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A Compendium of Caste Studies

K.P. Fabian

By Meeta and Rajivlochan
Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration, Pune, 2006, pp. 263, Rs. 495.00


For those of us who have been saddened by the numerous instances of our farmers committing suicide, it is indeed heartening to see an IAS officer, of over 16 years service (Meeta) and her historian husband(Rajivlochan) undertake a serious study of the subject. Meeta has considerable work experience in rural and tribal development. She is currently Director of State Institute of Rural Development in Maharashtra. Rajivlochan teaches contemporary history at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Administration, Mussorie, where the entrants into the civil service are trained. Together they have networked diligently to collect data and to search for solutions. They visited the suicide-affected families and have presented to the reader 148 case studies.   Why do some among our farmers who work hard to produce life-sustaining food for all of us decide to kill themselves? Is it because of indebtedness? Is it the case that farming is not giving them the returns necessary to live a life of modest comfort and minimum dignity? Is it the case that they have nobody to turn to for assistance and advice?Whatever be the cause, what can be done by the government through its various layers and by the civil society? These are some of the questions dealt with in this book.   The authors have rightly concentrated on a particular district, Yavatmal, in the Vidharba region in Maharashtra. They call that district the "epicenter of farmer suicides." According to the State Crime Records Bureau(SCRB) of Maharashtra, Yavatmal with a population of 24.5 lakhs recorded 640, 819, 832, and 787 suicide cases for the years 2000 to 2004. In other words , it was much more than two suicides a day for a population of about 25 lakhs. The suicide rate expressed per lakh of population has gone up from 1.55 in 1962 to 9.34 in 2000.   Do we have reliable statistics on farmer suicides? The authors have pointed out the wide variation between the figures reported by the media and the revenue administration. It is of some significance that the administration reported lower figures for 2001 and 2002 whereas for 2003and 2004 the media figures are lower. Obviously, not enough thought has been given to devising a reliable data collecting mechanism. It is also possible that even when a non-farmer commits suicide , it might be recorded as a case of farmer suicide if the family wants to collect the amount of Rs. one lakh given out in such cases.   There is a whole chapter devoted to a critical examination ...

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