Mr Sainath is an award-winning expert on rural poverty in India, a famous figure across India through his writing for The Hindu newspaper. I spoke to him at a screening of Nero's Guests, a documentary film about the suicide epidemic and some of the more eye-popping inequalities of modern India. "Poverty has assaulted rural India," he said. "Farmers who used to be able to send their children to college now can't send them to school. For all that India has more dollar billionaires than the UK, we have 600 million poor. The wealth has not trickled down." Almost all the bereaved families report that debts and land loss because of unsuccessful crops were among their biggest problems. The causes of that poverty are complex. Mr Sainath points to the long-term collapse of markets for farmers' produce. About half of all the suicides occur in the four states of India's cotton belt; the price of cotton in real terms, he says, is a twelfth of what it was 30 years ago. Vandana Shiva, a scientist-turned-campaigner, also links failures of cotton farming with the farmer suicides: she says the phenomenon was born in 1997 when the Indian government removed subsidies from cotton farming. This was also when genetically modified seed was widely introduced. "Every suicide can be linked to Monsanto," says Ms Shiva, claiming that the biotech firm's modified Bt Cotton caused crop failure and poverty because it needed to be used with pesticide and fertilizers. The Prince of Wales has made the same accusation. Monsanto denies that its activities are to blame, saying that Indian rural poverty has many causes.