Every Thirty Minutes: Farmer Suicides, Human Rights, and the Agrarian Crisis in India

It is estimated that more than a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide in the last 16 years—the largest wave of recorded suicides in human history. A great number of those affected are cash crop farmers, and cotton farmers in particular. In 2009 alone, the most recent year for which official figures are available, 17,638 farmers committed suicide—that’s one farmer every 30 minutes. While striking on their own, these figures considerably underestimate the actual number of farmer suicides taking place. Women, for example, are often excluded from farmer suicide statistics because most do not have title to land—a common prerequisite for being recognized as a farmer in official statistics and programs.

The IHRC Report Every Thirty Minutes: Farmer Suicides, Human Rights, and the Agrarian Crisis in India focuses on the human rights of Indian farmers and of the estimated 1.5 million surviving family members who have been affected by the farmer suicide crisis to date. Millions more continue to face the very problems that have driven so many to take their lives. The Report seeks to amplify the many voices calling on the Indian government to act now to put an end to this unmitigated disaster. Farmers in the western state of Maharashtra, for example, now address their suicide notes to the President and Prime Minister, in the hopes that their deaths may force the Indian government to remedy the conditions that have led so many farmers to take their own lives. Rachmandra Raut, who committed suicide in 2010, even went to the trouble of purchasing expensive official stamp paper and—in laying out the reasons for his despair to this official audience—cited two years of successive crop failure and harassment by bank employees attempting to recover his loans.