Expert to contest crime bureau’s figure of 22 farm suicides in 2014

A controversy has erupted over the figures released by the National Crime Records Bureau about the cases of suicide by farmers. The data released by the bureau last weekend has stated that only 22 farmers committed suicide in Punjab in 2014. Disputing the figures released by the bureau, social activist Inderjeet Jaijee has said that the figure was grossly on the lower side, perhaps to underplay the crisis in the farm sector in the state. Jaijee has been working for the past several years in the Sangrur-Mansa belt from where the maximum number of suicide cases in the farm sector has been reported over the years. The bureau says that in all, 5,650 farmers committed suicide in 2014 in the country. This was 4.3 per cent of the total number of suicides (1,31,666) last year. Of the cases of farmers committing suicide, 5,178 were men and 472 women. With 2,568 cases of suicide by farmers, Maharashtra tops the list in the country for 2014. The second place is of Telangana with a figure of 898 and Madhya Pradesh, where the number is 826, is on the third spot. Next in the line are Chhattisgarh (443), Karnataka (321) and Andhra Pradesh (160). Punjab’s figure is 22, J&K (12), Himachal Pradesh (32), Haryana (14), Gujarat (45) and Uttar Pradesh 63. Interestingly, Madhya Pradesh, where the number of suicide cases is the second highest in the country, has never been known as a state hit by crisis in the farm sector and nor is Chhattisgarh that also figures high in the list. Of all the farmers who committed suicide, 22.8 per cent did so because of bankruptcy and indebtedness, 22.3 per cent due to family problems and 19 per cent due to farming-related issues, 14.6 per cent due to illness and 4.9 per cent due to drug and alcoholic addiction. Contrary to the figures released by the bureau, at least one farmer commits suicide daily in Punjab on an average. This came to light when three universities — Punjab Agricultural University, Punjabi University and Guru Nanak Dev University — conducted a door-to-door survey in the state to collect data from 2000 to 2010 on behalf of the state government. The universities recorded 6,926 cases of suicide in the state. Of these, 3,955 cases were of farmers and agricultural workers. The survey conducted by the universities had recorded the maximum number of cases in Sangrur (1,132), followed by Mansa (1,013) and Bathinda (827). “It is clear from this figure of 11 years that on the average, everyday one farmer commits suicide in the state,” said a university official. Challenging the bureau’s figure, Jaijee said 28 cases of suicide in the farm sector were reported from just three blocks – Lehra, Moonak and Budlada — of Sangrur and Mansa districts in 2014. “I have affidavits of the villages panchayats concerned to back my claim,” he said. Besides these, in the last two months, as many as 18 farmers and agricultural workers had committed suicide in Moonak, Lehra and Budlada blocks, he added. There are 146 blocks in the state. “We will challenge this figure released by the bureau in court and request the court to set up an independent commission of experts to conduct a fresh door-to-door survey to collect data about the cases of suicide in the farm sector in the past five years starting from 2011,” Jaijee said. He said that it was possible that the state government was not giving the proper data to the bureau. Meanwhile, the state government has asked the three universities to update that data on suicides. The universities had been told to conduct a fresh survey. However, adequate funds are yet to be released by the state government for the task.