One of the worst droughts in decades across south India is forcing tens of thousands of farmers and labourers to take out loans to survive, pushing them into debt bondage and increasing the risk that they may be exploited for work, activists said.
Villages across southern states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have been declared drought-affected by the government, following the failure of the 2016 monsoon rains.
With soaring temperatures, parched reservoirs and little agriculture-based employment, villagers are being forced to take loans to buy food, water and pay for school and medical fees, activists said, calling it the 'point of no return' for farmers
Hit by consecutive years of drought, unseasonal rains and fluctuating global commodity prices, more than 12,600 farmers and agricultural labourers committed suicide in 2015, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
According to the National Human Rights Commission, over 100 farmers committed suicide in Tamil Nadu in January 2017.
Most suicides are related to bankruptcy and indebtedness or farming-related issues, said the NCRB.