Farmers' suicide in maharastra


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Farmers' suicide in maharastra

  1. 1. Farmers’ Suicides in Maharashtra An agrarian crisis has precipitated a spate of suicides in Maharashtra. The suicide mortality rate for farmers in the state has increased from 15 in 1995 to 57 in 2004. The rain-dependent cotton growing farmers of Vidarbha are faced with declining profitability because of dumping in the global market by the US, low import tariffs, failure of the Monopoly Cotton Procurement Scheme and withdrawal of the state (resulting in declining public investment in agriculture, poor government agriculture extension services and the diminishing role of formal credit institutions). The farmer now depends on the input dealer for advice, leading to supplier-induced demand, and on informal sources of credit, which result in a greater interest burden. In short, the farmer is faced with yield, price, credit, income and weather uncertainties. The way out is to merge bold public policy initiatives with civil society engagement. SRIJIT MISHRAF armers’ suicides have been receiving a lot of social and accounted for 1.3 per cent of the total deaths. Suicide is a social public policy attention, particularly in the states of Andhra phenomenon that differs across gender groups and it is appro- Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab and Maharashtra, in priate to discuss patterns in males and females separately. In 2001,recent years.1 A brief review of issues indicates that the depen- the age-adjusted suicide mortality rate (SMR, suicide deaths perdence on agriculture is largely among marginal and small farmers 1,00,000 persons) for Maharashtra was 20.6 for males and 12.6and agricultural labourers. These groups also bear the brunt of for females whereas for India it was 14.0 for males and 9.5 forthe unavailability of water and its associated yield uncertainty. females.3Linking of the national market with international markets has In Maharashtra, the age-adjusted SMR for males increasedalso increased price uncertainty, particularly in crops like cotton. from 17.4 in 1995 to 20.3 in 2004 and that for females decreasedThe absence of a formal rural financial market also leads to a from 13.6 in 1995 to 10.8 in 2004 (Table 1). The absolutedependence on informal sources with a greater interest burden. numbers of male suicides decreased in 1996, but thereafter theyThe marginal and small farmer is, however, willing to experiment have been increasing. For females, the absolute number ofand take risks. But, the farmer is not able to visualise that a bad suicides decreased in 1996 and then increased in the next twomonsoon leading to a crop failure or a glut in the market can years, but have been declining since 1999. The age-adjustedpush him into indebtedness and a crashing of dreams. This paper SMR for males has not always been increasing indicating thatdiscusses farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra, which is relatively the increase in the number of suicides has not been commen-higher in certain districts of Vidarbha. surate with the increase in population. Between 2001 and 2004 Suicide is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon. Some the age-adjusted SMR for males has been in the range of 20-important correlates can be identified either in the neurobiologi- 21. The decline in absolute female suicides when the populationcal domain [Mann 2002] or in the socio-economic domain has been rising explains the declining age-adjusted SMR for(Durkheim 2002 (1897)]. The former are predisposing in nature. females. Across divisions, Amravati and Nagpur have relativelyThey are internal factors that exist in the individual. All those higher SMRs.identified with these factors do not commit suicide. The presence The total number of farmer suicides in Maharashtra increasedof additional factors that are external to the individual becomes from 1,083 in 1995 to 4,147 in 2004. The increase was largelycrucial. This takes us to the socio-economic factors that are because of a 288 per cent increase in male farmer suicides fromprecipitating in nature – they can act as a trigger. These can be 978 to 3,799. During this period, male farmer suicides as aeither systemic or idiosyncratic. The current exercise identifies proportion of total male suicides in Maharashtra increased fromimportant socio-economic risk factors. 14 per cent to 38 per cent. We can arrive at the SMR for farmers The rest of the paper is organised as follows. The suicide by normalising it with the population of cultivators. The SMRscenario and agrarian situation in Maharashtra are discussed in for male farmers increased by nearly four times from 15 in 1995Sections I and II respectively. Micro level analysis based on field to 57 in 2004, but for females the trend fluctuated to reach asurvey in the districts of Wardha, Washim and Yavatmal is peak of 12 in 2001, but thereafter it has been declining. Fordiscussed in Section III. Concluding remarks are in Section IV. males, the ratio of SMR for farmers to age-adjusted SMR was lower than unity in 1995, but thereafter it has been greater than I unity and has been steadily increasing, and in 2004 the SMR Suicide Scenario in Maharashtra for farmers was 2.8 times greater than that for the general population. Suicide data in India is compiled through police records.2 In The SMR for farmers across divisions of Maharashtra during2001, Maharashtra constituted about 9.4 per cent of the all India 2001-04 indicates relatively higher suicide deaths than the statepopulation but accounted for 13.5 per cent of the total suicide average for males in Amravati and Nagpur divisions and fordeaths in the country. Suicides accounted for 2 per cent of the females in Amravati, Aurangabad and Nashik divisions (Table 2).total deaths in the state whereas at the all India level suicides, Across divisions, the ratio of farmers-to-age-adjusted SMR is1538 Economic and Political Weekly April 22, 2006
