Farmer suicides: India

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Contents

Causes of suicides

Causes of farmer suicides, NCRB: 2014

The Times of India, Jul 25 2015

Percentage share of various causes of suicides during 2014; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, Jul 25 2015
Causes of farmer suicides; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, July 25, 2015

Sushmi Dey

Illness made 18% give up life: NCRB

Bad health 2nd top cause for suicides

Farmer deaths may hog the headlines, but the latest National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data feature health issues or illness as the second largest cause of suicides in the country after family problems. According to NCRB data for 2014, various kinds of illness accounted for 18% of suicides during 2014, whereas bank ruptcy or indebtedness-considered a major reason behind farmer deaths -accounted or only 1.8% of suicides.

Experts say there is an urgent need for the government to increase spend on public health, develop a robust health policy to make tertiary healthcare services affordable as well as increase awareness and preventive care measures. On the contrary , policy interventions are mostly focused and limited to addressing farmers' debts due to its political importance.

“There is a need for public health policy along with resources to expand public healthcare,“ says Amit Sengupta, co-convenor of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, a public health advocacy movement.Sengupta points at the lack of awareness around chronic diseases, mental illnesses as well as absence of public healthcare facilities to ad dress the disease burden.

States like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, where the rate of farmer suicides is high at almost 30%, also account for a significant number of suicid es due to health problems.While only 5% of all suicides in these states are due to debt or bankruptcy , illness accounted for 26.2% and 21.5% of in AP and Maharashtra respectively .

Experts say suicides are not just directly linked to one's own illness. Poor health also means a lot of financial pressure for the family . “While the out-ofpocket expenditure is high, often it leads to depression and mental illness resulting in suicide,“ says Nandini Sharma, a visiting homoeopath to the President's Estate. Mental illness was a major cause for suicides contributing to 7,104 deaths during 2014.

“Informal tenancy" major cause; Stable tenancy will curb suicides

The Times of India, Jan 23 2016

Dipak Dash

Secys to PM: Stable tenancy law will curb farm suicides

Identifying “informal tenancy“ as one of the main reasons behind farmer suicides since many don't get farm credit and crop insurance, a group of secretaries has suggested the government to come out with a model tenancy law. Such a law will protect the tenants as they will get access to low-interest loans from banks and financing agencies. It will also end the fear of original owners of losing the farmland to tenants. Sources said the panel of top bureaucrats set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while pointing out how informal leasing is up to 40% in some states with around 10% land lying unutilised, said there is an urgent need to legalise all such leases.

The group dealing with issues on “farmer-centric issues in agriculture and allied sectors“ has also suggested the need to excavate five lakh ponds and dug-wells across the country annually under the rural jobs scheme and to creatie dedicated fund by raising tax free bonds to irrigate farmland.

Highlighting that only 42% small and marginal farmers have access to credit, it has suggested providing fresh credit of Rs 50,000 crore. These are among the suggestions that the panel has suggested to revive the rural economy ahead of the Union Budget next month. Sources said the team has presented that NABARD would require Rs 29,000 crore for about 46 projects relating to irrigation. Similarly , government needs to spend Rs 8,000 crore annually to dig ponds and dug-wells under MGNREGS.

59,000 suicides in 30 years tied to climate change

`59,000 Indian farm suicides in 30 years tied to climate change’, August 2, 2017: The Times of India


Shedding light on how warming temperatures and crop failure is pushing farmers in India into poverty and distress, a new research claims that climate change has already caused more than 59,000 suicides in India over the last 30 years.

The study , published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help explain India's evolving suicide epidemic, where suicide rates have nearly doubled since 1980 and claim more than 130,000 lives each year for a variety of causes.

The results indicate that seven per cent of this upward trend can be attributed to warming that has been linked to human activity. “Without interventions that help families adapt to a warmer climate, it's likely we will see a rising number of lives lost to suicide as climate change worsens in India,“ said study author Tamma Carleton, a fellow at University of California, Berkeley , US. Carleton cautioned that her estimates of temperature-linked suicides are probably too low, because deaths in general are underreported in India.

Loans alone not responsible; 7 suicides a day in Maharashtra

Priyanka Kakodkar, 7 farm suicides a day in Maha despite loan sop, July 12, 2018: The Times of India


1,307 Farmers Have Killed Selves Till June

Maharashtra has recorded 1, 307 farmer suicides till the end of June this year, according to official data. This translates to an average of 7 cases every single day in the six-month span, despite a loan waiver declared last year.

The state has recorded only 91 fewer cases than 2017. Last year, 1,398 farmer suicides were reported between January and June. While there has been a marginal dip in cases the total cases, the Marathwada region has seen a rise in these six months compared to last year. The region recorded 477 cases till the end of June compared to 454 cases during the same period last year.

So far this year though, the Vidarbha region, home to CM Devendra Fadnavis continues to report the highest number of farmer suicides. The region has recorded 598 cases till the end of June. However, this is 58 cases lower than the same period last year.

So far, around 38 lakh farmers have received payouts under the loan waiver scheme from the 77.3 lakh accounts under scrutiny. While the payouts under the loan waiver have proceeded at a slow pace, this had also initially impacted the disbursal of crop loans.

Indeed, the disbursal of crop loans was 40% lower for 2017-18 compared to the previous year. This is because banks could not disburse new loans until the pending payments had been cleared. In April-May this year, the disbursal of crop loans was Rs 1,426 crore lower than last year. In June, Fadnavis wrote to Union finance minister Piyush Goyal asking him to issue a directive to banks to speed up the process.

The pricing of crops has also been a issue. The Centre has now hiked the minimum support price of 14 crops but with the procurement network facing hurdles, Maharshtra’s farmers say they have to wait for months for payments to come through. On July 2, Maharashtra’s farmers were awaiting dues worth Rs 879 crore for crops sold under the old price since February. “Unless the procurement network improves, raising the MSP price carries little meaning,” says farm activist Vijay Jawandhia.

HC: Compensation might encourage farm suicides

Saurabh Malik, HC: Compensation may encourage farm suicides, July 11, 2018:The Tribune


A Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday rapped the Punjab Government for virtually encouraging farmer suicides by providing monetary relief to the families, and that compensation may actually act as an incentive.

More than 16,000 farmers and labourers have reportedly ended lives from 2000-15.

The government had, in March, told the High Court that a scheme for giving financial assistance of Rs 3 lakh to the family of farmers committing suicide due to indebtedness was already in place. Besides, the government had framed a scheme to extend a loan waiver to small and marginal farmers.

Taking up a petition filed in public interest, Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Arun Palli verbally asserted that someone desperate could actually take the extreme step for providing monetary benefits to his family. “People who are starving, they may think on these lines,” it observed.

Describing compensation as an interim measure, the Bench said it was not an answer to the problem and asked the state to specify solution.

The Bench also asked the state to consider and specify the reasons behind suicides.

Expressing dissatisfaction with an affidavit submitted by the state, the Bench rejected it. “It does not satisfy us,” the Bench stated. “What has been placed before us is detail of relief by way of affidavit… This does not address the problem.”

The Bench added that Punjab had referred in the affidavit to its policy framed in 2015, but there was no tangible progress since then. “Show what has happened during this period,” it said.

The Bench observed that the High Court had in February 2014 directed the State to frame an “appropriate scheme”. Soon after passing of the order, the state government had sought additional time to come up with a policy on the Andhra Pradesh module. Referring to it, the Bench asserted: “Where is the Andhra policy? It should have been placed before us. Your officials do not report that.” It also accepted the request by the state counsel to file another affidavit.

Granting the state three weeks for the purpose, the Bench made it clear that the affidavit was required to specify steps taken and proposed to be taken by the state. In case of non-compliance, it would summon the chief or the principal secretary.

