Surge in suicide by Indian farmers

New Delhi, November 1:

Farmer suicides linked to crushing debt loads for seeds and fertiliser in India’s cotton belt have surged despite a government relief package announced in July, activists said today.

Hundreds of farmers hit hard by rising debt and falling cotton prices have taken their own lives in the Vidarbha region of western Maharashtra state, they claim. “In October, 112 farmers killed themselves. The number was 125 in September, 111 in August, 90 in July,” said Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha People’s Protest Forum, who said the trend was upwards.

“The farmers have no food to feed their children. And the state government says that they should go in for yoga. Hungry people are being asked to do yoga,” Tiwari said by phone from Nagpur district in Maharashtra. The forum represents hard-hit farmers in the cotton-growing region of western Maharashtra state.

In July, prime minister announced a $835 million relief package that included debt relief during a visit to Vidarbha. But activists said most cotton farmers, including those in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, still borrowed from private money lenders, who charged exorbitant interest rates.