  2. 2. the maximum in Amravati among males and in Nashik among In Vidarbha, particularly in Amravati division and in thefemales. Nagpur has a higher SMR for farmers, which is lower selected districts, the cropping pattern indicates a shift in areaonly than in Amravati, but the ratio of farmers to age-adjusted from cereals (particularly jowar) and cotton towards soyabeanSMR is much lower. This indicates that in a relative sense the and to a lesser extent pulses. There is a shift, but with the absenceSMR in Nagpur is also high across other subgroups of population of viable alternatives, Cotton continues to be a major cash cropwhich are not self-employed in farming. accounting for 33 per cent of area in Wardha, 21 per cent of the area in Washim and 46 per cent of the area in Yavatmal in II triennium ending (TE) 2002-03. Cotton and soyabean are the two Agrarian Scenario in Maharashtra important cash crops of the region. In 2004-05, the year relevant for our primary survey, produc- In Maharashtra, the contribution of agriculture and allied tion of cotton was a record high worldwide as also in India.activities to the net state domestic product in current prices came Maharashtra’s production at 52 lakh bales showed a 68 per centdown from 40 per cent in 1960-61 to 13 per cent in 2004-05, increase over the previous year’s 31 lakh bales. This is largelywhereas as per the 2001 Census 55 per cent of the total workers because of a record yield of 297 kg/hectare in the state. Regardlessare either cultivators or agricultural labourers. Between1993-94 of this, Maharashtra’s productivity at 64 per cent of the nationaland 2003-04, the linear trend growth rate of Maharashtra’s gross average continues to be among the lowest. This growth wouldstate domestic product (GSDP) at 4.8 per cent per annum was have bypassed Amravati division where the monsoon in May-lower than that of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) at 5.8 October 2004 was largely deficient. In the selected districts,per cent per annum.4 rainfall fell short of the normal by 22 per cent in Wardha, 31 The GSDP of agriculture’s in Maharashtra at 1993-94 prices, per cent in Washim and 51 per cent in Yavatmal. The cottonincreased from Rs 21,750 crore for the triennium ending (TE) farmer in this region faced both price as well as yield shocks1995-96 to Rs 24,988 crore for TE 2002-03. The eight major simultaneously.crop groups in terms of gross area under cultivation are cereals On cotton prices, there are a number of other relevant factors.with nearly half of it under jowar, pulses (nearly three-tenths Table 1: Age-Adjusted Suicide Mortality Rates for Farmersunder tur), fibres (most of it cotton), oilseeds (nearly half of it in Maharashtra, 1995-2004under soyabean), sugar cane, fruits and vegetables, condiments Year Age Adjusted (5+) SMR for Farmers Ratio of SMR forand spices and drugs and narcotics. SMR Farmers to The share of estimated gross value added is lower compared Age-Adjusted SMRto the share of area for cereals (particularly low for jowar), pulses, Males Females Males Females Males Femalesfibres (mostly cotton) and oilseeds (Table 3). In TE 2002-03, 1995 17.4 13.6 14.7 1.8 0.84 0.13cereals and pulses accounted for 64 per cent of the gross area 1996 16.0 12.6 23.5 7.1 1.47 0.56under cultivation, but contributed to only 27 of the gross value 1997 17.7 13.8 23.9 5.6 1.35 0.40added. Cotton accounts for 15 per cent area, but contributes to 1998 18.9 14.4 29.0 8.5 1.53 0.59 1999 18.5 13.9 30.6 6.9 1.66 0.50only 9 per cent of the gross value added in agriculture. Oilseeds 2000 19.6 12.9 37.3 10.1 1.90 0.78account for 12 per cent share of area and 10 per cent of the gross 2001 20.6 12.6 44.1 11.5 2.14 0.91value added but for soyabean the share of gross value added is 2002 20.3 11.9 47.3 10.8 2.33 0.91 2003 20.6 11.3 50.8 9.4 2.46 0.83slightly higher (5.7 per cent) than its share of area. Sugar cane 2004 20.3 10.8 57.2 7.4 2.81 0.68accounts for less than 3 per cent of the area under cultivation,but 17 per cent of the gross value added. Fruits and vegetables Notes: SMR = suicide mortality rate; age-adjusted SMR takes into consideration 5+ population only. SMR for farmers is calculated byaccount for less than 5 per cent of the area under cultivation, normalising suicides for those self-employed in agriculture on thebut nearly 36 per cent of the gross value added. population for cultivators. Year-wise population for each subgroup Between the annual average of TE 1995-96 and TE 2002-03, was interpolated/extrapolated and adjusted to give estimates that arethe incremental gross value added is positive for pulses, soyabean, subgroup consistent. Sources: (i) Census of India, 1991 and 2001; (ii) Accidental Deaths andsugar cane and fruits and vegetables; it has declined for cereals, Suicides in India, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999, National Crimecotton, condiments and spices and drugs and narcotics. The Records Bureau, New Delhi; Communication from CID, Pune; andincrease in incremental value for pulses, soyabean, sugar cane (accessed October 5, 2005).and fruits and vegetables is largely explained by an increase in Table 2: Suicide Mortality Rate for Farmers acrossarea under cultivation, but for specific crops like tur, soyabean, Divisions in Maharashtra, 2001-04banana, grape and tomato the share of other factors like yield, Divisions/ SMR for Farmers Ratio of SMR for Farmers to SMRor advantages in relative prices also contribute. Districts for Age-Adjusted Population The decline in incremental value for cereals is contributed by Males Females Males Femalesa decline in area as well as other factors. Condiments/spices show Amravati division 115.6 24.3 2.8 1.1a decline despite a favourable impact of other factors because Aurangabad division 47.6 9.2 2.5 0.8such areas might have shifted to more value addition crops under Konkan division 25.1 7.7 2.0 0.8fruits and vegetables. The decline of drugs and narcotics could Nagpur division 55.5 8.5 2.0 0.6 Nashik division 36.6 12.0 2.2 1.4be indicative of the legal hassles associated with its cultivation. Pune division 34.7 3.6 1.6 0.4 In cotton, the incremental value has declined, but there has Maharashtra state 48.1 9.1 2.4 0.8been an increase in area. With increasing yield, it suggests that Note: The SMR for farmers are calculated with the assumption that cultivatorsthe positive effect of an increase in area has largely been offset as a proportion of 5+ years population is the same as it is in 2001. Thisby unfavourable relative prices. In other words, the profitability is likely to underestimate SMR for farmers.of cotton cultivation is declining. Source: As in Table 1.Economic and Political Weekly April 22, 2006 1539