2014> 2015: suicides went up despite loan waiver

July 10, 2019: The Times of India


Many Who Availed Of Scheme Were Not Farmers: Rupala

Farmer suicides went up even after announcements of farm loan waivers, junior minister for agriculture and farmers welfare Parshottam Rupala told Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

Rupala was responding to a question from former agriculture minister and BJP MP Radha Mohan Singh, who asked the government to clarify whether farmer suicides had increased in the year after the government ordered a farm loan waiver of Rs 75,000 crore. Singh was possibly referring to the mega loan waiver of Rs 75,000 crore announced by the UPA government in 2008.

Singh, who was in charge of the agriculture ministry until three months ago, also asked whether the government had found any discrepancies during the scheme’s audit. In response, Rupala said cases of farmer suicides had indeed increased in the year after the farm loan waiver package was announced. However, the numbers he gave pertained to 2014 and 2015. He said farmer suicides went up from 5,650 in 2014 to 8,007 in 2015. Rupala also said an audit of the loan waiver scheme found many people who availed the benefit were not farmers.

Even as Rupala urged the House to not see suicide numbers in political light, opposition benches protested. Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi expressed dissatisfaction over Rupala’s five-page response to Singh’s question, and alleged that the government had not furnished suicide data after 2015. “Since the question pertained to ways to control farmer suicides, this cannot be achieved without data on the number of suicides. The minister is trying to hide that data and gloss over farmer suicides,” Gogoi alleged.

Rupala, however, clarified that farmer suicide data was not furnished after 2015 on grounds that it was still being compiled by states and had not yet been published by the National Crime Records Bureau, the agency that does data keeping.

State protection of money-lenders

Sarangdharsingh Shivdassingh Chavan case/ 2010

Dhananjay Mahapatra|Legally speaking – ‘Not In My Name’ protest is right; past silence wrong|Jul 03 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)

The Supreme Court held a Congress chief minister of Maharashtra, parts of which had then be come infamous as farmers' graveyard, responsible for protecting money lenders who squeezed farmers into inescapable debt traps.

On December 14, 2010, the SC in “Sarangdharsingh Shivdassingh Chavan“ case held Vilasrao Deshmukh responsible for preventing the police from taking action against moneylenders accused of harassing farmers.

“This court is extremely anguished to see that such an instruction could come from the chief minister of a state which is governed under a Constitution which resolves to constitute India into a socialist, secular, democratic republic. Chief minister's instructions are so incongruous and anachronistic, being in defiance of all logic and reason, that our conscience is deeply disturbed. We condemn the same in no uncertain terms,“ it had said.

When the judgment came, Deshmukh was a minister in Manmohan Singh's cabinet.

Farmers, Dalits and Mus lims died or were killed in equal numbers in the past as today . The BJP-led NDA government and the parties ruling states are rightly being criticised for lethargy in tackling the motley criminal gangs spreading hatred in the name of religion and cow. Even after accounting for crimes committed today by the despicable breed of cow vigilante groups, is the ground situation any different from the past? Statistics say no. Then, why did we keep silent when farmers, Dalits and Muslims were dying or getting murdered in the past? Was it because `secular' parties held the reins at the Centre and states? Maybe, we should not be asking this as it could discredit `secular' parties which are today rightly protesting loudly against similar murders.

Before we go to statistics, a disclaimer: Even after 70 years of independence, the plight of farmers, Dalits and Muslims have not seen the transformation envisioned by leaders of the freedom struggle.

Last week, it was heartening to see people from all walks of life -actors, writers, authors, journalists, social activists and many more -who kept silent for years over trampling of rights and lives of farmers, Dalits and Muslims, venting their dissent against vigilantism-driven murders, making optimum use of their constitutional right to free speech and saying `Not In My Name'.

In the last decade, when farmers were committing suicide in droves, Dalits were getting murdered across the country and Muslims were targeted, one wonders what prevented the present protesters from exercising free speech in “their name“ to criticise the governments concerned. But a good beginning, though belated, is always a welcome step.

Right to free speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution is a conscience driven exercise. One reacts to an incident when deep within shehe feels it does not conform to the ethos, culture and human values of society that keeps alive our hard earned democratic values.

Today , it would be futile to ask why their conscience was not pricked and why secular political parties did not rally farmers to protest against a Congress chief minister of Maharashtra, parts of which had then be come infamous as farmers' graveyard, when the Supreme Court held him responsible for protecting money lenders who squeezed farmers into inescapable debt traps.

On December 14, 2010, the SC in “Sarangdharsingh Shivdassingh Chavan“ case held Vilasrao Deshmukh responsible for preventing the police from taking action against moneylenders accused of harassing farmers.

“This court is extremely anguished to see that such an instruction could come from the chief minister of a state which is governed under a Constitution which resolves to constitute India into a socialist, secular, democratic republic. Chief minister's instructions are so incongruous and anachronistic, being in defiance of all logic and reason, that our conscience is deeply disturbed. We condemn the same in no uncertain terms,“ it had said.

When the judgment came, Deshmukh was a minister in Manmohan Singh's cabinet.None among the intelligentsia, social activists or farmers' leaders echoed the SC's anguish and protested to seek Deshmukh's resignation.Probably , it is not a fad to protest when `secular' parties hold the reins of power.

Last week, Congress leader, economist, author and former MP Bhalchandra Mungekar wrote a column in a daily newspaper quoting statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau to highlight atrocities faced by Dalits between 2009 and 2013, when his party was in power at the Centre.

Mungekar wrote, “During 2009-13, there were 3,194 incidents of Dalit murders; 7,849 Dalit women were raped. During this period, the seven states of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh accounted for 80% of total crimes and atrocities, with UP alone accounting for about 25%.“ This means, every day more than two Dalits were murdered and more than five Dalit women were sexually assaulted during this period.

During 2009-2013, UP was ruled by a `secular' party , so were Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha and Bihar. But Dalit atrocities seldom figured as a debating or a rallying point for expression of anguish against `secular' governments during that period.

Discrimination and atrocities against Dalits have been continuing, and we must protest continuously irrespective of the party in power. It is every citizen's fundamental duty to protect dignity of the voiceless and protest against injustice.

In 2008, the UPA government had sent to the states `Guidelines on Communal Harmony' to prevent and avoid communal disturbancesriots and the follow up action required. Despite this, 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots (UP , 62 killed), 2012 Assam riots (Kokrajhar, 77 killed), 2011 Bharatpur riots (Rajasthan, 8 killed) and 2010 Deganga riots in West Bengal happened.

The grim reality is that `secular' parties at the Centre and states fared no better in protecting the minority community . When Kashmiri Pandits faced ethnic cleansing, not many protested against the dance of raw communal hatred.

Silent protest.PNG

A commoner wants harmony and peace. He will always lend his name to protests against vigilante groups, communal forces, corruption and injustice.But the `secular' intelligentsia must remain neutral to the colour of the ruling party while leading protests.

Variations among states

The Times of India

Farmer deaths, state-wise: 2004-2013; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India

Apr 24 2015

Gajendra was from Raj, but Maha, AP farmers worst-hit

While Rajasthan native Gajendra Singh's suicide in Delhi has led to a political slug fest, National Crime Records Bureau figures show that the state lags far behind Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh in the number of farmers suicides recorded. Out of the total of 11,772 farmers who ended their lives in India in 2013, 292 were from Rajasthan, putting the state at tenth place when it comes to farmer suicides. Maharashtra, with 3,146 farmer suicides in 2013, has had alarming figures for the past 15 years, followed by 2,104 in Andhra Pradesh, 1,403 in Karnataka and 1,090 in Madhya Pradesh. The four states almost account for two-thirds of farmers' suicides in the country. Only Chhattisgarh and Bengal have managed to record zero suicides in the same year.

More than one lakh suicides are recorded every year in the country . In 2013 alone in India, there were 1,34,799 suicides out of which 8.7% were that of farmers. Rajasthan had overall 4,860 suicides in the year out of which 292 were that of farmers including 25 of women.

