State's farmer suicide survey kicks up row
Even as the government has spent around Rs 90 lakh over conducting a survey to ascertain cases of suicides by farmers and farm labourers in Punjab, the outcome of these surveys, in spite of making the picture clear, has further complicated the situation.punjab Updated: Aug 09, 2013 23:52 IST
Even as the government has spent around Rs 90 lakh over conducting a survey to ascertain cases of suicides by farmers and farm labourers in Punjab, the outcome of these surveys, in spite of making the picture clear, has further complicated the situation.
To find out the number of suicide victims, the Punjab government in 2011 had engaged Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana; Punjabi University Patiala; and Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), Amritsar.
The PAU that conducted a survey in Bathinda, Sangrur, Moga, Mansa, Ludhiana and Barnala districts found 6,128 farmers and farm labourers who committed suicide between 2000 and 2011.
But it's the findings of Punjabi University that have surprised many as it has come up with the picture that the farmers' suicide is a serious problem only in the areas where the PAU conducted the survey.
In Faridkot, Muktsar, Patiala, Hoshiarpur, SAS Nagar, Fatehgarh Sahib and Rupnagar districts covered by Punjabi University, between 2000 and 2011, only 365 farmers and farm labourers committed suicide.
Interestingly, these districts which are also part of the Malwa region like the ones the PAU covered, have the same social and farm issues, but the small number of such suicides puts a question mark over the credibility of the survey conducted by the experts from the economics department of Punjabi University.
According to this survey by Punjabi University, in Faridkot and Muktsar districts, only 28 and 122 cases, respectively, of such suicides, have been witnessed between 2000 and 2011.
According to the PAU survey, in Mansa and Barnala districts (having same crop-growing pattern, farmer issues and almost same number of farmers), the suicide deaths have been found as 1,334 and 676, respectively. In Moga, the PAU survey says, the number of such deaths is 590.
In Muktsar district, where Punjabi University has shown only 122 suicides in the last 10 years, as per a book, 'Agrarian Crisis and Farmer Suicides', in 2006, the average number of suicides per village was around 11. There are more than 400 villages in Muktsar.
The most glaring findings by Punjabi University are for Rupnagar and Hoshiarpur districts, where the experts found only seven suicides each in the last 10 years.
Surinder Kumar, district head of Kheti Bachao Mission, Rupnagar, said, "These findings are ridiculous. I can show the affidavits submitted by the panchayats of Rupnagar district, this number is more than 300 in the district."
Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), which held a meeting with the chief minister on the issue on June 4, had complained about the survey findings.
Sources said the team of experts constituted by Punjabi University from the economics department also witnessed a split during the survey with many senior members leaving the survey in between.
However, the convenor of the survey Prof OP Miglani (since retired), maintained that the findings of the survey were authentic. He admitted that a few senior experts of his team had left in between. "They were creating hurdles in our work and ultimately they left," he said. Punjabi University received Rs 30 lakh to carry out the survey.
There are also doubts over the survey conducted by the GNDU as the survey in Ferozepur (including Fazilka) district found only 102 cases in the last 10 years. In Ferozepur, Jalandhar and the entire Majha region, only 433 cases have been found.
Farm suicide cases expert Inderjeet Singh Jeji said the disparity found in the outcomes of the survey told the real story.
Districts covered by PAU
Sangrur- 1,634 deaths
Districts covered by Punjabi University
Fatehgarh Sahib- 60