Farmers' Suicides in Punjab:an Individual Act or a Social Fact?

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Farmers’ suicide has become a painful reality being witnessed haplessly by majority with no sure solution in sight. In spite of various state sponsored relief measures, suicides have continued unabated, since its onset in the neo-liberal phase. There has been disintegration between agriculture and agriculturist, a discontinuity between farmers’ actual experiences and their normative expectations in rural Punjab. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) thirty two farmers committed suicide everyday in 2013 which went up to 34 per day in 2014 & further it went up to 35 in 2015. Durkheimian theory suggests that the decision to commit suicide is irreducible to individual act and be viewed as a manifestation of social conditions. Though many agriculturally developed cotton growing states are reeling under this menace, the present paper focused on Punjab with a specific objective to gauge the chronology and overlapping of social events which had caused the present agrarian crisis. For this, study relied upon primary and secondary sources of data procured from NCRB reports, reports of ADRTC of ISEC, and studies conducted by the department of Economics and Sociology, PAU, Ludhiana. Primary data were collected through personal interview from victim’s families. The study found that the post 1980s farm profitability not only declined but became negative. Number of factors like faulty political populism policies, raised aspiration level of farm families, incommensurate expenditure pattern, changing work culture and absentee farming with wide spread drug abuse, poor quality of education and health services & weather variability, has made agriculture nonviable especially, for marginal and small farmer who constitute more than three forth of farmers’ suicides. The study substantiates the need to revisit Durkheimian orientation to better understand the social fact of farmers’ suicides by eschewing economic and physiological reductionism in the light of the ‘sui generis’ trait of society.