The pattern shows that farmers who committed suicide in 2013 are from all age groups including those in teens. Twenty-two suicides were in the age group of 0-14, 2,805 farmers who committed suicide are in the age group of 15-29, 4,274 in the group of 30-44 years, 3,307 in age-group of 45-59 and 1,364 farmers were in the age-group of 60 and above.

Political parties have not paid much heed for so many years on the issue. In fact, both NDA and UPA regimes have had an abysmal record when it comes to farmer suicides since 1995.

While NCRB doesn't give any reason for the deaths, such suicides are often linked to crop damage or failure, debt, lack of irrigation provisions, low productivity , unfavourable prices, distress sales and rising costs of cultivation.

Punjab suicides, 2000-16

Subodh Varma, The story of the missing farmers, Jan 30, 2017: The Times of India


A small village called Khanauri in Punjab's Sangrur district has be come a macabre hotspot. People come here to peer down at the Bhakra Main Line canal hoping to catch sight of dead bodies that get held up on the sluice gates. They are not ghouls ­ they are looking for kin or friends who have disappeared. The canal runs unhindered like an arrow for 159 km through Punjab's eastern districts and Khanauri barrage is the first point where the flowing water is slowed down. In the past few years, most of the bodies that turned up at Khanauri were of farmers who had committed suicide, mainly because of debt and economic crisis.

In Punjab as a whole, estimates of farmers' suicides range from a few thousand to tens of thousands. A study by three universities estimated that between 2000 and 2011, nearly 7,000 farmers committed suicide, most of them because of debt.

A new study for 2011-15 by the same three universities, is in the final stages of data processing. Balwinder Singh Tiwana, professor of economics at Punjabi University , Patiala and one of those involved in the survey told TOI that 3,000 to 4,000 farmers committed suicide in this most recent period.

Farmers' suicides are but one chilling symptom of the crisis gripping Punjab's agriculture, once thought of as a shining path for the rest of India.Its sweep is so wide and the effects so pervasive that every political formation in Punjab's ongoing election campaign is battling to assure farmers that it has the best solutions.

So, what is the crisis? Pro duction of foodgrains, mainly wheat and rice, has been stagnating for the past several years. It has grown by just 7% in the last decade and by just 1% in the last five. There is no more land left to be brought under cultivation with 82% of the state's geographical area under cultivation and 99% of it irrigated.Almost all the area is cropped twice.The only way production can be increased is by increasing yield, that is, quantity produced per sown plant. This too, sadly , is not happening. In fact, there is a slight dip in foodgrains produced per hec tare of sown land, from 4,364kg in 2011-12 to 4,304kg in 2015-16.

On the other hand, cost of cultivation has zoomed while selling prices have not matched that rise, explains Tiwana. “Costs have gone up, reducing the farmers' income and the minimum support price has increased only by about 8% per year. For inputs, farmers have to take loans (or advances) from commission agents in mandis.If the crop gets damaged, the farmer is stuck with unrepayable loans worth lakhs. That's the crisis, and cause of suicides,“ Tiwana says.

Maharashtra

Farmer suicides which are eligible for compensation, Maharashtra, 2001-12; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, February 20, 2016

The Times of India, Feb 20 2016

Priyanka Kakodkar

1,841 farmer suicides in Maharashtra in 2015

Highest since 2001, a 52.5% jump from number of such incidents in 2014

When confronted with soaring cases of farmer suicides, the Maharashtra go vernment has always claimed that all are not linked to agra rian distress. The only cases considered genuine and eli gible for state compensation were those involving land-ow ning farmers and clear evi dence of indebtedness. Even within this stringen parameter, which typically serves to halve the numbers Maharashtra touched a 15-ye ar peak in 2015. From January to December 2015, the state re corded as many as 1,841 cases of “eligible“ farmer suicides the revenue department said This is the highest since 2001 In fact, it is 52.5% higher than the 1,207 cases recorded by Maharashtra in 2014.

In 2015, the state faced two droughts, with a poor monsoon in 2014 and 2015. The Marathwada and Vidarbha region were the worst hit.

When asked about the rising graph, state agriculture minister Eknath Khadse said: “The cases of eligible suicides have been falling over the last few months. We will be conducting a review to see the latest position.“ He added that the government had done more than previous governments to alleviate the crisis. This includes declaring a Rs 10,500crore package for farmers and providing subsidised grain under the Food Security Act to affected families.

Of the total 3,228 farmer suicides reported in Maharashtra in 2015, almost half were from Vidarbha, which accounted for 50% of the eligible cases as well.

Women farmers' suicides

2013

The Times of India, May 17 2015

Priyanka Kakodkar

How women farmers die `off the records'

Most Suicides Filed As Dowry Deaths, Mishaps

For the last 23 years, Rukhmabai Rathod had run her six-acre farm virtually single-handedly . After her husband's death in 1992, the uneducated but determined woman took charge. She decided what to sow, how much to spend and stood her ground with banks and creditors. “She was anguthachaap but she understood everything,“ says her brother-in-law Babulal Rathod from Kazadeshwar village in Vidarbha's Akola district. “I didn't think she would manage but she proved everyone wrong,“ he admits. The Banjara tribal woman even got her three children married without help from anyone. However, in March, Rukhmabai's courage ran out.Saddled with debts worth Rs 3 lakh, she swallowed pesticide and died at home.

The cotton belt of Vidarbha reports the highest farmer suicides in the country , but the distress of women cultivators is rarely recorded. “Suicides by women farmers are less common but not that unusual. But they don't get recorded because women are often landless or the land is not in their name,“ says activist Kishor Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti.

As many as 16.46 lakh rural households in Maharashtra are headed by women, according to the Census 2011.This accounts for 12.5% of rural households. In fact, the rise in suicides among male farmers in the state has led to their widows bearing the burden of running both the home and the farm.

Yet only 126 suicides by women farmers in Maharashtra were recorded by the National Crime Records Bureau in 2013, compared to 3,020 by male farmers. “In most cases, suicides by women farmers are classified as dowry deaths or accidents,“ says Tiwari.

Rukhmabai is among the few women cultivators here whose death has been classified as a “farmer's suicide“, perhaps because her farm was in her name. Her family is eligible for state compensation.

“I don't remember a time when my mother was not working,“ says Rukhmabai's son Nagorao. In fact, in all farming families, it is women who do the bulk of the jobs like sowing and weeding.

For the past several years, Rukhmabai's family had been growing soyabean. But rising costs and declining yields in the last three years pushed them deep into debt. Then Nagorao had a near-fatal accident last year that burdened them with an additional Rs 1 lakh loan for his surgery.

“We used to take loans earlier too, but we always had some income. This year we barely made any money because of the drought,“ says Nagorao. Over time, the family sold its bullocks and then its goats as well. By the end, Rukhmabai knew she would have to borrow again.“She had borrowed from her relatives and could not face them. She had run out of options,“ said her daughter-inlaw Sarla Rathod.

In neighbouring Yavatmal, another woman farmer lives on the edge. Five years ago, Sangita Pancheniwar from Hivra ran a four-acre farm with her husband. But he committed suicide in 2010, leaving her to fend for his aging parents and two school-going kids.After two crops failed in the drought, she tried renting out the farm but found no takers.She now works as a farm hand a few days a week. “I get work maybe twice a week for Rs 100 per day ,“ she says.

With a loan of Rs 1 lakh still to be paid off, she fears for her children's education. “We're reduced to eating bhakri and chutney . How can I afford to keep them in school,“ she asks.

Farm labourers’ suicides

2014-16: Nearly as many farmhands commit suicide as farmers

Radheshyam Jadhav, Nearly as many farmhands commit suicide as farmers, August 2, 2018: The Times of India

Suicides in India- Farmers' and Labourers', state-wise- 2014-16
From: Radheshyam Jadhav, Nearly as many farmhands commit suicide as farmers, August 2, 2018: The Times of India

Govt’s Relief Leaves Out Labourers

Government schemes meant to tackle farm distress have focussed on farmers — typically through loan waivers — but official data shows that almost half of all suicides among those working in agriculture is by labourers, not far mers.

