You are here: Home Features What drives farmers to kill themselves?
What drives farmers to kill themselves?

Jan 23, 2012

Successive crop losses, mounting debts and rising health and medical expenses lead yet another farmer to commit suicide. Here is the story of Dayasagar Sahu from one of India’s most backward districts, Bargarh (also, home to Maoists, or a violent internal conflict against the Indian state) in the state of Orissa along India’s eastern coast.

Barhgarh, Orissa: Sixty-year-old Dayasagar Sahu, a small farmer of village Sukuda in Bhatli Block of Orissa’s Bargarh district committed suicide on January 20. He has left behind his wife and a son.


Villagers say Dayasagar Sahu was missing for two days before his body was found dangling by the neck from a tree outside the village on the morning of January 21. He had to arrange money for his son’s marriage as he was reeling under debt ever since he married his daughter, then witnessed a crops fail one-after-the-other, and of not the least due to a progression of health ailments and demises in the family.

That was not all – he lost his bullocks and had to invest in buying another twosome to yoke his wooden plough for work on his field.

Eventually, the personal loans kept increasing by the day. The loans came at a steep interest – five rupees every month for every hundred rupee borrowed. And compounded! There was (and, in most cases in the countryside, is) no other way for a villager to borrow in the absence of easy to access institutional loans. In some cases, farmers borrow money at even higher interests, so high that the debt doubles in the space of a year.

The loan was to be repaid once his crop was harvested. But that was not to be as he lost his paddy crop to un-seasonal rain.

Dayasagar was not the only farmer who lost his crop. A majority of the farmers in the region lost their crop under similar circumstances. They were all promised compensation. That compensation never came.

Dayasagar, like other farmers of the region, was compensated for a previous year’s crop, which too had failed – 80 bags of paddy, which he sold to the village middleman so that he could repay a part of his loan. The loans kept mounting and he came to a point when he had to sell four acres of his seven acres of land to raise money. This only made him poorer.

With his back to the wall and little else but his vulnerability to loose, Dayasagar even tried crop changes, even changing the pattern of his crop on advice from peers. But that, alas, proved to be an effort in vain as the crop failed due to a shortage of water in a drought-affected region.

The last paddy crop failed yet again due to the lack of rain, passed off in official parlance as a drought. The loans kept mounting. The galloping interests made it more difficult to imagine how he could repay his debts, now upwards of a lakh (Rs100,000, $1=Rs 45 approx). It was a tall order with a good part of his land sold off, successive crop losses and accumulated financial burdens. Far from a celebration, his son’s upcoming marriage would have added to his financial burden. The depressed man decided to hang himself.

The suicide was followed by an inquest, led by the local police officer who spent time looking for the villagers Dayasagar Sahu borrowed money from. The local revenue officer, intimated by a phone call did not turn up. Nor for that matter, did the Block Development Officer arrive. The police was, therefore, the only sign of officialdom in the community.

What marked a difference was the arrival of Sanjay Bhoi, a law-maker or Member of Parliament from the district. The reason behind the visit was not lost among the villagers – this is the time of the year when villagers elect their representatives to the local governing bodies, the Panchayat.

As passions grew and tempers have crossed into a crescendo, angry villagers protested the methods of the police as also the absence of the officers. Bhoi then called up the district boss, the Collector, who was urged to sooth passions with an announcement of Rs10,000, approximately a tenth of the dead man’s debt burden.

Questions are beginning to be asked: Can the administration wash its hands off its responsibilities with a payment of Rs10,000? Why are the local officers of the agriculture department silent? What has the government done for irrigation?

None of these questions are new – these have been asked over and over again. In fact, the questions repeat every time a farmer kills himself.

These questions will repeat again because Dayasagar Sahu will not be the last farmer to die due to debt. Bargarh has seen over 35 farmer suicides.

Most Read
Most Shared
You May Like




Jobs at OneWorld









Global Goals 2030
OneWorld South Asia Group of Websites