[fancy_header type=”3″ subtitle=”for type=2″]India – Uwe H. Martin[/fancy_header]
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Not by chance the beginning of the suicide series coincided with India’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. Forced by WTO-rules India had to withdraw from purchasing cotton at guaranteed rates and diminish trade barriers. Now the prices reflect world rates. But American subsidized cotton arrives in India 40% below the local price. Since then the cotton rate has crumbled to one-third.
India reduced public aid for the farming sector and privatized large areas of its society. Instead of providing public health care, India has one of the most privatized healthcare system in the world. This results in rural family’s spending twice as much on health as on education. Because they can’t afford it anymore, thousands of farmers’ children are dropping out of schools.
Meanwhile the input cost has gone up seven fold mainly due to the destruction of the farmers’ own traditional seeds. The farmers became dependent on international seeds manufacturers. At the time the prices went up, the Indian government withdrew credit to the farmers and diverted it to the urban upper-middle classes, corporates and elites. Left with no chance to get sufficient bank loans for agricultural input costs, the farmers turned to private moneylenders – often the same people selling seeds, fertilizers and pesticides and later also buying the harvest.
In Maharashtra an average of 2,508 committed suicide every year between 1995 and 2002. When India approved the use of genetic modified BT-cotton in 2002 the already difficult situation worsened. 33,752 farmers took their life since 2003, an annual average of 3,750. But the suicides are only a manifestation of a much larger crisis. The per capita availability of food grain has plummeted sharply almost to the World-War-years levels and Millions of farmers live a life on the verge of starvation and despair. When farming does badly all related sectors do badly. No farmer orders a new bullock cart or builds a new house, and so the local economy is destroyed.
The Collapse of Indians farming sector has already driven millions of people into migration. But in the cities, all traditional sources of employment have dried up and people end up as cheap domestic labor, living in ever more overpopulated slums.