  3. 3. Excess international supply at a lower price is also because of are likely to be outstanding debts, not current loans. The perdirect and indirect subsidies leading to dumping by the US. hectare loan in the selected districts is relatively lower [ShahDuring the period 1998 to 2003, cotton export prices for the US 2006]. A recent study of Yavatmal indicates that more than halfwere lower than their cost of production by more than 50 per the members are defaulters with their credit lines choked fromcent on average [Murphy, Lilliston and Lake 2005]. Domestic one to many years [Sarangi 2004]. This is so because over thepolicies in India have led to removal of quantitative restrictions years, the cooperative credit institutions were faced with a numberand subsequently the reduction of import tariff from 35 per cent of problems – high interest rates, accounting practices were notin 2001-02 to 5 per cent in 2002-03. All these exposed domestic rationalised and no professional management to mention a fewprices to the volatility of international prices that has been [Government of India 2004].adversely affecting the cotton farmer. Similarly, excessive cotton An important issue raised in our focus group discussionsexports leading to an increase in yarn prices can adversely affect (FGDs) conducted in 98 villages with an average participant sizethe handloom and powerloom weavers [Ghosh 2005]. The of six to seven (minimum-two, maximum-nine) is that currentMonopoly Cotton Procurement Scheme (MCPS) in operation operational loans are likely to be from moneylenders. In 70 persince 1972-73 in Maharashtra was meant to stabilise prices, but cent of the FGDs, the availability of the informal loans in theover time a plethora of problems and cumulative losses have village was mentioned. One participant’s remark during an FGDrendered it non-functional [see also Shroff 2006]. In short, when will elucidate the socio-economic dominance of the moneylender.the farmer is being exposed to the global market, there is no The participant said that: “Gentleman, you will go away aftermechanism that will guard him/her against price volatility. this discussion. It is we who have to stay in the village. Please In 2004-05, the cost of production for cotton in Maharashtra do not probe further into the details. Further revelation by usaccording to the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices will make our stay in the village difficult.”was Rs 2,216 per quintal, but the Minimum Support Price (MSP) Informal loan transactions could be in ‘dedhi’. The debtor haswas only Rs 1,960.5 The MSP indicated is for long staple variety to return the loan around harvest (within four to six months) andof fair average quality and is assured only when the crop is sold pay Rs 150 for a loan of Rs 100. Similarly, there is ‘sawai’in authorised centres. Thus, even if one includes the additional (payment of Rs 125 for a loan of Rs 100). Another popular formadvance price of Rs 500 paid in Maharashtra in that year, which of loans for agricultural and social purposes is at an interest ratewas discontinued in 2005-06, the MSP is still likely to fall short of Rs 10/Rs 5 per month. Non-payment of loan leads to rewritingof costs or at most break even.6 The MSP for jowar also falls of a fresh loan with some additional credit being given duringshort of the cost of production in Maharashtra, but the MSP for the start of the next agricultural season.soyabean and tur are greater than the cost of production. These A conventional form of collateral is land. Creditors now considerobservations are in line with shifts in cropping patterns and also it risky because suicides can lead to cancellation of such contracts,to the changes in incremental value additions indicated above. and hence, insist on sale of land with a verbal (not legal) promise The state’s role as a facilitator of agricultural growth is ex- that it will be sold back to the debtor after the loan is repaid.amined by looking at public investment in agriculture, the rural If required, legal registration expenses on both counts are bornefinancial market and agricultural extension, among others. In the by the debtor. Land seizure/mortgage was mentioned in 17 perabsence of data for Maharashtra, a perusal of the all India situation cent of FGDs.suggests that gross fixed capital formation in agriculture as a Some of the moneylenders would also be traders. The loan takenproportion of the GDP declined from 3.1 per cent during 1980- could be for purchase of an input and repayment through sale85 (Sixth Plan) to 1.6 per cent during 1997-2002 (Ninth Plan). of produce. Interlocking of credit, input and output markets areDuring the same period, gross fixed capital formation in agri- not necessarily enforced by the trader-moneylender, butculture as a proportion of total gross fixed capital formationdeclined from 13.1 per cent to 7.4 per cent in India, the proportion Table 3: Crop-wise Share of Estimated Gross Value Addedof plan expenditure towards agriculture and allied activities (EGVA) to Share of Area (TE 2002-03) and Incremental EGVAdeclined from 6.1 per cent to 4.5 per cent in India and from 6 (TE 2002-03 over TE 1995-96)per cent to 3.3 per cent in Maharashtra. Crop Group Share of EGVA Incremental EGVA, TE 2002-03 over Recent trends with regard to agricultural credit in Maharashtra to Share of Area TE 1995-96 TE 2002-03 Level Area Effect Other Effectfrom 1991 to 2004 indicate the following. Credit utilisation to (Lakh Rupees) (Per Cent) (Per Cent)agriculture as a proportion of total credit utilisation in the statehas declined from 20.2 per cent to 11.2 per cent – this is largely Cereals 0.38 -61868.9 -53.0 -47.0 Pulses 0.49 5743.1 98.3 1.7offset by an increase in personal loans. Agricultural credit utilisation Fibres 0.61 -8230.5 177.5 -277.5is shifting from rural regions to urban areas, with Mumbai’s share Oilseeds 0.85 5374.6 -358.5 458.5having increased from 5 per cent to 48 per cent. Within agri- Sugar cane 6.05 54313.9 130.5 -30.5culture, the share of direct finance reduced from 79 per cent to Fruits/vegetables 7.28 200564.0 205.2 -105.2 Condiments/spices 1.41 -402.9 -491.0 391.051 per cent. Even after excluding Mumbai, division-wise dis- Drugs/narcotics 2.78 -359.7 -82.0 -18.0tribution shows a decline in the share of both direct and indirect Total 1.00 195133.6 -8.8 108.8finance components of agricultural credit in Vidarbha. Notes: TE denotes triennium ending for three year annual average, In Maharashtra, the cooperative banks have been an important Crop specific area was estimated from EGVA for crop and EGVA forsource of credit, particularly for agricultural purposes, in rural crop per hectare. Incremental EGVA comprises area and otherareas. A recent survey (59th round National Sample Survey, effects (Et-Et-k)=((At-At-k)Ot-k)+((Ot-Ot-k)At) where positive/negative sign for shares of area/other indicate the proportion contribution toJanuary-December 2003) indicates that in Maharashtra nearly increase/decrease in the level and E = EGVA, A = area and O = other.half of the loans are from cooperative societies compared to about Source: State Income of Maharashtra (Soft copy), Directorate of Economicsone-fifth for the all India average. However, much of these loans and Statistics, Mumbai, 2005.1540 Economic and Political Weekly April 22, 2006
  4. 4. operating with a single trader-moneylender, would save trans- On educational status, 21 per cent were illiterate, 14 per centaction costs to the farmer. were literate but below primary level, 26 per cent completed Nearly 50 per cent of FGDs discussed the paucity of water. primary education but were below matriculation and the rest wereDespite delay and deficient rain, there were instances of people with higher education. On experience in farming, 24 per cent(whole villages) opting for a second or third sowing without any had less than five years, 18 per cent had about 6-10 years andgroundwater dependence. With seed replacement being almost the remains 58 per cent had more than 10 years of experience.complete, it contributed to additional expenses for seed. In the The three main castes are Kunbis (31 per cent), Banjaras (16last 5-10 years there has been an increase in the number of per cent) and Baudh (9 per cent). Kunbis are the predominantsprayings for insecticides/pesticides and an increase in the need peasant community in the selected districts and Banjaras haveand cost for fertilisers. All these added to the cost. The issue a substantial presence in Yavatmal and Karanja subdivision ofof spurious quality of inputs also came up in the discussions. Washim. The size-class of land shows that 14 per cent areThis brings forth some important points. First, the absence of marginal (0-2.5 acres), 39 per cent are small (2.5-5 acres), 21an extension service which could have advised the farmers against per cent semi-medium (5-10 acres), 15 per cent medium (10-20late sowing or improper use of other inputs. Second, with new acres), 4 per cent are large (20 + acres) and 7 per cent have nottechnology on the anvil, there is deskilling and the farmer’s given information on their landownership.experience becomes redundant. The private traders selling farm Superimposing aggregate caste and land-size categories on theinputs advise the farmer on extension service. This leads to agricultural census of 1995-96, the differences in the ratios were notsupplier-induced demand. statistically significant. Nevertheless, we elucidate the following We also came across villages from where many people have patterns. For all size-class of land, the ratios indicate relativelymigrated in search of jobs. In 14 per cent of the FGDs, difficulty higher suicides among the scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduledin getting employment or availability of work at low wages was tribes (STs) and lower among “other” castes. For all castes, thementioned. These not only indicate the unavailability of non- ratio of sample to population proportion indicates relatively higherfarm jobs in the study regions, but also indicate poor public suicides among the marginal size-class and small size-class ofinterventions. farmers and lower suicides among the “other” size-class of farmers. One of the important social welfare measures in the state is In 79 per cent of the cases, suicides were committed bythe Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Scheme (MEGS), which consuming insecticides. These proportions are higher than thathas been in operation since 1970s. In the inland eastern region indicated for the overall population in the selected districts. This(consisting of all the districts of Amravati division and Wardha is so because of the easy accessibility in farming householdsand Nagpur), the share of MEGS expenditure from the state’s (particularly, those cultivating cotton) to pesticides.8 A hospitaltotal MEGS expenditure decreased from 14.4 per cent in 2000-01 that can treat emergencies like poisoning is on an average moreto 6 per cent in 2003-04. This is much lower than the region’s than 20 km away (particularly, in Washim and Yavatmal). Thisshare of rural poor (23 per cent) or its share of rural population means that the time taken to reach a treatment centre in these(17 per cent). The region’s share of item-wise expenditure between hilly regions can easily be more than an hour. This delay can2000-01 and 2003-04 was 4.2 per cent for agriculture, 6.5 per prove fatal. Restriction on availability and toxic content ofcent for irrigation and 13.0 per cent for horticulture. In particular, pesticides and access to early treatment are important policyit reflects poor intervention in works associated with developing parameters. Important policy lessons can be taken from Sriagriculture either directly or indirectly through interventions in Lanka’s experience [Gunnell and Eddleston 2003].9irrigation and horticulture. What is intriguing is that in Yavatmal, the expenditure on esta- Table 4: Risk Factors Identified with Deceased Individualblishment as a share of total expenditure in the state is greater than Risk Factors N=111 Per Centthe district’s share of rural population. In Wardha the total expen- Was the deceased indebted? 96 86.5diture under MEGS in 2003-04 as also 2004-05, a deficient rainfall Did his economic status deteriorate before the incident? 82 73.9year, was either on establishment or on miscellaneous accounts Did the deceased not share problems with otheronly. These observation are in line with the findings mentioned in family members? 