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Don’t compensate farmer suicides

This is the most difficult post I have written in ages, but I think it is wrong to compensate farmer suicides and I am speaking up. I know that will make me look evil – refusing money to the desperately poor, but this blog was never a popularity contest.

A soldier who goes on a suicide mission does it for a greater cause. Death is a price he pays so that others may gain. Others he cares about.

Seen an old Anil Kapoor film Saheb? When he is impotent to provide for his family, he sacrifices his kidney to raise money.

When a poor person is at the end of his rope, and sees no end in sight, and knows that his death will bring his family money…. do the math.

Don't compensate farmer suicides 1The other problem is that offering payments for farmer suicides as a rule is in essence saying that there is not going to be any change in conditions, and a norm needs to be created rather than dealing with each case individually. In other words, it is a standard created for responding to deaths that we are responsible for. You don’t create a norm for something you intend to stop. You stop it. You prosecute violators, not reward victims.

If each farmer can die individually, each case should be compensated individually – if that takes too much time, think of what that inconvenient number means in terms of the cost of policies. Work to prevent suicides, not prevent them attention. What does it say of us as humans, that there is a “category of people” we refuse to pay special attention to even in death?

By taking up each case individually, the family’s suffering gets acknowledged, their compensations suit their needs, and there is no “standard price” put on life to encourage suicides among desperate farmers.

Like how things are, suicide has joined the ranks of “source of money”!!!! From the state!!! Am I the only one to find this macabre?

Money for a life lost because there was no hope of getting money, and yet if the farmer had lived, they wouldn’t get it.

An ugly taunt.

Don't compensate farmer suicides 2If these sops must be given, pay people to live, not die! But that would be too expensive. More people alive than dead, no? Better save money and pick the smaller sample that has “truly suffered”. Never mind that they suffered life, not death.

Instead, the appropriate response to these deaths would be abject apology for failing them, and immediate setting aside of all egos and desired images to maintain and humbly trying out suggestions made by people who have put in considerable thought on the matter.

In fact, I would go ahead and say to create a panel to recommend changes in policy, laws, infrastructure and so on, that is composed almost entirely of agriculture related activists and pro-farmer journalists like P. Sainath – and execute their suggestions – at least the top three crucial ones, at least more than half of them without question. Notice I say execute, not consider. That is humility. It is arrogance to debate stuff we have no real concept of, and exert discretion to accept or reject suggestions of experienced people on matters we don’t understand at ground level. Matters with life and death on stake.

Politicians don’t understand the ground realities enough to make informed decisions. They should appoint people of trust and then trust them.

At the moment, commissions and panels talk a lot, write a lot. End result is suicides continue. That is not working. Why are their suggestions not taken? Why is it that a farmer works hard all his life and still cannot maintain basic survival needs? Why is no action taken against those who should be taking care of this, but have consistently failed even basic stuff? Restore govt spending on these areas to pre-greedism levels – why is this rocket science? Why is it that Kingfisher can consider bailout from the government as can other industries – even banks, but not farmers? Is food not necessary for our country?

The government should stop applying their ideas on this and stubbornly sticking to their paralysis and recognize that those ideas are failing for a long time and lives are being lost. This is not a no-stakes trial to go on for so long without showing results. It is time to try out new ideas with humility and continue or discontinue them based on results.