Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Suvojit Bagchi, "Punjab suicides cast shadow on polls," BBC, April

[Economic hardship has consequences well beyond robbing the poor to rescue the rich from the responsibilty for their bad decisions. This BBC article takes a "human interest" approach and focuses on individuals. -jlt]

Mandip Kaur, a 29-year-old housewife from a farming family in southern Punjab, guards her husband round the clock.

"I fear he may commit suicide," she says in broken Hindi.

Almost every village in Punjab has witnessed a suicide in their once-prosperous farming families and it is a major issue in the general election.

Ms Kaur's 35-year-old husband, Lakhbir Singh, a small farmer with a two-acre land holding, is a strong and neatly dressed man.

He shows no sign of irritation or discomfort when we meet him in the village of Boparai Khurd in Barnala, about 500km (300 miles) north of Delhi.

Each year before the harvest, the small farmers of Punjab, who make up nearly 85% of the state's farming community, borrow from local rural moneylenders at exorbitant interest rates to meet production costs, including fertilisers and electricity for irrigation.

  ...a report commissioned by the government of Punjab this week estimated that there had been "close to 3,000 suicides" among farmers and farm labourers in just two of Punjab's 20 districts in recent years...

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