SUSHIL KUMAR SHARMA
At a time when news about farmers’ suicides has been coming from almost all states, Himachal Pradesh happens to be a conspicuous exception where the term farmer’s suicide is still unheard of. Though there have been topographical and technical constraints, the farming community of over 9.5 lakh families in the hills state has largely been a contended lot. This is one of the states, which have not benefitted much from the new farm technology suited to the women who take care of 5 to 80 per cent of farming operations. The dull state of farming has been attributed to poor production base in terms of irrigation facilities, mountainous topography, non-suitability of available farm technology to prevailing production system, etc.
Consequently, the growth in the agricultural sector remained almost stagnant, and the state had to depend heavily on foodgrain imports from other states to feed its ever-increasing population. Stagnancy in net area sown and cropping intensity may also be attributed to the limited alternative uses of land due to rain-fed conditions. The major constrains are tiny land holdings, irrigation, fertilisers and infrastructure, etc. The systems of crop insurance, bank loans through Kisan Passbooks, and other financial assistance have been made more complex. For the past one and half decades, monkeys, stray cattle and the wild animals have become the major problems for the farming community to continue the traditional food, fruit and vegetable cultivation.
Despite all these constraints, not much is heard of the farmer’s suicide incidents in this state. There might be sporadic incidents of farmers’ suicides.In 1995-2005, a study was cnducted on farmers’ suicides which found less than six incidents in 2001 and 2003 only. Most of the farmers belong to or are associated with the employees’ families in this hill state.
There are more than five lakh families in the state, whose members are in government employment of the Centre or the state. More than these are in private employment in the state. So, the farmers, who get under stress or strain of the loans and are not able to pay them back, they get financial support from the earning members of their families. Shrinking size of the holdings is the major constraint in the farming sector in this state.
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