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The political economy of farmers' suicides in India: indebted cash-crop farmers with marginal landholdings explain state-level variation in suicide rates.

Kennedy J, King L - Global Health (2014)

Bottom Line: The recent Lancet study, however, contends that there is no evidence to support this hypothesis.If the proportion of marginal farmers, cash crops, or indebted farmers were reduced by 1%, the suicide rate--suicides per 100,000 per year--would fall by 0 · 437, 0 · 518 or 0 · 549 respectively, when all other variables are held constant.Even if the Indian state is unable to enact land reforms due to the power of local elites, interventions to stabilize the price of cash crops and relieve indebted farmers may be effective at reducing suicide rates.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge, Free School Lane, Cambridge, CB2 3RQ, UK. jk428@cam.ac.uk.

ABSTRACT

Background: A recent Lancet article reported the first reliable estimates of suicide rates in India. National-level suicide rates are among the highest in the world, but suicide rates vary sharply between states and the causes of these differences are disputed. We test whether differences in the structure of agricultural production explain inter-state variation in suicides rates. This hypothesis is supported by a large number of qualitative studies, which argue that the liberalization of the agricultural sector in the early-1990s led to an agrarian crisis and that consequently farmers with certain socioeconomic characteristics-cash crops cultivators, with marginal landholdings, and debts-are at particular risk of committing suicide. The recent Lancet study, however, contends that there is no evidence to support this hypothesis.

Methods: We report scatter diagrams and linear regression models that combine the new state-level suicide rate estimates and the proportion of marginal farmers, cash crop cultivation, and indebted farmers.

Results: When we include all variables in the regression equation there is a significant positive relationship between the percentage of marginal farmers, cash crop production, and indebted farmers, and suicide rates. This model accounts for almost 75% of inter-state variation in suicide rates. If the proportion of marginal farmers, cash crops, or indebted farmers were reduced by 1%, the suicide rate--suicides per 100,000 per year--would fall by 0 · 437, 0 · 518 or 0 · 549 respectively, when all other variables are held constant.

Conclusions: Even if the Indian state is unable to enact land reforms due to the power of local elites, interventions to stabilize the price of cash crops and relieve indebted farmers may be effective at reducing suicide rates.

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The percentage of marginal farmers and suicide rates.
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Figure 1: The percentage of marginal farmers and suicide rates.

Mentions: The relationship between the proportion of marginal farmers and suicide rates is not particularly clear (r = 0 · 241, p = 0 · 378) (Figure 1). The three states with the highest suicide rates–Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh–have some of the highest proportions of marginal farmers and other states–Punjab, Gujarat, and Rajasthan–have both a low proportion of marginal farmers and among the lowest suicide rates. Nevertheless, there is a cluster of states on the bottom right of the scatter plot–Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, the north-eastern states, and Assam–which have a high percentage of marginal farmers but low suicide rates and therefore do not fit into this pattern. It is apparent from Figures 2 and 3 respectively that this cluster of states also has the lowest proportion of both cash crops and indebtedness in India. This suggests that the percentage of marginal farmers is only associated with higher suicide rates in states where farmers are subject to the vulnerability of cash crop cultivation and indebtedness. West Bengal is another outlier, with a relatively high proportion of marginal farmers but a suicide rate only just above the mean. This anomaly might be explained by strength of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the state over the past 35 years and, in particular, their unrivalled commitment to improve the hitherto precarious position of marginal farmers [16].


The political economy of farmers' suicides in India: indebted cash-crop farmers with marginal landholdings explain state-level variation in suicide rates.

Kennedy J, King L - Global Health (2014)

The percentage of marginal farmers and suicide rates.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4230648&req=5

Figure 1: The percentage of marginal farmers and suicide rates.
Mentions: The relationship between the proportion of marginal farmers and suicide rates is not particularly clear (r = 0 · 241, p = 0 · 378) (Figure 1). The three states with the highest suicide rates–Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh–have some of the highest proportions of marginal farmers and other states–Punjab, Gujarat, and Rajasthan–have both a low proportion of marginal farmers and among the lowest suicide rates. Nevertheless, there is a cluster of states on the bottom right of the scatter plot–Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, the north-eastern states, and Assam–which have a high percentage of marginal farmers but low suicide rates and therefore do not fit into this pattern. It is apparent from Figures 2 and 3 respectively that this cluster of states also has the lowest proportion of both cash crops and indebtedness in India. This suggests that the percentage of marginal farmers is only associated with higher suicide rates in states where farmers are subject to the vulnerability of cash crop cultivation and indebtedness. West Bengal is another outlier, with a relatively high proportion of marginal farmers but a suicide rate only just above the mean. This anomaly might be explained by strength of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the state over the past 35 years and, in particular, their unrivalled commitment to improve the hitherto precarious position of marginal farmers [16].

Bottom Line: The recent Lancet study, however, contends that there is no evidence to support this hypothesis.If the proportion of marginal farmers, cash crops, or indebted farmers were reduced by 1%, the suicide rate--suicides per 100,000 per year--would fall by 0 · 437, 0 · 518 or 0 · 549 respectively, when all other variables are held constant.Even if the Indian state is unable to enact land reforms due to the power of local elites, interventions to stabilize the price of cash crops and relieve indebted farmers may be effective at reducing suicide rates.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge, Free School Lane, Cambridge, CB2 3RQ, UK. jk428@cam.ac.uk.

ABSTRACT

Background: A recent Lancet article reported the first reliable estimates of suicide rates in India. National-level suicide rates are among the highest in the world, but suicide rates vary sharply between states and the causes of these differences are disputed. We test whether differences in the structure of agricultural production explain inter-state variation in suicides rates. This hypothesis is supported by a large number of qualitative studies, which argue that the liberalization of the agricultural sector in the early-1990s led to an agrarian crisis and that consequently farmers with certain socioeconomic characteristics-cash crops cultivators, with marginal landholdings, and debts-are at particular risk of committing suicide. The recent Lancet study, however, contends that there is no evidence to support this hypothesis.

Methods: We report scatter diagrams and linear regression models that combine the new state-level suicide rate estimates and the proportion of marginal farmers, cash crop cultivation, and indebted farmers.

Results: When we include all variables in the regression equation there is a significant positive relationship between the percentage of marginal farmers, cash crop production, and indebted farmers, and suicide rates. This model accounts for almost 75% of inter-state variation in suicide rates. If the proportion of marginal farmers, cash crops, or indebted farmers were reduced by 1%, the suicide rate--suicides per 100,000 per year--would fall by 0 · 437, 0 · 518 or 0 · 549 respectively, when all other variables are held constant.

Conclusions: Even if the Indian state is unable to enact land reforms due to the power of local elites, interventions to stabilize the price of cash crops and relieve indebted farmers may be effective at reducing suicide rates.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus