Archive for ‘suicide’

05/12/2018

Angry Indian farmers march on parliament to denounce their plight

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Indian farmers and rural workers marched to the Indian parliament in the capital, New Delhi, on Friday in a protest against soaring operating costs and plunging produce prices that have brought misery to many.

Farmers march towards the parliament house during a rally to protest soaring farm operating costs and plunging prices of their produce, in New Delhi, India, November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

The protest is one of the biggest displays of frustration with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which faces a tough general election due by May next year. India’s 263 million farmers make up an important voting bloc.

“Farmers have been routinely committing suicide,” said one of the protest leaders, Yogendra Yadav, as he marched in a crowd down a central Delhi thoroughfare.

“It’s a shame that the government doesn’t have any time for those who feed us,” said Yadav, who leads the Jai Kisan Andolan, a farmers’ group.

Low food prices, export curbs, anti-inflation policies that keep rural incomes low and a broad shift from subsidies to investment spending have all infuriated and demoralised farmers.

Core inflation in India, where farming is a mainstay for nearly half the people, has hovered around 6 percent in the past few months, but food prices have either fallen or remained stagnant.

Agriculture contributes about 15 percent to India’s $2.6 trillion economy, Asia’s third-largest, but employs nearly half of its 1.3 billion people.

Farmers from more than 200 groups began gathering in New Delhi on Thursday. They demanded that the government call a special session of parliament to discuss the crisis in the countryside.

“I myself know so many farmers who have committed suicide, and their families are now living in penury,” said farmer Lakhan Pal Singh from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state.

“The policies of the Modi administration are responsible.”

Farmers have also protested in the financial hub of Mumbai, including this month when tens of thousands of farmers marched to Mumbai to demand loan waivers and the transfer of forest land to villagers.

New Delhi police deployed 3,500 personnel in the city on Friday but there was no trouble.

In October, police fired teargas and water cannons in a clash with about 50,000 farmers heading for New Delhi.

‘LAST STRAW’

The discontent in the countryside, where 70 percent of Indians live, could erode support for Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won India’s biggest parliamentary mandate in three decades in the last general election in 2014.

But political analysts and farm economists say Modi will find it hard to repeat that next time.

“We voted for the BJP but anti-farmer policies of the government have hit us hard,” said Singh.

The last time a BJP government lost power, in a 2004 election, it was largely because rural voters abandoned the party.

Last year, police shot and killed six farmers protesting against lower prices in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, which recently held a state assembly election – a neck-and-neck contest between the BJP and opposition Congress party.

The result is due on Dec. 11.

Leaders from the main opposition Congress party, as well as left-wing parties and the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party addressed the flag-waving protesters who converged in the historic heart of the city.

“We’ve been living a hand-to-mouth existence for a very long time but rising prices of seeds, diesel and fertiliser and falling prices of milk, fruits, vegetables and even staples is the last straw,” said farmer Shivpal Yadav.

“If the government doesn’t address the problems, we’ll be back,” said Yadav, from the northern state of Haryana.

Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Robert Birsel

Advertisements
21/06/2016

India’s suicide farmers’ widows face living death | Reuters

At the age of 24, Joshna Wandile and her two children were thrown out of the house she shared with her in-laws after her farmer husband hanged himself. He left a pile of debts after years of drought laid waste to his land.Wandile is not alone. More than 300,000 farmers have killed themselves in India over the last two decades, leaving their widows battling with the state, moneylenders, in-laws and their communities.

While widows in rural India are often ostracised and abused, farmer widows have it particularly tough, activists said ahead of International Widows’ Day on Thursday.”I had nothing when my husband died – he sold everything in the house, even the cooking vessels, to pay the creditors,” said Wandile who lives in Vidarbha in Maharashtra, among the worst affected by farmers’ suicides.

“I couldn’t even feel sad. I could only think: where will we live? How will I earn enough money? How will I keep us safe?” said Wandile, who was married at 17.

Maharashtra, which is struggling with its worst drought in four decades, accounted for more than half the 5,650 farmer suicides in India in 2014, according to official data. Some estimate last year’s toll exceeded 3,000.

