Desperate Housewives, Despairing Farmers

Thinking Clearly about Suicide in India — I

The patterns of suicide in India are quite different to those observed in industrialised societies. Those differences must lead us to question many generalisations which almost approach sociological "law" such as the protection against suicide afforded by marriage. This paper contrasts media coverage of farmer suicides in India with the near total neglect of the suicides of housewives, though there are more than three housewife suicides for every one of a farmer.

The patterns of suicide in India are quite different to those observed in industrialised societies. Those differences must lead us to question many generalisations which almost approach sociological “law” such as the protection against suicide afforded by marriage. This paper contrasts media coverage of farmer suicides in India with the near total neglect of the suicides of housewives, though there are more than three housewife suicides for every one of a farmer.

The research presented in this paper was initially supported by a grant from the Australian Research Council. Portions of the paper were presented to the Seminar on Asia’s Emerging Middle Class, University of Wollongong, 10-11 August 2006 and at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Asian Studies, Chicago, 26–30 April 2009. The author acknowledges the comments provided by an anonymous referee of this journal.Peter Mayer (peter.mayer@adelaide.edu.au) teaches at the Politics Department, University of Adelaide, Australia.

Over the past decade the print media have returned again and again to the issue of suicides amongst ­India’s farmers. Depending on weather ­patterns and prices, the focus of these reports is sometimes on Andhra Pradesh, sometimes on the Vidarbha region of ­Maharashtra, at other times on Karnataka.

To read the full text Login

Get instant access

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

₹826for India

$50for overseas users

Comments

(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

The Indian labour market is characterised by a high level of informality, with large numbers of workers in poorly paid “lower tier” informal jobs...

Geoffrey Bawa (1919–2003) was Sri Lanka’s most celebrated architect in the 20th century and his half-a-century long career shaped the nation’s...

Whether the “practising Adivasi” or the practitioners of traditional knowledge are subjects of different rationality is examined here. Through a...

The Indian tea economy is undergoing acute transformations, with the divestment of tea companies from plantations leaving thousands of plantation...

Firms can avoid taxes legally, even though it is well understood that tax payment is a fundamental and measurable behaviour towards society. In...

How the pattern of inequality in maternal healthcare service utilisation has evolved after the adoption of the National Rural Health Mission in...

Following the announcement of demonetisation on 8 November 2016, India saw the withdrawal of nearly 86% of the cash in circulation. This caused...

The evolving COVID-19 pandemic requires that data and operational responses be examined from a public health perspective. While there exist deep...

Although there are multiple vulnerabilities that may prevent access to maternal and child health services in India, the literature has so far...

The implications of the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission on finances of Bihar as a result of changes in the tied, untied and...

Back to Top