay Dandekar, Sreedeep Bhattacharya
Ajay Dandekar (ajay.dandekar@snu.edu.in) is a professor at the School
of Humanities and Social Sciences, Shiv Nadar University. Sreedeep
Bhattacharya (sb514@snu.edu.in) is a fellow at the Centre of Public
Affairs and Critical Theory, Shiv Nadar University.
A study in two districts recording high numbers of
farmer suicide—Yavatmal in Maharashtra and Sangrur
in Punjab—explores the tipping point for this desperate
act and finds that in addition to the shame of
indebtedness, especially when borrowing from
members of the family, several other factors contribute
to farmer suicides. These include faulty cropping
patterns, rising input costs, aspirational consumption,
and the absence of non-farm sources of income.
In this paper, we situate farmer suicides in the larger con-
text of the agrarian crisis in India, based on our eldwork
in Maharashtra and Punjab.1 In the fi rst section, we outline
the overall context of India’s agriculture, as ascertained from
various government reports and surveys. In the subsequent
sections, we present observations from the fi eldwork conduct-
ed in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, and Sangrur district of
Punjab, and analyse the preconceived dissimilarities and
observed similarities in these two apparently diverse zones.
Drawing connections between farmer suicides, landholding
patterns and outstanding debt, our narrative approach empha-
sises the kinship dimension of indebtedness, which creates a
greater social and moral obligation to repay loans that are
borrowed from relatives. While highlighting the shame of
indebtedness, we argue that there are multiple factors that
conjointly account for such tragedies, including faulty crop-
ping patterns, rising input costs, nature of borrowings and
informal sources of credit, as well as the aspirational consu mption
of farmers who often borrow money for non-agricultural pur-
poses. As formal credit sources are not equal to the task of
serving farmers, a large number of individuals who were not
traditionally associated with lending have entered the money-
lending business.
The concluding section recommends reformative measures
to encourage an integrated policy framework on agrarian mat-
ters, particularly cropping patterns and institutional credit
disbursal systems.
1 The Context: S igns of Distress
A striking peculiarity of agriculture in India is the continuing
proliferation of small landholdings. The percentage of land
owned by marginal farmers has gone up drastically, from 38%
in 1953–54 to 70% in 2003, and over 80% of all landholdings
are small or marginal (Ministry of Agriculture 2014). Also, the
contribution of the agricultural sector to India’s economy has
dropped sharply. Today, it accounts for merely 13.7% of gross
domestic product (GDP), compared to almost 47% at the dawn
of independence. The decrease in the contribution of agricul-
ture to GDP, however, has not been accompanied by a match-
ing reduction in the share of agriculture in employment.
Investment in Indian agriculture has been declining for sever-
al years. Investment in agriculture as a percentage of gross
domestic produce reduced from 1.91% in 1991 to 1.31% by 2004
(Jha and Negre 2007). The more worrying factor, of course, is
the trend of gross capital formation in the agriculture sector.
SPECIAL ARTICLE
MAY 27, 2017 vol liI no 21 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
78
Various estimates indicate that gross capital formation in agri-
culture has remained below 3% over the last 15 years.
Though the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Deve-
lopment (NABARD 2013) report indicated a tenfold increase in
the fl ow of formal credit from 200001 to 201112, it was
insuffi cient to rule out the predominance of non-institutional
sources of credit. In addition, commercial banks prefer “deep-
ening” credit over “widening” it, making formal credit more
accessible to farmers with larger landholdings. This trend was
confi rmed by another report, which suggested that the better-
off farming households with large landholdings have greater
access to i nstitutional cre dit t han others (NSSO 2014a).
Estimates put the number of indebted agricultural house-
holds in the country at 52%. The average outstanding loan per
agricultural household is `47,000, and the proportion of in-
debted households in both Maharashtra (57%) and Punjab
(53%) is higher than the national average of 52% (NSSO 2014a).
The average outstanding loan in India has increased 3.5 times,
from `12,585 in 2002 to `47,000 in 2012, with the growth per-
centage of the average outstanding amount highest amongst
marginal farmers, where it rose from `6,121 in 2002 to `31,100
in 2012 (NSS0 2003, 2014b).
Farmer suicides in India need to be situated in this distress-
ing context. Latest estimates indicate that almost 2,70,000
farmers have committed suicide over the last one-and-a-half
decades. In 2014 alone, 12,360 farmers committed suicide
2
(NCRB 2014). It is in this context that we present our year-long
eldwork on the situation of the cultivators on the ground in
Yavatmal and Sangrur districts. The choice of these two dis-
tricts as elds of study was infl uenced by the high rate of sui-
cide in both. Yavatmal is a rain-fed agricult ural zone, part of a
mono-crop farming zone cultivating BT cotton, soybean or tur.
Sangrur grows three or more crops in a year—mostly rice and
wheat—at the cost of massive depletion of underground water
in the erstwhile “green revolution” areas. These two agro
zones, Yavatmal and Sangrur, display major differences in a
number of areas such as land rents (`3,000`5000 per acre in
Yavat mal a nd `30,000–`50,000 per acre in Sangrur), modes
of irrigation, rates of interest on credit from informal sources,
crop assurance, risk involved in cultivation, and linkages
between farmers and procurers. Despite these differences, the
manifestations of the crisis in these two areas have striking
similarities.
2 Farmer Suici des: Yavatmal and Sangru r
In 2014, 2,568 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra, the
highest amongst all states; the count was 3,146 in 2013. Of the
2,568 farmers who committed suicide in 2014, 1,052 cases were
due to farming-related issues—predominantly crop failure—
and 475 were due to illness (NCRB 2013, 2014). This may also be
indicative of how health costs aggravate the farmers’ loan bur-
den. Therefore, the tipping point for farmer suicides need not
always be solely farm-related.
Of the 2,678 far mer su icides i n Yavat mal distri ct from 2001–
13 (Table 1), 1,211 were in the fi ve talukas of Yav atm al, Kalapu r,
Ghatanji, Ralegaon and Kalamb.
From January to May 2015, 139 farm-
ers had commi tted suicide, according
to offi cial fi gures. This does not in-
clude farmers who committed sui-
cide but cultivated rented land or
took loans for farming and had hefty
land rents to pay.3 However, only
35% of the farmers who committed
suicide were considered eligible for
state compensation.
The maximum number of suicides
occurred in 2006 and 2007 (Figure 1).
Repeated crop failure in the preced-
ing years had resulted in increasing
outstanding debts, inability to repay,
loss of creditworthiness and further
stress. This accounts for the huge
increase in farmer suicides from 2007 to 2011. Poor harvest
and farmer suicide follow each other with alarming regularity.
The number of suicides in Yavatmal district peaked from
August to October and November to January (Figure 2). Dis-
trict data also record the highest number of suicides in the
month of September from 2001 to 2013. This is because the
cotton croppi ng cyc le ge ne rally re qu ires cot ton to be harvested
between October and January. A poor harvest or unexpected
crop damage would often lead to a crisis, resulting in such
tragedies.
Table 1: Number of Farmer
Sui cid es in Yavat mal D ist ric t
(2001–13)
Year No of Suicides in Yavatmal
2001 17
2002 39
2003 51
2004 139
2005 163
2006 351
2007 353
2008 301
2009 317
2010 316
2011 243
2012 240
2013 157
Total 2,678
Source: Farmer s’ suicide lis t,
Yavatmal, 2001–13 (district records).
Fig ure 1: Year -wis e Fre que ncy of Su ici des in Yav atma l 20 01–13
Source: Farme rs’ Suicide L ist, Yavatmal, 20 01–13, from the DMO collec ted during f ieldwork .
X axis: Years; Y ax is: Number of suic ides.
