Census of farmer suicides

The Punjab government has finally allocated funds to assess the breadth of farmer suicides in the state.

khararfarmer.jpgThe Punjab Government seems to have finally woken up to the need of having a census on farmers’ suicides in the state. The state government, it is learnt, has the [sic] entrusted the arduous task of completing the census to the Punjab Agricultural University. As per Dr R.S. Sidhu, head of the Department of Economics, PAU, “The state government has asked us to do the work and we have taken it up as a research project. Though whole of Punjab is to be covered under the study, the state government has asked us to do a pilot project in two districts of Punjab, Gurdaspur and Sangrur initially.

The census will be conducted by the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), based in Patiala Ludhiana. During the first phase of the survey, PAU will conduct a door to door survey in about 1,500 villages in Gurdaspur and about 575 villages in Sangrur out of the 12,000 villages in Punjab. The report from this initial phase is set to be completed in four months from the beginning of the survey, which is set to begin in the next couple of weeks.

The census will take into account farmer suicides occurring after April 1, 2005, excluding suicides of farm laborers.

Rising pesticide and fertiliser costs, shrinking land holdings, declining soil fertility and heavily-subsidized farming in wealthier countries are some of the factors blamed for these suicides.

A related issue is the increasing rate of cancer stemming from excessive use of harmful pesticides since the Green Revolution (which other langarites have blogged about as well).

A comprehensive study conducted in the area by the prestigious Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, brings out unequivocal evidence that the use of indiscriminate, indiscreet, excessive and unsafe pesticides is directly responsible for the rapid and significant rise in the number of pesticide-related cases of cancers and cancer deaths.

The PAU isn’t expected to have a perfect record to qualify to conduct the census, but I hope that it has at least stopped pushing farmers to use pesticides as it used to. farmers_pesticide.jpg

“The PAU continues to push pesticides, knowing too well that these were not required in the first place. In the case of cotton, scientists have compounded the problem by turning the ‘insect profile’ hostile, who, instead of being eliminated are breeding heavily. There were six or seven kinds of pests that worried the farmers in the 1960s; today, the number of cotton pests has multiplied to over 60,” says Dutt.

Farmers have excessively used pesticides which have polluted the drinking water, upon bad advice from influential agricultural lobbies and profit sharks, which has led to high yield overruling health concerns.

Punjab has 2.5 per cent of the total agricultural land in the country, but is using the highest amount—more than 18 per cent of pesticides in the country. All this has contributed to widespread social devastation in individual and community life.

Other Asian regions have acknowledged the unnecessary and harmful effects of excessive use of pesticides.

Almost 40 years after the green revolution, the International Rice Research Institute, at Manila, in the Philippines, now publicly accepts its mistake in promoting pesticides. It is on record that “pesticides were a waste of time and efforts” in Asia for the cultivation of rice.

‘Organic farming’ is slowly being introduced and used in very small scales in Punjab, but it is not yet widespread, unlike in other Asian neighbors.

Farmers in Bangladesh, Vietnam and the Philippines have successfully opted for pesticide-free cultivation. But the irony of Punjab is that the agriculture establishments are not open to this bitter realism about pesticides. They are still gloating in the green-revolution mindset, insulated from alternative paradigms for sustainable agriculture, environment and development.

Organic farming is being introduced mainly by ngos.

While NGO’s such as Kheti Virasat Mission, are doing their best to educate the farmers about health and environment issues, even to the extent of asking them to pledge that they will do only organic farming, the state government’s role is starkly insensitive and lackadaisical.

But the effects of excessive use of pesticides and pollution of water have already taken root.

the train plying between Muktsar and Bikaner has been rechristened as the ‘cancer train’ by the locals.


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27 Responses to “Census of farmer suicides”

  1. Mewa Singh says:

    "The primary threat to nature and people today comes from centralising and monopolising power and control. Not until diversity is made the logic of production will there be a chance for sustainability, justice and peace. Cultivating and conserving diversity is no luxury in our times: it is a survival imperative."

    Vandana Shiva

    Thanks for the post Reema. It is interesting that PAU is so slow to push these new initiatives. It was the PAU that was at the center of receiving numerous monies from the Ford Foundation to push Punjab to adopt capitalist farming during the 1960s, launching the Green Revolution. The increased wealth through big farmer land consolidation and the showiness of bigger tractors, bigger cars, and bigger houses was bought at the price of the ecological disaster that Punjab is facing today. Vandana Shiva has a fascinating eco-Marxian analysis of the Green Revolution and the violence of the 1980s in her book Violence of the Green Revolution: Third World Agriculture, Ecology, and Politics.

    One interesting point about the study was the comment:

    The census will take into account farmer suicides occurring after April 1, 2005, excluding suicides of farm laborers.

    It seems rather odd to me that farm laborers would be excluded. The debts of farmers would also be felt by the laborers. Laborers routinely are promised wages that they never receive. I wonder if there is a certain caste-ist reason for the exclusion.

  2. Mewa Singh says:

    “The primary threat to nature and people today comes from centralising and monopolising power and control. Not until diversity is made the logic of production will there be a chance for sustainability, justice and peace. Cultivating and conserving diversity is no luxury in our times: it is a survival imperative.”
    Vandana Shiva

    Thanks for the post Reema. It is interesting that PAU is so slow to push these new initiatives. It was the PAU that was at the center of receiving numerous monies from the Ford Foundation to push Punjab to adopt capitalist farming during the 1960s, launching the Green Revolution. The increased wealth through big farmer land consolidation and the showiness of bigger tractors, bigger cars, and bigger houses was bought at the price of the ecological disaster that Punjab is facing today. Vandana Shiva has a fascinating eco-Marxian analysis of the Green Revolution and the violence of the 1980s in her book Violence of the Green Revolution: Third World Agriculture, Ecology, and Politics.