Data from the National Crime Records Bureau, cited in the answer to a question in the Lok Sabha recently shows that of the 36,332 people “self-employed persons in farming/agriculture” who committed suicides between 2014 and 2016, 16,324 or about 45% were farm labourers.

At the level of individual states, a majority have seen more labourers than farmers taking their own lives. Particularly striking are the statistics of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Kerala and Rajasthan.

In Tamil Nadu, there have been 1,776 labourer suicides in these three years compared to 106 farmers taking their lives.

The corresponding figures for Gujarat are 1,177 and 132, for Kerala 1,205 and 133 and for Rajasthan 485 and 7.

Distress among agricultural labourers can also be gauged by the fact that West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Bihar have not witnessed any farmer suicides, but there have been suicides by labourers during this period.

Census data shows that labourers account for about 45% of the population working in agriculture, farmers constituting the remaining 55%. It might seem, therefore, that the pattern of the suicides is merely reflecting this reality.

However, at the state level this correspondence breaks down completely.

Several states in which farm labourers outnumber farmers have seen more farmers committing suicides than farmhands and the reverse is equally true. The NCRB has been providing disaggregated data on farm suicides only from 2014 and hence it is not possible to see whether the trend has changed from earlier years. Also, the 2016 data is provisional according to the answer in Parliament.

Experts have repeatedly pointed out that the biggest farmers are the major beneficiaries of loan waivers and marginal farmers and labourers, who hardly get formal credit and have to bank on moneylenders, are left out of the schemes.

The National Commission on Farmers (NCF) under the chairmanship of Professor M S Swaminathan had also recommended that agricultural labourers be treated as landless farmers and suggested several major nonfarm initiatives along with employment guarantee programmes for them.

Preventive measures

In Telangana, depressed farmers get counselling on phone

Himanshi Dhawan, In Telangana, depressed farmers can phone a friend, April 21, 2019: The Times of India

The Kisan Mitra helpline is saving farmers’ lives with both online counselling and offline support

Revathi Goli from Kowtha village in Telangana’s Adilabad district was sobbing when she called the Kisan Mitra helpline in February this year. Deep in debt, she and her husband Gangaiah were about to commit suicide. “Can you help?” she asked in despair.

The family had a bank loan of Rs 40,000 pending, and was recently told they were ineligible for the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana’s cash grant of Rs 6,000. Another Rs 12,000, promised by the state government to small farmers like themselves, didn’t come through either despite several visits to the district office last year. As pressure from the bank increased, Revathi felt cornered. “We have no money to eat, let alone pay the bank,” she told Sreeharsha T, a coordinator at Kisan Mitra. He calmed her down and assured her that they would find a solution.

Soon a field coordinator was at their home to talk to them. The funds for both schemes were stuck in the district office but after Kisan Mitra members flagged off the issue with the authorities, things picked up pace. Revathi’s call is just one among more than 8,000 that this helpline has received from distressed farmers since 2017. Run by NGO Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), calls to the helpline doubled from 2,617 in 2017 to 5,516 in 2018. And this is only from three Telangana districts where the helpline is operational. Though NCRB data on farmer suicides has not been updated since 2015, Telangana has the highest number of suicides after Maharashtra.

CSA executive director G V Ramanjaneyulu says the farm crisis is increasing because there is a systemic failure on the part of the government in addressing these problems. Even basic things like land ownership are often under doubt because of poor land record management. “Knee-jerk decisions like loan waivers benefit land owners rather than the farm labourer,” he adds.

Unlike helplines run in Maharashtra and Punjab, Kisan Mitra combines counselling with field coordinators. The helpline is manned by all-women team of six-seven counsellors. They are assisted by field workers who conduct meetings, hold workshops, scour hospitals for suicide cases and keep an eye on moneylenders as they work to relieve farmer distress. The team has also worked with Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and trained doctors to learn the treatment protocol as poisoning by pesticide is a common method of suicide.

In June last year, 40 farmers led by Anantaih Badempally from Buklapur village, Vikarabad district threatened to commit mass suicide. Each was owed Rs 22 lakh to Rs 40 lakh in payments for the sale of the red gram crop which had been delayed by four months. Some had sick family members to tend to, while others had moneylenders on their back. “Help us or we will drink pesticide,” they cried on the phone. Payments were finally facilitated to them within a couple of days once the NGO members stepped in.

When Malappa Tandra from Vikarabad district called the helpline, he was angry and drunk. The farmer, who had inherited a debt of Rs 1 lakh from his father, was in dire straits after his sugarcane crop failed because of inadequate water. The family was also dealing with health issues — Malappa’s mother had had her kidney removed, while both his daughters suffered from disabilities. His efforts to get a loan for drip irrigation had just failed when he called the helpline from outside a local liquor shop. As the counsellor calmed him down and bought time, a field worker reached him and took him home. The NGO helped him get a loan and medical assistance with the help of local authorities. Kavitha Kuruganti from NGO Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) says Kisan Mitra has proved that a preventive approach is possible. “The helpline is not just a call centre answered by a disinterested voice. It has field workers reaching out to the distressed family to provide offline support also,’’ she says, advocating the need for an institutional response to the crisis by the government.

PLUGGED IN: Farmers, facing problems like crop failure, access to loans and medical assistance call the helpline

Calls to Kisan Mitra have doubled from 2,617 in 2017 to 5,516 in 2018 from just three Telangana districts

Year-wise statistics

1999-2013

No let-up in suicides by farmers

Deeptiman.Tiwary @timesgroup.com New Delhi:

[The Times of India] Aug 03 2014

Suicide farmer.jpg

A look at government data since 1995 to 2012 shows that no party has succeeded in putting a stop to this scourge.

In fact, in its previous stint in power the NDA fared worse than the Congres. It saw a 31% increase in farmer suicides compared to the previous regime. Under UPA's next five years the figure marginally increased by 2%.

Among states, Maharashtra has the worst record for farmer suicides. During 1995-1999, BJP-Shiv Sena regime saw 10,000 farmers end their lives. From 1,083 farm er suicides in 1995, the re gime witnessed 2,409 farmer taking their lives in 1998.

The following Congres regime was worse. Between 1999 and 2003, over 16,000 farmers committed suicide in the state. In the next nine years of Congrss-NCP rule in Maharashtra, 33,702 farmers ended their life.

In Madhya Pradesh, BJP's second showcase state after Gujarat, the situation has been no better. During the Congres regime of 19982003 under Digvijaya Singh, over 13,000 farmers committed suicide. Since then over 22,000 farmers have ended their lives in MP under the BJP regime.

In Andhra Pradesh, both TDP and Congres, which have ruled the state during the period, sail in the same boat. During TDP's regime of 1995-2003, over 16,000 farmers committed suicide. In the following 10-year regime of the Congres's YS Rajasekhara Reddy and others this figure increased to over 21,000.

In Karnataka, between 1995 and 1999 under Janata Dal government, over 10,000 farmers committed suicide. This increased to 12,000 in the next regime under Congres. Between 2004 and 2012, under two years of Congres and rest of BJP rule, over 18,000 farmers ended their lives.

2013

See graphic: Debt and farmers' suicides: 2013.

Debt and farmers' suicides: 2013; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, March 14, 2016

2013, 14: Change in definitions

The Times of India, Jul 20 2015

Who is a farmer? Definitions
Farmer suicides, year-wise: 2009-13; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, Jul 20 2015

Deeptiman Tiwary

Farmer suicides actually up if old methodology is used

The government could have patted itself on the back after National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data shows that farmer suicides had dropped by 50% in 2014 compared to 2013. However, a study of the data shows that farmer suicides -if counted on the basis of victims' profession as was the case earlier -have actually increased in 2014.

This could be particularly embarrassing for both the Centre and state governments as since 2009, farmer suicides have consistently decreased. From over 17,000 in 2009, the figure dropped to over 11,000 in 2013. In 2014, however, this figure -using the same methodology -would stand at over 12,000.

