Distress debt and suicides among agrarian households : findings from three village studies in Kerala
Nair, K. N.
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This paper examines the factors and process underlying agrarian distress in Kerala by undertaking the case studies of three villages situated in Wayanad and Idukki districts namely, Cherumad, Kappikkunnu and Upputhara. The impact of distress on household livelihoods and indebtedness and how they cope up with the situation are examined with entire village and intra village analysis of data. The process of agrarian distress which resulted in suicides were analysed through a few in-depth studies. Decline in crops yield, coupled with sharp fall in their prices, created severe distress in all sections of agricultural population. Many household cope with these distresses by reducing household expenditure, diversifying their household incomes and searching for jobs in other places. Meanwhile, government interventions in terms of PDS, health care provision, education and supply of drinking water gave some relief to the affected persons. However, these measures could not completely prevent the occurrence of suicides among the members of agrarian households. The paper shows that the villages in which household income are more diversified and social networks much stronger, the distress conditions did not result in suicides. Mitigation of agrarian distress requires not only for debt relief but also implementation of long term strategies containing policies to promote price stability, ecological sustainability of agriculture, strengthening of formal rural credit and support networks, and income and employment generation programmes. Key words: Distress debt, Suicides, Agrarian Households, Livelihood risk, Coping Strategies, Livelihood, Livelihood Assets, Institutions, Kerala JEL Classification: Q, Q00