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
350
400
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
655
606
585
840
Fig ure 2 : Fre quen cy o f Far mer S uic ide i n Clu ste r of Fo ur M onth s in Ya vat mal
Source: Farme rs’ Suicide L ist, Yavatmal, 20 01–13, from the DMO collec ted during f ieldwork .
X axis: Years; Y ax is: Number of suic ides.
Number of Suicide
November to February to May to August to
January April J uly Octobe r
SPECIAL ARTICLE
Economic & Political Weekly EPW MAY 27, 2017 vol liI no 21 79
Survey data4 confi rm that farmers with small and marginal
landholdings and no alternative source of income were more
likely to commit suicide (Figure 3) as they lacked non-farm
sources of income-generation. This inability to access non-
farm employment suggests that it is not only agricultural dis-
tress but the absence of a non-rural (urban) occupational back-
up that can often constitute the tipping point.
In Sangrur district, 2,213 farmers have committed suicide
from 1995 to 2015.5 The single village of Kishangarh in Malerkotla
tehsil in Sangrur recorded a shocking 79 cases of farmer sui-
cide from 1980 to 2015. Kulrian, with 31 cases of farmer sui-
cide, and Bahadurpur (Bareta) with 20 cases (the distance bet-
ween Kulrian and Bahadurpur is less t han 10 km) also record-
ed h igh numbers of farmer suicide. An extensive data set com-
prising more than 2,000 suicide-affected families (compiled
for blocks Moonak, Lehragaga and Budhlada in Sangrur dis-
trict from 1988 to 2015) revealed an excessive outstanding
loan amount of `2 lakh to `2.5 lakh per household. The village-
wise list of suicides also confi rmed that those affected by sui-
cide were invariably indebted. Select case studies from the
eld support the claim that they were also indebted to arthis
(intermediaries)6 and had, in fact, exhausted all avenues to
draw from banks.7
As in Yavatmal, in Sangrur as well the impact of debt is
severest amongst small and marginal farmers (Figure 4), as
this comment by a farmer with a large landholding suggests:
Those who take land on lease (theka pe lena) face greater risk than
those who own the land. Last time I gave my land on lease to someone
for `53,000. There was a crop failure due to heavy rain, however, and
he could get only 1.5 quintals per acre. He sold the crop at `1,800 per
quintal. That means he could not even recover his rent. That is why he
did not take our land on lease this year.8
Sangrur reports a number of suicides amongst those who
take land on lease and are therefore listed as landless. Not
owning the land makes it even more dif cult for poor farmers
to get bank loans.
The majority of the suicides in Sangrur occurred from May
to October (Figure 5). High rates of suicide in this period may
be attributed to the relatively poor harvest of kharif crops and
increase in outstanding debt. The pressure to repay intensifi es
in such a scenario, and combined with the inability to get more
credit for future farming operations, causes higher stress levels.
The inability to begin sowing for the next season due to a dip
in creditworthiness leads to a larger number of suicides in the
subsequent months.
3 Factors Cau sing Distress
3.1 Shame of Debt
Indebtedness and the inability to repay loans cause loss of face
and sometimes, public ridicule. In Yavatmal, we found a major
reliance on family members for credit. The dependency on
credit from the family intensifi es if other avenues of borrowing,
including moneylenders, have been tried and exhausted. The
shame associated with one’s inability to repay is immense in
village society and it is all the more acute if money is borrowed
from relatives. Banks and moneylenders do not necessarily
chase after borrowers for repayment, but families affected by
suicide were most burdened by the obligation to repay rela-
tives under any circumstances.
Offering a unique interpretation of the obligatory nature of
repayment within the family and the shame and social humili-
ation associated with the inability to repay, particularly when
money is borrowed from the wife’s side of the family, Gupta
(2015) argued,
Unlike north India, Maharashtrian farmers often practice cross-cousin
marriage. This brings about a greater degree of equality between
bride-givers and bride-takers than the ‘kanyadaan’-led mar riage rela-
tions in north India ... [T]he sense of shame is greater when taking a
loan from an equal. Th ings get compounded if t he man ca nnot ret urn
Source: Sur vey by Vandan a Foundatio n.
X axis: Lan dholding area i n acres; Y axis: Nu mber of suicid es.
Figure 3: Relationship between Landholding and Farmer Suicide
in Yavatmal
0 3 6 9 12 15 18 21 24 27 3 0 33 36 39 42
Landhol ding (in acres)
Histogr am of Landhold ing (in acres)
100
75
50
25
0
Landhol ding (in acres) (Coun t)
Figure 4: Relationship between Landholding and Farmer Suicides in Real
Numbers in Sangrur
Source: Vil lage-wise L ist of Rural Sui cide Cases p ertainin g district S angrur, 1988 to
November 2015. X axis : Landholdi ng area in acres; Y a xis: Number of su icides
1,20 0
1,000
800
600
400
200
0
Number of Suicides
No Land 0 to 2.5 acre 2.5 to 5 acre 5 to 10 acre More than
10 acre
Figure 5: Freq uency of Farme r Suicides as p er Cluster of Th ree Months
in Sangrur
Source: Vil lage-wise L ist of Rural Sui cide Cases p ertainin g to distric t Sangrur 1988 to
November 2015. X axi s: Cluster of mo nths; Y axis: Num ber of suicide s
November–January Februar y–April May–July August–October
378
434
714
596
SPECIAL ARTICLE
MAY 27, 2017 vol liI no 21 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
80
the amount back on time. He now looks like a f ugitive in family gath-
erings, as in marriages, and must duck out of sight [if the] wife’s kin
are around. His north Indian counterpar t in UP or Bihar has no such
qualms. A s kanyadaan ordains the girl’s family to be inferior to t he
boy’s, the m an takes, as his r ight, both dowry a nd periodical gi fts from
his wife’s parents, or brothers.9
However, it would be wrong to presume that suicide brings
relief or comes as a solution to the problem of outstanding
debt. The loan is not waived after the suicide and the ability to
repay diminishes further after a suicide in the family. As a
local bank manager in Yavatmal said, “Even if the person com-
mits suicide, the loan remains. Suicide does not solve the prob-
lem. The loan will be transferred to the person in whose name
the land gets transferred.
Thus, the problem intensifi es after the suicide as the family is
often left without an earning member and the debt remains un-
paid even after the unfortunate death, creating the possibi lity
of further suicides. For example, in one of the families in San-
grur, three brothers from the same family took their lives, with
the wives of the deceased farmers identifying debt as the cause
of their husband’s suicide. The three brothers had four acres of
land between them. The families are now left with less than
half an acre each. Each of the brothers had outstanding loans of
`4 lakh–`5 lakh. They were compelled to sell off the land to re-
pay loans, particularly to the arthis. They had to take further
loans to meet household expenditure. Their wives were not
aware of the loan amounts, which is often the case while the
husband is alive. Interestingly, contrary to rumours, creditors
do not necessarily come knocking on the doors of debtors, fear-
ing implication in the suicide. They just stop giving further
loans to the family and this news is quickly transmitted to all
informal credit operators. The quiet withdrawal of loans has an
equally devastating effect on the indebted farmer’s family.
3.2 Flawe d Croppin g Pattern
In Sangrur and Yavatmal, where paddy and cotton respectively
are grown, the crop choice is not harmonious with the agro-
climatic features of the region.
Dryland farming on small landholdings in adverse condi-
tions is always a risky proposition. This risk severely reduces a
farmer’s ability to repay and remain eligible for fresh loans.
Repeated crop failure emerges as a recurring stress factor that
has pushed farmers to the brink over the past decade in Yavat-
mal. Lack of timely rainfall after the sowing operation, exces-
sive rainfall after sowing, or hailstorms before harvest could
be fatal to the crop. Farmers from Johmohda village voiced
their concerns about the uncertainty and irregularity of rain-
fall and the subsequent losses:
In the last three years, we have not managed to pay the loan due to
crop failure. If in between there is a marriage in the family, we hit
rock bottom. We are entirely dependent on rainfall, since we have no
irrigation facilit y. If nature is benevolent, we still manage something.
Last year, we thought that the crop was good, but it rained so heavily
that the crop was damaged.
Most of the cases from the fi eld support the fact that lack of
timely rainfall has caused crop failures over the years.10 There
seems to be a direct and positive correlation between yield of
BT cotton and rainfall in the right amount and at the right
time. Hence, the cultivation of BT cotton in an area entirely
dependent on unpredictable rainfall with no alternative source
of irrigation cannot possibly be the appropriate crop choice.
The monsoon was already delayed in 2015, when this fi eld-
work was conducted. One could sense the growing anxiety
amongst farmers desperately waiting for the fi rst showers to
begin sowing operations. While revisiting the fi eld a month
after sowing following the fi rst spells of monsoon rains, the
farmers were found to be waiting for the next round of show-
ers, which are required soon after sowing. A further delay in-
variably meant opting for a second or third sowing, causing
additional expenditure on seeds. Given these circumstances,
one needs to question the viability of growing BT cotton in
these regions that are so dependent on a fi ne balance between
timely rainfall and the right amount of rainfall. It is not merely
the yield of the crop that is affected by poor or excessive rain-
fall. The farmer is also hurt due to increases in the cost of pro-
duction. Anxiety caused by delayed rainfall leads to either pre-
mature sowing or repeated sowing.
Faulty cropping patterns are not limited to the choice of BT
cotton in Yavatmal, but also its cultivation at the cost of indig-
enous mixed cropping. Farmers used to grow jowar and pulses,
which also met domestic needs. The predominance of cotton
farming in the last two decades has wiped out the more sus-
tainable and healthier mixed cropping patterns necessary for
fodder and soil rejuvenation.
If the cultivation of BT cotton is not suited to Yavatmal, rice
cultivation is ecologically unsustainable in Sangrur. Diversifi ca-
tion of agriculture away from wheat and paddy is necessary for
improving soil fertility and maintaining an ecological balance.
Rice cultivation has had an adverse impact on groundwater, as
2,000–4,000 litres of water are required to produce one kilo of
rice.11 Falling water tables threaten farmers across the state,
particularly those who operate on smaller landholdings, as the
cost of boring a well is directly proportional to the depth of the
well and not the size of land. With the water table sinking each
year, a farmer invariably has to bear the huge recurring costs of
digging deeper without the assurance that the new depth at
which water is available today will be sustainable in the near
future.
The Johl Committee Report (1986) submitted to the Govern-
ment of Punjab had raised the alarm on the existing cropping
pattern in Punjab. Thirty years ago, the committee had identi-
ed paddy as a problem crop and suggested shifting at least
20% of the area under paddy and wheat cultivation to other
crops. The re-intervention of the committee (Johl 2002) em-
phasised that
The state should aim at replacing at least one million hectares of land
under wheat-rice rotation with other crops, which consume less wa-
ter, are compatible ecologically and are in demand … The target of
shifti ng o ne m illion hec tare s of land f rom rice-wheat rot ation to other
crops can be achieved at a cost of `1,280 crore only by providing com-
pensation to t he farmers for not grow ing rice and wheat and shifting
the area to other crops under a Crop Adjustment Programme.
SPECIAL ARTICLE
Economic & Political Weekly EPW MAY 27, 2017 vol liI no 21 81
3.3 Rising I nput Costs
All farmers in both regions complained about rising input prices
(seed, water, electricity, fertiliser, pesticide and land rent) and
the absence of a commensurate increase in minimum support
price (MSP). Box 1 summarises the cost and price equation as
understood from the cultivators in Yavatmal.
It is quite clear that a BT cotton f armer is barely able to meet
the cost of production, let alone generate a profi t suffi cient to
sustain the household. Traders and middlemen make profi ts at
the cost of farmers who are not able to store the harvest and
wait for the right price. Farmers from Antargaon village in
Yavatmal question the instability of prices and demand an
enhancement of the loan amount from formal credit sources
so that they can cover input costs and make farming viable:
If the price of seeds, fertiliser and pesticides remains the same, why
should the selling price of the product come down? While we sold, the
prices were low, but after we sold, the prices have gone up. So who has
made t his money? Hence, why should the f armer not commit suicide?
We demand that the government come up with a price every season
and that nobody should buy below that price. On one hand, the gov-
ernment is saying not to borrow from the moneylenders and on the
other, it is not willing to give more than `30,000 per hectare. When
our land valuation per acre is `3–4 lakh, why should t hey give us only
`12,000 per acre as crop loan?
The story of increasing input prices plays out differently in
Sangrur. Farming practices, including cash renting of land, labour
costs, tractors, deep tube wells, fuel, seeds, animal feed, harvest-
ers, combines, chemical fertilisers, insecticides and weedicides,
have increased the cost of production. If the MSP of paddy has
increased by 1.8% annually in the last decade, the cost of produc-
tion has gone up by 8% per annum (Pattanaik et al 2008). The
increase in cost of production is also attributed to the additional
cost of irrigation to support paddy cultivation and depletion of
groundwater resources due to aggressive boring.
As Key Indicators of Situation of Agricultural Households in
India (NSSO 2014a) clearly shows, the total monthly household
expense (including on agriculture) per agricultural household
in Punjab (`11,768) is way above the national average (`2,192).
In all other categories of expenditure (barring expenditure on
animals)—such as seeds, fertilisers, chemicals, repair and mainte-
nance of machinery, and labour—Punjab ranks substantially high-
er than all other Indian states and also higher than the national
average. Summarising the increase in input costs, an arthi stated:
The expenditures have increased so much. They have to spray pesti-
cides two or three times a season. Spraying pesticide on one acre of
land costs around `1,500 to `2,000. The cost of a DAP [di-am moni-
um phosphate] packet was `470 three to four years ago. Now it costs
`1,200. A urea packet was priced at around `150. Now it costs `300.
Three years ago, farmers used to pay only `50 a day for a labourer, but
now they have to pay more than `300.
It is not only input costs that have gone up substantially but
also land lease rates. Pattanaik et al’s (2008) study of 60 blocks
and 420 villages across Punjab reveals that Sangrur has the
highest land lease rates (per acre) compared to any other dis-
trict, and land leased at `15,000 per acre per year constituted
close to 70% of the total cultivable land in Sangrur in 2006. As
observed during fi eldwork in 2015, the land lease rate went up
to as much as `50,000 per acre (per year), increasing the cost
of cultivation manifold. The bank manager of the local Punjab
National Bank confi rmed the prevalence of high land lease rates:
“Land rent is as high as `45,000–`52,000 per acre per year. The
input cost for paddy is close to `25,000 per acre for one season,
against which a farmer may get a price of `50,000–`60,000.”
Shergill (1998) studied rural indebtedness and the escalat-
ing costs of inputs in Punjab to argue that very little surplus is
left with farmers to spend or repay outstanding loans. Even
though rice is one of the few crops to enjoy an MSP, price fl uc-
tuation has nullifi ed the advantages of the support price assur-
ances. Although the support price should ideally be deter-
mined by taking into account the increase in input prices and
other expenses, there seems to be a mismatch, as is evident
from this statement by an affected farmer:
Even if the y ield remains the same, the price fl uctuates. It could be
anything between `1,800 and `5,000 a quintal. There are different
rates for different kinds of paddy. Only certain varieties enjoy an MSP.
If they manage to get a good rate, it prompts the farmer to take more
land on rent the next season. This is a risky proposition since there is
no price assurance. If the price s fall in the next season, it is absolutely
devastating for the farmer who has taken t he risk.
