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Farmer Suicides

2024 FEB 13

Mains   > Economic Development   >   Indian Economy and issues   >   Agri productivity


GS 3   >> Agriculture and Rural Development


  • State-level data show that in 2023, as many as 1,088 farmers ended their lives in eight districts of Marathwada, Maharashtra’s most drought-affected region.


  • According to the National Crime Reports Bureau (NCRB) report 2022, 11,290 cases of farmer’s suicides were reported in 2022. 
  • There has been a 3.75% rise in the cases of farmer’s suicides, from the 10,881 suicides reported in 2021. 
  • The situation has been particularly grim in Maharashtra, which accounts for 38% of all suicides in the agricultural community. 


  1. Debt Trap from Crop Failure and High Input Costs: The escalating costs of seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides, combined with crop failures due to adverse weather conditions, have ensnared farmers in a vicious cycle of debt. For example, the production cost for cotton in Marathwada ranges between ?6,500 and ?7,000 per quintal, but market prices hover around ?6,800, barely allowing farmers to break even.
  2. Low Access to Formal Credit: Farmers often rely on informal lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates of 30% to 40%, exacerbating their financial burden. This is particularly acute in regions lacking access to formal banking facilities, where informal credit becomes the only option.
  3. Change in Cropping Patterns: Shifts towards water-intensive crops like cotton and sugarcane in arid regions such as Marathwada and Rayalaseema have increased vulnerability to crop failure and indebtedness due to their unsuitability to local climate conditions.
  4. Unproductive Agriculture: The lack of a proportional increase in the prices of agricultural produce relative to the rising input costs has rendered farming unprofitable. This is compounded by climate change, which affects crop yields and productivity.
  5. Climate Change and Environmental Stress: Erratic monsoons, shrinking water resources, and increased pest attacks due to climate change have led to reduced agricultural productivity and increased the financial strain on farmers.
  6. Socio-cultural Pressures: Social obligations such as expensive weddings, dowries, and societal expectations contribute to financial stress among farmers, pushing them towards loans they cannot repay.
  7. Lack of Direct Market Access: The absence of direct integration with markets forces farmers to sell their produce at lower prices to middlemen, reducing their potential income. Despite initiatives like the National Agricultural Market, the actual implementation lags, affecting farmers' profitability.
  8. Rising Costs of Agricultural Equipment and Labor: The cost of machinery, such as tractors and irrigation pumps, along with higher labor costs driven by policies like MGNREGA, has significantly increased the cost of cultivation, further straining farmers' finances.
  9. Water Crisis and Interstate Disputes: Water scarcity, exacerbated by failed monsoons and disputes between states over water sharing (e.g., the Kaveri dispute), severely impacts agricultural productivity, pushing farmers towards desperation.
  10. Lack of Government Support and Ineffective Policies: The focus on loan waivers as a solution to farmer indebtedness, rather than structural reforms in agricultural policies or investment in rural infrastructure, fails to address the root causes of farmer distress. The disparity in policy focus, favoring urban consumers over rural producers, and the slow pace of implementing support schemes, leaves farmers vulnerable to economic shocks.


  • Collapse of Farming as a Viable Business: The rising number of farmer suicides signals a decline in agricultural productivity and a significant blow to food security. This situation starkly contrasts with the goal of doubling farmers' incomes by 2022, indicating a broader failure in making agriculture a sustainable livelihood.
  • Detrimental Effects on Rural Economies: The loss of farmers to suicide has a cascading effect on the economic vitality of rural areas, stifling the growth of local businesses and community economic development.
  • Family and Community Trauma: Families left behind by farmers who take their own lives face severe emotional and financial turmoil, with the burden often falling disproportionately on widows and children, disrupting the social fabric of rural communities.
  • Widespread Psychological Distress: The ongoing crisis of farmer suicides contributes to a climate of mental health issues among agricultural workers, with some turning to drugs or alcohol as a means of escape, further compounding the community's mental health woes.
  • Implications for International Markets and National Economy: The adverse changes within the Indian agricultural sector, highlighted by the increasing suicides among farmers, potentially affect global agricultural markets. Moreover, this crisis tarnishes India's aspiration to grow into a $5 trillion economy, reflecting poorly on the country's international economic standing.




The Ashok Dalwai Committee, formally known as the Committee on Doubling Farmers' Income, was constituted in 2016 to recommend strategies to double farmers' income by 2022. Some of its key recommendations include:

  1. Diversification of crops: The committee suggested promoting diversification of crops to increase farmers' income. This includes shifting from traditional crops to high-value crops and promoting horticulture, animal husbandry, and allied activities.
  2. Technology adoption: Encouraging the adoption of modern agricultural technologies and practices to enhance productivity and reduce post-harvest losses. This includes the use of precision farming techniques, efficient irrigation methods, and mechanization.
  3. Access to markets: The committee emphasized the need to improve market access for farmers, including the development of infrastructure such as cold storage facilities, warehouses, and agro-processing units. It also recommended the integration of farmers into value chains and promoting farmer-producer organizations.
  4. Risk management: Providing farmers with better risk management tools such as crop insurance, weather forecasting services, and price stabilization mechanisms to mitigate the impact of production and price fluctuations.
  5. Institutional reforms: Recommending institutional reforms to strengthen agricultural extension services, improve access to credit and inputs, and streamline agricultural marketing regulations.
  6. Sustainable agriculture: Promoting sustainable agricultural practices, including conservation agriculture, organic farming, and water management techniques, to enhance productivity while preserving natural resources.

Addressing the concerning trend of farmer suicides demands multifaceted solutions. From alleviating debt burdens to enhancing mental health support and promoting sustainable farming practices, concerted efforts are crucial. Collaborative action and policy reforms are necessary to prevent loss of lives and foster a resilient agricultural sector for the future.


Q: "Analyse the root causes of farmer suicides in India and propose policy interventions to mitigate this critical issue, ensuring the socio-economic stability and welfare of agricultural communities. (15M, 250W)