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Suicides by Debt-Ridden Farmers in Kerala, India, Continue

by Kevin Caruso

July 23, 2004

Anandan was a 60-year-old indigent farmer living in Kerala, India. He used his small piece of land to cultivate some crops. But he needed to borrow heavily to do so.

When a severe drought hit Kerala in January, Anandan lost all of his crops.

He, along with many other indigent farmers in Kerala, waited for the government to offer assistance - but none came.

He hanged himself from a tree on July 21st.

He left behind a wife and two daughters.

The drought in Kerala has forced innumerable farmers into bankruptcy.

And many of the farmers are suffering from depression as a result.

The number of suicides in Kerala is alarming. Government figures indicate that 40 suicides have occurred in Kerala since the onset of the drought, but unofficial reports indicate much higher numbers. (One unofficial report indicates 80 suicides in the Wayanad district alone.)

The farmers of Kerala have pleaded with the legislators to write off the farm loans, but that has not happened. The government is only willing to delay repayment of the loans, but not to expunge them.

So the farmers have been staging protests.

"The legislators have failed in their duty to represent our case and we now ask all farmers to be united to fight for our rights," said A.C. Varkey of the Farmers Relief Forum.

A "March of the Dead" occurred on Thursday, in which thousands of people marched to remember all of the farmers who died by suicide.

Numerous other protests are planned.

The government not only needs to immediately assist the farmers financially, but needs to implement a large-scale suicide prevention and awareness program.

With numerous farmers suffering from depression, and not receiving treatment, the government needs to reach out and educate the citizens about depression and suicide, and offer treatment options for those in need.

Additionally, support systems need to be implemented for suicide survivors.

I can only hope that government officials wake up and take action as soon as possible.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, please go to the Home Page of this website for immediate help.

Thank you.

I love you.

Take care,

Kevin Caruso

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