61 55.0a recent study that MEGS has been successful as a relief measure Was there a crop failure? 45 40.5 Was there a change in his social position beforelargely concentrated in the drought-prone areas of Marathwada the incident? 40 36.0and western Maharashtra divisions of the state and has had a Did the deceased have a daughter/sister oflimited success as a poverty eradication measure [Vatsa 2005]. marriageable age? 38 34.2 Was there any suicide in the nearby villages recently? 36 32.4 Did the deceased have any addictions? 31 27.9 III Was there a change in the deceased’s behaviour Micro Level Analysis before the incident? 29 26.1 Did the deceased have disputes with neighbours or others? 26 23.4 Did the deceased have some health problem? 23 20.7 This is based on a field survey largely conducted in Wardha, Did any death occur in the family recently beforeWashim and Yavatmal districts. The village were identified based the incident? 11 9.9on a list of farmers’ suicides for 2004 and a few cases for January Has there been any suicide previously in the family? 7 6.32005.7 Data from 111 suicide case (one Amravati, 21 Wardha, Are some other family members chronically ill/handicapped? 4 3.6 Average number of risk factors 4.829 Washim and 60 Yavatmal) and 106 non-suicide control Minimum number of risk factors 2households spread across 105 villages form the basis of our Maximum number of risk factors 9analysis. In our sample from suicide cases, 91 per cent were males, Note: N indicates number of households. The risk factors are not mutually55 per cent in the age group of 31-50 years, and 80 per cent exclusive, and hence, will not add up to 100 per cent.were currently married. Source: Field Survey.Economic and Political Weekly April 22, 2006 1541
  5. 5. A suicide is the complex interplay of multiple factors. A a reaction to get out of depression that can be associated withnumber of risk factors can coexist and one particular individual some socio-economic problem.can come across all or none of the risk factors identified by us. Change in the individual’s behaviour was identified in 26 perIn our sample, the minimum number of risk factors is two and cent of the cases. These are symptoms and indicate that the indi-the maximum is nine. The most common was indebtedness (86 vidual needs some psycho-social help. Dispute with neighbours/per cent). From all those indebted, 44 per cent were harassed others in the villages was identified in 24 per cent of the cases.for repayment of loans and in 33 per cent of cases the creditor This could be related with property disputes or an altercationinsisted on immediate repayment (Table 4). Next in importance leading to a social humiliation. Or, it could be a part of hisis the fall in economic position (74 per cent). Indebtedness per changed behaviour indicating that he needs some will not lead to a fall in economic position, but if it reaches The personal health problem of the deceased was identifieda stage that will lead to a sale of assets then it can be associated in 21 per cent of the cases. From these, 26 per cent (six cases)with a fall in economic position. Similarly, a fall in economic were those who were perceived by others’ with some mentalposition can also lead to greater reliance on credit and thereby health problem. Illness gets aggravated due to a poor economicincreasing the debt burden. condition because it makes care seeking difficult. Similarly, ill In 55 per cent of cases, it was observed that the individual health can lead to a loan to meet medical expenses and alsoconcerned had not discussed his/her problem with other family reduce the ability to work aggravating the economic condition.members. He/she was shouldering the entire burden that was If the sick person is some other member (3 per cent of the cases)troubling him and was not sharing his/her difficulties with others. then the breadwinner has the added frustration and helplessnessAn avenue for letting out one’s pent up feelings and frustration in not being able to provide appropriate care for an ailing parent/was closed. spouse/child. Death of another member in the family before the Crop failure was mentioned in 40 per cent of the cases and incident was identified in 10 per cent of the cases. The nearmost of these also mentioned a loss in second or third sowing one’s death could have been because of not receiving appropriatedue to delay in rainfall. There were a few cases which mention healthcare. Inability to provide care is largely because of thefire or theft. Crop loss can also happen due to excessive untimely poor economic condition rooted in the larger agrarian crisis.rain, say, during the harvest. Crop failure can lead to economic Suicide history in the family could be identified in 6 per cent ofdownfall and make it difficult to repay existing loans. This will the cases. This could be indicative of a genetic factor. However, asalso increase the need for additional credit. Crop failure leading mentioned earlier such individual factors are predisposing in natureto a fall in economic position is quite straight forward, but the and they can be intensified with some additional risk factors.causal links can also be the other way round. A household faced Being indebted has been one of the most important risk factors,with a downfall in economic position or with greater debt burden but then this may not reveal much about the extent of debt burden.could not take additional loans for investing in agriculture (say, Comparing suicide case with non-suicide control householdsduring a pest attack) and this can lead to a reduction in yield shows that the average outstanding debt is higher in the formeror total crop failure. by 3.5 times and after normalising for family size or land size Change in social status was identified in 36 per cent of the it is higher by three times and all these differences are statisticallycases. This can be associated with a fall in economic position. significant (Table 5).Harassment by creditors or their agents due to non-payment ofloans can also lead to social disgrace. Crop failure due to Table 5: Average Outstanding Debt per Householdunsuccessful experimentation by a farmer who was recognised Household Suicide Cases Non-Suicide Controlsas successful entrepreneur may find a change in his social status Debt Amount N Amount N– people who earlier came for advice are now