Under pressure from farmers' unions, the Punjab government had sent a circular to all districts on October 22, 2014, clarifying that claims of suicides by farmers due to indebtedness after March 31, 2013, would be investigated by a three-member team, comprising the deputy commissioner, senior superintendent of police and chief agriculture officer, of the respective district. The circular was signed by under secretary, revenue, Veena Kumari.
Earlier, universities of the state had been entrusted with the job of conducting surveys on suicide by farmers, but they did not have sufficient funds for conducting such an exercise.
According to the circular, the committee would check the genuineness of such claims and on its recommendation would grant a compensation of `2 lakh to victim's families.
However, it seems that none of the officials concerned have taken this circular seriously.
"The circular is in my notice. Some cases were also referred to us. However, I don't know the exact number of cases sent by the teams at the district level," said Karan A Singh, financial commissioner, revenue. He asked HT to contact Sumir Kumar, administrative secretary, revenue, for further details.
"I think the matter is related to the agriculture department. Even then, I will crosscheck with my department on some working day," said Sumir Kumar.
"The circular could have proved very useful to give immediate relief to victims' families. A survey is a prolonged process and involves a long wait for reports," said Sukhdev Singh Kokari, a farmers' union leader, who was part of the meeting in which the demand for a circular was forwarded to the state government.
Giving details about the ciricular, he said: "Whenever a (farmer) family makes a claim of a suicide due to indebtedness by any of its member, the team has been assigned to verify the claims."
"However, neither the officials have been authenticating old claims nor they have been listing the new claims," said Kokari.
It is shocking that the committee, formed under the circular, has yet to find any genuine claim of any suicide by a farmer in Mansa after March 31, 2013, which is infamous for such cases in the state. Mansa deputy commissioner Bhupinder Singh Rai confirmed that a committee has been formed in Mansa but said no case has been investigated so far.
Similarly, Bathinda DC office superintendent, MA Branch,Vinod said he had no clue about any such case being referred by any committee.