Farming as a speculative activity

The ecological basis of farmers’ suicides in India

Authored by: Akhil Gupta

The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138786745
eBook ISBN: 9781315766355
Adobe ISBN: 9781317660194


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In the summer of 2015, newspapers in Karnataka were once again full of news of farmers’ suicides. Every day, there were reports of more farmers in the state who had committed suicide (“BJP Disputes Govt Data on Farmer Suicides” 5; Singh and Dadhich). Indeed, largely because of the persistence of the pioneering, award-winning journalist P. Sainath, who first drew attention to the phenomenon in the mid-1990s, the story of farmers’ suicides has been constantly in the news. However, headlines have not led scholars to carefully examine the evidence. Farmers’ suicides have become, instead, an arbitrary signifier used by different interest groups to push their own political agendas. As I examine below, the careless and biased use of “farmers’ suicides” as a sign has in fact prevented an understanding of the causes of this epidemic, and thereby done little to ameliorate the tragedy.

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