The winter session of Maharashtra State Assembly started on 11th Dec in Nagpur. In a reply to Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil said in assembly, “the number of farmers, who committed suicide from 2001 to October 2017 is 26,339. Of them, 12,805 farmers killed themselves due to unproductive land, indebtedness and insistence on repayment of loan.” He added, “between January 1 and August 15 this year, 580 farmers from Marathwada region committed suicide. Beed district alone reported 115 suicides (this year).”
01. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) began recording farm data in its annual Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India (ADSI) reports in 1995. The latest such report contained data for 2015 and listed bankruptcy, farming issues, family Issues, illness, drug Abuse & others as the main reasons behind farmer suicides.
02. Last year, the minister for agriculture, Radha Mohan, told Rajya Sabha that farm sector in India reported 11,458 suicides in 2016. As noted by livemint, “the number is significant for two reasons. One, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which publishes the data is yet to bring out its report for 2016. Second, and more importantly, the number for 2016 is the lowest since 1996, or the lowest in 21 years. Past data from NCRB’s annual Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) report shows that the highest number of 18,241 suicides were recorded in 2004, a drought year. In 1995, when the NCRB started recording farm suicides, the numbers were the lowest at 10,720.”
03. Big states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh (and Telengana) and Karnataka have been reporting maximum number of farmer suicides. Maharashtra alone accounted for close to 38% of all farmer related suicides in the country in 2015. Over-dependence on monsoon, growing water guzzling cash crops in dry regions, vested interests controlling cooperatives, inefficient state machinery and lack of timely access to credit are few more reasons behind these sorry statistics.
04. In the 2015 NCRB report, it states that about 55% of Indian population is still employed in the agriculture sector, and 12,602 farmer-related suicides were reported in 2015 out of a total 1,33,623 suicides pan-India. These numbers clearly demonstrate that rate of suicide of farmers is disproportionately low as compared to the overall population. As discussed here in detail, this could be due to “data-massaging” by the government and state level agencies which report the data to NCRB.
Even if we take the number given by Chandrakant Patil at face value, it means that for 17 years now, more than 4 farmers in Maharashtra have committed suicide daily, which is an awful stat in itself and if this is the condition in one of the most prosperous states in India then the Government’s recent claim of doubling all farmers’ income by 2022 sounds rather unrealistic.