Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Farmer Suicides Continue Unabated in India in 2015

Yet another farmer suicide reported in Delhi today. This suicide did not go unnoticed by the Indian media because it happened in front of the cameras covering the Aam Aadmi Party rally. AAP rules the Indian capital New Delhi. It occurred only a stone throw away from Lok Sabha, the Indian parliament.

About 60% of India's population is employed in the agricultural and allied sector, which contributes 18% of the country's GDP. Official figures show 11,772 farmers committed suicide in 2013 across India. That is 44 deaths every day.

Not much has changed in the last two years since I wrote the following post titled "India's Agrarian Crisis: A Farmer Commits Suicide Every 30 Minutes" on my Haq's Musings blog in 2013:

An Indian farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes. About 200,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves over the last decade, according to media reports quoting India Rural Development Report 2012-13 released in September this year.

The report, prepared by a government-funded Infrastructure Development Finance Company, was released by India's rural development minister Jairam Ramesh. It says 65% of India’s poor live in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in 2011-12, a significant increase from 50% in 1993-94.

More recent news indicates that the crisis is continuing unabated. About two-thirds of the farmer suicides are being reported from 5 states: Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Other states are not immune. Indian Punjab has seen nearly 7000 farmers kill themselves in the last decade. Gujarat, the home of BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, reported 60 farmer suicides in 2012-13.

A report by Center for Human Rights and Global Justice blames failures of biotech crops, particularly Bt cotton, for the tragedy. The report also says inadequate policy responses are contributing to the crisis. Others believe it is caused by poor irrigation. They say that cotton requires a lot more water relative to other crops. It takes 25,000 liters of water to produce one kilo of cotton, about 50 times more than to grow a kilo of potatoes, according to a report in Forbes magazine.

The problem of suicides appears to be at least in part due to the fact that India's value added agriculture continues be among the lowest in the world. Unlike India, Pakistan managed to significantly raise agriculture productivity and rural incomes in 1980s through a livestock revolution. Economic activity in dairy, meat and poultry sectors now accounts for just over 50% of the nation's total agricultural output. The result is that per capita value added to agriculture in Pakistan is almost twice as much as that in Bangladesh and India.

Adding value is the process of changing or transforming a product from its original state to a more valuable state, according to Professor Mike Boland of Kansas State University. The professor explains how it applies to agriculture as follows:

"Many raw commodities have intrinsic value in their original state. For example, field corn grown, harvested and stored on a farm and then fed to livestock on that farm has value. In fact, value usually is added by feeding it to an animal, which transforms the corn into animal protein or meat. The value of a changed product is added value, such as processing wheat into flour. It is important to identify the value-added activities that will support the necessary investment in research, processing and marketing. The application of biotechnology, the engineering of food from raw products to the consumers and the restructuring of the distribution system to and from the producer all provide opportunities for adding value."

Although Pakistan's value added to agriculture is high for its region, it has been essentially flat since mid-1990s. It also lags significantly behind developing countries in other parts of the world. For example, per capita worker productivity in North Africa and the Middle East is more than twice that of Pakistan while in Latin America it is more than three times higher.

Agriculture Value Added Per Capita in Constant 2000 US$--Source: World Bank
There are lots of opportunities for Pakistan to reach the levels of value addition already achieved in Middle East, North Africa and Latin America.These range from building infrastructure to reduce losses to fuller utilization of animals and crops for producing valuable products.  Value addition through infrastructure development includes storage and transportation facilities for crops, dairy and meat to cut spoilage. Other opportunities to add value include better processing of  sugarcane waste, rice bran, animal hides and bones, hot treatment, grading and packaging of fruits, vegetables and fish, etc.

Agriculture Value Added Per Capita in South Asia, North Africa and Latin America--Source: World Bank
Pakistan's growing middle class has increased demand for dairy, meat and various branded and processed food products. Engro, Nestle, Unilever and other food giants are working with family farms and supermarket chains like Makro, Hyperstar and Metro Cash and Carry to respond to it by setting up modern supply chains.

Growth of value added agriculture in Pakistan has helped the nation's rural economy. It has raised incomes and reduced rural poverty by creating more higher wage jobs. It has had a salutary effect on the lives of the rural poor in terms of their ability to afford better healthcare, nutrition and education. Doing more to promote value added agriculture can accelerate such improvements for the majority of Indians and Pakistanis who engage in agriculture and textiles and still live in rural areas.

Here's a video on Indian farmers' suicides:

Farmer suicides in India by next9news

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India-Pakistan Economic Comparison in 2014

Most Indians and Pakistanis Employed in Agriculture and Textiles

Pakistan Leads South Asia in Value Added Agriculture

Pakistan Among Top Meat and Dairy Consuming Nations

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Comparing Pakistan and Bangladesh

FMCG Boom in Pakistan

Agricultural Growth in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

Pakistan's Decade 1999-2009

Musharraf's Economic Legacy

World Bank Report on Rural Poverty in Pakistan

India's Twin Deficits

Pakistan's Economy 2008-2010


Anonymous said...