So how did NCRB reach a figure of 5,650 farmer suicides in 2014, registering a decline of over 50%? There is no fudging though. Earlier, the definition of a farmer included land owner, those tilling land on lease and agricultural labour. This year, the government chose to take farm labour out of the ambit of farmer suicide. This took 6,710 labourers who committed suicide last year out of the farmer suicide count.

To be fair, this is the first time that the government got specific data collected on farmer suicides. Earlier, suicides were recorded under various `profession' heads and this included farming. This exercise never collected any data on reasons for such suicide. In 2014, such data was sought from states and compiled to assess whether agrarian crisis led to farmer suicides -which has often been used as a direct reflection of farm distress.

According to the latest data, actual farmer suicides due to agrarian crisis (including crop failure and indebtedness) stood at merely 2,281.This would be less than 20% of the total suicides committed by farmers and labourers and less than 50% of total farmer suicides last year.

It must be noted here that states have often been accused of not collecting data properly.For example, unless a farmer mentions crop loss or debt in his suicide note as the reason for suicide, the administration does not record it as suicide related to farm distress. It was in this context that Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis recently announced that all farmer suicides would be considered as due to farm distress and compensation released. The new data, however, has many positives as it shows that those tilling land on lease are less likely to commit suicide compared to the actual land owner. Of 5,650 farmers who committed suicide in 2014, 4,949 were land owners. Only 701 were tilling land on lease.

2013-16: 12,000 suicides per year

Dhananjay Mahapatra, Over 12,000 farm suicides per year: Centre, May 3, 2017: The Times of India

State-wise suicides committed by farmers and agri labourers, 2015; Dhananjay Mahapatra, Over 12,000 farm suicides per year: Centre, May 3, 2017: The Times of India

Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana Among 7 States Accounting For 87.5% Of Deaths

The Centre informed the Supreme Court that despite a multi-pronged approach to improve income and social security of farmers, over 12,000 suicides were reported in the agricultural sector every year since 2013.

A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices D Y Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul heard the government's steps taken to ameliorate the condition of those associated with farming and the counter view by petitioner NGO `Citizen Resources and Action Initiative'. At the end, it said, “Today , we find it hard to intervene in the case. All the steps that need to be taken is squarely in the executive's domain, what should be the minimum support price for agricultural produce as well as crop insurance.“

However, it took exception to the Centre's stand that the Niti Aayog had been requested to put forth a strategy to address the issue of farmers' suicide. The bench said, “You (the Centre) are giving everything to Niti Aayog. How much can it handle?“ Additional solicitor general P S Narasimha said, “The government is addressing the low income of farmers. Agrarian distress is manifest from a large number of farmers living below the poverty line and unfortunate incidents of suicides can be addressed by enabling farmers to increase their income. With this understanding, the government is aiming to double farmers' income by the year 2022,“ The bench gave the Centre four weeks to file response to data placed by the NGO's counsel Colin Gonsalves, who argued that the much-hyped PM Fasal Bima Yojana had not reached even 20% of small and marginal farmers as the Centre had parked thousands of crores of rupees with private insur ance companies. He also requested the court to direct the Centre to subsidise agricultural work. The Centre gave statistics on suicides in the farming sector and compared it with the total number of suicides in India. “A total of 12,602 persons involved in farming sector -8,007 farmers-cultivators and 4,595 agricultural labourers -committed suicide during 2015, accounting for 9.4% of total suicide victims (133,623) in the country ,“ the Centre said.

Maharashtra topped the list with 4,291 suicides, followed by Karnataka with 1,569, Telangana 1,400, Madhya Pradesh 1,290, Chhattisgarh 954, Andhra Pradesh 916 and Tamil Nadu 606. Together, these seven states accounted for 87.5% of total suicides in the farming sector in the country -11,026 of 12,602.

In 2014, 12,360 persons in the farming sector -5,650 farmers-cultivators and 6,710 agricultural labourers -committed suicide, accounting for 9.4% of the total number of suicides (131,666) in the country , the Centre said. In 2013, the number was 11,772, accounting for 8.7% of the 134,799 suicides in the country.

Narasimha detailed the multi-pronged approach adopted by the Centre to reduce distress in the farming sector, especially those of marginal and small farmers and agricultural labourers.“During the last two and a half years, the government has been trying to address the main causes of farmers' suicide -indebtedness and crop failure -through dedicated programmes schemes,“ he said.

“PM Fasal Bima Yojana will provide insurance cover for all stages of the crop cycle including post-harvest risks in specified instances. The area of coverage will be increased from 23% presently to 50% in two years. Under PMFBY, as many as 3.9 crore farmers have been covered and 3.86 crore hectares area insured with a sum of Rs 141,883.30 crore during Kharif 2016; and 1.72 crore farmers have been covered and 1.96 crore hectares area insured with total sum of Rs 69,851.37 crore during Rabi 2016-17,“ the ASG said.

2014, Jan- Nov

Farmer suicides on rise: IB report

Some facts: Farmer suicides in India

The Times of India

Dec 23 2014

Bharti Jain There has been an upward trend in cases of farmer suicides in Maharashtra, Telangana, Karnataka and Punjab recently, besides reporting of instances in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, said an Intelligence Bureau note submitted to the Modi government. The December 19 report, marked to national security adviser Ajit Kumar Doval, principal secretary to the PM, Nripendra Mishra, and agriculture ministry among others, has put the blame on the erratic monsoon (at the onset stage) this year, outstanding loans, rising debt, low crop yield, poor procurement rate of crops and successive crop failure. It also linked the agriculturists' woes to a depleted water table, unsuitable macroeconomic policies with respect to taxes, non-farm loans and faulty prices of import and export.

According to the IB, “While natural factors like uneven rains, hailstorm, drought and floods adversely affect crop yield, manmade factors like pricing policies and inadequate marketing facilities result in post-yield losses“.

The report `Spate of Cases of Suicide by Farmers' emphasized how government relief packages are of limited use as they do not address the plight of those who borrow from private money-lenders.“The money lenders continue to offer loans at interest rates of 24-50%, while income-generating potential of the land has remained low and subject to weather conditions,“ the IB pointed out.

It observed that though loan waivers and relief packages may mitigate farmers' distress in the short run, “the problem requires a comprehensive solution that addresses crop yield, availability of farm inputs and loan, assured irrigation, cold storage and marketing facilities and fair pricing policies“.

2014

The Times of India, Jul 18, 2015

Over 5,500 farmers committed suicide in 2014

A total of 5,650 farmers committed suicide in 2014, with the maximum deaths being reported from Maharashtra, Telangana and Chhattisgarh, official data has revealed.

According to the "Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India 2014" report released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on Friday evening, of the 5,650 farmers' suicides, 5,178 were men and 472 were women.

"The highest incidents of 2,568 farmers' suicides were in Maharashtra (45.5 per cent), followed by 898 suicides in Telangana (15.9 per cent) and 826 in Madhya Pradesh (14.6 per cent)," the data revealed.

"Telangana reported the maximum cases of female farmer suicides at 31.1 per cent followed closely by Madhya Pradesh (29.2 per cent), and Maharashtra (14.1 per cent)," it added.

Bankruptcy or indebtedness and family problems were major causes behind the suicides, accounting for 20.6 per cent and 20.1 per cent of the deaths respectively.

Other causes included crop failure (16.8 per cent) and illness (13.2 per cent). The report revealed that 65.75 per cent of the farmers who committed suicide were in the age group of 30 to 60 years, while 59 were below 18 years of age. Even though 15 people took their lives every hour in 2014, the overall suicide figures witnessed a drop from 1,34,799 in 2013 to 1,31,666 in 2014, the NCRB said. Maharashtra reported the maximum suicides (16,307), followed closely by Tamil Nadu (16,122) and West Bengal (14,310).

