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Neoliberal economics = suicide, literally.

The Largest Wave Of Suicides In History
By P Sainath

13 February, 2009
Counterpunch

The number of farmers who have committed suicide in India between 1997 and 2007 now stands at a staggering 182,936. It is significant that the count of farmers taking their lives is rising even as the numbers of farmers diminishes, that is, on a shrinking farmer base. These suicide data are official and tend to be huge underestimates, but they’re bad enough.

The spate of farm suicides – the largest sustained wave of such deaths recorded in history – accompanies India’s embrace of the brave new world of neoliberalism. The rate of farmers’ suicides has worsened particularly after 2001, by which time India was well down the WTO garden path in agriculture.

What do the farm suicides have in common? Those who have taken their lives were deep in debt – peasant households in debt doubled in the first decade of the neoliberal “economic reforms,” from 26 per cent of farm households to 48.6 per cent. We know that from National Sample Survey data. But in the worst states, the percentage of such households is far higher. For instance, 82 per cent of all farm households in Andhra Pradesh were in debt by 2001-02. Those who killed themselves were overwhelmingly cash crop farmers – growers of cotton, coffee, sugarcane, groundnut, pepper, vanilla. (Suicides are fewer among food crop farmers – that is, growers of rice, wheat, maize, pulses.) The brave new world philosophy mandated countless millions of Third World farmers forced to move from food crop cultivation to cash crop (the mantra of “export-led growth”). For millions of subsistence farmers in India, this meant much higher cultivation costs, far greater loans, much higher debt, and being locked into the volatility of global commodity prices. That’s a sector dominated by a handful of multinational corporations.
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Last Modified - 12th May 2009

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