Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Karnataka, which have large tracts under irrigation and have maintained high agricultural production levels, saw a surge in farmer suicides during 2016, as compared to 2015, provisional data showed.
From the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), it shows around 250 suicides related to the farming sector in Haryana that year, a rise of 54 per cent from 2015. In Punjab, the rise was 118 per cent from 2015.
Gujarat’s rise was 35.5 per cent; in Karnataka, 32.5 per cent. However, in absolute numbers, farmer suicides in Haryana and Punjab were less than in Maharashtra, which continued to be Number-1. Karnataka saw the second highest number of suicides in 2016.
Farm sector suicides coverboth farmers and cultivators who own land and those who work as farm labourers.
Activists have questioned the data given to Parliament as ‘under-reporting’. “This demolishes the argument that farmer suicides are due to lack of irrigation or low productivity but, instead, clearly shows that denial of right price is the key reason for the suicide rate going up in big agrarian states which have more than 80 per cent irrigation,” said agricultural expert Devender Sharma.
He said the Punjab numbers were suspect as data from house to house surveys conducted some years earlier by leading universities of the state, including Punjab Agricultural University, showed 16,600 farmers ending their lives between 2000 and 2016 or almost 1,000 deaths yearly. However, NCRB figures say it is less than 300 a year.
Madhya Pradesh, another big agrarian state, has emerged as another hotbed of farmer suicide. The rise between 2015 and 2016 was only 2.4 per cent there but the same data showed a 21 per cent rise between 2013 and 2016 in the sector.
This was the same period when the state received the ‘Krishi Karman Award’ from the central government more than once for the highest rise in foodgrain production. Its annual agri growth is estimated at about 18 per cent annually in the past five years.
Overall in the country, the total number of suicides in the farm sector (both farmers and farm labourers) fell around 9.8 per cent between 2015 and 2016.
In Maharashtra, Parliament was informed, there was a 15 per cent drop in suicides in the sector between the two years. In Telangana, a 54 per cent fall; in Chhattisgarh, a drop of 28.5 per cent and in Andhra by 12.2 per cent.