Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
July 11th, 2011
The Dying Fields

About the Issue

India has increasingly embraced free trade and, since 2002, has had one of the world’s fastest growing economies. But only images of this new prosperity have reached the impoverished rural areas where two thirds of India’s 1.1 billion people live. Left behind by India’s soaring economic boom is Vidarbha, a region of hilly forests in the middle of India. It used to be known as India’s cotton belt – but now captures headlines as its suicide belt. In 2006, 1,044 suicides were reported in Vidarbha alone – that’s one suicide every eight hours.

Vidarbha farmers face a grim reality of crop failures, sinking global cotton prices and crushing debts. Farmers in default at the bank frequently resort to illegal moneylenders who charge up to 100 percent interest. And, the government safety net – that once kept cotton prices closer to the cost of production – has all but disappeared. Under India’s new free trade policies, Vidarbha’s 3.2 million cotton farmers – most of them small landholders – must compete in a global market that includes formidable, often subsidized rivals, including American cotton farmers.

About the Film

At a moment when India is enjoying record economic growth, THE DYING FIELDS turns to Vidarbha’s four million cotton farmers who have been left behind, struggling to survive on less than two dollars a day. WIDE ANGLE cameras follow Kishor Tiwari, former businessman turned farmer advocate, whose tiny office in the heart of this cotton-growing region functions as the archive and watchdog for the suicide epidemic; traveling salesmen hawking genetically modified – and costly – cotton seeds that require irrigation that few Vidarbha farmers have; the last rites of a farmer who couldn’t pay his debts; a tour of the poison ward at the local hospital, where beds are always filled; and a visit by then-president of India, A.J.P. Abdul Kalam, whom the farming widows beseech for help in convincing the government to forgive their debts.

  • Susan

    How can I locate a DVD of The Dying Fields Wide Angle broadcast. Please email me at Thank you.

  • gamingthemarket

    Monsanto is one of the corporations behind the suffering India’s farmers are facing.

    Monsanto had a big day on earnings news and people were clamoring to jump on board. Donald Rumsfeld along with four Bush cabinet members with MON ties were also smiling. Prime example of a dangerous Wall Street philosophy: “Hey, we’re making tons of money so we don’t care about the consequences of what we’re doing. We’ll deal with that when the time comes.” What the financial press won’t discuss are the ethics of investing in MON. Have you thought about what it means to invest with war profiteers?

    Monsanto: Profiting Without Conscience

  • Angela Smith

    How can I purchase a copy of this DVD please?

  • shahr

    Dear Angela,

    Thank you for your interest in WIDE ANGLE’s The Dying Fields. DVDs for educational use can be purchased from Films Media Group, at

  • Rashmi Condra

    How can I locate a DVD of The Dying Fields Wide Angle broadcast.

    Wide Angle admin: DVDs of many of our programs are available here

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 WNET.ORG Properties LLC. All rights reserved.