“Bankruptcy or indebtedness” was the most common reason cited. Most were small farmers, with holdings of under two hectares.

There is little information on the families left behind who struggle to claim their right to the land they till and the house they live in, while battling archaic stigmas that dog their every step.

Source: India’s suicide farmers’ widows face living death | Reuters

19/07/2015

Farmer suicides in Karnataka – The Hindu

Is it falling prices? Is it a glut in production? Or are farmers just falling into debt because of aspirational spending? Whatever the reason, Karnataka is again facing the spectre of rising suicides

“Crop loans are difficult to get, but large personal or consumption loans are easily available. This is the surest way to push farmers into deep debt, from which they are unable to recover because their earnings cannot keep pace with agricultural costs.” Photo: K.Bhagya Prakash

Krishna, 32, a farmer in Singamaranahalli, about 30 km from Hunsur in Mysuru district, consumed pesticide and died in the first week of June. The sesame farmer with three acres of land could not survive the debt trap he was in. He had defaulted on repayment to a local cooperative bank, fallen into the clutches of moneylenders, the water table had dropped, and his borewells had run dry. Having lost all hope of repaying the loans, he decided to end it all.

In the last fortnight alone, 50 farmers have committed suicide in Karnataka. The State Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda admits “it is alarming”. What is puzzling is that cases of farmer suicides had actually dropped over the last two years and have now suddenly begun to increase from mid-June onwards.

The suicides point to two things: first, a serious agrarian crisis shaped by an increase in cultivation costs and a decline in agricultural income, which is pushing farmers into a debt trap; and second, the sociological pressures that farmers face because of the disparity between their income and those in urban areas.

Vivek Cariappa is an organic farmer from Mysuru. He talks of the insecurity among farmers because neither the State nor institutional mechanisms have been able to address the crisis.

It is difficult to get crop loans, he says, but loans for consumption goods like cars, or personal loans for weddings and festivals are easily available. It is the surest way to push farmers into debt.

In Panakanahalli in Mandya district, Mahesh took a loan for his sister’s marriage. In Kestur village of Chamarajanagar district, Nanjundaiah borrowed Rs. 30,000 from a bank and Rs. 4 lakh from moneylenders to get his daughters married. Both farmers were unable to repay the loans and committed suicide.

The problem is also sociological: Farmers who aspire to the lifestyle of salaried persons end up taking loans, sometimes at 60-80 per cent interest rates, and become prey to loan sharks.

“ There is a serious agrarian crisis with an increase in agricultural costs and a decline in earnings. There is also sociological pressure ”

For most farmers across the State, what were once considered luxury items such as cars have now become aspirational necessities. Kurubur Shanthakumar, President of the State Sugarcane Growers’ Association, talks of how he followed his father’s footsteps and became a farmer, but his son wanted to study in Mysuru. This ended up costing Shanthakumar a sizeable sum of money. The pressure is most severe in areas close to the big urban centres of Mysuru and Bengaluru, but is true in general all over, points out G.K. Veeresh, former chairman of the State government’s committee that studied farmer suicides in 2002.

Then, mono-cropping had been seen as a major cause for suicides. Mr. Veeresh talks about how farmers had a tendency to focus on a single crop if it had seen commercial success. The problem was, when it failed, they faced total collapse. More than land holding, says Mr. Veeresh, crop planning is the bigger issue. Farmers must be educated to see the long-term benefits of “multi crop-multi income” farming.

But this time around, the farmers who committed suicide don’t appear to have stayed with one crop. Yes, some sugarcane farmers have faced a major crisis after sugar factories, mostly owned by powerful politicians, defaulted on payments, but they have not accounted for the majority of suicides.

T.N. Prakash, Chairman, Karnataka Agriculture Price Commission, speaks of the urgent need to address the issue of rising input costs when incomes stay stagnant. One suggestion Mr. Prakash makes is interesting. He says that the Agriculture Price Commission could instead become a commission for agricultural cost, prices and farmer’s incomes, which would give it more authority to implement suitable measures.