In addition, Bhopal reported a significant increase in the number of suicides - from 384 in 2013 to 1064 in 2014, an increase of 177 per cent, while suicides declined by 78.7 per cent in Kanpur - from 648 in 2013 to 138 in 2014.

2014-15: suicides increase in Maharashtra

The Times of India

Mar 22 2015

Priyanka Kakodkar

40% increase in farmer suicides in Maharashtra

He pinned all hopes on his tiny field of jowar.Sandeep Shinde nurtured it after a drought had singed his cotton crop last year. But days before the new crop was due for harvest last week, rain pelted down hard. The jowar stalks collapsed into the mud and the grain turned black. A few hours later, the 27-year-old farmer hung himself with a nylon rope from a tree in his field in Patoda taluka. Shinde is not the only one to take his own life. Farmer suicides in Maharashtra have shot up by over 40% in the last seven months compared to the same span last year. A total of 975 suicides by farmers between January to July 2014 was reported. The figure rose to 1,373 between August 2014 and February 2015. Shinde had not managed a decent crop in the last three years in this arid belt, running up debts of 1.2 lakh. The drought and bouts of rain wrecked his chances of breaking even. “He was worried about his loans and talked of migrating,“ says family friend Rajabhau Deshmukh. Shinde's widow Shobha is anxious about her four-year-old son and oneyear-old daughter. “I cannot even afford milk for the children,“ she says.

In a state where farmer suicides have become endemic, the widespread drought followed by freak rains and hailstorms have pushed many more over the edge. In many cases, the calamities claimed two successive crops.

The region of Marathwada, which was among those worst hit by the drought, has seen the sharpest increase in suicides by farmers during the same period. The suicides here have risen by 85%. Every single village in the region was declared drought-affected.

Even large land-holders are committing suicide in Georai, which is part of Aurangabad's Beed district and is located close to the Jayakwadi dam. Gangadhar Shendge, who committed suicide two weeks ago, had an 18-acre farm. “Our entire kharif crop was ruined. We did not sow the rabi crop at all,“ says his son Mahadev Shendge. Across the state, sowing for the rabi winter crop was down by 40%.

2015, January-May: 7 farm suicides a day in Maharashtra

The Times of India, Jun 11 2015

Priyanka Kakodkar

Farmer suicides in Maharashtra are intensifying with as many as 1,088 cases reported in 2015 by the end of May. This is almost twice the figure reported just two months ago. Between January and March, the state government had reported 601 cases. The suicide rate had already begun climbing steeply with the onset of the drought in 2014 which destroyed large swathes of crops. Unseasonal rain and hailstorms made the crisis worse.

Significantly, less than half the farmer suicides reported have been declared “eligible suicides“ by the government. Only 545 of the 1,088 cases were deemed to fit this category , which qualifies for government compensation.

To be considered an “eligible suicide“, the land has to be in the victim's name and there should be physical evidence of indebtedness. The government claims only these suicides are linked to agrarian distress.

Critics say this is an attempt to keep the numbers down. Even the number of eligible suicides has more than doubled from 241 to 545 cases between March and May .

The data was sourced from the revenue department's divisional headquarters and has yet to be compiled by the state. Critics say these figures are an underestimation compared to data from the National Crime Records Bureau.

The cotton belt of Vidarbha -from where CM Devendra Fadnavis hails -reported the highest suicides in the state. It accounted for as many as 564 of the 1,088 cases. That's a 76% rise from the 319 cases in Vidarbha reported till March.Marathwada reported the second highest number with 367 cases, a rise of 70% from the 215 reported by March end.

State revenue minister Eknath Khadse said, “We are doing the best we can. This is an issue which has been going on for many years and cannot be fixed overnight.“

2014-15, a rise of 42%

Priyanka Kakodkar, Farmer suicides up 42% between 2014 & 2015, Jan 6, 2017: The Times of India

5,650 Cultivators Ended Their Lives In 2014; 8,007 In 2015. Maha In Top Spot With 3,030 Deaths


Farmer suicides in the country rose by 42% between 2014 and 2015, according to newly released data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). It recorded 5,650 suicides by farmers and cultivators in 2014. The figure rose to 8,007 in the latest data.

Several states across the country battled severe drought in both 2014 and 2015. Some, including Maharashtra, experienced two successive years of drought.

With 3,030 cases, Maharashtra recorded the highest number of farmer suicides in the country (37.8%). Telangana was second, with 1,358 cases, and Karnataka third with 1,197. Six states of Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka accounted for 94.1% of total farmer suicides.

In fact, farmer suicides shot up even though as many as nine states and seven Union territories recorded no case at all in the NCRB figures. The states which reported nil farmer suicides in 2015 include Bihar, West Bengal, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Nagaland and Uttarakhand.

“Highly erratic and inadequate monsoon in the last two-three years has aggravated problems for persons engaged in the farming sector.Manifestations of these in extreme situations can be seen in the form of farmers' suicides,“ the report said.

While the data showed a sharp rise in suicides by farmers, it also recorded a steep 31.5% decline in suicides by agricultural labourers in the country during the same period. This category was introduced by the NCRB in 2014, a move which was criticised as an attempt to reduce the number recorded as “farmer sui cides“. The suicides by agricultural labourers declined from 6,710 cases in 2014 to 4,595 in 2015.

Maharashtra recorded the highest number of suicides in the category of agricultural labourers as well, accounting for 1,261 cases. Madhya Pradesh followed next with 709 suicides and then Tamil Nadu with 604 cases. The overall number of suicides in the farming sector in the country recorded a marginal 2% increase. The number of suicides by those in the farming sector rose from 12,360 in 2014 to 12,602 in 2015, accor ding to the data. The figures have risen only marginally, given the major decline recorded in the number of suicides of agricultural labourers.

“Bankruptcy and indebtedness“ emerged as the single largest underlying cause behind farmer suicides in 2015 with 38.7% of the 8,007 farmer suicides linked to these factors. Farming-related issues formed the second major cause, accounting for 19.5% of the cases. The data also showed that as many as 72.6% of the farmers who committed suicide in 2015 were small and marginal farmers who owned less than two hectares of land.

“Farmer suicides tend to be higher in states like Maharashtra which cultivate cash crops. These require high investments and are also high risk,“ said farm activist Vijay Jawandhia. States like Bihar where farmers migrate during the lean season are also better able to cope with farm distress, he said.


2015, January-August: Marathwada suicides

The Times of India, Sep 06 2015

Priyanka Kakodkar

Marathwada farmer suicides cross '14 tally

2015 figure already at 628; 105 just in August

As many as 628 farmer suicides have been reported so far in 2015 in the Marathwada region which has experienced the most deficient rainfall in the entire country. The figure is already higher than the 574 cases recorded here by the revenue department in the entire year of 2014 and three times higher than the cases recorded just two years ago.

In fact, Marathwada reported a steep 105 farmer suicides in the single month of August with the meagre rains destroying large swathes of crops. Faced with growing agrarian unrest, CM Devendra Fadnavis was on a threeday tour of the region, where he came up against farmers' protests in Parbhani. Both Congress and NCP have demanded loan waivers for the region, with the latter threat ening a jail bharo andolan.On Saturday , NCP chief Sharad Pawar said law and order would become a serious issue in the state if the Fadnavis regime failed to change its policies to handle the drought situation. While Vidarbha reports the highest farmer suicides in the state, cases have been spiralling up in the arid zone of Marathwada. This is the fourth successive year of distress in the region. While it faced a drought in 2012 and 2014, in 2013 it bore the brunt of hailstorms which destroyed crops.

So far this monsoon, Ma rathwada has recorded a 53% rain deficit. Water sources are drying up with dam levels down to 8% of capacity . Five of its 11 large dams are at dead storage level. The kharif crop has faced extensive damage.

Four of its 8 districts -Beed, Latur, Osmanabad and Parbhani -are worst affected by the drought. The highest farmer suicide toll of 177 has been reported in Beed. Osmanabad has recorded 98 cases, Latur 61 and Parbhani 41.