The picture you are posting is way way old. And lastly, we have too many people in India. Few die it does not matter. China has killed a much bigger number of people during Mao's time and Long March. Not only that, their "police" makes much larger number of people "disappear".

Riaz Haq said...

On Thursday, a day after a farmer died apparently by hanging himself from a tree at a protest rally in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told lawmakers that his government would seek solutions to the “widespread” problem of farmer suicide.
“Nothing is more important than a farmer’s life,” Mr. Modi said in the lower house of Parliament.
“We have to see which wrong road we walked. What were the wrong steps in the past and now,” he added. “The government will accept all suggestions.”

Rajnath Singh, India’s home minister, described the death of Gajendra Singh Rajput at a protest ground in the capital as “tragic” and promised that police would conduct a “thorough probe” into the incident.
Mr. Rajput, a farmer from Dausa village in the western state of Rajasthan had traveled to attend a political rally in the national capital to oppose the government’s new land-acquisition policy, according to Mr. Singh.
India’s Bharatiya Janata Party-led government is seeking to change the law to make it easier for the government to acquire farmland for industry and infrastructure. Opposition parties have called the government’s move “anti-farmer.”
At the protest rally organized by Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party in support of farmers, Mr. Rajput climbed a tree with a broom and a cloth in his hand, Mr. Singh said, according to information provided to him by the Delhi Police.
Police officers present at the rally tried to help the farmer and immediately arranged for a ladder and also summoned the fire brigade to the spot.
“They appealed to the people not to clap, cheer and shout. No one listened,” Mr. Singh said.
The farmer fell from the tree, was immediately rushed to the hospital, where he was declared dead, he added.
“Opposition and the government should get together and think of ways to get farmers out of crisis,” he said.
The protests come as heavy, unseasonal rains have damaged crops in large parts of the country, causing difficult conditions for farmers who make up a large proportion of India’s workforce.
Mr. Modi said the problem of farmers committing suicide “is old and widespread.”
“For many years, farmers’ suicide has been a cause of concern for the nation and governments,” Mr. Modi said in Parliament.
The government, he said, was ready to accept suggestions from opposition parties and “work together to find a solution to this age old problem.”

Anonymous said...

Gajendra singh was not a poor farmer. Here is the evidence of that__

The man was Gajendra Singh of Nangal Jhamalwaran village in Dausa district of Rajasthan. The 43-year-old father of three was known to be politically ambitious and had made a mark for himself as an expert in tying turbans.

Contrary to earlier assumption that he was a poor farmer who was forced to take the drastic step, those who knew him, including members of his extended family, have asserted that he was not distressed and came from a well-to-do family.

In fact, now questions are being asked on his portrayal as a farmer. His family has claimed that he was not a full-time farmer though he had ancestral land. The standing crop in his farm was also damaged in the unseasonal rains but the damage was to the tune of just 20-25%, people in his village claimed.

Gajendra was politically ambitious and had even contested the assembly elections on a Samajwadi Party ticket after first starting out with the BJP. He later got involved with the Aam Aadmi Party, reports said.

His family members claimed that he had left for Delhi 3-4 days ago. While leaving he had told them that he will try to meet Arvind Kejriwal.

After he committed 'suicide', one of his relatives claimed that Gajendra had met Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia at his residence just hours before he hung himself from a tree at Jantar Mantar.

The other highlight of his personality was his turban-making skills. Gajendra could tie a turban in less than a minute and was most sought after during weddings and political rallies in Rajasthan.

In 2010, Gajendra had won the Mr Desert title, a Rajasthani cultural pageant.

Riaz Haq said...

INDIA’S monsoon is one of the world’s most important weather events. About half of the country's population—that is, 600m people—depend directly on the rain it bears. The monsoon sweeps northward across the subcontinent, bringing moist air from the south and south-west Indian Ocean. As it hits the land, and especially as it rises towards the Himalayas, it dumps its cargo of water, producing about three quarters of India’s total rainfall between June and September. Two-thirds of Indian agriculture is still fed by this rain, rather than by irrigation, which means India’s harvest depends on it. When the monsoon fails, as it has done this year, millions suffer. Crops wilt or fail altogether, farm land dries up, reservoirs, already too-small, run low, and winter crops (which are mostly irrigated) are imperilled. In some places this year, a lack of rain has led to shortages of drinking water.

Like all weather patterns, the monsoon is erratic. Four years in ten count as abnormal. But this year—in which total rainfall is 14% below the 50-year-average between June and September—is exceptional. Droughts of this sort happens about once every 18 years. There is also extreme variation within the variation. Some parts of the country, the western state of Gujarat for example, have seen higher-than-normal rainfall. Others, especially in the north and the eastern coast, have had precipitation that is 40% below average.

