1,500 Farmers in India Commit Suicide: A Wake-Up Call for Humanity

I read with horror this morning that over 1,500 farmers in India committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure.

Over 1,500 farmers in an Indian state committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure, it was reported today. The agricultural state of Chattisgarh was hit by falling water levels.

"The water level has gone down below 250 feet here. It used to be at 40 feet a few years ago," Shatrughan Sahu, a villager in one of the districts, told Down To Earth magazine.

"Most of the farmers here are indebted and only God can save the ones who do not have a bore well." Mr Sahu lives in a district that recorded 206 farmer suicides last year. Police records for the district add that many deaths occur due to debt and economic distress.

The crop failures, which took place in the agricultural state of Chattisgarh, were prompted by falling water levels. Nearby forest depletion and poorly planned government dam projects contributed to the falling water level. Combined with the vicious money-lending schemes that are prevalent in the region, many farmers felt that death was the only option in the face of insurmountable debt.

Suicides by Indian farmers have been an ongoing reality for years -- Vandana Shiva, an Intent Voice, friend and someone I admire tremendously for her advocacy of the land and its people, wrote an article several years ago about farmers committing suicide due to debt.

But 1,500? To give a more tangible visualization of that number, that's about four full jumbo jet planes' worth of passengers suddenly committing suicide. The death toll also does not hint at the countless men, women and children who are still ensnared in these dire situations, and now must grieve the loss of their family, friends and neighbors.

Almost every village in Punjab has witnessed a suicide in their once-prosperous farming families, the BBC reported.

National Crime Records Bureau statistics say close to 200,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1997.

The Punjab government says the state produces nearly two-thirds of the grain in India. But the state has faced many economic crises since the the mid-1990s.

While researching more for this article, I learned that this latest tragedy bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the problem in Australia's agricultural sector, where many of the country's farmers are committing suicide in response to the severe droughts, heat waves and wildlife fires that have been ravaging the country for the last several years.  It is estimated that one Australian farmer commits suicide every four days. The severe weather changes are a direct manifestation of global warming.

These stories are a reminder that our personal wellness is inextricably linked to global wellness.  We need to nurture Mother Earth, and address the tangled hierarchy of pollution, global warming, human rights, production, economies, wealth, etc.

With Earth Day approaching next week, I hope that all of us will set intentions, followed up with action, on how we can make the planet, and in turn, the lives of our fellow humans, healthier and more peaceful.

Mallika Chopra blogs regularly at Intent.com