The gravity of the situation also forced Fadnavis to prune a delegation for his five-day Japan tour slated to begin from September 8 from 69 to 8 after cabinet colleagues and high-ranking bureaucrats raised eyebrows over the trip in the midst of the drought crisis.

2015-’16


2015-17: Marathwada

Bhavika Jain, August 17, 2017: The Times of India


See graphic :

Farmer suicides in Marathwada region between January and August 2015-17

Farmer suicides in Marathwada region between January and August 2015-17; Bhavika Jain, August 17, 2017: The Times of India

In 8 mths, 580 farmers ended life in Maha

Marathwada Dry Spell To Blame

Thirty-four farmers from Marathwada have committed suicide between August 6 and 13 due to crop failure because of the prolonged dry spell. In the last 8 months, 580 cultivators have committed suicide from Marathwada. Farmers across the state have been under a lot of stress due to the prolonged dry spell. However, August has been a very difficult month for the cultivators especially in Marathwada. At the end of July , the toll stood at 531 and it has gone up to 580 in just 15 days.

Nearly 200 talukas of the 355 in the state received less than 75% of the total projected rainfall this monsoon, increasing farmer woes and holding out the threat of crop failure. Officials say that by early estimates standing crops on nearly 3 lakh hectares had been affected. The final number may go up as complaints from farmers were pouring in everyday .As of August 14, the talukas that recorded 25% to 50% of the average rainfall numbered 55 and the talukas that received 50% to 75 % of the average rainfall numbered 140. The talukas that received 75% to 100% of the season's average were 104 in number. More than 100% rainfall occurred in 61talukas.

Most of affected areas are in Marathwada and Vidarbha.Parts of Amravati and Nagpur are among the worst affected with only 21% to 25% of total rainfall. Officials from relief and revenue department said that damage to the crops due to lack of rainfall and faint hopes of revival of the monsoon is the prime reason for the deaths.

2015> ’16: Marathwada, 22% increase

The Times of India, May 28 2016

Priyanka Kakodkar


Marathwada farmer suicides at 454, 22% higher than in 2015


As many as 454 cases of farmer suicide have been reported in drought-struck Marathwada till May 2016.The figure is 22% higher than the 372 cases reported till the end of May 2015.

The region is in the grip of its fourth drought in five years, which has devastated agriculture and resulted in an acute shortage of drinking water.

The district of Beed, the home constituency of state rural development minister Pankaja Munde, continues to report the highest number of cases, with 81 farmer suicides. Nanded has reported 70 cases and Aurangabad has 67.The district of Latur has reported 61 cases of farmer suicides while Osmanabad has recorded 59 cases so far.

Water levels in the region's dams are down to just 1% compared to 8% at this time last year. As many as nine of the region's 11 dams are below dead storage level. Of these, two have run completely dry .

The region is in the grip of its fourth drought in five years, which has devastated agriculture and resulted in an acute shortage of drinking water.

The district of Beed, the home constituency of state rural development minister Pankaja Munde, continues to report the highest number of cases, with 81 farmer suicides. Nanded has reported 70 cases and Aurangabad has 67. Latur has reported 61cases of farmer suicides while Osmanabad has recorded 59 cases so far.

Water levels in the region's dams are down to just 1% compared to 8% at this time last year. As many as nine of the re gion's 11 dams are below dead storage level. Of these, two have run dry . We are expecting the water to last till the monsoon and are hoping there is good rainfall this year,“ says Marathwada's divisional commissioner Umakant Dangat.

He says that the government has made efforts to provide both water and jobs under the rural employment scheme in the drought belt. However, activists from the Right to Life Campaign say the state is neglecting the provision of social services, including health care, food security and employment.

“The Supreme Court has asked for the mid-day meal scheme to be operational even during holidays in droughtaffected districts but this has not been done even though funds have been released,“ said activist Ulka Mahajan.

2016, Jan-March

The Times of India, Apr 27 2016

Total number of farmer suicides in 2014-March 2016; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, Apr 27 2016

Vishwa Mohan

116 farmer suicides in first 3 months of 2016


Days after attributing the record number of farmer suicides in 2015 to poor disbursement of credit, which left them at the mercy of usurious money lenders, the Centre shared with Parliament grim statistics highlighting how the situation remains unchanged in 2016, with as many as 116 suicides during the first three months.

Maharashtra continues to be the dark spot, recording the highest number of farmer suicides . Punjab, which recorded only three farmer sucides in 2014, was second in the list in 2015 as also so far this year (see graphic). However, MP, which has consistently been recording farmer suicides in varying numbers till 2014, managed to escape this tragic cycle. The state did not report any suici de in 2015 and during the first three months of this year. Officials credit MP's better agricultural growth, backed by creation of irrigation infrastructure in water-stressed areas, for the turnaround. Water-starved Maharashtra faces the brunt for its failure to adapt to suitable cropping patterns, particularly Marathwada.

In response to a Parliament question, the government informed the Lok Sabha that of the 2,115 farmers who committed suicide in 2014, 1,163 were driven by debt, and the remaining by crop loss.

In Maharashtra, 857 of 1,207 farmers who committed suicide did so due to debt burden, which lays bare the ir dependence on local money-lenders due to a nonfunctional farm credit system in the state and also in other parts of the country .

The figures for farmers' suicide were shared on a day Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh alleged that dams were constructed in Maharashtra to serve interests of the sugar industry and not farmers. “I demand a discussion on Maharashtra drought so that facts can come to light,“ he said in Lok Sabha, blaming the previous Congress-led government in the state for the mess. His allegation triggered a war of words with the opposition blaming the Centre for not doing enough to provide relief to the drought-affected states.

2016: Farmer suicides decline by nearly 10%

Vishwa Mohan, 10% drop in farm suicides, 11,000 cases in 2016: Govt, March 22, 2018: The Times of India

Number of farmer suicides in Maharashtra, 2013-16;
Number of farmer suicides, state-wise, 2016
From: Vishwa Mohan, 10% drop in farm suicides, 11,000 cases in 2016: Govt, March 22, 2018: The Times of India

Activists: Dip Due To Tweak In Categories

Farmer suicides declined by nearly 10% in 2016 as compared to a year earlier, though the rate at which farmers took their lives continued to be at least one every hour. Maharashtra continues to be at the top in recording the highest number of farmer suicides in India.

Provisional figures for the year 2016, disclosed by agriculture ministry in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, show that the country recorded 11,370 farmers’ (farm labourers and cultivators) suicides as compared to 12,602 in 2015.

The decline may be attributed to better rainfall in 2016, which witnessed record production of kharif (summer sown) crops. In contrast, 2015 was the second consecutive drought year after 2014. A shortfall of 10% or more of rainfall for the entire monsoon season — June to September — is considered a drought year.

The figures, however, show that the benefit of record production could not probably lessen the distress of farm labourers as suicides among them increased from 4,595 in 2015 to 5,019 in 2016. The overall decline was seen due to drop in the number of suicides among cultivators — from 8,007 in 2015 to 6,351 in 2016.

These are provisional figures, shared by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) with the agriculture ministry. The bureau has, so far, not made the final figures public.

Farm activists took the figures for 2016 with a pinch of salt. “Decline in number of farmers’ suicides can mainly be attributed to data manipulation and change in category (from farm-related suicides to non-farm suicides). Getting the NCRB to abstain from releasing its report raised strong suspicion,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA).

Out of 3,661 farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra, 2,550 were cultivators while remaining 1,111 were farm labourers. Similarly in Karnataka, 1,212 cultivators and 867 farm labourers tok their lives in the state.

But more farm hands than cultivators killed themselves

Vishwa Mohan, More farm hands than cultivators killing selves, November 9, 2019: The Times of India


Even as farmer suicides in India declined by nearly 10% in 2016 compared to 2015, the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that the drop is mainly due to reduction in suicides by cultivators whereas the number of agricultural labourers who took their own lives increased that year.