Another reason could be a glut in production. Mr. Cariappa and Mr. Shanthakumar point out that the State, despite having records of the area under sugarcane cultivation and the crushing capacities of sugar mills, has turned a blind eye to excessive cultivation. This has kept prices low enough to benefit the sugar mills owned by politicians.

This glut is true for cotton, tobacco and other crops as well. Excess production helps processing industries, as it ensures that the prices of raw materials stay low and they profit from it. There is also “mass hysteria” when a farmer commits suicide, and it may result in others taking the same step. Politics over farmer suicides and the wide publicity they get tend, in a way, to “glorify” suicides and worsen the situation, says Mr. Veeresh.

via Farmer suicides in Karnataka – The Hindu.

05/11/2014

Poetry of a Former Foxconn Worker in China Evokes Images of Factory Life – Businessweek

Before he took his life in late September, 24-year-old Xu Lizhi was a regular contributor of poetry to Foxconn People, the internal newspaper at his sprawling factory complex in Shenzhen. Only after he died did his writing find a wider audience, as factory friends collected his poems for publication in the Shenzhen News.

Safety netting posted around a building in Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China

Like millions of other young Chinese, Xu left his home in rural Guangdong province in 2010 to find work in the big city; he had been working intermittently on Foxconn (2317:TT)’s electronics assembly line for four years.

Following a series of 14 suicides in 2010, the Taiwanese manufacturing giant installed safety nets to prevent workers from jumping off dormitory roofs at its Shenzhen plant. It tried to improve life for its workers: The company raised basic wages and installed basketball courts and Olympic-size swimming pools for recreation. Worker suicides declined but did not disappear.

Xu’s poetry gives voice to the alienation he and many others of his generation feel on the assembly line: “I swallowed a moon made of iron/ They refer to it as a nail/ I swallowed this industrial sewage, these unemployment documents/ Youth stooped at machines die before their time/ I swallowed the hustle and the destitution/ Swallowed pedestrian bridges, life covered in rust / I can’t swallow any more/ All that I’ve swallowed is now gushing out of my throat/ Unfurling on the land of my ancestors/ Into a disgraceful poem.”

A frequent theme is how he felt the monotony of factory life sapping away “the last graveyard of our youth.” In one poem, Xu wrote: “With no time for expression, emotion crumbles into dust/ They have stomachs forged of iron/ Full of thick acid, sulfuric and nitric/ Industry captures their tears before they have the chance to fall.”

Xu also described the desolate conditions of his rented room: “A space of ten square meters/ Cramped and damp, no sunlight all year/ Here I eat, sleep, sh–, and think/ Cough, get headaches, grow old, get sick but still fail to die/ Under the dull yellow light again I stare blankly, chuckling like an idiot.”

via Poetry of a Former Foxconn Worker in China Evokes Images of Factory Life – Businessweek.

01/07/2014

A dramatic decline in suicides: Back from the edge | The Economist

IN THE 1990s China had one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Young rural women in particular were killing themselves at an alarming rate. In recent years, however, China’s suicides have declined to among the lowest rates in the world.

In 2002 the Lancet, a British medical journal, said there were 23.2 suicides per 100,000 people annually from 1995 to 1999. This year a report by a group of researchers from the University of Hong Kong found that had declined to an average annual rate of 9.8 per 100,000 for the years 2009-11, a 58% drop.

Paul Yip, director of the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong and a co-author of the recent study, says no country has ever achieved such a rapid decline in suicides. And yet, experts say, China has done it without a significant improvement in mental-health services—and without any national publicity effort to lower suicides.

The most dramatic shift has been in the figures for rural women under 35. Their suicide rate appears to have dropped by as much as 90%. The Lancet study in 2002 estimated 37.8 per 100,000 of this age group committed suicide annually in 1995-99. The new study says this declined to just over three per 100,000 in 2011. Another study of suicides, covering 20 years in one province, Shandong, found a decline of 95% among rural women under 35, to 2.6 suicides per 100,000 in 2010—and a 68% drop in suicides among all rural women.