Hi gh l and lea se r ates i n Pun jab ha ve e ncour age d ma ny l and -
owning farmers to rent out their landholdings fully or partial-
ly to gene rate an i nc ome w ithout the bu rden of farm ing opera-
tions. It also suits those who have already moved out or are in-
tending to move out of farming and towards non-farm sources
of income-generation even while enjoying the benefi ts of re-
turns from land. During an interview on the issue of land rent,
Shergill stated:
Fifty percent of the farmers who rent out land are absentee landlords
who either do not engage in farming or live in urban areas. Big own-
ers do not want to farm. Hence, renting out is a w in-win proposition.
Since most of the arrangements are informal in nature, during a crop
failure the rents are readjusted. If there is a drop in the yield, those
who take land on rent bear the burden and the loss …
3.4 Dependency on Informal Credit
High rates of interest from non-institutional sources of credit
compel farmers to prioritise the payment of these debts before
dues to banks are paid. While Yavatmal reveals a shocking
percentage (above 80) of bank defaulters, in Sangrur there is
excessive dependency on informal sources as bank loans are
insuffi cient to meet high input costs.
In Yavatmal, given the direct relationship between a bad
crop year and increase in outstanding credit burden, two distinct
scenarios emerge. In one scenario, the farmer borrows from
moneylenders and relatives at a very high rate of interest (as
much as 10%–12% per month) to pay off the bank loan in order
to remain eligible for fresh credit from the institutional source.
Box 1: Summary of Cost, Bank Credit, Earning from Cultivating BT Cotton
Cos t of Pr oduc tio n of BT Cot ton `30,000–`35,000 per he ctare (or `2,000
per acre)
Yield of BT cot ton per acre 3–4 quintal s per acre
Bank loan pe r hectare `30,000
Minimum suppo rt price `3,800 `3,900 p er kilo
Earning per h ectare `30,000–`35,000
SPECIAL ARTICLE
MAY 27, 2017 vol liI no 21 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
82
A defaulter is not eligible for a fresh loan from the bank unless
the previous dues are fully paid off. A short-term crop loan
taken from the bank has to be repaid on time, at the end of
every fi nancial year (31 March) to avail of interest-free credit
or an increase in loan amount. Also, the bank charges interest
of 4% (which increases in successive years) after the fi rst
year of interest-free credit for crop loans as part of priority
sector lending. The desperation to remain within the banking
system is explained by a farmer from Metikhera village
in Yavatmal:
Money is borrowed from private sources to be paid to the bank. The
fresh loan received from the bank is used to pay off the private sources.
We are left with the remaining amount. Obviously, it is not possible to
carry out farming operations with the remaining amount. Hence, we
are compelled to borrow again from informa l sources.
Farmers who can still afford to repay bank loans are in a
minority. Mostly, farmers with larger holdings use informal
credit taken at the last moment to pay off the outstanding bank
loan. Given the scale of non-profi tability of farming (se e Box 1)
and repeated crop failures, it is obvious that a small and mar-
ginal farmer would fi nd it extremely diffi cult to repay a bank
loan. Henc e, it is not su rpr isi ng that t he rate o f default, acc ord-
ing to central and cooperative bank records, is alarming. The
local bank manager confessed, “Eighty percent of the account
hold ers a re d efa ult ers on c rop loa ns. F rom 20 06 onwards, peo-
ple are not returning their loans.”
A time soon comes when the moneylender refuses to advance
credit because the backlog of debt keeps rising. This moves
farmers who have defaulted completely outside the ambit of
institutional credit, as they are not in a position to repay the
bank loan. There seems to be a hierarchy of warning signs
announcing this distress, as indicated by a local offi cial:
They are going down a chain. You start with the bank; you default
with the bank. You go to the moneylender; you default w ith him. Then
you go to the relative … If you default on the bank loan, and also on
the moneylender, then you become vulnerable.
3.5 Loans fr om Informal Sour ces and Banks
This brings us to the second scenario, in which farmers prioritise
repayment of loans taken from informal sources over bank
loans in order to maintain their rapport with the moneylender,
or to avoid verbal abuse, and to remain creditworthy. Explaining
the importance of prioritising payment of loans from informal
sources, a farmer stated:
Loans f rom private sources are generally repaid fi rst. Banks loans are
usually repaid later. Most of the borrowing is happening within the
family, as outsiders are not g iving us money. Farmers al so divert credit
from institutional sources meant for the farm to meet non-farm ex-
penditures, such as health, education, housing, ceremonies, and regu-
lar household expendit ure.
Several families become heavily indebted either because of
out-of-pocket medical expenditure or because of large expens-
es on marriage12 or consumer durables. The principal of Savitri
Phule Samaj Karya Mahavidyalaya in Yavatmal said:
The infl uence of urban culture has left an impact. If I am in the village
and my brother is in the city, then our social universes do not meet.
Aspirations are heav ily infl u enced by behav iour al patte rns s een in the
city. The impact is visible on marriage. Villagers are constantly trying
to match standards set by relatives in the city, when it comes to gifts
and other commodities.
Given that prices of agricultural produce have not matched
the increase in input costs, and land rent in the country is
highest in Punjab in general, and Sangrur in particular, it is
unsurprising that income generated from farming is insuffi -
cient to sustain a household here. A continuous fl ow of cash is
required to meet expenses on regular household consumption,
basic health and education (all of which have increased mani-
fold). This becomes a major issue for farmers operating on
small landholdings with no non-farm sources of income. As
mentioned earlier, consumption expenditure of most small
and marginal farmers usually exceeds their income from
farming, and we have already seen how farm incomes are in-
suffi cient to meet most other household and consumer de-
mands. The mismatch between farm income and expenditure
is aggravated in Punjab. The state ranks fi rst in purchase of
consumer goods such as mobile phones, cycles, televisions, re-
frigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, motorcycles
and cars, compared to the rest of the country (Shergill 2015).
With few avenues to access institutional capital for non-farm
expenditure, dependency on non-institutional sources to meet
these expenditures is inevitable.
Due to the insuffi ciencies of the formal credit system, a sus-
tained dependency on arthis is obvious. An arthi plays the
dual role of selling output in the market and of satisfying a
farmer’s need for liquidity when required. Many farmers do
not own the land but have taken it on lease and therefore do
not qualify for bank credit. Unlike a typical moneylender, an
arthi can be both patronising and a support in times of need. A
farmer would therefore not like to spoil his relationship with
an arthi. An arthi, on the other hand, assured of his crop share
(fully or partially), already has a guaranteed return mecha-
nism in place. He therefore fi nds no need to resort to violence
for recovering his capital investment.
In Sangrur, we did not fi nd a single family that had suffered
a suicide devoid of debt burden from non-institutional sources.
The bulk of the outstanding debt was owed to arthis. The rate
of interest may vary from 2% to 3% per month, depending
upon the quantum of loan, urgency, farmer’s rapport with the
concerned arthi, and farmer’s creditworthiness. Farmers in
Sangrur, particularly those operating on smaller landhold-
ings, and those farming on rented land, are excessively (if not
exclusively) dependent on arthis for short-term crop loans and
for other household expenditure. This credit fl ow is seasonal
in character, availed during a crop season and repaid along
with the harvest.
Farmers lack storage facilities, and this compels them to sell
their crops soon after harvest even if they do not get the best
price, because of the pressure to repay to non-institutional
credit sources charging high rates of interest. One marginal
farmer from Sangrur claims,
Arthis generally know t he conditions of farmers and the quantum of
stock available with t hem. They do not increase prices until farmers
have exhausted their stocks. The sellers start pushing the price after
SPECIAL ARTICLE
Economic & Political Weekly EPW MAY 27, 2017 vol liI no 21 83
the farmers have sold most of their harvest. Arthis fi x the price by ta k-
ing the mill owners into confi dence, such that the farmer is left with
no choice but to accept the fi xed price. Farmers cannot store grain for
more than three months, after which it starts deteriorating.
