Maharashtra is the richest and most prosperous state in India. At the same time, it is also plagued by farmer suicides. Although farmer suicides have been taking place all over India, Maharashtra has noted the largest number of suicides since the 1990s. For 9 years from 1997 to 2006, 4,453 farmers committed suicide due to crop failures and heavy debts. In the next 4 years, this number increased by 547, bringing the total number of farmers who committed suicide to 5000 only from 2005-2009. Which means that the same number of farmers committed suicide in half the time span. This is government data. What about the statistics which go unreported and uninvestigated?
P. Sainath, a rural development journalist first began investigating the farmer suicide cases and his findings were not only stunning but also scary. He wrote a book: Everybody loves a good drought – highlighting the state of affairs of agriculture and farmers in India. He also explains the impact of a global phenomenon on rural India.
I took this picture when I saw a bottle of chemical pesticide lying empty in a field full of greens in Bhor village, a little ahead of Narayangaon, some 80 kms from Pune. It is a tribute to the sons of the soil (the real ones), P. Sainath and my own desire to report on issues like these.
One of the reasons fuelling farmer deaths was not suicide but indirect suicide. By definition, suicide is an attempt to kill yourself and the ones reported so far were direct suicides. But when P. Sainath dug about a bit, he saw that many farmers would complain of unbearable stomach ache during spraying season. When he checked their records, he’d see them admitted into a hospital with stomach ache. A post mortem would reveal that they had been consuming bottles of spray pesticide while tending to their fields thus resulting in an “indirect” suicide.
If the farmers stop cultivating grains and vegetables, where are the people of India going to eat from? Will money buy them food to last the rest of their lives? I think its time we stopped believing the idiot box and woke up from a deep slumber.
(Bio: June Bug is a journalist and a photographer.)