Nero’s Guests and Farmer Suicides in India

P Sainath

The documentary directed by Deepa Bhatia, “Nero’s Guests” is a story about India’s farmer suicides as unravelled by Palagummi Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor of Hindu newspaper.

Nero was an ancient Roman emperor who used to conduct one of the biggest parties ancient Rome had ever seen. And for the guests to enjoy the beautiful garden, Nero brought several prisoners at night and burnt them alive for illumination.

The documentary compares these activities of Nero with the ruling classes of India who pursue business friendly policies while cruelly neglecting the farmers and the poor. The documentary has shown the pathetic conditions of the families who are forced to commit suicide due to the debt and humiliation caused by harmful policies pursued by the Government in the interests of the corporates in India and those of rich countries like the US and in Europe.

While it took the Finance Minister less than 2 hours to rush to Dalal Street and console the “weeping millionaires” when the Sensex plunged a few years ago, it took 10 years for the Prime Minister to pay a visit to the family of the farmers who had committed suicide.  More than 2.5 lakhs (250,000) farmers have committed suicides in the last 10 years. At the same time the government of India has given more than 2 lakh crores (US$44bn) “incentives” to corporates in the last 2 years.

The mainstream media has completely neglected this and even created a uproar supporting corporate interests when 50,000 crores (US$11bn) debt relief was suggested by the Government at the pressure of many farmers’ movements. (Even this is not yet implemented at the ground level as desired and does not take care of the farmers who are at the mercy of cruel local money lenders). A huge population in India is still engaged in agriculture (above 50%), the contribution to GDP of which has declined from 52% to 15% in the last 20 years.

What shocks Sainath is not Nero’s cruelty, but the indifference of Nero’s guests. In all his lectures, Sainath specifically points out that there have been numerous cruel rulers like Nero over the last several centuries, in fact more cruel, but what bothered him the most was the identity of Nero’s guests, people who feasted on fruits, meat and exotic wine while around them human beings were being set on fire. Sainath says that we, the civilian population, must choose whether we want to be Nero’s guests or not, whether we also want to keep silent by ignoring the cruel injustices meted out to farmers and the poor and enjoy the benefits at the cost of the suffering of a huge population of this country.

This documentary has revealed before us how the economic policies in the last 15 years, have resulted in vast inequalities between the rich and the poor by providing a jobless growth (where job creations benefitted a very minor section of the population). We have all been hearing only one side – that of “Shining India” in all the mass media, but not the other side of “Poor India” – with suffers with hunger and poverty comparable to those of many under developed African countries.


Thanks to IT/ITES Screening of the documentary in Bangalore, India for the text extract, and Purvi Vyas for bringing the movie to our attention.

Further links you may be interested in:

1. P. Sainath in a lecture on Globalising Inequality at The Centre for Social and Environmental Justice, Washington State University, Vancouver

2. Book by P Sainath: Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India’s Poorest Districts


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Posted by on Aug 6 2011. Filed under Poverty & Hunger, Sustainable Agriculture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

2 Comments for “Nero’s Guests and Farmer Suicides in India”

  1. Very true! Even PM of India had announced handsome money in the form of package for the farmers to overcome their debt through co-operative channels ( co-operative banks and institutions). But the money didn’t reached to the farmers. Most probably all the co-operative banks themselves consumed the received money to overcome their backlog (present status of the co-operative banks is not good as well). The thing is that farmers don’t have enough knowledge about their rights and other government’s schemes. Nationalized bank refuse to grant ‘crop loans’ to them on no basis. Something is wrong in the system, might be there is is need of initial education for them to fight against the evils of the system.

  2. That’s a good suggestion Shailesh…even the UN report, “Can Ecological Farming feed the world” points to the various kinds of support farmers need. If the infrastructure, access to markets, and self-reliant biodiverse production is ensured, farmers would be really better off. http://www.ecowalkthetalk.com/blog/2011/05/02/un-report-ecological-farming-can-feed-the-world/

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