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Live and Love, Love and Live

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
September 2011
Live and Love, Love and Live Dear PMG:

After reading about the horrifying plight of so many of India's farmers, I was curious as
to how you would respond to this:

"Why does a farmer in India commit suicide every 30 minutes?

A farmer in India swallows a bottle of pesticide and falls dead. And the tragedy of this
suicide is compounded. His wife and children now have to pay the debts he owed that
drove him to such desperation. They may not have a way to farm the land. They may be
forced to work another farmer's field for 45 cents a day.

Since 1995, about
a quarter of a million farmers in India have committed suicide. Most
were small farmers, and more than 85 percent were deeply in debt. In 2009, 17,638
farmers killed themselves—an average of
one every 30 minutes. In a country the U.S.
upholds as a model of capitalist democracy, tens of thousands of farmers are driven to
kill themselves because they have gone deep into debt to feed their families.”


Dear Friend,


“I realized that it was not as easy to commit suicide as to contemplate it. And since then,
whenever I have heard of someone threatening to commit suicide, it has had little or no
effect on me.” (M. K. Gandhi)


Water, air, and food are the essence of life. Farmers are integral to this life-giving cycle,
and their tragic rate of suicide is unconscionable. It is as if the breast-feeding mother
of an undernourished toddler committed suicide; the layers of loss transcend multiple
generations.

Now imagine for a moment that this mother was told that her hungry child would not
only be fed, but would also have an education; the only tradeoff was that she would have
to cash in on her life insurance policy. This sort of backward financial incentive, based
in part on moneylenders’ codified greed and Monsanto’s modified seeds, compels some
farmers in India to end their lives.

To be sure, there is also the aching futility the farmer must feel when he is unable to
work. As one who has experienced months and quarters of underemployment, I know
first-hand the psychological valley of despair that can swallow even the most optimistic
human. But one must not give in to despondency. For anyone who has tended even a
small garden knows there is mystery and magic in seeds transforming into life-enabling
vegetables.

We are all flawed: farmers and scientists, moneylenders and column-writers. Indeed,
Gandhiji himself was less than compassionate in his dismissal of those contemplating
death. The flaw with the opening sentence of my response is that food, air, and water are
not enough to sustain life. Love, beginning with love of self, is truly the essence of life.

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at raj_oza@hotmail.com.]

 


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