Originally published on The Wire
The pink bollworm attack has left deaths by suicide in its wake. The authorities, farmers say, are late in even conducting preliminary surveys.
There is silence in the cotton fields of Punjab and Haryana where farmers are uprooting plants after having sprayed multiple rounds of pesticides in vain.
Many farmers have complained of up to 100% crop loss due to the pink bollworm attack. It has also furthered incidents of deaths by suicide among farmers in Punjab’s Malwa region (Mansa and Bathinda).
Gurpreet Singh, a 43-year-old farmer in Moosa village of Mansa district, on October 22 consumed pesticide tablets, commonly known as ‘sulphos’, after returning from his five-acre cotton field which was devastated by swarming armies of the pink worm. Apart from an institutional debt of Rs 3 lakh, he had taken a loan of Rs 4 lakh from moneylenders over the past several years to survive in farming as it is his family occupation.
Local newspapers reported two more incidents of deaths by suicide in the cotton belt on a single day on September 28, 2021 – Jaspal Singh, whose 2.5-acre land was notified for public auction as he had defaulted on bank loans of up to Rs 15 lakh in Chatthewala village and Gurmeet Singh, a farm labourer who had taken a chunk of land for contract farming in Cheema village.
“The incidents of deaths by suicide among farmers go up in November-December, when officials from banks and moneylenders make rounds through all the houses of defaulters after the harvest (of Kharif crops cotton and paddy),” social activist Kiranjeet Kaur Jhunir told The Wire.