providing solace. A socially important role of a brother/father is to get one’s All * 38444 101 10910 95 Per person* 7224 101 2405 95sister/daughter married. Communities have norms in terms of age Per acre* 7079 94 2365 90and expenditure.10 A farmer is largely dependent on a good return Notes: N=number of households. * Difference between suicide cases andfrom his produce to fulfil this obligation. Thus, crop failure, non-suicide controls is statistically significant at 95 per cent CI.greater credit burden or a fall in his economic position can come Source: Field his way of fulfilling this obligation. Inability to conduct a Table 6: Average Outstanding Debt per Transactionsister’s/daughter’s marriage can be socially humiliating. It can across Sourcealso increase intra-household conflicts. To complete this social Source Suicide Cases Non-Suicide Controlsobligation a farmer may also take loans thinking that he can repay Amount N Amount Nthe amount after the harvest. The recent marriage of a sister/daughter or inability to get one’s sister/daughter married has been Cooperative bank 30466 50 13756 26 Rural bank 11314 7 40800 4identified as a risk factor in 34 per cent of the cases. Commercial bank 95000 4 11500 1 We have also taken note of recent suicides in a nearby village Moneylender 22080 60 11973 26and identified them as an additional risk factor in 32 per cent Friends/relatives 16268 28 2000 2 Self-help group 4500 2 14000 1of the cases. This was done because an individual who is facing Trader 5000 2 20000 1some similar socio-economic problem can relate to the earlier Landlord/employer 4000 2 10000 1incident and contemplate suicide. There could be an imitation Others 12571 7 16089 9 Not available 5000 1 - -effect.11 Addiction (particularly, alcohol) was identified in 28 Total 23821 163 14598 71per cent of the cases. It is said that under intoxication an individual Note: N indicates the number of transactions with outstanding debt. Themay indulge in an act of self-harm without being aware of the transactions are from 93 suicide cases and 55 non-suicide controls.consequences. Alternatively, getting intoxicated could itself be Source: Field Survey.1542 Economic and Political Weekly April 22, 2006
  6. 6. The 95 suicide cases had outstanding debt from 163 loan exclude the extreme case of Rs 2.5 lakh outstanding debt fromtransactions and 55 non-suicide controls had outstanding debt a commercial bank); it is 10 per cent of the total outstandingfrom 71 loan transactions. Thus, the average number of loans debt among non-suicide control households.with outstanding debt in suicide cases (1.8) was higher when The total outstanding debt from suicide cases is 3.7 times morecompared with non-suicide controls (1.3). Analysis of the source than the total outstanding debt from non-suicide controls. Com-of loan indicates a greater reliance on cooperatives in the formal pared to non-suicide controls, the suicide cases have a greatersector and moneylenders in the informal sector (Table 6). proportion of outstanding debt that is more than one year old The reliance on moneylenders and friends/relatives is higher (74 per cent and 65 per cent respectively) and for 2004, the mostfor suicide cases (54 per cent of 163 transactions) than non-suicide recent year, a greater proportion of outstanding debt is fromcontrols (39 per cent of 71 transactions). A very high amount informal sources (72 per cent for suicide cases and 38 per centis indicated for suicide case households under commercial bank for non-suicide controls).because a large farmer (owning 28 acres) having an outstanding Comparison of suicide cases with non-suicide controls alsoloan of Rs 2.5 lakh which was incurred for marriage in the family indicate that on average the former have a lower proportion than(in fact, the individual had taken a loan of Rs 5 lakh and had that which owns bullocks (a productive and liquid asset), rela-already returned Rs 2.5 lakh). After excluding this extreme case, tively greater family size (particularly, female members) andthe distribution of total outstanding debt indicates that 42 per lower value of produce (Table 8). The relevance of bullocks tocent is from cooperative banks, 36 per cent is from moneylenders the agrarian economy as a productive asset in Indian agricultureand 13 per cent is from friends/relatives. In non-suicide control is also well known [see Vaidyanathan 1988 among others].households, after excluding a loan transaction with outstanding Bullocks are the major means of ploughing, an act that dependsdebt of Rs 98,200 from a rural bank, the distribution of total on rain and has to be done within a short span before sowing.outstanding debt indicates that 38 per cent is from cooperative Hiring of bullocks or tractors will increase costs and the latterbanks, 33 per cent is from moneylenders and 15 per cent is from may not be as effective in these dry land rain-dependent con-other unspecified informal sources. ditions. Bullocks are also used as a liquid asset that is sold under The purpose of loan is given in Table 7. After excluding the distress conditions. Thus, the absence of bullocks may be atransactions where the purpose is not available, 67 per cent in the reflection of the hardship that the household has been facing.suicide cases and 89 per cent in the non-suicide controls are for It was observed that suicide case households had on average aagricultural purposes only. This proportion further increases if we lower ownership of bullocks as well as other livestock, agricul-take into consideration transactions from formal sources only. tural implements, consumer durables and access to basic ameni- Next to agriculture is marriage, which is mostly from informal ties. These get further compounded with a crop failure or poorsources. For each specific purpose the number of transactions yield leading to a lower value of produce. If this also happenswith outstanding debt and the average outstanding debt per to be a family with a daughter or sister of marriageable age thentransaction is higher among suicide case households when com- the social responsibility would further add to the burden.pared with non-suicide control households. The average amount A statistical exercise is done to compare case-control house-of outstanding debt per transaction for agricultural purposes