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Rural India: A case study


May 1, 2016 by nmb156

I thought it would be interesting to offer a perspective from a developing nation.

Climate disasters.



Rural India is experiencing it all.

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Over 2/3rd’s of India’s population live in rural areas, and 1/4 of the rural population live below the poverty line (Source 1).

Its no wonder that the suicide rate for Indian farmers is 47% higher than the average (Source 2).

I have gathered information that suggests the following reasons for farmer suicides:

  • Climate Change

Basically, there has been a water deficit, which simply means crops can’t grow and thus farmers suffer (Source 3). However, suicide is not the only killer here. Heatwaves have killed over 2000 rural Indian citizens (Source 4).

  • Land Dispossession 

A perfect illustration of the misconception that ‘Greed is Good’ and ‘Despair is Inevitable’ (Dorling 2010). Land is being taken from farmers for mining purposes, infrastructure and other developments (Source 1). Not to mention that farmers own small areas of land, only around 1.2 hectares per farmer, which is not enough to sustain livelihoods (Source 1).

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  • Trade Liberalisation

The liberalisation of trade leads to an export deficit, a reliance on imports and a decrease in product price – meaning rural incomes lessen (Jeromi 2007). It appears as if developing nations are attempting economic redistribution by opening trade barriers (Fraser 2005), however, it is having unwanted effects.

  • Economic reform

Areas where farmers have access to bank loans, farmer suicide raters are reported lower (Sandandanon 2014). However, recent agricultural market readjustments have decreased loan potential, so farmers are again plunged into poverty and psychological strife (Source 4).

  • Introduction of Genetically modified BT cotton (Source 3).

Once introduced, farmers were unable to afford the BT cotton seeds, and were forced to purchase them on credit which increased debt (Source 3). As a result, 1300 Indian cotton farmers committed suicide in 2006 (see video below), an astoundingly high number.

Watch this YouTube clip. Do you believe that introducing genetically modified cotton was beneficial or simply immoral?  

If you’re interested in how Indian organisations are trying to tackle the issue of farmer suicide click here to read more.




Dorling, D 2010, ‘Inequality: the antecedent and the outcome of justice’, in Justice: Why Social Inequality Persists, Policy, Bristol. pp. 13-22.

Fraser, N 2005, ‘Mapping the feminist imagination: from redistribution to recognition to representation’, Constellations, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 295-307.

Jeromi, P. D 2007, ‘Farmers’ indebtedness and suicides: Impact of agricultural trade liberalisation in Kerala’, Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 42, no. 31, pp. 3241-3247.

Sandanandan, A 2014, ‘Political economy of suicide: Financial reforms, credit crunches and farmer suicide in India’, Journal of Developing Areas, vol. 48, no. 4, pp. 287-307.


Source 1:  Oxfam 2016, Why Ending Poverty in India Means Tackling Rural Poverty, Oxfam, accessed 28 April 2016, <>.

Source 2: Umar, B 2015, ‘India’s Shocking Farmer Suicide Epidemic’Aljazeera, 5 October, accessed 28 April 2016, <>.

Source 3: Brooks, N 2007, Imminent Water Crisis in India, Arlington Institute, accessed 4 May 2016, <>.

Source 4: The Economist 2016, India is reforming other bits of its economy but not farming, accessed 5 May 2016, <>.




  1. jmt696 says:

    Hi Nina, your post about rural India really hit home with me, as I know first hand the consequences of poverty and struggle in rural India. When visiting India earlier this year with the 40K globe program, I lived in a small rural village just outside of the Bangalore in south India. My village Chokkanahalli was tiny and full of farmers who made most of there living from milking cows and working on the land. Manjula is a local lady who is employed my 40K and lives in Chokkanahalli and unfortunately just before I arrived in India her husband committed suicide. The statistics you present are real. The land being taken over and the lack of clean drinking water in these villages are astounding. Your post is one of the many reasons I went to India with 40K, as I wanted to make a change. And for ladies like Manjula, who have lost their husbands, I have. Manjula sews shorts that are sold over here in Australia and she now receives sustainable and regular employment and income. I hope, that with the help of support and organisations like 40K and the one presented in your video, the issue of farmer suicide in rural India can be tackled.

  2. mjki934 says:

    Hello, personally I did not know that other countries were experiencing issues much like Australia is in terms of mental health. This post raised awareness of this fact and help show that it is an issue affecting many people and communities. It really bothered me learning that farms were only 1.2 hectares in size. Many of my friends have farms of their own and struggle to make profit off 50+ acres of land. It seems as if poverty is a life that even those who work hard in a necessary industry cannot escape, and to learn that these farmers have a suicide rate that is 47% higher than the average really raises the question as to are there any organisations aiming to improve this statistic?

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