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...

#India Farmer Suicides Up 42% In 2015. Over 300,000 #Indian #farmers' #suicides since 1995. #Modi #BJP #AchcheDin

Monday, January 02, 2017

Suicides by farmers in India increased 42%, while those by agricultural labourers declined 32% in 2015, a second consecutive drought year after 2014, according to data on accidental deaths and suicides in India, released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on December 30, 2016.

Indebtedness was listed as the primary reasons for suicides by farmers (3,097), while “family problems” was the leading reason for suicides by farm workers (1,843).

Suicides by farmers and agricultural labourers combined increased 2% over an year to 12,602 in 2015 from 12,360 in 2014. More farmers than agricultural labourers committed suicide in 2015–8007 farmers (64%) and 4595 farm workers (34%). In 2014, 54% were farm workers.

More than 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide since 1995, the year NCRB began recording data on farm suicides.

Source: Report on Accidental Deaths and Suicides, NCRB 2015

The average landholding declined 20% over 15 years, from 1.41 hectare in 1995 to 1.15 hectare in 2010, according to the latest agricultural census,, a data journalism portal, reported in December 2015.

These data indicate marginal farmers also work as farm workers, potentially blurring the distinction between farmer and farm worker.

After declining 32% over four years to 2013, farmer suicides rise again

Farmer suicides reduced 32% from 2009 till 2013–a good monsoon year–after which they have increased every year.

As many as 17,368 farmers and agricultural labourers committed suicide in 2009, a drought year nationwide. Suicides declined to 11,772 in 2013, rising 5% to 12,360 in 2014 and 8% over two years to 12,602 in 2015.

Source: Historical reports on Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India, NCRB 2015

Maharashtra reports most farmer suicides, 7 years in succession (at least)

For the seventh year in succession at least (data prior to 2008 are currently unavailable on the NCRB website), more farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra (4,291) in 2015 than any other state, rising 7% from 4,004 in 2014, followed by Karnataka (1,569) and Telangana (1,400).

Karnataka registered a 100% rise with 1,569 suicides in 2015.

Source: Report on Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India, NCRB 2015

Gujarat, Kerala, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu were among the big states that reported a fall in farmer suicides. Farmer and farm worker suicides in Gujarat halved, from 600 in 2014 to 301 in 2015.

Failure of crops kills 1,500 farmers in 2015

Apart from indebtedness, which is the primary reason listed in the data, crop failure is the next leading reason listed in the suicides of 1,562 farmers in 2015.

As many as 842 farmers reportedly committed suicide due to various illnesses, while 330 farmers killed themselves due to drugs and alcohol, according to the data.

Suicides due to bankruptcy more than doubled to 3,097 in 2015 from 1,163 in 2014. Suicides after crop failure increased 60%, from 969 to 1,562 over the same period.

Only four states–Maharashtra with 1,293, Karnataka with 946, Telangana with 632 and Andhra Pradesh with 154–among 29 states registered more than 100 suicides by farmers due to indebtedness.

Of 12,602 farmers and labourers who committed suicide, 92% or 11,584 were male, while 1,018 were female.

“Family problems” was the second-leading cause for suicides by women farmers, accounting for 18% of deaths reported.

About 896, or 20% of suicides by agricultural labourers and 899, or 11% farmers suicides, were from ‘other causes’ and ‘causes not known’.


Riaz Haq said...

India is one of the world’s most unequal countries: James Crabtree
In an interview with Mint, journalist and author James Crabtree talks about the rapid rise of India’s ultra-rich and the crony capitalism and inequality that have accompanied such concentration of wealth

You argue in your book that the Left in India approaches the issue from the same angle. They care largely about how people at the bottom are doing rather than inequality per se.

This, I thought, was interesting. The totemic intellectual debate in India’s recent past has been between Jagdish Bhagwati and Amartya Sen. In a sense, neither of them places inequality front and centre. For Jagdish, it’s growth that matters, everything else can follow. For Amartya, what matters is the condition of the people at the bottom. Neither of them is really looking at the gap between the top and the bottom. That means you’re missing an important component of what makes a successful growth model.

Inequality isn’t just about the billionaires, it’s about the fact that the top 10%, and particularly the top 1%, have done disproportionately well. The vast mass of everyone else, including those who you’d consider to be middle-class, although in absolute terms they’re doing much better, in relative terms they’re doing much worse. That’s not how you build a successful country. It’s pretty clear that very unequal countries find it much harder to modernise. Look at Latin America, that’s the classic middle income trap. Countries that have managed to break through to become rich countries either have fantastic natural resources—like the oil emirates, and they’re not the ones you want to follow—or they’ve managed to create a kind of social and economic model that takes everyone along with them.