is holds. Households suicide status is a binary dependent variable,greater than Rs 10,000. For marriage, after excluding an extreme Y; 1=case and 0=control. The independent variables, Xi’s, areobservation with outstanding debt of Rs 2,50,000 from a com- outstanding debt in rupees, a yes/no binary variable on ownershipmercial bank by a suicide case household, the gap is Rs 2,324 of bullocks, family size, value of produce in rupees and valueonly. There was one suicide case household where a loan for of produce per acre of landowned in rupees. Using these, wehealth expenditure was to the tune of Rs 1.5 lakh. From total estimate a step-wise logistic regression,12outstanding debt (including those where the purpose is not ln[p/(1-p)]=α+βiXi+u; i=1,…5.available), agriculture being the sole purpose accounts for 65 where ln is natural logarithm, p is probability of obtaining aper cent of the outstanding debt in suicide case households and suicide case household, ln[p/(1-p)] is the log odds ratio of a79 per cent in non-suicide control households. Marriage being suicide case household, α is a coefficient on the constant term,the sole purpose accounts for 18 per cent of the total outstanding βi’s are the coefficients of the five independent variables, Xi’s,debt in suicide case households (reduces to 13 per cent if we and u is error term. Table 7: Average Outstanding Debt per Transaction by Source across Purpose/Year of LoanPurpose/Year Suicide Cases Non-Suicide Controls Formal N Informal N Total N Formal N Informal N Total NPurposeAgriculture 28861 49 20660 53 24600 102 18475 26 11353 30 14660 56Marriage 250000 1 27324 17 39694 18 - - 25000 4 25000 4Others 42261 5 12492 24 17624 29 6000 2 21000 5 16714 7Not available 17833 6 5125 8 10571 14 13333 3 11700 5 12313 8Year2005, January-March - - 7760 5 7760 5 - - 50000 1 50000 12004 18427 15 16273 44 16821 59 17562 13 9629 14 13448 272003 29333 18 15722 27 21167 45 10080 7 14955 11 13059 182002 18810 11 22588 17 21104 28 17083 6 9614 7 13062 132001 38560 5 21000 4 30756 9 22500 2 15000 5 17143 72000 and earlier 64050 8 200000 1 79156 9 28667 3 - - 28667 3Not available 66500 4 13250 4 39875 8 - - 6250 2 6250 2Total 32500 61 18630 102 23821 163 17173 31 12603 40 14598 71Note: N indicates the number of transactions with outstanding debt.Source: Field Survey.Economic and Political Weekly April 22, 2006 1543
  7. 7. While discussing results, instead of coefficients, odds ratio, Gross value addition is relatively higher for fruits and vege-eβi, are given because the interpretation is more intuitive – for tables and sugar cane, but these crops are not grown in thea unit increase in the independent variable there would be a selected districts. Traditionally, cotton has been the cash cropcorresponding change in the odds ratio (probability of a suicide for farmers of the districts. Over the years, profitability fromcase/probability of a non-suicide control). cotton has declined. Some of the reasons are: high subsidies by The result for complete case-control analysis of the 68 pairs the US leading to price distortions, low import tariffs inof observation is as follows. It gives outstanding debt and absence India, and failure of the MCPS in Maharashtra. The withdrawal ofof bullocks as statistically significant variables that differentiate the state is evident from declining public investment in agricul-suicide case from non-suicide control households (Table 9). It ture, poor government agricultural extension service, and a dimin-suggests that if outstanding debt increases by Rs 1,000 then the ishing role of formal institutions in rural financial market amongodds that the household is one with a suicide victim increases others. The farmer now depends on the input dealer for adviceby 6 per cent and if the household owns bullocks then the odds leading to supplier-induced demand and on informal sources ofthat it is a household with a suicide victim decreases by 65 per credit with a greater interest burden. To add to this, 2004 wascent. When we estimate the results for the three selected districts a rain deficient year that affected yield in at least some pocketsindependently, then under different scenarios family size, value of the selected districts, but the overall macro supply scenarioof produce, and land size turn out to be statistically significant being good, market prices were low. The farmer was exposedin explaining the differences. to yield and price shocks simultaneously. In short, the systemic risk factors indicate a larger socio-economic and agrarian crisis. IV In the micro-level analysis, the inter-related and coexisting Concluding Remarks socio-economic risk factors identified are indebtedness, deterio- ration of economic status, conflict with other members in the Maharashtra’s age-adjusted suicide mortality rate for males has family, crop failure, a decline in social position, burden ofstabilised in the range of 20-21 from 2001 onwards and that for daughter’s/sister’s marriage, suicide in a nearby village, addictions,females has been declining after 1999. The SMR for farmers have change in behaviour of the deceased, dispute with neighbours/others,increased by nearly four times from 15 in 1995 to 57 in 2004. health problems, a recent death in the family, history of suicideIt is the highest in Amravati division where SMR for male farmers in the family and other family members being ill. Comparingwas 116 during 2001-04, which was more than eight times the suicide cases and non-suicide controls, one observes that on anage-adjusted SMR for males in India in 2001. average the former have a higher outstanding debt, a relatively lower owner ownership of assets (particularly, bullocks which Table 8: Comparing Control Cases by Average is a productive and liquid asset) and access to basic amenities, Household Characteristics a larger family size (particularly, female members), and a lowerAverage Characteristic Suicide Cases Non-Suicide Controls value of produce. These indicate that the idiosyncratic factors Value N Value N do not occur in isolation – they are exacerbated because of theOwn bullocks ( per cent)* 42.9 105 63.5 104 larger socio-economic and agrarian crisis.Value of produce (Rs 000) 22.9 93 41.4 90 The policy implication from the above discussion calls for anValue of produce per Acre (Rs 000) 3.4 93 6.5 