in Karnataka committing suicide in June, it appears evident that rural India is in distress–the long-term cause, a growth rate of almost zero (
), and the immediate cause, crop failures caused by two years of unseasonal winter rain.
Crop failures = farmer suicides.
That’s a familiar equation. But as rural distress grows, farmer suicides dropped 67% over five years to 2014, according to the latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau last week.
The data confound the familiar equation and raise five questions, the answers to which provide some explanation of what’s going on.
Could the NCRB data be wrong?
No one really believes NCRB data as credible when it comes to farmer suicides, not even the NCRB.
The number of reported farmer suicides decreased 67%, from 17,368 in 2009 to just 5,650 in 2014, according to the NCRB. In 2014, farmer suicides constituted just 4.3% of total suicides in India, compared with 9% in 2013. This happened because the NCRB changed its data-collection process, and classified farm related suicides under two categories–farmers and agricultural labourers.
6,710 agricultural labourers committed suicide (5.4% of total suicides in India) in 2014.
“The report of NCRB is nothing but a hoax because it has [been] fabricated to show fewer deaths as the distress level on the ground is much higher,” Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) president Kishor Tiwari said, according to this Business Standard report .
He further added that NCRB has listed all landless tribal farmers and leasehold tenancy farmers as agricultural workers and rural suicides cases have been classified as part of the ‘Others’ category, which has put a question mark on the report’s credibility.