Suicide by a farmer at the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rally at New Delhi on Wednesday has again underlined the grave concern of farmers’ ending their lives in the country.
In 2012, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported 13,754 farmer suicides in the country. It said 46 farmers commit suicide every day in the country.
The picture is no different in Punjab, known as the food bowl of the country. However, the state government has failed to conduct a survey of farmers’ suicide after 2011. Various associations have been accusing the state government of ignoring the farmers’ plight.
The last survey, conducted jointly by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), Amritsar, and Punjabi University, Patiala, covered the period between 2000 and 2011. Experts who were part of the exercise said they were ready for a fresh survey, but the government had to release a grant for the same.
“There is pressure from various farmers’ associations on us to conduct the suicide survey after 2011, but it is possible if the government releases funds. However, state government has plans to conduct the survey,” said Inderjit Singh, head of the economics department at Punjabi University.
Sharing the findings of the survey between 2000 and 2011, head of the economics and sociology department at the PAU Sukhpal Singh said: “In the 11-year survey, 6,926 farmers’ suicides were reported in Punjab. Of these, 4,686 farmers were under debt. This means that 630 farmers committed suicide every year in the state. A farmer died every four days and things have not changed since then. Debt was the biggest reason for suicides.”
The state government has, however, not come up with a policy to address this issue despite the Punjab and Haryana high court directions. “Is the government waiting for the suicides to rise before coming up with a policy? Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal may have announced that families of suicide victims will be given `3 lakh in compensation —`50,000 in cash and the remaining to be deposited in the family’s account. But how can a family manage with `50,000 when its breadwinner is no more. The government should give `5 lakh cash to the family of a farmer who commits suicide, a job offer, besides waving the debts,” said Jagmohan Singh, state secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, Punjab.
On plans to conduct the survey post-2011, chairman of the Punjab State Farmers’ Commission GS Kalkat said the matter would be taken up with the state finance department.
Agriculture minister Tota Singh said: “We have been maintaining records of all suicides on our own since 2011, so there is no need for a fresh survey. We also give compensations to suicide victim’s family. Regarding the suicide policy, the Punjab government has already forwarded the proposal to the high court as announced by the chief minister during the budget session. We have never ignored the farmers’ issues.”
What forces farmers to end life?
Former head of the psychology department at Punjabi University BS Sandhu said: “Farmers today are in distress. A farmer commits suicide when he has lost all hope. Debt is one of the major reasons for suicide, besides high input cost and expenditure on children’s education. Pressure from family members for not being able to fulfil their needs and no support from the system are the other reasons.”