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Mass wedding raises Indian farmer suicide awareness

Reuters/Pawan Kumar

Over 3,500 couples got married in unison in western India on Wednesday in a ceremony intended to raise awareness about poor farmers hit by debt and crop failures.

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Almost 2,500 Hindu couples, 150 Muslims, 749 Buddhists, 253 tribal people and 15 Christians tied the knot in an open-air ceremony in the town of Amravati, in Maharashtra state.

Mass weddings are not uncommon in India, though usually a lot smaller, with couples in poor, rural areas taking their vows with others to cut down on costs.

Chief organiser Ravi Rana told the Indian Express newspaper that he comes from a region that is known for farmers' suicide.

“I myself come from a very poor background,” he said. "I thought we could marry along with several such couples. If a people's representative leads by example, it will send a good signal."

About 1,000 couples involved in the nuptials were from farming backgrounds, with about half having parents who had committed suicide, according to The Press Trust of India news agency.

Exact figures about the extent of suicide among farmers are unclear, but the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai in 2009 said as many as 150,000 debt-hit farmers had killed themselves in the previous decade.

The colourful event which drew large crowds was only half as big as two weddings in
South Korea last year, which each saw more than 7,000 couples tie the knot.

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