Farmer Suicides in Odisha, Eastern India

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:54
Oral Presentation
Papesh K. LENKA, Pondicherry University, India
Since the last two and half decades there is a growing literature on farmer suicides in India. While one group of scholars holds the view that these suicides are mostly due to rising cost of cultivation and decline of farm income the other group attributes them to the changes in government policies on agriculture and rural development following neoliberal reform measures. Yet another group views these suicides as the combined effects of a set of complex socio-economic reasons. On the other hand, the government appointed committees and commissions attribute these suicides to erratic monsoons and adverse climatic conditions. However, the studies on farmer suicides are mostly confined to the advanced states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh which reported a wave of suicides immediately following the economic reforms in early 1990s. The backward states like Odisha which experienced suicides in the recent years are yet to receive due attention. Hence, the present paper makes an attempt to analyse the farmer suicides in Odisha with reference to agriculturally advanced Bargargh district that has reported highest number of farmer suicides.

The paper is divided into four parts. While the first part reviews the major discourses on agrarian change and farmer suicides, the second section provides a broad macro background on nature of agrarian change in the state with a special focus on Bargargh district. The third part examines the causes of suicides at the micro level based on information collected from family members of the sampled deceased farmers. The last section draws conclusion.

The paper attributes farmer suicides to the rising trend of exploitative tenancy practices, the absence of a farmer-friendly marketing mechanism and the emerging values of individualism and consumerism in the rural society.