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Joel Whitney: Indian Farmers & Suicide, a New Report

May 11, 2011

A new report by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU finds that every thirty minutes a farmer in India commits suicide, as a result of foreign multinational corporations, neoliberalism and cycles of debt. The report begins:

“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.

Guernica reported on this problem in June of last year, in “Seeds of Suicide” by filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin.

“It was December 2006,” Robin begins, “and we had barely arrived when a funeral procession came around the corner of an alley running between whitewashed walls, shattering the torpor of the little Indian village under the burning sun. Wearing the traditional costume—white cotton tunic and trousers—the drummers led the group toward the nearby river, where the funeral pyre had already been set up. In the middle of the procession, weeping women desperately held on to robust young men with somber faces carrying a stretcher covered with brilliantly colored flowers. Gripped by emotion, I glimpsed the face of the dead man: eyes closed, aquiline nose, brown mustache. I will never forget this fleeting vision, which stains Monsanto’s great promises with infamy.”

Read the rest here.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviews Smita Narula, Faculty Director for the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, who calls this problem a human rights crisis of epic proportions. Video here:

The CHRGJ report can be downloaded in PDF format here.

—Joel Whitney

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Joel Whitney is a founding editor of Guernica. His full bio can be found here.

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