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Bitter Seeds

Manjusha Amberwar, a young journalist, examines the causes of an epidemic of farmer suicides in India—one every 30 minutes—that includes her own father. She hopes that by drawing attention to their plight, she can bring an end to this tragedy. But it won't be easy. In 2004 an American company introduced its genetically modified seeds to the Indian market, promising higher yields. Farmers tell her that the seeds require expensive pesticides and chemical fertilizers. And the sterile seeds, unlike the conventional seeds previously used by farmers, have to be purchased again each year. Manjusha follows one farmer through the disappointing season, praying for rain, discovering parasite infestation, and finally selling his meager yield achieved through backbreaking labor. We see the vicious cycle: annual loans from usurious moneylenders, desperate debt and the inability of farmers to provide dowries for their daughters—making the symbolism of their suicide by drinking expensive pesticides all but inescapable.

Human Rights Watch has done extensive work in India documenting violations that range from abuses against religious and other minorities, police brutality and the use of torture, the failure to implement policies that can prevent maternal death, access to health care, and abuses by all sides in Kashmir, India's northeast, and in areas where there is an ongoing Maoist uprising. hrw.org/asia/india