4 Severe Consequences of Increasing Debt
Mounting outstanding debts have severe consequences on
farming operations. In Yavatmal, it leads to diminishing credit-
worthiness of farmers and increasing diffi culties in accessing
non-institutional sources of credit as well. In Sangrur, high
consumption expenditure leads to constant diversion of credit
towards fulfi lment of consumer needs. The practice of access-
ing credit from private players due to insuffi ciency of formal
credit is not a new phenomenon in Yavatmal. However, in
recent times, there has been a dearth of credit fl ow as money-
lenders are increasingly refusing to disburse credit in lieu of
land and jewellery. The majority of farmers are outside formal
credit mechanisms due to massive defaulting caused by re-
peated crop failure. The most frightening point emerging
from the fi eld study is the exhaustion of informal sources of
credit. Nobody is willing to offer credit readily, knowing that
the ability to repay, in general, i s p oor. Moneylenders prefer a
one-time transaction of assets against which credit can be
provided, such as buying out jewellery or any other asset, as
opposed to mortgaging or using those assets as guarantee. A
farmer with large landholdings in Yavatmal explained why
the situation is bleak, particularly for small and marginal
farmers, who are now moving out of the bounds of informal
credit as well:
At present, moneylenders are not giving loans to farmers. After the
Moneylending Act was passed, getting the land transferred in a
money lender’s name became impossible. As input costs were rising,
farmers started looking for other credit sources as crop loans f rom
banks were not enough. Today moneylender s do not push for mortgag-
ing since they cannot acquire the land. Unless one is a big farmer, and
there are few of those, nobody is willing to give credit.
Under these conditions, goldsmiths also prefer a one-time
settlement where the return is assured. Moneylending is also
undergoing a massive change in Yavatmal, because of a new
class of entrants, as reported by a farmer:
The educated service class or contractor has appropriated the role
of a small-time lender. They prov ide small loans between `5,000
and `10,000. There is no written record. Credit is given on trust and
fam ilia rity. Se ed dea lers al so pla y the role of cr ed ito rs, offering inputs
on credit with proportional claims on harvest.
In Sangrur, a substantial amount of outstanding loans are not
only diverted to non-farm household expenditure but also to
the purchase of exterior markers of affl uence in an assertion of
class identity and display of aspiration. A large chunk of the ex-
penditure is diverted towards grand ceremonial ventures, par-
ticularly weddings, and the purchase of commodities such as
cars, gadgets and machinery that demonstrate status. Irrespec-
tive of the size of their landholdings, farmers go out of their
way to borrow money to keep up socially. As Shergill says,
They have a very strong desire to emulate others. They spend a lot
on marriage. They are converting from pit t ype toilets to toilets with
ush. There is immense pressure to keep up. People with just 3 acres
of land are also sending their c hildren to Australia for higher studies.
Earlier, there was no expenditure on LPG, electronic gadgets, mobile
phones, etc. Earlier, family members spent time together; now, each
member has his own lifestyle. Every farmer has his own vehicle even
though he fi nds it hard to buy one. If a farmer takes money for agricul-
tural reasons, and uses that amount for other expenses, then certainly
he w ill not be abl e to re pay.
This pattern of excessive spending is further re ected in the
following discussion with arthis:
Farmers spend a lot of money on marriages. T here is a kind of com-
petition between villages on marriage expenditure. Those who have
the capacit y to spend only `5 lakh to `7 la kh, also end up spending `25
lakh. Only a small percentage of farmers has the capacity to spend on
marriages of this scale. The rest of the farmers try to emulate them.
This leads to a trend of spending more than they can and then t hey get
trapped in debt. A farmer gets a crop after six months, but he has to
pay every month. Now almost every family has a tractor, whereas one
tractor can serve four families.
5 Reformative Measures
If the data on average farmer household income is taken into
account, the structural problems are starkly evident. The average
farmer household income from all sources was `6,426 per
month, which consisted of `2,071 received as wages, `512 from
non-farm business, and the rest from cultivation, which works
out to less than the consumption expenditure of almost 70% of
farmer households (NSSO 2013).
Macro and micro data suggest very clearly that the earnings
barely cover the costs of cultivation. This compels the farmer
to look for credit at rates that he cannot afford, pushing him
into a dependence on the informal sector.
5.1 Immediate Interventions
5.1.1 Cropping Pattern
(i) In both Sangrur and Yavatmal, the pattern of cultivation is
not harmonious with the agro-climatic features of the region.
The foremost requirement to resolve the crisis is to move to-
wards farming practices according to agro-climatic zones.
13
Cropping patterns that are harmful to nature and natural re-
sources should be discouraged through denial of support pric-
es or denial of crop loans for the wrong choice of crops, no
matter how profi table the cultivation might be in the short
term. Similarly, incentives should be given to those crops that
are more suited for cultivation in their agro-zone.
(ii) Indigenous mixed farming patterns that are not cost-
intensive should be encouraged. It helps in prov iding foodgrain
support to the family and rejuvenates soil fertility.
5.1.2 Insti tutional Credit D isbursal System
(i) Incentivising repayment by modifying the institutional
credit disbursal system is essential to minimise the number of
bank defaulters by introducing the option of repayment in
installments. There are greater chances of recovery if payment
of the outstanding loan amount is bifurcated into smaller
portions.
(ii) A proportionate loan–land ratio would enable the farmer
to retain rights over the rest of his landholdings, which can
SPECIAL ARTICLE
MAY 27, 2017 vol liI no 21 EPW Economic & Political Weekly
84
then be used as a source of liquidity. Currently, a farmer’s
entire holding cannot be sold or further mortgaged since a
bank loan locks in all the land owned by him.
(iii) A speci c dryland farming credit policy should be consid-
ered, as the nature of cultivation often varies fundamentally
from rainfed farming and requires a different kind of attention.
(iv) Cashless loan components should be introduced to avoid
diversion of crop loans towards non-farm expenditures, where
payment to a formal credit source can be made at the point of
sale (fac tory or dealer).
(v) Restructuring of loans against localised crop failures, where
specifi c and targeted compensation packages take extreme
weather events or natural calamities into account. In addition,
the principles of cross-subsidisation are more effective if they are
shaped along the lines of group insurance schemes for groups of
farmers who bear the risk together and not individually.
5.2 Long-term Policies
Long-term measures would, of course, include land reforms
and correcting the terms of trade that are against the cultivat-
ing class. However, it is also clear that pe nury and deprivation
would have a cascading effect on the economy as a whole. The
stance of the state does not help either, as the public expendi-
ture on agriculture as a percentage of the GDP is less than 1%
and has remained at that level for the last decade-and-a-half.
We need far-sighted and sustained policy initiatives to provide
farmers dignifi ed livelihoods; these are essential to sustain
agricult ure, which is so critical to our collec tive well-being. In
an economy driven by jobless growth, compulsive migration to
cities is often a case of distress transhumance. These migrants
then become the new “serfs” of the informal services and con-
struction sector, while the existing rural and agrarian prob-
lems remain unresolved.
Notes
1 This resea rch project was proposed by the Shiv
Nadar University and commissioned by the Re-
serve Bank of India (RBI), 2014–15. The report
was submit ted to RBI i n 2016. The views ex-
pressed i n the paper a re solely those of the
author(s) and not of RBI.
2 Extending the argument forwarded by Nag raj
(2008), this research is also sceptical about the
credibility of macro data on farmer suicides.