What happens if India continues on this path of the top pulling away from the rest? What does that mean for modernisation and reform?

Reforms are complicated, they require winners and losers. You have to have a sense that the winners will look after the losers. Farmers, for instance. This is not a good time for them. A lot of them are going to have to work somewhere else because India desperately needs a much smaller and more efficient farm sector. But if the sense is that everyone’s in it for themselves, then that makes it much more difficult to create the coalitions that you need for such changes.

Riaz Haq said...

#Cow, cow #dung, and #caste: Why #India’s #farmers are fuming at #Modi. Protestors were met with water cannons, tear gas shells, and beaten with lathis at the borders of #Delhi as the Narendra Modi government imposed a curfew. #BJP via @qzindia

On Oct. 02, more than 30,000 farmers came knocking at the doors of India’s capital city, New Delhi.

Most of them were from Uttar Pradesh, the politically crucial northern state in India’s Hindi heartland, which hosts the highest number of seats for the national elections next year. The non-violent rally, called by the Bharatiya Kisan Union, began on Sept. 25 from Haridwar, some 200 kilometers north of Delhi and was to end in the national capital on Oct. 02.

But the crowds were met with water cannons and tear gas shells, and were beaten with lathis and batons at the borders of Delhi as the Narendra Modi government imposed a curfew to stop them from entering the city.

However, when the rally refused to disperse, the government relented at midnight and let them in.

The farmers have called off the protest, despite the government not heeding their two main demands—an unconditional loan waiver and the Swaminathan committe-recommended minimum prices for crops.

Quartz spoke with a few of the protesting farmers at Ghaziabad on the outskirts of Delhi, where they’re still camping, to understand what drove them to participate in the seven-day rally and even risk their lives. Most of them are sugarcane cultivators from Uttar Pradesh and belong to the upper-caste Hindu community, a demographic that is perceived as the heart of Narendra Modi’s support base.


Last month, when Singh left his village to be part of the rally from Haridwar, rains were running havoc on his crops. He has little hope of a good yield this year.

“All they have done is politics in the name of cow, cow dung, and caste,” says the farmer, who had also voted for Modi in 2014.

Now, he is not sure which political party to support. He does not trust assurances the government made to the farmers and wants an unconditional loan waiver, as well as the implementation of minimum prices for food crops as per recommendations of the 2004-06 Swaminathan commission, a demand successive Indian governments have been rejecting.

Riaz Haq said...

#India farmers: Tens of thousands march against #agrarian crisis. Over 300,000 #farmers have killed themselves since 1995. Daughters, wives, family members of those who committed #suicides over crop failure or #debt are also participating in the protest.

Tens of thousands of Indian farmers have marched to the parliament in the capital, Delhi, to highlight the deepening agrarian crisis.

They arrived on Thursday from across the country and held a rally demanding better crop prices, drought relief and loan waivers.

Indian agriculture has been blighted by a depleting water table and declining productivity for decades.

This is the fourth such farmers' protest in the past year.

Farmers make up important voting bloc in the country and, analysts say, given the scale of the protests, their discontentment could hurt the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in next year's general election.

"We voted for the BJP but anti-farmer policies of the government have hit us hard," Lakhan Pal Singh, one of the farmers participating in the march, told Reuters news agency.

Protesting India farmers: 'We want what we were promised'
One of their chief demands is a special parliamentary session to discuss solutions to the agrarian crisis, including a full loan waiver and higher crop prices.

Half of India's population works on farms, but farming contributes only 15% to the country's GDP.

In most states, governments have been less than swift in paying the farmers more for their crops - the federal government sets the price for produce and procures crops from farmers to incentivise production and ensure income support.

Indian farmers also struggle with debt owed to banks and money lenders. And crop failures trigger farm suicides with alarming frequency. At least 300,000 farmers have killed themselves since 1995.

Daughters, wives and other family members of farmers who took their own lives over crop failure or mounting debt are also participating in the protest - with some of them carrying photographs of their loved ones.

Riaz Haq said...

#Indian villages lie empty as #drought forces thousands to flee. Wells and handpumps have run dry in the 45C #heatwave.Sick and elderly left to fend for themselves with no end in sight to #water crisis.

Hundreds of Indian villages have been evacuated as a historic drought forces families to abandon their homes in search of water.

The country has seen extremely high temperatures in recent weeks. On Monday the capital, Delhi, saw its highest ever June temperature of 48C. In Rajasthan, the city of Churu recently experienced highs of 50.8C, making it the hottest place on the planet.

Further south, less than 250 miles from the country’s commercial capital, Mumbai, village after village lies deserted. Estimates suggest up to 90% of the area’s population has fled, leaving the sick and elderly to fend for themselves in the face of a water crisis that shows no sign of abating.