Scholars suspect that the number of suicides is underreported in official figures (the official suicide rate nationally was 6.9 per 100,000 in 2012) and they make adjustments for that in their calculations. But in several studies, as well as in official data, the long-term decline in suicides has been marked across the spectrum, in rural and urban areas and among men and women from almost all age groups. The only notable exception is the suicide rate among the elderly, which declined overall but has crept back up in recent years, a worrying trend in a rapidly ageing society.

Two intertwined social forces are driving the reduction: migration and the rise of an urban middle class. Moving to the cities to work, even if to be treated as second-class citizens when they get there, has been the salvation of many rural young women, liberating them from parental pressures, bad marriages, overbearing mothers-in-law and other stresses of poor, rural life. Migrants have also distanced themselves from the easiest form of rural suicide, swallowing pesticides, the chosen method in nearly 60% of rural cases, and often done impulsively. The reduction in toxicity of pesticides has helped as well.

Jing Jun, a sociologist at Tsinghua University in Beijing, notes that the increase in migration to the cities fits with the decline in rural suicides (see chart). Since rural dwellers accounted for most suicides, so the national rate has fallen, too. In 20 years, as the population went from mostly rural to more than half urban, the official national suicide rate dropped by 63%.

Suicides among urban residents are also dropping, suggesting other causes, too. Chinese newspapers frequently carry dramatic photos of suicidal people being rescued from window ledges and rooftops (like the woman in our picture). But the University of Hong Kong researchers found that urban suicides had dropped to 5.3 per 100,000 between 2002 and 2011, a fall of 59%. The simplest explanation is that, in spite of concerns about pollution, food safety and property prices, living standards and general satisfaction with urban life have gone up. Mr Jing also believes that, as in the countryside, the atomisation of extended families has reduced the family conflicts that can lead to suicides.

via A dramatic decline in suicides: Back from the edge | The Economist.

08/05/2014

The Mystery Shrouding China’s Communist Party Suicides – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Being a government official in China is not for the faint of heart, the thin-skinned or the fragile of mind.

A recent state media report has reverberated online and in the Communist Party press by revealing that at least 54 Chinese officials died of “unnatural causes” in 2013, and that more than 40 percent of those deaths were suicides (in Chinese).

For some, those numbers raise questions about the burden placed on officials as a result of the Party’s anti-corruption crusade. But others see the recent rash of suicides as further evidence of the lack of political openness in China.

The latest victim was Xu Ye’an, the deputy chief of China’s national-level Bureau for Letter and Calls—the agency that handle petitions from disgruntled citizens. According to local media reports (in Chinese), Xu killed himself in his office, those the circumstances of his death remain unclear.

Then there was Zhou Yu, a senior police official in Chongqing and a major player in the anti-gang crackdown there a few years ago. He was found in a hotel room having apparently hanged himself (in Chinese).

There was also the deputy director of a neighborhood construction management office in a small city in Zhejiang province, who was responsible for overseeing building inspections at a time when an entire apartment building collapsed, was reported to have committed suicide in disgrace (in Chinese).

That Chinese officials have had to deal with pressure is nothing new.

A survey in 2009 found that more than 80% of Party officials reported psychological fatigue and mental imbalance (in Chinese). High-level officials even went so far then to tell the Party-run People’s Tribune about the “five ways to death” facing those who worked in the government: “without fortitude, you’ll scare easily; without a good physique, you’ll die from overwork; without capacity for liquor, you’ll die from drink; without a good disposition, you’ll be worried to death; without a good heart, you’ll die from being angry.”

What is different is that these strains on the rank-and-file appear to have gotten even more oppressive amidst Beijing’s demands that cadres labor harder, govern more effectively, and behave better. As one essay last week noted (in Chinese), the emphasis for officials these days is on “‘work, work, work,’ ‘assessment, evaluation, assessment,’ ‘management, management, management’.” Cadres, according to the author, now resemble “men used as beasts.”

via The Mystery Shrouding China’s Communist Party Suicides – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Law of Unintended Consequences

continuously updated blog about China & India

ChiaHou's Book Reviews

continuously updated blog about China & India

What's wrong with the world; and its economy

continuously updated blog about China & India