A Fatal Combination of Weather, Debt, and Unequal Globalization

Disasters—in the form of failed monsoons or floods—can sometimes be fatal even if they don’t kill outright. In India, where farmers have become increasingly exposed to global competition (and the subsidies provided to farmers in Western countries), the vagaries of weather can be life-and-death issues. Many farmers are deeply in debt to cover their purchases of genetically-modified seeds, and particularly those with small land holdings are very vulnerable to adverse developments. In a sign of deep despair, more than 17,000 Indian farmers committed suicide in 2003 alone. The New York Times profiled one case in central India. Anil Kondba Shende killed himself after three successive crop failures due first to delayed monsoon rains and then to flooding. Weather extremes, poverty, and unequal globalization all combined to bring about this unfortunate outcome.