OP: You have written/researched extensively on farmer suicide. What are the most common reasons behind this?
Neelima: The main issue is that the farmers have never been represented on important platforms where they should have their say. The policymaking and legislation processes elude their direct representation which prevents them from airing their voice.
The entire perspective of making policies and legislations carries a heavy imprint of the urban mindset. People try short-term solutions like giving them money and improving facilities, but the root cause of what causes the farmer to commit suicide does not get addressed.
OP: What are the areas you think have been neglected by the authorities?
Neelima: Just focus on a few things and you will get the answer. Money lending has been in existence since Independence and it still constitutes a major chunk of finance in rural areas. It is unfortunate that after so many decades agrarian issues have remained unresolved.
OP: When a farmer commits suicide authorities are seen citing other reasons for the loss of life in many cases. How do you see this?
Neelima: After conducting a research on farmers for 15 years, I have observed that farmers in rural areas have much self respect. They find it hard to tolerate the fact that they have failed to repay loans. This guilt is very big for them. Authorities often are seen citing reasons like alcohol, family discord and other reasons which are wrong. The state does not want to admit suicides by farmers as it reflects badly on its policies. So, they want to shirk the responsibility.
OP: What do you say about the kin of the farmers who have committed suicide?
Neelima: The widows of the victims are the most hit. The entire debt burden and other responsibilities come on to her shoulders. It makes her life difficult. The media and officials seldom try to talk to the widows directly to know the truth behind such deaths. They talk only to the male members of the family or the village, which could be misleading. They are hardly represented in policy making and their labour is also not considered by the government when policies and laws are framed.
Manish Kumar, OP