US Study : Temperature rise to be blamed for Farmers’ suicide in India

KJ Staff
KJ Staff

According to a research report from the University of California, Berkeley in the US, climate change may have led to over 59,000 farmer suicides over the last 30 years in India. Even a 1°C increase in temperature above 20° C in a single day during the crop growing season results in about 70 suicides on average. The study tested the link between climate change, crop yields and suicide data, collected from the National Crime Records Bureau. By comparing the number of suicides across India between 1967 and 2013 with crop yield and data of climate the study came to the result that the increase in temperature during the cropping season reduces crop yields, resulting in increased suicides. Even a 1°C increase in temperature above 20° C in a single day during the crop growing season results in about 70 suicides on average. India’s average temperature is expected to increase by 3°C by 2050.

Just a degree rise in temperatures above 20 degrees during the crucial crop growing season (June-September) could push up the number of suicides by 70. In the last 30 years, a total of 59,000 farmer suicides in India have been attributed to the direct cause of rising temperatures by the study published by the University of California, Berkeley researchers. The researchers evaluated crop yield data from all the 32 States and Union Territories. Further, district-level yield data from the 13 states was intensely studied to the response to climate change factors. They found a dip in annual yields with a rise in temperature and an increase in suicides. In contrast, an increase of one cm of rainfall during the growing season led to a fall of around 7 per cent average in the rate of suicides in these regions. Clearly, drought is precipitating the matter, while a good monsoon, cheers up the lives of farmers in most of the rainfed agriculture areas. 

The researcher Tamma Carleton says in the paper published in PNAS online (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) that the suicide rates in India have virtually doubled since the 1980s. The Berkeley researchers analysed data sourced from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for the period 1967-2013. The Bureau captures all kinds of deaths and is the main source for information on farm suicides. In the last couple of years, an average of over 12,000 suicides of farmers or farmhands has been reported as per the Bureau statistics. Most deaths are due to pesticide consumption and hanging and consequences of indebtedness and bankruptcy.

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