The latest figures on accidental deaths and suicides in India (ADSI), released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), state that Madhya Pradesh alone accounted for 1290 of 8007 suicides by farmers and agricultural labourers across India, one of the highest in the country.
The bulk of farmer suicides were committed by small farmers (289), followed by marginal (154) and medium farmers (134). Only four large farmers committed suicide.
The reasons for the suicides, according to the NCRB data, have been attributed to farming-related issues like crop failure, inability to sell their agricultural produce, inability to repay loans as well as other factors like poverty, property disputes, marriage-related issues, family problems and illness.
Meanwhile, 709 agricultural labourers committed suicide in the state in 2015. The reasons attributed for their suicide includes poverty, property disputes, marriage-related issues, physical abuse, death of a loved one, family problems, illness, drug abuse and alcoholic addiction.
The issue of the farmer suicides had also rocked the winter session of the state assembly held last month. During the session, the state admitted that some farmers committed suicide in the state because of “frustration due to loan overburden” — perhaps the first time in recent years that the government admitted to the same.
According to the information submitted in the state assembly in July and December session last year, 1695 farmers and agricultural labourers committed suicide in the state in 2016 from February 1 to mid-November.
Overall between 2001 and 2015, there have been 18,687 suicides by farmers in MP, according to the state crime records bureau.
‘Complex array of factors contributing to farmer suicides’
Food security analyst Sachin Jain said a complex array of factors was contributing to farmer suicides in the state.
“Apart from droughts and floods that lead to crop loss, the way the economy has been structured around the farmers is creating problems. Earlier, farmers would produce crops as per requirement of the public. But with their linking to the markets, they are focusing on bulk production, especially in case of cash-rich mono crops. When production is good, prices crash and farmers either sell their produce at a paltry sum or throw away their produce,” he said.
Jain said ideally the government should provide food producers a basic assured income, even when if their crops fail.
“Besides, the state government should procure pulses, millets and edible oils for public distribution system). This will provide succour to many farmers as prices in these sectors are very volatile,” he said.