NOTE: While a variety of factors are fuelling India's farm suicides, what's undeniable is that most suicides have been taking place in India's cotton belt and revolve around the issue of debt. And in recent years farmers have been taking on huge debts to buy expensive Bt cotton seeds while struggling to make them productive.
Bt seeds have, of course, been relentlessly hyped to India's farmers by everyone from Monsanto-Mahyco and government officials at Bollywood stars. In some cases the hyping of Bt cotton seems to be down to corruption and self-interest, but what the promotion of GMOs also does is allow political leaders to strike a pose as progressives with their sights fixed on a better agricultural future, which provides them with cover for failing to do anything to improve the lot of agriculturalists, particularly the small farmers and landless labourers.
It's also revealing that amidst all the hype and fuss that there has been in India over GM crops, government investment in agriculture has actually fallen over the past decade by nearly a third. And with the U.S.-India Agricultural Knowledge Initiative, which even has Monsanto sitting on its board, it's clear where any investment will increasingly be going.
Vidarbha farm crisis claims 1,016th life this year
Hindustan Times, November 14 2007 http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=50336115-6793-4b8c-b0ab-648af99e09ea&&Headline=One+more+commits+suicide
A progressive farmer owning 22 acres of land became the 1,016th cultivator to commit suicide this year in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region, which has become the epicentre of agrarian crisis in the country.
Narayan Uggewar, 42, on Sunday consumed poison in his cotton field in Yavatmal district's Wanjari village, about 30 kms from Yavatmal.
Uggewar had taken a loan of nearly Rs 100,000 from the Bank of Maharashtra after repaying an earlier loan, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti leader Kishor Tiwari said.
'He is also said to have taken an almost equal amount of loan from private sources and sown BT cotton on 18 out of 22 acres of his farm,' Tiwari told IANS.
'The yield was however poor -- only 25 quintals as against 100 that he expected, mainly because the crop was destroyed by lalya, a pest that the BT strain doesn't guard against.'
Unmitigated farm distress in the Vidarbha region continues to bedevil both the state and the central government despite seven fact-finding commissions studying the problem in great detail since 2005 and writing voluminous reports.
At least eight of this month's 15 suicides were reported last weekend.
Two farmers who ended their lives on Saturday hailed from the paddy growing Chandrapur district of eastern Vidarbha, which is not included in the prime minister's relief package, Tiwari said.
As many as 1,662 farmers committed suicide in the six crisis-ridden districts of west Vidarbha last year as per the Maharashtra government record maintained in obedience to a high court order. Suicides by farmers, though on a much smaller scale, have also been reported from the five east Vidarbha districts.
Even while claiming that the incidence of farm-related suicides has declined, the state government set up yet another committee headed by agriculture economist Narendra Jadhav earlier this month to study the unremitting problem and suggest ways to tackle it.
Activists and experts are questioning the propriety of commissioning yet another study even as the prime minister's office (PMO) has reportedly accepted the recommendations of a panel of three state government secretaries for modifications in the prime minister's July 2006 relief package.