Tag Archives: farmers’ suicides in Punjab

Blues of the Green Revolution

16 Apr

“How can this happen to us?” is a typical initial reaction in the Sikh community on reading about farmers’ suicides in Punjab. “We in Punjab have led the way in agriculture. We were the ones who heralded the Green Revolution and built Punjab as the ‘granary of India’. We have shown the way to a prosperous farming. Surely, this can’t be happening to us.”

The relationship of Punjab with agriculture, of Sikh farmers with hard work and reward, of industriousness with prosperity is etched on our minds much the same way as the stereotypical relationship of makki-di-roti with sarson-da-saag.

So when we hear about thousands of debt-trapped farmers committing suicide in the prosperous Punjab, about the poverty and hardships their families face, about the refusal by the state to recognize these deaths as suicides, the symptoms of our grief are evident: we first experience  shock and denial, followed by pain and then anger, anger at the state for causing these conditions, at the moneylenders leeching on the farmers, and even at the  poor farmers for committing suicide. Which is all quite understandable as long as we don’t stop there but go on to educate ourselves on the issue and work towards the reconstruction.

Two events occurred over the last couple of months that has got some of us here in Boston interested and involved in this issue. The first was the set of readings on farmers’ suicides in Punjab, which we read last month in our Sikh Book Club. The second was a visit by Ms. Harman Kaur, a grassroots activist in Punjab working with rehabilitating those farmers’ families. She was here to present her work at Harvard University. I will share some information on each.

We get educated:

Last month, we read the report published by FoodFirst, an institute for food and development policy. The report, authored by Brian Newman, explored the darker side of the Green Revolution in Punjab, contending that the crises of farmers’ suicides in Punjab is essentially a product of the same processes which had in the first place so greatly increased rice and wheat yields. That is, the Green Revolution had sowed the seeds of the current economic and social crises in Punjab. The report identified the following three issues linked with the farmers’ suicides:   Continue reading

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