Pink Bollworm Infestation Pushing North Indian Cotton Farmers to Brink of Suicide

Cotton farmers in North Indian states, including Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan, are grappling with a severe pink bollworm (PBW) infestation that is pushing them to the brink of suicide. Even the genetically modified pest-resistant Bt Cotton (Bollgard II seed) is falling prey to the pink bollworm, which was designed to resist it. The infestation has led to significant crop losses, increasing debts, and profound economic distress among farmers.

Farmers in Economic Distress

The region had not witnessed farmer suicides due to debt for over a decade, as farmers here typically managed losses and recovered within a couple of years. However, the situation has changed due to repeated crop losses, and farmers are experiencing economic distress like never before. Many farmers in the region are facing losses and are struggling to recover from severe infestations of cotton by PBW.

Widespread Crop Losses

In Haryana and Punjab, the losses due to PBW infestation are estimated to be around 65%. Rajasthan is even worse, with the government claiming losses of up to 90%. Many farmers have not even conducted the first picking of cotton due to poor yield, and farm laborers have refused to work in the fields.

Impact on Farmers

Farmers like Ashwini Kumar in Punjab face massive debts due to crop losses, and the consecutive years of severe losses have left them feeling depressed and demoralized. Gagandeep Sidhu, block president of Gramin Kisan Mazdoor Samiti (GKS) in Rajasthan, emphasized that farmers in the region have consistently faced losses due to PBW and whitefly infestations since 2017. These constant financial setbacks have broken the morale and economic resilience of farmers, making it difficult for them to recover in the foreseeable future.



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