For a farmer suicide to be listed, the deceased
must possess land and be indebted to a bank. If
these conditions are not met, then the farmer
who has comm itted suicide will not be eligible
for state compensation. So a host of cultivators
who may have com mitted suicide due to ag rar-
ian debt or distress but were landless, or
worked on rented land, or may have defaulted
on a loan taken from an informal source, or
may have some how managed to repay t he bank
loan in the previous nancial year, are not
counted as elig ible cases of fa rmer suicide. We
must also remember that such notifi cation for
eligibi lity rests on disc retionary powers exer-
cised by lower-rung offi cials in charge of in-
spect ing and reporti ng the cases.
3 As observed during t he fi eldwork, land rent in
Yavatmal is approximately `3,000– `5,000 per
acre a nnually. Even though this is sign ifi cantly
lower than land rent in Sangrur (
`30,000–
`50,000 per acre per year), one must not over-
look low crop as surance due to dryla nd farm-
ing in Yavatmal, which makes farming extre-
mely risk-prone.
4 Since the farmer suicide data maintained by
the dist rict authorities do not record the
amount of landholding of the deceased farmer,
the relat ionship between la ndholding and
farmer suicide in Yavatmal is deciphered from
30 case studies conducted during the fi eldwork
and sur veys (sample size: 200) conducted by
Vandana Foundation over the last 10 years.
Vandana Foundation is a non-profi t organisa-
tion that works with the wives of deceased
farmers in Yavatmal.
5 Compiled from data on farmer suicides in San-
grur collected and maintained by Baba Nanak
Educational Society, a non-profi t organisation
that has been working with suicide-affected
families since the 1980s. In the absence of offi cial
records, this is the only legitimate and expansive
data source on the issue of farmer suicide in the
region. Inderjit Singh Jaijee, the founder of the
organisation, devised a mechanism of panchayat-
level certifi cation and recognition of farm-related
suicide to avoid the mix ing up of general sui-
cides wit h the far mer suicides. The af dav it
from the village panchayat also certifi es that
suicide com mitted was due to debt.
6 Arthis act as commission agents and middle-
men between farmers and the wholesale ma r-
ket, facilitating the sale of crops immediately
after t he harvest. The a rthi s charge wholesale
traders a price for the services provided in
terms of weighing and grading produce. How-
ever, they also provide credit to a fa rmer,
which is often adjuste d with an art hi’s claim on
the share of the har vest.
7 Case studies among st suicide -affected far ming
families in Sangrur (sample size: 30) reveal an
average outs tanding loan of `3,31,000 (approx-
imately) amongst farmer households.
8 A ll quotes are from i nterv iews conduc ted dur-
ing fi eldwork, unless otherwise stated.
9 Interestingly, dowr y deaths are higher i n states
such as Bihar, Odisha, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh,
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Hary-
ana, and West Bengal. A ll these states have
lower rates of farmer suic ide as a percentage of
all suicides as “Accidental Deat hs and Suic ides
in India” (ADSI) records suggest.
10 A closer look at each taluka separately would
reveal the defi cits a nd variation in patterns
within the district (see http://yavatmal.nic.in).
There is a big difference between distr ict-level
rainfall data and actual village-level varia-
tions. W hile assessi ng crop failure , taluka-level
data are taken into account as the rain gauge is
at t he ta luka lev el. Ho wever, ra infall fl uctuates
greatl y and varies dra stically bet ween villag es.
11 To check the water footprint of various food
items, see In stitution of Mechan ical Eng ineers
data reproduced in https://www. theguardian.
com/news/datablog/2013/jan/10/how-much-
water-food-production-waste.
12 Indebtedness, economic decline and marriage
were cited as major causes of suicide amongst
farmers in the seminal report “Causes of Farm-
er S uici des i n Ma harasht ra: A n Enq uir y,” Fi nal
Report submit ted to the Mumbai High Court
(Dandekar et al 2005).
13 T hese agroclimatic zones are already well-
demarcated, along with cropping patterns spe-
cifi cally suited to these reg ions prescribed by
the Ministry of Water Resources, Govern ment
of India.
References
Dandekar et al (2005): “Causes of Farmer Suicides
in Maharashtra: An Enquiry,” Final Report sub-
mitted to the Mumbai High Court, Tata Institute
of Social Sciences, Tuljapur.
Gupta, D (2015): “Home and the World: Why Do
Farmers Commit Suic ide? It’s a Man Thing and
More,” Times of India, New Delhi, 10 October.
Jha, P and M Negre (2007): “Indian Economy in the
Era of Contemporary Globalisation: Some Core
Elements of the Bala nce Sheet,” htt p://ww w.
macroscan.org/anl/may07/pdf/Indian_Econ-
omy.pdf.
Johl, S S et al (1986): “Report of the Expert Commit-
tee on Diversifi cat ion of A gr icu lt ur e in Pun jab ,”
submitted to Gover nment of Punjab.
(2002): “Agricultural Production Pattern Adjust-
ment Programme in Punjab for Productivity
and Growth,” Johl Committee report submitted
to G over nme nt of P unja b.
Ministry of Agriculture (2014): Agriculture Census
2010–11: All India Report on Number and Area of
Operational Holdings, Agriculture Census Divi-
sion, Department of Agriculture & Co-Operation,
Mi nist ry o f Agr icu ltur e, Go vern ment of In dia.
NABA RD (2013): “Annual Report, 2012–13,” National
Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development,
Mumbai.
Nagraj, K (2008): “Farmers’ Suicide in India: Magni-
tudes, Trends and Spatial Patterns,” Madras Insti-
tute of Development Studies, http://www.macros-
can.org/anl/mar08/pdf/Farmers_Suicides.pdf.
NCRB (2013): “Accidental Deaths and Suicides in
India,” National Crime Records Bureau, Mini stry
of H ome A ffa irs, Gove rnme nt of India .
(2014): “Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India,”
National C rime Records Bureau, Ministry of
Home Affair s, Government of India.
NSSO (2003):Situation Assessment Survey of
Farmers 2003, NSS 59t h Round,” National
Sample Survey Offi ce, Ministry of Statistics
and Programme Implementation, Government
of India.
(2013): Debt & Investment, NSS 70th Round,
National Sample Survey Offi ce, Ministry of
Statistics and Programme Implementation, Gov-
ernment of India.
(2014a): Key Indicators of Situation of Agricul-
tural Hou sehold s in India 2014, National Sample
Survey Offi ce, 70th Round, Ministry of Statis-
tics and P rogramme Implement ation, Govern-
ment of India.
(2014b): “Situation Assessment Sur vey of Ag ri-
cultural Households, January–December 2013,”
National Sample Survey Offi ce, Ministry of
Statistics and Programme Implementation, Gov-
ernment of India.
Pattanaik et al (2008): Contract Farming System in
Punjab: An Appraisal, Chandigarh: Centre for
Research in Rural and Industrial Development.
Shergill, H S (1998): Rural Credit and Indebtedness
in Punjab, Monograph Ser ies IV, Chandigarh:
Instit ute of Development and Communication.
(2015): “Has Punjab Lost Number One Position
in Level of Development,” Journal of Agr icul-
tural Development and Policy, Vol 25, No 1,
pp 1–10.
... Hence, they are trapped in a debt spiral. In their study, Dandekar and Bhattacharya (2017) recorded a high number of farmer suicide because of indebtedness in Punjab and Maharashtra, India. Moreover, borrowing from relatives, faulty cropping patterns, aspirational consumption, rising input cost, absence of non-farm sources of income, and dependency on informal credit are the leading causes of agrarian distress. ...
