Protests in India Aim to ‘Prevent Suicide of Farmers Who Feed the Nation’

As India celebrated it’s 71st year of independence from British colonization yesterday, August 15th, farmers continued to stage their 100 day protest against farmer suicides, demanding a complete waiver of loans and increase in crop prices. On India’s Independence Day, farmers vowed to protest the raising of the Indian flag, saying that a farmer, not a politician with farmer’s blood on their hands, should be the one to raise it. Flag raising protests occurred in a few states resulting in arrests and at least one flag not raised.
Farmers have blockaded roads with vegetables, staged sit-ins and are fighting desperately as climate change has exacerbated droughts, especially in Tamil Nadu. A new study has recently been released demonstrating that climate change related droughts are increasing the rates of farmer suicides, and in turn leaving many women widowed, landless, and trapped by their debt.

Vikram Patel, an Indian psychiatrist and mental health expert with Harvard Medical School in Boston spoke to the Associated Press about farmer suicides in India:

There are many factors that can contribute to suicide, including poor crop yields, financial devastation or debt, access to easy methods of self-harm, or a lack of community support. In India, many farmers will drink toxic pesticides as a way out of backbreaking debt, with the government in some cases guaranteeing monetary aid to their surviving families. That provides a perverse incentive for suicide, “rewarding people who end their lives by paying family compensation, but only if they die,” Patel said.

“We may not be able to stop the world from warming, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something to address suicide,” including providing more financial stability and paying more attention to mental health, he said.

Around 105 farmers were taken into custody by the police during a protest in Bathinda on Monday. A union president said the farmers of the region were barring the union minister from entering any village in the district as she had ignored them during a previous visit.

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