    One interesting point about the study was the comment:

    The census will take into account farmer suicides occurring after April 1, 2005, excluding suicides of farm laborers.

    It seems rather odd to me that farm laborers would be excluded. The debts of farmers would also be felt by the laborers. Laborers routinely are promised wages that they never receive. I wonder if there is a certain caste-ist reason for the exclusion.

  3. Reema says:

    Mewa,

    I also thought it was curious that laborers weren't being included in the census. I didn't want to jump to conclusions but it does seem odd to divide on a caste-ish level. I also wonder if it might also be an attempt to keep numbers lower.

  4. Reema says:

    Mewa,

    I also thought it was curious that laborers weren’t being included in the census. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions but it does seem odd to divide on a caste-ish level. I also wonder if it might also be an attempt to keep numbers lower.

  5. Jiwan jot kaur says:

    A few days ago ,i was on the net watching videos of angry farmers in FRANCE ,after the new law…"THE NEW MONSANTO" law finally passed after meeting much resistance .

    But of course ,it passed!!

    RELATED to the subject were interviews on videos ,many videos …and documentaries on how the big american corporation "MONSANTO" has been ruining the lifes of many farmers around the planet …from argentina ,to canada ,to INDIA,you name it .everywhere.

    i was until 3 a.m watching the stuff and I learned a lot about the pesticide ;"Round up' and how it is misleading the farmers into believing it is a panacee ……and after 3 years or so ,how the plants develop new deseases,the farmers having to buy more and more pesticide …

    what an abomination!

    How can so many good people be dealing with so much evil energy?

    Jiwan jot kaur .

  6. Georgeta says:

    I'm glad to see finally that there is EVIDENCE regarding the connection between the harmful chemicals in pesticides/herbicides and cancer. In the USA, this connection is totally dismissed by the doctors and other authorities who keep saying that the cause of cancer is unknown. Multiple Myeloma, which is a blood (immune system) cancer, is relatively new and its prevalence is mostly in farming areas where chemicals are used extensively. Many farmers in the USA suffer from different cancers but no one seems to see the connection. The grid for money is what it counts the most.

  7. Jiwan jot kaur says:

    A few days ago ,i was on the net watching videos of angry farmers in FRANCE ,after the new law…”THE NEW MONSANTO” law finally passed after meeting much resistance .
    But of course ,it passed!!
    RELATED to the subject were interviews on videos ,many videos …and documentaries on how the big american corporation “MONSANTO” has been ruining the lifes of many farmers around the planet …from argentina ,to canada ,to INDIA,you name it .everywhere.
    i was until 3 a.m watching the stuff and I learned a lot about the pesticide ;”Round up’ and how it is misleading the farmers into believing it is a panacee ……and after 3 years or so ,how the plants develop new deseases,the farmers having to buy more and more pesticide …
    what an abomination!
    How can so many good people be dealing with so much evil energy?
    Jiwan jot kaur .

  8. Georgeta says:

    I’m glad to see finally that there is EVIDENCE regarding the connection between the harmful chemicals in pesticides/herbicides and cancer. In the USA, this connection is totally dismissed by the doctors and other authorities who keep saying that the cause of cancer is unknown. Multiple Myeloma, which is a blood (immune system) cancer, is relatively new and its prevalence is mostly in farming areas where chemicals are used extensively. Many farmers in the USA suffer from different cancers but no one seems to see the connection. The grid for money is what it counts the most.

  9. Reema says:

    Jiwan jot,

    Were you watching the french documentary on Monsanto ('the world according to monsanto') or something else? It sounds interesting…

    What new law was passed in France?

    Thanks for the info…

  10. Reema says:

    Jiwan jot,

    Were you watching the french documentary on Monsanto (‘the world according to monsanto’) or something else? It sounds interesting…

    What new law was passed in France?

    Thanks for the info…

  11. J Josan says:

    Another aspect which needs to studied obejectively by any neutral agency is effect of pesticides on increase in incidence of cancer deaths in Punjab, particularly, Malwa region which is a major region for cotton crop which requires maximum usage of pesticide.

    It also needs to study effect of excessive use of pesticides & fertilizer on ground-water and its effect on human health.

  12. Mewa Singh says:

    Parkinson's disease has also been linked to various combinations of pesticides as well.

  13. J Josan says:

    Another aspect which needs to studied obejectively by any neutral agency is effect of pesticides on increase in incidence of cancer deaths in Punjab, particularly, Malwa region which is a major region for cotton crop which requires maximum usage of pesticide.

    It also needs to study effect of excessive use of pesticides & fertilizer on ground-water and its effect on human health.

  14. Mewa Singh says:

    Parkinson’s disease has also been linked to various combinations of pesticides as well.

  15. […] A little while ago, we mentioned a census commissioned by the Punjab government and being conducted by the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, documenting the rates of farmer suicides in Punjab. […]

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  17. Thanks for the post Reema. It is interesting that PAU is so slow to push these new initiatives.

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  19. The farmers are the backbone of any state, the government of state must take some action in such cities where the farmers are not have their complete rights. The farmer suicides that is bad news they take such step because they are unable to get the price of their corn and vegetables they sell.

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  23. According to the Wikipedia The National Crime Records Bureau of India reported 5,650 farmer suicides.The highest number of farmer suicides were recorded in 2004 when 18,241 farmers committed suicide

  24. kelapa sawit says:

    The soil must be cured from the effect of over pesticides and anorganic fertilizer first so the farmer can have the good harvest then.