Article
Full-text available
Subject and purpose of work: The paper focuses on the problems faced by farmers in obtaining and repaying loans from institutional and non-institutional sources. Materials and methods: The study was conducted in Haryana state, India. It was based on a field survey involving 600 farmers. Proportionate sampling technique was employed and pre-tested schedules were filled during vis-a-vis interviews. Results: T he f indings o f t he s tudy h ighlight m ain p roblems f aced b y f armers i n a cquiring a nd repaying loans. They include: no loan without security, ambiguous terms and conditions, the time-consuming procedure of granting loans, not farmer friendly bank officials, and the request for bribes. In the case of non-institutional sources, main problems include: lack of security, deterioration of social status, and hesitation in mortgaging agricultural land. Furthermore, low price of agricultural produce, crop failure, and the high-interest rates charged by non-institutional sources were major constraints in the timely repayment of loan amounts. Conclusions: Several constraints existed in granting loans to farmers. Government should support and provide hassle free loans to farmers.
... The low and highly fluctuating income from agriculture has a detrimental effect on farm investments and forces the farmers to become trapped in debt, thus increasing indebtedness. This indebtedness of farmers is perhaps the leading determinant of agrarian stress as it quickly corrodes and destroys the farmers' livelihoods and resilience [77][78][79][80][81][82][83]. A severe crisis in agriculture begins with the failure of crops and sets off a vicious cycle of socioeconomic impacts such as the erosion of assets and income decline, indebtedness, poverty with hunger and malnutrition, and a deterioration in the standard of living, thus increasing the vulnerability of poor farmers [84]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Farmer distress is a widely recognized problem in India induced by multiple causes ranging from climate variability to price volatility and the low risk-bearing ability of farmers. Tracking farmers’ distress in a localized context is a prerequisite for timely action to provide sustainable livelihood options. Therefore, a field survey was conducted with 640 dryland farmers of 10 sub-district units from two states in India with the aim to identify the major indicators based on seven dimensions of distress and to construct a multidimensional Farmers’ Distress Index (FDI) at the farmer and sub-district levels. The FDI was built with seven dimensions of distress: exposure to risk, adaptive capacity, sensitivity, mitigation and adaptation strategies, triggers, psychological factors, and impacts. The study developed a broad-based FDI which can be used as a planning tool that can address the causes of farmers’ distress and also evolve measures to tackle those causes. Based on the result, the study recommends a location-specific distress management package based on various dimensions of the FDI. The paper also suggests an upscaling strategy to identify and prioritize the highly distressed farmers as well as sub-district geographical units by tracking a few sets of variables.
... This structural economic trap is hard to escape in India. Either you stay in agriculture and increase your indebtedness to purchase inputs, but this can end in suicide (Dandekar & Bhattacharya, 2017;Nagaraj et al., 2014;Roy, 2021;Sridhar, 2006) when regular massive public debt relief schemes do not save you (Phadnis & Gupta, 2019). Or your step up your work outside farming with petty precarious jobs, but opportunities are scarce and often in already overcrowded cities where the cost of living is much higher than in your village, forcing you into circular migration far from your family (Dorin, 2020). ...
Article
With the Green Revolution in Asia, the gap in agricultural yield with the developed world has been closed, while the gap in farm labour productivity has greatly widened. This reveals a deepening agrarian and environmental crisis in India. The industrial mode of production has led to the massive use of costly industrial inputs to increase yields and offset economies of scale that are almost impossible to achieve in this densely populated country. Such a development path is a trap for millions Indian micro-farmers and their natural capital. We then unveil the promises of a type of agroecology called ‘natural farming' that has developed in Andhra Pradesh, a State in South India. Andhra’s natural farming has pioneered the adoption of technical and organizational innovations that could lead to the first large-scale agroecological transition in the world. But in 2019, these local innovations were accused of following a regressive path and endangering the country’s food security. This attack reveals the current omnipotence of the industrial sociotechnical regime over science, as well as a conception of science and progress antithetical to agroecology.
... Sekarang, petani kecil secara struktural dibebankan untuk tetap bekerja sambil ditekan utang sosial-ekonomi yang sudah ada sebelumnya dan harus berpacu dengan risiko kesehatan untuk mengamankan pasokan pangan untuk negara tanpa dukungan kesehatan yang memadai. Memang, ini bukan hal baru karena petani kecil di negara-negara Global South selalu diposisikan sebagai korban yang diperlukan untuk menjaga rangkaian sistem akumulasi kapital tetap berjalan (Dandekar & Bhattacharya, 2017;Gerber, 2013;Mohanty, 2005). Kebijakan utama Presiden Joko Widodo untuk mengurangi potensi kelaparan melalui rencana untuk membuka 2,2 juta hektar sawah. ...
Article
Full-text available
Pandemi COVID-19 yang melanda negara-negara di dunia memperlihatkan struktur “neokolonialisme” dan kebijakan “penyesuaian struktural” neoliberal berpengaruh buruk terhadap sistem kesehatan masyarakat dan memperparah kondisi krisis ketahanan pangan. Proses ini memperburuk malnutrisi akibat ancaman bencana keikliman global. Dalam rangka mengatasi krisis pangan, beberapa negara Global South memobilisasi petani kecil untuk mengamankan persediaan dan rantai pangan global melalui skema megaproyek kebun pangan skala luas. Ironisnya para petani semakin kesulitan mendapatkan makanan, memenuhi kebutuhan keluarga mereka, dan mengakses fasilitas kesehatan publik. Pada saat yang sama mereka dipaksa bekerja di lahan yang asing bagi mereka. Artikel ini menyoroti rencana Pemerintah Republik Indonesia untuk membangun lumbung pangan nasional dengan mencetak 2,2 juta hektar sawah dan memindahkan 300.000 petani kecil atas nama ketahanan pangan nasional. Hipotesis dalam hal ini adalah kegagalan pemerintah dalam membangun tiga megaproyek kebun pangan skala luas seperti pada masa lalu. Melalui studi literatur yang dieksplorasi ialah irisan antara marjinalitas ekonomi dan kondisi kesehatan serta gizi. Narasi krisis pangan yang didengungkan oleh pemerintah diprakirakan berhasil menggerakkan lembaga-lembaga negara mengembangkan korporasi agrobisnis sebagai sirkuit baru untuk akumulasi kapital. Namun, proses tersebut menempatkan petani kecil sebagai korban. Pada akhirnya, kesehatan dan kualitas gizi petani kecil tidak membaik, malahan menempatkan mereka dalam lingkatan setan kemiskinan generasional. Mereka terus berada di bawah sistem ekonomi kapitalistik, dengan kemiskinan direproduksi oleh dirinya sendiri yang ditandai kondisi kekurangan gizi
Article
Full-text available
Climate change and indebtedness have been repeatedly highlighted as major causes of distress for rural households in India. However, despite the close connection between climate conditions and rural livelihoods, there has been little attempt to systematically examine the association between the two. To address this gap, we combine national-level longitudinal data from IHDS, MERRA-2, and the Indian Ministry of Agriculture to study the impact of climate anomalies on household indebtedness across rural India. Using a multilevel longitudinal approach that accounts for potential confounders at household, village, and district levels, we find pervasive effects of season-specific, 5-year climate anomalies on multiple dimensions of household debt, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas. Most notably, temperature anomalies in the winter cropping season in arid and semi-arid areas are associated with increasing household indebtedness. We further find that climate change interacts with existing socioeconomic differences—caste and landholding in particular—to deepen both the size and the depth of indebtedness for rural households.
Article
Full-text available
The world is facing an impassable situation of tremendous climate change. India is home to an extraordinary diversity of climatic zones. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found accelerated global warming, climate variability, and change since the early 1990s. Climate change is a severe issue for everyone, but it is one of the worst for agriculture, and it is directly affecting farmers as severely as the agricultural harvesting season, food production, and agriculture-related operations. This paper covers the causes of climate change and its impact on agriculture and farmers. This paper finds that the government has many policies to overcome climate change imbalance and the welfare of farmers related to agriculture, but it is not working at the ground level, and it is not compensating as needed for the loss of agriculture affected by climate change. The world will face severe crises in food and water availability in the future if we do not control the effects of climate change.