Climate change seems to be making the variations more extreme. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international group of scientists who advise governments on global warming, has warned that because of climate change monsoon rainfall extremes are likely to increase. But exactly why this should so be is up for debate. No one yet fully understands the link between the monsoon and El Niño, a warming of the waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. Over the past century, most climate scientists have argued that a strong El Niño is associated with a weak monsoon because, as the Pacific warms, the air rises and comes down again over the subcontinent, driven by prevailing wind patterns. This descending warmer air is associated with higher pressure, less moisture and a weaker monsoon. The current El Niño is the strongest since 1997 and 1998, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, and will be at its most powerful at the end of the year.

During the 1980s and 1990s, however, this link seemed to be broken. The year 1997 saw one of the strongest El Niños on record, but a normal monsoon. Balaji Rajagopalan of the University of Colorado, Boulder, argues that the puzzle can be explained by looking at which part of the Pacific warms up during an El Niño. If the eastern waters warm, the air comes down again over Indonesia and South East Asia, which tend to be drier than normal. But this may not affect India. If the central Pacific warms, the high pressure tends to form over India and the monsoon fails. If Professor Rajagopalan is right, this year’s El Niño is getting stronger in the central Pacific than in the east. The Indian Meteorological Department is hoping to incorporate this information into its monsoon forecasting system.

Riaz Haq said...

#India likely to become net importer of #sugar in 2016-17. #Pakistan could benefit from sugar trade. #drought

It would also give rival producers such as Pakistan, Thailand and Brazil the chance to boost shipments from their ports. "India will need to import next year due to a production shortfall," Ashok Jain, president of the Bombay Sugar Merchants Association (BSMA), told Reuters.

"Drought has severely affected cane plantations in Maharashtra. The government should stop exports now to reduce import requirements in the next season."

The El Nino weather phenomenon, which brings dry conditions to many regions, has stoked the worst drought in decades in some parts of India, with thousands of small-scale sugar cane growers in Maharashtra state failing to cultivate crops for the next marketing year, starting October.

"Even for drinking water we are relying on water tankers. It wasn't possible for anyone from our village to cultivate cane," said Baban Swami, a farmer standing in a parched field in the Latur district of Maharashtra, around 500 km southeast of Mumbai.

Riaz Haq said...

Parched Land. Farmer #Suicides. Dead Animals. Forced Migration: #Drought Is Crippling Rural #India … via @TheWorldPost

TIKAMGARH DISTRICT, India — For years, Lakshman Pal, 28, planted wheat and tended to his small field here. Each season, he hoped for rain. He looked up at the sky and waited for the showers that normally came. But for the past two years, they’ve hardly come at all. His crops eventually withered and died, crumbling to dust.

In early May, Pal returned from a spell of work in the distant state of Haryana, where he earned 250 rupees, or about $3.70, a day toiling long hours as a laborer. Fifteen other members of his family also migrated to various cities, searching for work and leaving behind women, children, the elderly and a handful of younger men to tend to the land. Pal borrowed money from the bank and a local moneylender to pay for medical treatment for his mother, who has cancer, and he was now deep in debt.

Back in Khakron, his village, Pal found himself not only in debt, but also with no water for his fields, no crops to harvest, no food for his family, no money for his mother’s treatment. He awoke one morning in mid-May, before dawn, and killed himself in his field.

Life is precarious in Bundelkhand, a vast rural landscape in north-central India that I drove through on a weeklong trip for The WorldPost in late May. The region, which consists of over 27,000 square miles across the states Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, is one of India’s poorest areas, populated mostly by poverty-stricken farmers living in rudimentary villages. And now, it’s suffocating under an intense drought that’s affected a staggering 330 million people nationwide.

As the crisis deepens, the country that celebrated the 1960s agricultural revolution and a resulting boom in production of food grains is now seeing its farmers dying in debt and despair. In many cases, farmers accrue debt from loans for seeds, fertilizers and equipment. And the debt can carry down to their children and grandchildren.

Stories like Pal’s are repeated with frightening regularity all over the country. More than 2,200 farmers reportedly died by suicide in just one state — Madhya Pradesh — between April and October of last year, and more than 12,000 reportedly killed themselves across the country in 2014.

Severe dry spells have become much more common in Bundelkhand in recent years, a consequence of both climate change and the lack of a robust irrigation system, turning this historically dry area into a parched and barren land. Groundwater reservoirs have been dangerously depleted, and agriculture has stagnated. Temperatures are consistently over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and sometimes top 115. Since the early 2000s, droughts have become worse and the annual monsoon, which is critical for agriculture, has become erratic. The drought was especially bad from 2003 to 2010. In 2011, the region experienced much higher rainfall — in some districts, more than 500 percent above normal — and flooding was widespread. Disappointing monsoons in 2012 and 2013 gave way to drought again in 2014. It hasn’t abated, and the network of lakes, rivers and wells, which had always supported the people, have gone almost completely dry.