The wife and parents of a farmer who committed suicide in India.
Photo: Jörg Böthling

02.09.2019

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With erratic monsoons leading to crop loss and financial problems, farm distress continues in India. A telephone helpline counsels farmers on the brink and addresses the root causes to alleviate problems and prevent farmer suicides.

Sreeharsha Thanneru remembers the day when farmer Mallappa Tandra called the Kisan Mitra helpline. Mallappa was sobbing inconsolably. The rains had failed, there was only little water in his bore well, and he could not get the drip irrigation system that would save his standing crop. When Sreeharsha tried to counsel him, Mallappa repeatedly mentioned suicide as his only recourse.

Mallappa had gone to the administrative block office to apply for the government’s subsidy for a drip irrigation system. When he learnt that he was not eligible, he was too dazed to decide what to do. Someone who observed his distress suggested that he calls the Kisan Mitra helpline. That is how he got to speak to Sreeharsha, the programme coordinator at Kisan Mitra.
Distress among farmers is high in central and parts of southern India. Erratic monsoons, repeated crop losses, difficulty in getting institutional loans due to a lack of land documents, and hence falling in debt traps with private creditors are the main drivers.

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