TOI: Back for the farmers

By Satrajit Sen , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | January 31, 2014
The current phase of the campaign depicts the plight of families left behind by Indian farmers committing suicide owing to crop failures, drought and debt.

Remember the portraits of 12 dead farmers made using the same object that had been their undoing - dry, burnt hay? The creatives did the rounds of the media last year and helped Taproot India bag four gold Lions for its Farmers' Suicide campaign done for The Times of India at Cannes Lions 2013.

Well, the farmers are back. The Times of India, that raised awareness of suicides by farmers in India last year with the campaign, has launched its second phase.

The Farmer's family TVC

Santosh Padhi

Rahul Kansal

Conceptualised by Taproot India, the current phase of the campaign depicts the plight of families left behind by Indian farmers committing suicide owing to crop failures, drought and debt. The campaign has been running on Times Television Network channels for the last three weeks and has also been uploaded on YouTube and other digital platforms.

A two-minute TVC, which is also promoted on digital media, features a family in a village, in despair because of the bread winner's suicide. Left with no means to feed the family, the farmer's wife decides that they should not die of hunger - she feeds her children and the elders rice mixed with poison, and consumes the same herself. The film ends with a call to action, urging viewers to help and leading them to

As per The Times of India, the attempt is to generate funds for the farmer community and thus the campaign aims to reach the affluent people living across metros and encourage them to donate more. The proceeds will go towards helping the community learn alternative means of livelihood and to support families of the bereaved, informs an agency statement.

This year, the initiative is being implemented with support from Samaj Sevak Charitable Trust, an NGO working for the same cause. It has also elicited the support of NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) to ensure effective implementation.

Speaking about the campaign, Santosh Padhi, chief creative officer and co-founder, Taproot India, says, "Last year we generated funds for the 12 dead farmers' families. But we saw that hardly anything has changed this year and still, official statistics show that one Indian farmer is committing suicide every 30 minutes. Our attempt is to make people realise the seriousness of the issue and request people to donate or spread the message. The more we spread the message, the higher our chances of saving a few lives."

Out of the donations generated, 50 per cent will go directly to the bereaved farmer families who will be selected this year and with the rest 50 per cent, the two supporting partners will initiate programmes for teaching those families and other farmers alternate ways of earning a livelihood.

"The farmer suicide happens like a chain reaction. Many of them think of committing suicide by seeing what their fellow farmers have resorted to. Hence, we thought of teaching and educating the farmers that there are other ways of earning a livelihood and leading a good life," adds Padhi.

Besides the film, an OOH campaign has been planned starting with Mumbai and a print campaign will be followed by a second exhibition in end-February in Nagpur.

Rahul Kansal, executive president, Bennett Coleman and Company, says, "The objective of this campaign is to raise awareness of this issue so that steps are taken to support the farmers. In addition, the campaign will also attempt to provide an alternative source of income to the farmer's families that have been affected."

The Times of India Farmers' Suicide campaign attempted to raise support for those affected by a plague of suicide in 2009. Driven by drought, debts and crop failure, nearly 300,000 Indian farmers committed suicide last year. While the issue came under the government scanner and measures were taken to try and stop more suicides, the large, illiterate families of those already dead were left to fend for themselves.

The campaign began in April, 2013 and the brief was two-pronged: firstly to sensitise people to this harsh reality, and secondly, to raise funds for these impoverished families. Taproot India created the portraits using actual photographs of 12 deceased farmers as a reference; facial features and expressions were captured and recreated using hundreds of dried hay pieces.

This symbol of ruined crops became the canvas on which their faces came alive. The portraits were displayed at exhibitions and auctioned to the highest bidders. The money raised was distributed amongst their families.

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