Asia

Tragedy in India's cotton fields as farmers choose death over debt

Updated 0834 GMT (1634 HKT) April 20, 2015
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Yogita Kanhaiya's husband committed suicide in December. She said he used to tell her he had a lot of debt that he was unable to pay back because he wasn't earning enough as a cotton farmer. She never imagined he would take such a drastic step and take his own life. Her father-in-law, also a cotton farmer, killed himself in 2007. Vijay Bedi
Yogita Kanhaiya feeds her son. He has no idea where his father has gone. She had imagined a very different future for herself and her young family. Mallika Kapur/CNN
Baby Kanhaiya looks at an album containing photographs of his father. His mother says he often wonders where his father is. When he sees his pictures, he calls out for his father and cries for him. It feels terrible, Yogita says. Mallika Kapur/CNN
Yogita is eight months pregnant. After her husband died, his debts transferred to her. Once her baby is born, she will have to find work to repay the loans her husband took. She has received some compensation from the government but she says it's not enough. Vijay Bed
Murali Dhidkar is a cotton farmer in Akhuli village in Maharashtra. He himself is in debt. He has taken a loan of Rs 150,000 ($2,500). He says his input costs -- the costs of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides have gone up. The price of cotton is the only thing that's gone down. He says farmers in the area are very stressed about how they will make ends meet. Vijay Bedi
A cotton field in Vidarbha. Last year, India produced a record amount of cotton. This year, cotton cultivation is expected to fall as low prices force farmers to consider growing other crops or turn or find other ways of earning a livelihood. Vijay Bedi
There is a glut of cotton in the global marketplace. This is pushing the price of cotton down. In India's cotton growing belt of Vidarbha in Maharashtra state, farmers say they are getting around Rs 3,000 ($50) for a quintal of cotton. Just a year ago, they were getting twice that amount. Courtesy Vijay Bedi
Manda Shastrakar sits with her family on the steps of her home in Vidarbha. Her husband committed suicide on January 14 this year. He doused himself with kerosene and set himself alight. He died near the steps where the family now sits. His family says he was was under pressure to repay hefty debts. Mallika Kapur/CNN
Manda Shastrakar with her oldest daughter. She has to feed her family and keep paying for them to go to school. All the children must now work in the cotton fields to help make ends meet. Manda will also face a heavy expense in years to come -- getting all her children married and paying for their weddings. Mallika Kapur/CNN