The village of Hatkarwadi, about 20 miles from Beed in Maharashtra state, is almost completely deserted.

Wells and handpumps have run dry in the 45C heatwave. The drought, which officials say is worse than the 1972 famine that affected 25 million people across the state, began early in December. By the end of May, Hatkarwadi had been deserted with only 10-15 families remaining out of a population of more than 2,000.

With 80% of districts in neighbouring Karnataka and 72% in Maharashtra hit by drought and crop failure, the 8 million farmers in these two states are struggling to survive. More than 6,000 tankers supply water to villages and hamlets in Maharashtra daily, as conflict brews between the two states over common water resources.

The acute water shortage has devastated villagers’ agriculture-based livelihood. Crops have withered and died, leaving livestock starving and with little to drink. Major crops, including maize, soya, cotton, sweet lime, pulses and groundnuts – drivers of the local economy – have suffered.

Around the world, stronger El Niño weather patterns and the ongoing climate breakdown are bringing harsher and more frequent droughts – and already-dry India has been particularly hard hit.

Scientists predict that as temperatures continue to rise with global heating and populations grow, the region will experience harsher water shortages – and will need to find clever solutions to ensure there is enough water for all.

In Marathwada, by many estimates the Indian region most affected by drought, increasingly frequent droughts have led to more than 4,700 farmer suicides in the last five years, including 947 last year. That crisis has deepened. In the city of Beed, clean drinking water has run out and households do not have enough water to wash clothes, clean dishes or flush the toilet. Hospitals are filling up with people suffering from dehydration – and gastrointestinal disease from drinking contaminated water.

Residents who can afford it pay private water tankers the equivalent of £3 for 1,000 litres of water. Many end up in hospital as a result – even cows refuse to drink the muddy and salty liquid that has been dredged from the bottom of exhausted dams and lakes in the region.

“Over the last one-and-half months, there has been a 50% rise in the number of patients suffering from diarrhoea, gastritis etc,” said Sandeep Deshmukh, a doctor at the Beed Civil hospital.

Riaz Haq said...

In 2019, as many as 10,281 farmers committed suicide in India, according to available data. The debt burden was reported to be the biggest reason behind these suicides. Of the total number of suicides in India every year, 8 percent are farmers. Indian farmers have burdened with an average debt of Rs 1.10 lakh. This amount may appear a small amount to you, but to earn this amount farmers wait for months to see their crop grow in their fields. They often fail to repay their loan installments along with domestic expenditure.

Riaz Haq said...

The situation for India’s more than 260 million agricultural workers is dire. Nearly 30 people in the farming sector die by suicide daily, according to the most recent figures available, typically due to overwhelming debt. Indeed in 2020, more than 10,000 people in the agricultural sector ended their own lives, according to government data.'s%20more,typically%20due%20to%20overwhelming%20debt.

India’s economic backbone – its farmers and their families – is in collapse. They face crushing pressures: insurmountable debt, environmental degradation, and extreme rates of cancer linked to exposure to pesticides.

Riaz Haq said...

#Indian couple beheaded themselves with homemade guillotine in ritual sacrifice, police in #India say. Hemubhai Makwana & his wife Hansaben both died by decapitation after using a homemade bladed mechanism on their farm in the #Gujarat. via @CBSNews

New Delhi — An Indian couple has allegedly died by suicide by using a guillotine-like mechanism to decapitate themselves in a sacrificial ritual, police said Sunday.

Hemubhai Makwana, 38, and his wife Hansaben, 35, both died by decapitation after using a homemade bladed mechanism in a hut on their farm in the western state of Gujarat, police said.

"The couple first prepared a fire altar before putting their heads under a guillotine-like mechanism held by a rope," Indrajeetsinh Jadeja, a police sub-inspector, was quoted as saying by Indian news outlets. "As soon as they released the rope, an iron blade fell on them, severing their heads, which rolled into the fire."

Fire is considered sacred in Hinduism and it plays a significant role in several worship rituals. The couple apparently designed the device used in their beheading in such a way that their heads would roll into the fire altar, completing their sacrificial ritual.

Police, who said they had found a suicide note addressed to family members, have launched an investigation. The couple is survived by two children and their parents.

The incident took place sometime between Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, when police were alerted.

Family members reportedly told police that the pair had offered prayers in the hut every day for the last year.

Ritual human sacrifices are not unknown in India, where official data show there were more than 100 reported cases between 2014 and 2021. But almost all known cases of human sacrifice involve people killing others to please gods, rather than themselves.

Earlier this month, Indian police arrested five men for murdering a woman in 2019 inside a Hindu temple in Guwahati, in what they said was a case of ritual human sacrifice.