Since 2017, some 4,500 farmers have killed themselves in the state of Maharashtra alone, while in Nashok, one farmer took their own life every day in early 2019. Many debt-ridden farmers kill themselves because they are unable to pay off loans from banks, used to purchase expensive seeds and fertilisers for their crops. Now, Mr Modi faces a major set back in his bid to win at the country’s elections next Thursday. Agricultural workers played a large part in propelling India‘s Prime Minister Mr Modi and his the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to power.
In 2014, Mr Modi promised to double farmers’ income within five years, and pushed the goal forward to 2022.
And new Government reforms have left thousands of agricultural workers scrambling in loans and debt.
Farmers have been hit by devastating droughts resulting in poor harvests, leaving millions in staggering debt to private lenders.
Vijoo Krishnan, the Joint Secretary of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) – the Communist Party of India – said: “For the first time, the agrarian crisis has come to the centre stage. No political party is able to ignore it.
“The government feels now that the peasantry are rising up and their own position in power is shaky. They’re forced to pay attention.”
In February this year, an estimated 50,000 farmers donning red pointed caps led a protest to India’s streets, demanding change to the agricultural workers’ sector.
But with India’s national elections that start from April 11 to May 19, Mr Modi now faces a major challenge in retaining his seat as prime minister.
Mr Krishnan added: “The promises made by Narendra Modi and the BJP successfully created hopes for our farmers, and that translated into votes for them.
“But the farmers have seen through their game plan. Today, that is turning against them.”
Two thirds of India’s 1.3 billion population live in rural areas and work in the agricultural sector.
Praveen Medhane was one of the farmers who chose to end his life.
He killed himself by drinking pesticide he bought to protect his crops.
His cousin Pandit, told the Sunday Times: “Praveen had no money but the bank would not leave him alone. He talked about selling land but there are no buyers here any more.”