With over 850 farmer suicides in India this year, one startup looks to save lives, give hope

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The Indian government reports that the number of farmer suicides during the period of January to April 2017 had reached 855 cases, mostly due to debt burdens.

One startup aims to improve the farmers’ financial status through a smart collaborative consumption system.

india farmer
Rohtash Mal, Founder of AgriServices

Meet Rohtash Mal, a veteran corporate titan, with previous job titles like CEO of Escorts Ltd, and CEO of Bharti Airtel limited. In 2014, with his son Adwitiya Mal at his side, Mal founded EM3 Agri, a company that has recently opened its doors to laid off employees, who are the result of Snapdeal and Flipkart’s merger.

EM3 Agri, which recently raised $10 million in funding from Global Innovation Fund (GIF) following its proposal to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, focuses on providing equipment and services that cover all agricultural aspects for farmers. More importantly, the company allows farmers with idol machinery to rent it out, helping them cover its cost and earning extra income.

“The answer to unfortunate instances of farmers’ suicides lies in improving their welfare,” Union Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said in the Rajya Sabha.

Tragic Farmer Suicide Epidemic

The farmer suicide issue is one of a humongous caliber, reaching 3.30 lakh (330,000) farmers in the past 22 years. The epidemic is not only affecting farmers, but also their families, including their children.

One particularly tragic case was that of Sheetal Yankat, a 21-year-old student, who decided that it was better to lose her life than to put her family in a heavier debt burden.

Her last written words are a chilling and haunting reminder of how serious this epidemic is.

“My parents are extremely poor and have been unable to raise money for my marriage. I am committing suicide because I don’t want my parents to come under a debt burden. The economic condition of my family has worsened over the last five years because of the failure of crops. My two sisters got married somehow, with very simple marriage ceremonies. My father is trying his best for my marriage. But since the middlemen are not able to lend money, my marriage got delayed for two years. Therefore, I am ending my life with the hope that my father will not be burdened by any more debt and perhaps my death will also end the dowry practice,” read Sheetal’s suicide note.

With farmers making up almost half of the country, it’s ludicrous to realize that each of their families earn just Rs 1,700 per month on average, resulting living in a debt burden that the government reported to have reached Rs.12.6 Lakh Crore (Rs. 1,260,264,504,600,000).

A New Hope

Besides the government’s generous-but-not-sufficient monetary aids to the affected areas, EM3 Agri boasts its accomplishments that include 8,000 happy farmers and 25,000 acres operated on.

In Feb 2017, the company signed agreement with the Indian government to develop 124 more centres, reaching the total of 300 centres across the nation. Thousands of farmers more should have access to low-cost agricultural operation, much like the ones who already showed their appreciation.

I own 7 acres of land and I requested Samadhan for harvesting. Their machines do a quicker and better job. The harvested crop is cleaner,” praised Arvind Kourav from Jabalpur.