Young farmers may end up committing suicide not because of crop failures or mounting debts but because women don’t want to marry a farmer and end up as widows! Even marriage bureaus have taken farmers out of their list of eligible bachelors.
Farmer suicides in the country spiked by over 40 percent from 2014 to 2015 and the suicides are killing whatever chances young farmers had to find brides. There were 5,650 farmer suicides in 2014. The number crossed 8000 by the end of 2015.
A Times of India report said young farmers in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and even Punjab, unable to find brides, are “bristling”.
The report names young farmers from these states to drive home the point that no girl, not even daughters of farmers, want to marry farmers. It said young women in these states are ready to marry even peons in private or government service over an educated young farmer who practises scientific farming and earns a regular and decent income.
These farmers are not even poor dirt farmers. One of them featured in the report has eight acres of irrigated land worth Rs 1.2 crore, a Master’s in Library Science and a Diploma in Education. But none of these qualifications impressed the women he approached for marriage. Thirty women rejected him for one reason – he is a farmer!
The 32-year-old farmer – who earns Rs 20,000 every month – of Vidarbha district in Maharashtra was told by the women that they would marry a peon in government or private service than tie the knot with him. They did not even mind if the peon brought home a salary less than that of a farmer.
The report quoted the young farmer stating that he was so frustrated at not finding a bride, he was thinking of giving up farming altogether.
A young farmer of Belgavi district of Karnataka did just that. He gave up farming and took up a job in the silver industry in Maharashtra, found a girl who agreed to marry him and after the marriage returned to agriculture.
Not surprisingly, his own sisters refused to take on farmers for husbands. They opted to marry “small entrepreneurs” who bring home less money than a farmer does.
A representative of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, a farmers’ body of Karnataka, said girls refusing to marry farmers was the “general scenario” in the state. Even girls from small villages and poor families at that do not want farmers for husbands.
It is not that these women have a disdain for farmers or look down upon them or their profession. It is just that they too have been deeply affected by farmer suicides. They have seen the state of the widows of farmers who killed themselves. Many are probably related to these farmers and do not want the ranks of their widows.
The unfortunate trend of young farmers not finding brides is worrying and cannot be overcome unless farmer suicides become a thing of the past. Agriculture is no longer a regular source of income and famines and floods have resulted in frequent crop loss or no crop at all. Reduced to penury with no aid from either state government or the Centre, hundreds of farmers chose to kill themselves leaving behind them distraught families with not even hope to cling to. Young unmarried women of affected states just do not want to land in a similar predicament. The situation is grim and calls for emergency and lasting measures not kneejerk reactions.
In Madhya Pradesh, the “cruel reality” is that a generation of young farmers remain unmarried. It is not an “exaggeration” farmer leader Shiv Kumar Sharma told TOI. He said the “decline in eligibility” was because of “smaller landholdings and reducing profitability.”
In Punjab many faarmers have sold their land and moved on to other professions. The TOI report quoted one farmer who said his only son and daughter are in abroad and that he would be the last farmer in his family. “Nobody wants to be a farmer and no girls want to marry a farmer. That is the bitter fact.”
The report said between 2001 and 2011, nine million farmers have left agriculture. The number must have risen by now, said experts.
Another indication that farmers do not command respect or are considered a prized catch in the marriage market comes from marriage bureaus across the states, which have scrapped farmers from their list of eligible bachelors. The bureaus said it would be very difficult for farmers to regain their old social and economic clout.
According to media reports, states which have had largest number of farmer suicides for several years include Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.