90Family size 5.53 111 5.08 106 emphasis on the larger agrarian crisis. Availability of affordableNotes: N=number of households. * Difference between suicide cases and credit requires revitalisation of the rural credit market. Risk non-suicide controls is statistically significant at 95 per cent confidence management should address yield, price, credit, income or weather interval. related uncertainties among others. Improving water availabilitySource: Field Survey. will facilitate diversification of the cropping pattern, but this Table 9: Results (Odds Ratio) of Step-wise Logistic should go hand in hand with policies that increase non-farm Regression Analysis employment. Improving agricultural extension that addresses Complete Wardha Washim Yavatmal deskilling because of technological changes and also facilitates Case-Control Analysis appropriate technical know-how for alternative forms of culti-N 136 24 32 80 vation such as organic farming will be of help. There is a strongDebt 1.000061 1.000237 1.00009 1.000055 case for regulating private credit and input markets. Public health (0.0000138) (0.0000974) (0.0000383) (0.0000176) [0.000] [0.015] [0.019] [0.002] interventions would require improving access to treatment ofOwn bullocks 0.3462934 0.3084751 poisoning cases and psychosocial care. This should be comple- (0.1403603) (0.1685215) [0.009] [0.031] mented with policies that reduce the access to organo-phosphorousFamily size 2.124579 poisons. Besides, support from public institutions, there is need (0.8003213) [0.045] for a greater involvement from civil society. -29Value produce 0.9997406 (0.0001221) Email: [0.034]Value per acre 0.9997575 (0.0001234) Notes [0.049]Log likelihood -74.6497 -5.4993989 -16.388205 -42.176024 [This paper draws largely on the report, Suicide of Farmers in MaharashtraLR Chi2 39.24 22.27 11.59 26.55 funded by the government of Maharashtra. Many people helped in the studyProb >Chi2 0.0000 0.0000 0.0031 0.0000 and the detailed acknowledgements are in the report, but the cooperation ofPseudoR2 0.2081 0.6694 0.2612 0.2394 the individuals interviewed (particularly, the members of the suicide caseNotes: Round brackets give standard error, square brackets give prob > |z|. households) needs special mention. The author thanks R Radhakrishna for The variables are indicated in the order in which they were selected in giving him this responsibility and, more importantly, for his comments and the step-wise logistic regression. In Wardha, estimation was possible suggestions at various stages of the work and D Narasimha Reddy for after excluding the variable value of produce per acre. comments on an earlier version of this paper.]1544 Economic and Political Weekly April 22, 2006
  8. 8. 1 Some of the recent studies include Assadi (1998), Bhalla et al (1998), Government of Andhra Pradesh (2004): Report of the Commission on Farmers’ Chowdry et al (undated), Dandekar et al (2005), Deshpande (2002), Welfare, Hyderabad. Government of Andhra Pradesh (2004), Government of Maharashtra Government of India (2004): Draft Final Report of the Task Force on Revival (1998), Iyer and Manick (2000), Mishra (2006a, 2006b), Mohan Rao of Cooperative Credit Institutions, (chairperson of the committee: A (2004), Mohanty (2001, 2005), Mohanty and Shroff (2004), Parthasarathy Vaidyanathan). and Shameem (1998), Purendra Prasad (2003), Revathi (1998), Shambhu Government of Maharashtra (1984): Report of the Fact Finding Committee Prasad (1999), Shiva et al (2000), Stone (2002) and Vasavi (1999) among on Regional Imbalance in Maharashtra, Planning Department, others. Bombay, April. 2 There is under-reporting because of legal hassles and shame identified – (1998): Suicides of Farmers in Maharashtra: A Socio-Economic Survey, with the act. Commissioner Agriculture, Maharashtra State, Pune, Special Study, August. 3 Medically, suicide is not defined for the age group of 0-4 years. Hence, Gunnell, D, and M Eddleston (2003): ‘Suicide by Intentional Ingestion of 5+ population is used to compute the age-adjusted SMR. Pesticide: A Continuing Tragedy in Developing Countries’, International 4 For a recent discussion on Maharashtra’s growth and poverty see Mishra Journal of Epidemiology, 32 (6): 902-09. and Panda (2006). For Maharashtra’s agricultural development till early Iyer, K G and M S Manick (2000): Impoverishment and Suicides in Rural 1990s see Sawant et al (1999). For agrarian scenario in selected districts Punjab, Indian Publishers Distributors, New Delhi. of Vidarbha see Kulkarni and Deshpande (2006). On public intervention Kulkarni, AP, V S Deshpande (2006): ‘Agrarian Scenario in Yavatmal, backlogs, a dated but comprehensive analysis is the Dandekar committee Washim and Wardha Districts’, Suicide of Farmers in Maharashtra report on Regional Imbalance [Government of Maharashtra 1984]. Background Papers (Submitted to the Government of Maharashtra), 5 The MSP is declared by ministry of agriculture, government of India. IGIDR, Mumbai. 6 The additional advance price has been discontinued from 2005-06 leading London, L, A J Flisher, C Wesseling, D Mergler and H Kromhout (2005): to drastic fall in the prices received by the farmer when costs are likely ‘Suicide and Exposure to Organophosphate Insecticides: Cause or Effect?’ to have further increased. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 47 (4): 308-21. 7 Occurrence of suicide, a rare event, was the basis for selecting a village. Mann, J (2002): ‘A Current Perspective of Suicide and Attempted Suicide’, In the village we surveyed the suicide case household, a control household, Annals of Internal Medicine, 136: 302-11. conducted a focus group discussion and also collected some village level Mishra, S (2006a): ‘Suicide of Farmers in Maharashtra’, report submitted information before moving over to another village. The distance from to the Government of Maharashtra, IGIDR, Mumbai. This is available one village to another, more often than not, was 20-30 km. at 8 The greater incidence of poisoning in farming households, particularly – (2006b): ‘Farmers’ Suicides in Maharashtra: Content Analysis of Media during the peak agricultural season, has been mentioned in Bhatkule Reports’, Suicide of Farmers in Maharashtra, Background Papers (2006) among others. 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