02/26/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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More than 800 farmers commit suicide in six months

Government figures show an alarming situation. Debt is at the bottom of this social scourge against which the Church is also fighting. Maharashtra is still the most affected state.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More than 800 Indian farmers killed themselves in four states in the first six months of last year. The figure, which was released by the Union government, shows that the multi-million dollar plan introduced to improve their living conditions has so far been a failure, unable to help those burdened by huge debts who end up taking their own lives as a way out.

With 607 cases, especially among cotton growers, Maharashtra is the most affected state, followed by Andhra Pradesh with 114 cases, Karnataka with 73 and Kerala with 13.

Most of India's farming community is poverty-stricken and many farmers borrow from village moneylenders at rates as high as 10 per cent a month. And their debts soar when crops fail due to poor rains or when prices tumble.

Agriculture supports 600 million of India's 1.1 billion people, but contributes only a fifth of gross domestic product.

The Indian Church has always been in the forefront in the fight against this scourge.

In 2007 the local Caritas launched a programme titled “Save the farmers – Save India.”

The Catholic organisation set up micro credit groups for farmers in Maharashtra and Gujarat and began helping them to improve their output through the sustainable development of natural resources.

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