Article
Rural indebtedness is a major development challenge confronting India. In 2018, scores of farmers protested rising household debt, and the popular coverage of the time asserted that farmers were under crushing debt. Combining data from the All-India Debt and Investment Survey with other sources and using a class analysis, I interrogate this “crushing debt” narrative. Rural households, depending on the socioeconomic and contextual vulnerabilities that they experience, are indebted in different ways. The rural elite borrow more loans and have higher loan amounts, while asset-poor households are more dependent on informal credit sources and also pay higher rates of interest. Households from the wage worker class are more likely to be over-indebted relative to others. I further find that petty commodity producers bear less debt burden and are less likely to be over-indebted relative to other classes. These findings underscore the fact that rural indebtedness is a nuanced problem that manifests in a multitude of ways across India.
Article
Full-text available
On 30 November 2018 tens of thousands of Indian farmers marched to Parliament and demanded a special session to discuss the deepening agrarian crisis. The protest march to Parliament was only the latest in a series of protest marches which had been organized by an umbrella group of over 200 farmers’ organizations from all over India. Moreover, for the first time, an alliance of different activist groups, political parties, trade unions and students had cohered to support the farmers and their cause. Despite its political, empirical and theoretical significance, research on the formation of alliances has gained scant attention in sociological research. Based on original research, this article suggests alliance building should be understood with reference to political opportunities, processes of meaning attribution and framing, and as a strategy, which facilitates worthiness, unity, numbers and commitment (WUNC displays, as outlined by Charles Tilly).
Chapter
Full-text available
About the Book Agriculture plays an important role in the Indian economy, but farmers are committing suicidea across the country. This book seeks to understand the suicide cases through various= contributory factors. As the investigation is more focused on farmers suicide naturally concentrated on farm activities. But at the same time other qualitative factors impartinga suicides are explained in clear detail. The two major issues, namely causes and consequences of suicide and mitigation to overcome suicide are discussed in detail in the book. Different articles here have highlighted the situation of different parts of the country. The feature of this book is that experts who have knowledge of the issues have contributed to this book. This book will be a valuable source of reference on the subject for the policy-makers, social scientists, teachers and students of economics, sociology and the development thinkers.
Article
Full-text available
India has the largest area of rainfed dryland agriculture globally, with a variety of distinct types of farming systems producing most of its coarse cereals, food legumes, minor millets, and large amounts of livestock. All these are vital for national and regional food and nutritional security. Yet, the rainfed drylands have been relatively neglected in mainstream agricultural and rural development policy. As a result, significant social-ecological challenges overlap in these landscapes: endemic poverty, malnutrition and land degradation. Sustainable intensification of dryland agriculture is essential for helping to address these challenges, particularly in the context of accelerating climate change. In this paper, we present 100 questions that point to the most important knowledge gaps and research priorities. If addressed, these would facilitate and inform sustainable intensification in Indian rainfed drylands, leading to improved agricultural production and enhanced ecosystem services. The horizon scanning method used to produce these questions brought together experts and practitioners involved in a broad range of disciplines and sectors. This exercise resulted in a consolidated set of questions covering the agricultural drylands, organized into 13 themes. Together, these represent a collective programme for new cross- and multi-disciplinary research on sustainable intensification in the Indian rainfed drylands.
Article
The last decade has seen a high degree of agrarian distress in India, of which the large number of suicides by farmers across the country is stark evidence. Despite one-off efforts by some State governments, activist organisations, and the press to enquire into the phenomenon, there is a need for a comprehensive picture based on a single, nationwide data source. The present paper is a modest attempt to fill this gap in analysis. Using secondary data on suicides by profession, obtained from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the paper provides a simple analysis of the magnitude of, and trends in, farmers' suicides in India from 1997 to 2012, and of regional patterns in these suicides. We argue that while the socioeconomic causes underlying farm suicides are complex and require further empirical work, there can be little denying that farm suicides are strongly linked to the larger context of agrarian distress in the country. The large number of suicides by farmers in various parts of the country is perhaps the most distressing phenomenon observed in India over the last decade. These suicides, which reached almost epidemic proportions in certain pockets of the country, were first recognised and reported by an alert press around the late 1990s. The public concern that these press reports created forced some State governments, such as those of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra, to set up Commissions to enquire into the phenomenon. The databases on which the press and the Commissions of 1 This paper is a revised and updated version of Nagaraj (2008). 2
Article
In recent years, the 'official' India has been patting itself on account of accelerated economic growth rates and the presumed progress in poverty reduction. The chorus of this cheer-talk has been joined by a number of high profile global agencies, in particular, the Bretton Woods Institutions (i.e. the World Bank and the IMF). However, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the recent economic growth has been extremely lopsided; more than ever before. Furthermore, large sections of the country's population continue to suffer, very acutely, with reference to a whole range of development deficits. Since the early 1990s, significant changes in the macroeconomic policy regime along the neoliberal trajectory has resulted in a weakening of the interventions by the State, in many important economic and social arenas, and consequently a whole range of positive impulses have suffered a good deal. This paper is an attempt to sketch a snapshot of the much-talked-about economic growth performance along with some of the major development deficits in India. It is our contention that the hooplas about India's 'arrival' as a global economic power and player in the recent era of globalization need to be qualified by the grim reality of pervasive failures, even regressions, towards building a humane society.
Causes of Farmer Suicides in Maharashtra: An Enquiry
  • Dandekar
Dandekar et al (2005): "Causes of Farmer Suicides in Maharashtra: An Enquiry," Final Report submitted to the Mumbai High Court, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Tuljapur.
Home and the World: Why Do Farmers Commit Suicide? It's a Man Thing and More
  • D Gupta
Gupta, D (2015): "Home and the World: Why Do Farmers Commit Suicide? It's a Man Thing and More," Times of India, New Delhi, 10 October.
Agricultural Production Pattern Adjustment Programme in Punjab for Productivity and Growth
  • S Johl
Johl, S S et al (1986): "Report of the Expert Committee on Diversifi cation of Agriculture in Punjab," submitted to Government of Punjab. -(2002): "Agricultural Production Pattern Adjustment Programme in Punjab for Productivity and Growth," Johl Committee report submitted to Government of Punjab. Ministry of Agriculture (2014): Agriculture Census 2010-11: All India Report on Number and Area of Operational Holdings, Agriculture Census Division, Department of Agriculture & Co-Operation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India.
Agriculture Census 2010-11: All India Report on Number and Area of Operational Holdings, Agriculture Census Division, Department of Agriculture & Co-Operation
  • Ministry Of Agriculture
Ministry of Agriculture (2014): Agriculture Census 2010-11: All India Report on Number and Area of Operational Holdings, Agriculture Census Division, Department of Agriculture & Co-Operation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India.
National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development
NABARD (2013): "Annual Report, 2012-13," National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mumbai.
National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India
NCRB (2013): "Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India," National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. -(2014): "Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India," National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
National Sample Survey Offi ce, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India
NSSO (2003): "Situation Assessment Survey of Farmers 2003, NSS 59th Round," National Sample Survey Offi ce, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India.
Has Punjab Lost Number One Position in Level of Development
  • H Shergill
Shergill, H S (1998): Rural Credit and Indebtedness in Punjab, Monograph Series IV, Chandigarh: Institute of Development and Communication. -(2015): "Has Punjab Lost Number One Position in Level of Development," Journal of Agricultural Development and Policy, Vol 25, No 1, pp 1-10.