Risk mgmt in agri sector can prevent farmer suicide

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Risk mgmt in agri sector can prevent farmer suicide

Thursday, 25 October 2018 | DEEPAK KUMAR NANDA

Every year September 10 is observed as the World Suicide Prevention Day, thereby the whole month of September as the suicide prevention month, organised by the International Association for Suicide Prevention in association with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The purpose is to raise the awareness around the globe that suicide can be prevented. In this regard, this year’s theme of the observation was “working together to prevent suicide” (IASP).

According to a study, on “Why farmers quit? A study on farmers’ suicide in Odisha,” by Indo-Global Social Service Society (2017), in the year 2009 around 40 farmers committed suicides in the western region of Sambalpur and Balangir districts alone. Similarly, in the year 2015, the whole Odisha witnessed around 200 farmer suicide cases, where on November 6, around eight farmers killed themselves in a single day. That was a black day in the farmer's history of Odisha.

Farmer suicides in western Odisha have gradually increased in past few years. Therefore, some have already addressed this region as the hotbed of farmer suicides in Odisha. Recently on August 24, a daily reported another farmer suicide case in Turekela block of Balangir district. The unfortunate incident is that just two days back one of the farmers of the same block had ended his life because of crop failure. It further reports that in past two years in the community blocks of Belpada, Balangir, Patnagarh, Khaprakhol, Kantabanji, Bangomunda and Muribahal, more than 12 farmers attempted suicide because of crop failure and burden of farm loan but the administration was not in a position to accept the fact but to blame the reasons other than crop failure and indebtedness .

Again on September 11, another farmer from Khaprakhol block ended his life because of cotton crop failure. The blindfold attitude of the local administration irked the public.

The Accidental Death and Suicides in India report (2015) reveals that bankruptcy/indebtedness and farming related issues are the major reasons behind the suicides of farmers/cultivators. However, it enlists some other reasons like poverty, property disputes, family problems, illness, drug abuse/alcoholic addiction, and marriage-related issues.

In this respect, a pertinent question that arises is why the farmers of western Odisha are committing suicides? Why is the agricultural sector even after accommodating the largest chunk of the population badly affected? And are there adequate and satisfactory measures to tackle the socio-economic as well as environmental risks in rural Odisha?

It is evident and inevitable that there are risks in the sector of farming, business or entrepreneurship. Therefore, the World Development Report 2014 (World Bank, 2014) emphasizes the management of risks for the eradication of poverty. Coming to the case of western Odisha, especially in Balangir, the (marginal) farmers are unable to fight the rising risks. The nature of risks are economic, health, social, natural, environmental and political in general. Specific economic risks include high unemployment, low wage price, distress sale of paddy, price hike, failure of crops, business, expenses for child education; health risks—illness, injury, accident and death; social risks—conflict with neighbours, property related conflict, festival and ceremonial expenses, marriage expenses; natural risks—high rainfall, low rainfall/drought, climatic variations, irregularities of rain; environmental risks—, deforestation, bad weather, low pressure, high pressure, and political risks—unavailability of fertiliser, high price of seeds and fertiliser and market failure, etc.

Households coping strategies during the socio-economic risks and shocks are dependent on multiple sources of help. Financial availability and supports in urgent situations are impossible for maximum families. It is more with ST, SC households as more of the BPL households are landless having no regular sufficient income. It is also the same in the case of OBC households except for some landholding families. But in this case, immediate financial support is out of their ambit, which is very crucial and important for a family to tackle the risk to handle any uncertainties.

In this context, household credit and debt system plays a crucial role in managing risks and emergency situations. It is a part and parcel of the life of people since they depend on each other on various occasions. However, the dynamics of operating this system is undemocratic, exclusive and exploitative in nature.

The informal credit system is a big challenge for human growth and development. The money lender is not the viable option for farmers and rural poor. The Government investment in social sector and flexibility in access to credit will help in eradicating risks of marginal farmers and resolve the issue of social security.

But when an administration always blames the farmer's suicide as not related to crop failure or loan pressure, it exposes its very weakness in implementing suitable social security measures for the distressed farmers.

(The writer is a PhD scholar,Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.    Email: nandadeepak3@gmail.com)


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