Resolution on Farmers’ Suicides and Agrarian Crisis
Adopted at the 20th Congress of the CPI(M), Kozhikode, April 4-9, 2012
The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) expresses its deep anguish at the continuing phenomenon of distress-induced suicides among farmers in different parts of India. These suicides of farmers have come to be the most visible manifestation of the crisis of livelihoods that liberalisation and imperialist-led globalisation has unleashed in the Indian countryside after 1991. It is a reflection of the decline in public investment in agriculture, slow growth of agricultural output, adverse terms of trade and decline in the share of cultivators in the value addition.
The 20th Congress of the CPI(M) notes with grave concern that, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), between 1995 and 2010, there were a total of 2,56,913 suicides of Indian farmers. A substantial number of these are related to the impact of the agrarian crisis. There has been no let up in the annual number of farmers’ suicides in this period; between 1998 and 2010, in every single year, the total number of farmers’ suicides has ranged between about 16,000 and 17,000. In 2010, the total number of farmers’ suicides was reported to be 15,964. The largest number of farmers’ suicides is happening in five States: Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. In 2010, Maharashtra reported 3,141 suicides, Karnataka reported 2,585 suicides, Andhra Pradesh reported 2,525 suicides and Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh together reported 2,363 suicides. Suicides of tenant farmers and women who do not have pattas in their names are wrongly excluded from the category of farmers committing suicides. Every hour two farmers commit suicide, around 20 attempt to commit suicide and around 60 desert agriculture.
The continuation of farmers’ suicides across India also shows that the partial debt relief package announced by the UPA government in 2008 was a failure. The package completely left untouched the informal loans taken by the farmers, which constituted more than 50 per cent of the total farm debt. It also ignored the distress faced by the bulk of small and marginal farmers owning more than 2 hectares of dry land. Though seven years have passed since the submission of the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) in 2005, the UPA government has not yet begun to implement them. Much of the agricultural credit today goes to landlords, rich peasants and private companies. This huge diversion of agricultural credit is a gross injustice.
What is most disturbing is that farmers’ distress suicides have returned to Kerala and have emerged in Bengal since 2011 after the fall of Left-led governments. The policies of the Left-led governments had provided a sense of confidence to the farmers and weaned them away from the extreme step of suicide. In Kerala, due to the farmer-friendly policies of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government between 2006 and 2011, there was an almost complete end to farmers’ suicides. The state’s “Debt Relief Commission” that provided relief to all indebted farmers, doubling of the procurement price in a period of five years and expanded procurement, interest-free loans to paddy farmers and, importantly, the improvement in the prices of commercial crops have contributed to this outcome. However, after the United Democratic Front (UDF) came to power in 2011, nearly 50 farmers have committed suicide. In West Bengal, since the Trinamul Congress government came to power in 2011, 42 paddy farmers have committed suicide. This new wave of suicides has been the result of a major failure of procurement of paddy and denial of even the official rates of MSP, which has led farmers to sell in distress and enter new debt cycles.
The farmers of commercial crops like cotton, sugarcane and others, are the worst-hit, because they have had to invest heavily in agricultural inputs. The 20th Party Congress expresses its strong protest against the further cuts in fertiliser subsidy to the extent of Rs 6000 crores in the budget 2012-13 at a time when there is a manifold rise in the price of all inputs.
The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) demands that:
1) the recommendations of the National Commission for Farmers (NCF) must be implemented without delay;
2) the government should restore subsidies and intervene in the supply of seeds and other agricultural inputs by establishing fair price retail outlets in rural areas, where quality of inputs is assured;
3) the public procurement system be expanded, entry of private players in procurement be discouraged and an adequate minimum support price (MSP) based on the recommendations of the NCF be introduced for all crops;
4) small and marginal farmers and tenant farmers be accorded a special sub-quota in the supply of agricultural credit by commercial banks and other financial institutions.
5) a comprehensive crop insurance scheme be implemented for all crops and to which all peasants have access;
6) the government should institute a fund on the lines of calamity funds to assist farmers affected by crop losses.
The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) appeals to peasants in different parts of our country to not take the extreme step of suicide. The personal or social alternative is not suicide, but unity of the working people against liberalisation and imperialist-led globalisation, and the struggle for decent standards of living and a better society. Suicide is no solution; struggle is the way.