Women Protesters Are Reminding Us of the Cruel Reality of Farmer Suicides

Social Commentary

Women Protesters Are Reminding Us of the Cruel Reality of Farmer Suicides

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

The dire situation of farmers in India has often been brought to our attention through heartbreaking suicide statistics. High levels of debt, harassment from loan sharks, and limited state support pose hurdles that are impossible to overcome. Families, especially women, of farmers who have committed suicide have to live with the sorrow and despair long after they are gone. This time, they have decided to make their voices heard.

More than 2,000 such women, including widows, sisters and mothers of farmers who died by suicide, have joined the ongoing protests at Delhi’s Tikri border and elsewhere.

They carried pictures of their family members who ended their lives after being caught in a debt trap. The women came from several districts of Punjab, including Mansa, Bathinda, Patiala and Sangrur. “Around 700-800 women whose family members had ended their lives due to farm debt took part in the protest,” Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) vice president Harinder Kaur Bindu told reporters.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, almost 10,350 farmers and agricultural labourers took their own lives in 2018. A truly startling number. The women warn that more deaths by suicide will take place if the new farm laws are implemented. “We wanted to highlight that the new farm laws will lead to a rise in the number of farmer suicides in the state as these legislations are not in the interest of the farming community. They will ruin the farming sector,” Bindu added.

The women warn that more deaths by suicide will take place if the new farm laws are implemented.

Kaur pointed out that her husband committed suicide three years ago after accumulating debts of ₹5,00,000. Sixty-five-year-old Mohinder Kaur, who was also at the protests, pointed out that her 19-year-old grandson ended his life five years ago after the family couldn’t afford to pay for his education. These are gut-wrenching stories that go beyond just the baffling statistics. BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan claimed that over 50,000 suicides have taken place in Punjab since 2006.

The central government has maintained that farmers will benefit from the new laws while assuring that minimum support price will remain unaffected. However, farmers with already high levels of debts worry that opening up the sector to corporates will result in bad outcomes for them. They have demanded a complete repeal of the laws as the protest enters its 22nd day.

The Supreme Court has suggested the formation of a panel to solve the deadlock between the government and protesters. One hopes that the women who have had to endure immense suffering and have seen the problems plaguing India’s providers up close will also have a say in the decision-making process.

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