If this remark by a senior Madhya Pradesh minister is anything to go by, the issue of farmer suicides can be resolved through exorcism and good luck charms – not favourable agricultural policies.
State home minister Bhupinder Singh has blamed some of the deaths in Madhya Pradesh’s Sehore on ghosts and evil spirits, spurring criticism that the government believes in supernatural beings. A written reply tabled by him in the state assembly listed 418 cases of suicides in chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s home district over the last three years, but did not attribute even a single one to crop failure.
“In our survey, we did not find any family saying that the farmers concerned had committed suicide due to crop failure-induced economic stress,” Singh told the assembly in response to a question from Congress MLA Shailender Patel.
Patel said Singh, in his written response, cited ghostly possession as one of the reasons for farmers committing suicide. “Does this mean the state government believes in ghosts and superstition?” Patel asked.
The Congress MLA further noted that the minister hadn’t mentioned crop loss or inability to repay loans anywhere in his response. “Instead, he cited possession by ghosts and spirits as the reason for farmers committing suicide in two cases. The reason for 117 cases was listed as unknown,” he said.
Following this, many Congress MLAs rose from their seats and heckled the ruling ministers for blaming a matter as serious as farmer suicides on supernatural entities. Opposition MLA Jitu Patwari said the state government should officially accept the existence of ghosts in the given circumstances.
According to data from the state crime records bureau, Madhya Pradesh witnessed 18,687 farmer suicides between 2001 and 2015. Over 1,000 farmers killed themselves across the state owing to crop failure and related issues last year.