Farmers' suicides in India: a methodological and thematic analysis in the state of Maharashtra

Höfle, Alexandra

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India – more precisely specific states of India such as Maharashtra – are suffering from a particular burden as not only the general mortality rates but also the rates of farmers’ suicides rank among the highest in the world. Although reasons for suicides are considered to be multifaceted and shaped by wider social or cultural conditions, qualitative research on suicides is scarce. On the contrary, mainly quantitative research based on statistics is prevalent. With the aim of assessing the current state of research on farmers’ suicides in the state of Maharashtra, this thesis analyzes previous quantitative and qualitative studies on this phenomenon. In addition to a methodological examination of existing studies a thematic investigation is conducted in order to make recommendations on future research. The (systematic) literature review reveals that also in the context of farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra research is predominantly quantitative with only a few qualitative and hybrid studies (i.e. those studies using both quantitative and qualitative methods). Regardless of their approach these studies mainly analyze the reasons for farmers’ suicides, the characteristics of the deceased farmers and make suggestions for future improvements in the agricultural sector. Concordant with former studies on farmers’ suicides in India, this thesis’ analysis identifies young male and indebted farmers who cultivate cash crops and have no irrigation as the most vulnerable to commit suicide.

The consideration of this thesis’ findings in a wider theoretical context illustrates that the old debate between quantitative and qualitative research dating back to Durkheim and Tarde is still prevalent. Even today and with focus on farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra, a lack of individual aspects in statistical calculations of suicide rates can be found. In addition, the performed analysis reveals that by employing a highly structured study design and statistical computations quantitative studies construct a phenomenon which might not reflect the real situation. Qualitative studies, on the other hand, are found to offer additional explanations but their results lack any validation and generalizability.

Document type: Master thesis
Publisher: CrossAsia E-Publishing
Place of Publication: Heidelberg
Date: 2016
Supervisor: Sax, Prof. Dr. William
Version: Primary publication
Date Deposited: 19 April 2016
Faculties / Institutes: Universitäten / Institute > South Asia Institute / Department of Ethnology
DDC-classification: Customs, etiquette, folklore
Controlled Subjects: Maharashtra, Kleinbauer, Wirtschaftliche Lage, Selbstmord
Uncontrolled Keywords: Maharashtra, Kleinbauer, Selbstmord / Maharashtra, Farmer, Suicide
Subject (classification): Anthropology
Countries/Regions: India
Series: Subjects > Health and Society in South Asia Series
Volume: 12