The Punjab government's decision to give a compensation of Rs. 2 lakh to the families of farmers who had committed suicides, though, has brought a ray of hope for the debt-ridden families, but this was not a permanent solution to end their woes.
If experts are to be believed, budget allocation of Rs. 66 crore for rehabilitation of the bereaved families was insufficient.
As per a survey conducted by three universities - Punjabi University, Patiala; Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana; and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar - in 2012, around 5,000 farmers and farm labourers had committed suicides in the state in a decade from 2000 to 2010. Out of these, around 3,000 farmers who ended their lives were from Sangrur, Mansa and Bathinda districts.
Kesar Singh Bhangu, a professor of economics at Punjabi Univeristy, who is carrying out a research on farmer suicides, said funds earmarked in the budget were not sufficient for immediate rehabilitation of the victim families.
As per a study conducted by Punjabi University's centre for development economics and innovation studies, each victim family needed at least Rs. 4-lakh compensation and government job for at least one member of the family to achieve some sort of financial comfort.
“For rehabilitation, government required at least Rs. 300 crore. Rs. 66 crore will not compensate estimated families and giving compensation in instalments is meaningless,” Bhangu said, adding that it was unfortunate that despite huge number of suicides committed by farm labourers, government had failed to include them in the list of beneficiaries for the compensation.
Inderjit Singh Jaijee, the author of book 'Debt and death in rural India', who had also extensively worked for rehabilitation of victim families in Sangrur, said though this was not for the time that government announced compensation for the victim families. “The real problem is that the assistance never reaches the families,” he said.
In 2001, the chief minister had announced a compensation of 2.5 lakh and at that time the government had no idea who the beneficiaries would be. Earlier, when Captain Amarinder Singh was chief minister, the government had constituted farmers' commission and proposed an assistance of Rs. 50,000 and monthly pension of Rs. 1,500 to the victim families, but he failed to meet the promise. When Badal took over, he trashed the proposal and stuck to his Rs. 2.5-lakh compensation, but it was only last year that the Badal government decided to give Rs. 2 lakh compensation in instalments to the affected families.
Last year, the government had earmarked Rs. 30 crore for the purpose and so far, 2,886 families affected up to 2006 had been given the first instalment of Rs. 1 lakh each.
'Govt unaware of ground realty, miseries of victim families'
Jaijee said announcement of Rs. 2-lakh compensation was ample proof that the government was unaware of miseries of the victim families and hard times they had gone through following suicides by their lone bread-winners.
“If you visit Lehragaga and Moonak sub-divisions, you will come across 6-7 fresh cases of suicides by farmers. There has been no effort from the government side to check this trend,” Jaijee said.
“What will compensation do in the households which had left with no earner?” he questioned. Bhangu said that government should waive off the debts of farmers taken from banks or commission agents in order to provide them some solace.