Thousands of farmers in the northern Indian city of Mathura have “sought permission” from the country’s president to commit suicide on Indian Independence Day, August 15, in protest at a 17-year-long struggle to obtain compensation for confiscated lands.
Some 25,000 farmers have reportedly written to President Pranab Mukherjee over the loss of land due to a bridge building project.
According to the Times of India, farmers are yet to receive an estimated £80 million in compensation for the land.
Previous protests by farmers have been met with a harsh response from authorities. In November last year, protestors were fired on by police.
In the letter to President Mukherjee, the farmers have demanded electricity, water and “soil health cards” as promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Despite several assurances and the matter being raked up in Parliament, the state government continues to turn a blind eye to the sufferings of the farmers”, the letter states.
Farmer suicides have long been a terrible blight on post-Independence India which remains a largely agrarian society.
Tens of thousands of farmers – some estimates put the number at nearly half a million – have taken their lives owing a combination of factors, ranging from the lack of compensation for land confiscation for infrastructure projects to variable weather conditions brought on by Climate Change.
Another significant reason has been the introduction of Genetically Modified crops to India.
India’s food supply depends on small-scale farmers, who own 40 percent of agricultural land. The entry of GM foods into India is part of a global campaign which favours large scale, industrial agriculture at the expense of small-scale food growers.