The share of agricultural labourers in total farm suicides was higher than cultivators in 17 out of 29 states in 2016. This trend is seen even in the top 10 states where higher number of farmer suicides were reported. Five states in the list — Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Haryana — had reported more number of suicides by farm labourers than cultivators. Other such states include UP, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Kerala among others.

All 250 farmer suicides in Haryana were reportedly by agricultural labourers in the state — a sign of stress faced by them even though 2016 was a good crop year after two consecutive drought years.

This in effect could mean that benefits of higher farm production did not reach farm labourers who had to depend on wages decided by cultivators. The other five states in the list — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Punjab — however reported more suicides by cultivators than by labourers.

2016-17, Farmers in Maharashtra

Kiran D.Tare , The seeds of discontent “India Today” 15/5/2017

India Today , May 15,2017

2016>2017: Maharashtra, despite loan waiver

Priyanka Kakodkar, 1,497 farmer suicides in Maha since loan sop, December 26, 2017: The Times of India

Maharashtra has recorded 1,497 farmer suicides in the six months since the loan waiver was declared in June 2017, official data shows. This is just 4.2% lower than the 1,563 cases reported in the same period in 2016.

In fact, these cases account for 56% of the total 2,662 farmer suicides reported between January and November this year.

The roll-out of the waiver was delayed by glitches in the verification process. By now the state has cleared Rs 19,537 crore to be deposited into 41 lakh bank accounts. However, the clearances have come slowly and the process of depositing the funds into farmers’ accounts is still on.

The gap between the number of suicides last year and this year is only 6.8%. Last year, the state had reported 2,858 farmer suicides.

The Vidarbha region, from where CM Devendra Fadnavis hails, continues to report the highest number of cases— 1,240 suicides till November-end, which account for 46.5% of the total cases in the state. The figure, however, is slightly lower than the 1,349 cases reported last year.

This year, cotton farmers from Vidarbha and Marathwada have had to contend with a massive pest attack, which impacted half their crops. Also, 51farmers in the region died after the use of toxic pesticides in spraying operations.

The state government maintains that the loan waiver will not bring down the number of farmer suicides and the solution lies is increasing investment in agriculture. However, farmers groups say one of their key problems is the low agricultural prices, an issue which the government has not addressed.

Farm activists say the state has failed to deliver the loan waiver to beneficiaries, with a large number of farmers being excluded in the verification process.

“Not only have large numbers of farmers missed out on the loan waiver, they have had to face heavy losses after the attack of the pink bollworm pest especially in Vidarbha. The government has failed to address this crisis,” says Ajit Navale from the Kisan Sabha.

2017, Jan, Feb: 117 suicides in Marathwada

Prafulla Marpakwar, Over 100 farmer suicides in Marathwada in Jan-Feb 2017, March 9, 2017: The Times of India


Notwithstanding claims by CM Devendra Fadnavis that the agrarian crisis was being tackled on a war footing, 117 farmers ended their lives in the droughtprone Marathwada region of Maharashtra in the first two months of the year.

Despite heavy rain and a spurt in farm productivity , the scourge of suicides continues to spread. The highest number of suicides was in Beed (23), hometown of rural minister Pankaja Munde, followed by Nanded (22), Osmanabad (19), Aurangabad (18), Jalna (14), Parbhani and Hingoli (8 each) and Latur (5). Of the 117 cases, financial aid was provided to 46 families of the deceased. But 13 were denied relief and 58 proposals are still being processed.

Head of a state-level task force on farmer welfare, Kishore Tiwari, said while the government had taken various measures, the results were not visible. “We'll have to redraft our strategy to halt farmer suicides,“ Tiwari said. “We will have to provide remunerative prices for agriculture produce, along with market intervention. A plan needs to be worked out to pro vide education to farmers' children and financial assistance for healthcare.“

In 2016, production of tur, tomato, onion and most vegetables doubled and even tripled but farm gate prices dipped. Onion was sold for Rs 460 per quintal as against the production cost of Rs 950. Tur farmers were paid less than the minimum support price (MSP) in wholesale markets.The MSP for tur was Rs 5,050 and traders were purchasing it at Rs 4200-4400 per quintal.

However, a comparison with figures for the previous year show a marginal decline in toll. According to data, 3,052 farmers ended their lives in 2016, of which 1,053 cases were from Aurangabad, which falls in Marathwada re gion. The 117 cases recorded in 2017, if seen against the average bi-monthly rate for the previous year, indicates a slight downturn. Incidentally , the same trend is visible for 2015 and 2016. Against a total of 3,052 farmers who killed themselves in 2016, the toll was higher at 3,228 in 2015, which was a drought year.

Leader of opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said over the last two and half years, 9,000 farmers have killed themselves. “We demand that Fadnavis declare a total loan waiver to protect the lives of farmers.“ Patil led an opposition delegation on Monday which called on Governor Vidyasagar Rao to press for their demand.

2017, April- June 30: Karnataka

Chethan Kumar, DROUGHT-HIT - Month after loan waiver, 90 farmers end life in K'taka, August 19, 2017: The Times of India


Staring at the fourth drought year in as many years, indebted farmers in Karnataka continue to commit suicide, with over 90 cases added to the official database in July . TOI had reported earlier that the first three months of 2017-18 -April 1 to June 30 -had seen two deaths per day .This average worsened to three deaths per day in July with 297 cases being reported in four months.

In the last week of June, chief minister Siddaramaiah waived Rs 8,165 crore worth of crop loans that were to reduce the burden of at least 22 lakh farmers, who had borrowed from cooperative banks by Rs 50,000. Despite the waiver, indebted farmers have continued to end their lives. On August 15, Ramesh, 50, who owns half an acre of land in Ambarahalli in Maddur taluk in the Cauvery basin, consumed poison and died the next day in hospital.Prima facie, officials said the reason for his suicide was his debt of Rs 2 lakh.

Agriculture department officials and local authorities will now ascertain whether or not his death can be recorded as one caused by agrarian distress. While his case will be entered in the records by the month-end, it may take several more weeks before it is officially accepted, as is the case with all farmer suicides.

More than 50% of the cases in July have been reported in the Cauvery basin. Mandya, Mysuru, Hassan and Kodagu account for 48 of the 90 cases reported in July . The number of farmer suicides in Mandya was eight as of June 30, and the number jumped to 29 by July 31. Similarly , the number in Mysuru increased from 11 to 25, and in Hassan, from seven to 19. Bagalkot and Belagavi added six each, totalling 12 and 22 cases.

2017, July- Aug: Vidarbha

Shishir Arya, Dry spell: 120 farmers ended life in July-Aug, August 21, 2017: The Times of India


More than 120 farmers have ended their lives in July and August in six Vidarbha districts prone to agrarian distress. This coincides with the long dry spell, which only broke after the recent showers over the weekend.

The state government has identified Yavatmal, Amravati, Akola, Buldhana, Washim and Wardha districts prone to farmers suicide, since the trend came to fore in 2001. In July 2017, 86 farmers committed suicide, followed by 43 in August so far.

Out of 43, six have been officially attributed to farm crisis, two cases have been rejected, and inquiry continues for the rest. Parameters like debt burden, crop failure and other related reasons are considered to judge whether a suicide is due to agrarian crisis or personal reasons. On an average, half of the suicides are categorised as farm crisis driven. This year, 697 suicides have taken place so far. Out of these 257 have got farm distress tag and inquiry continues into 185 deaths.

Till Saturday , the rain deficit in Vidarbha was at 32%, with fears of a drought looming large. The weekend showers have reduced the deficit to 27%. A dry spell of another 3-4 days is predicted, though it may rain in Akola and Amravati districts.

Though the year 2016 was considered better in terms of agricultural output and the administration expected its effect on suicide rate in at least the first quarter of 2017, there was no reduction in suicides.

2018, Maharashtra, Jan- May

Priyanka Kakodkar, 1, 092 farmers commit suicides in Maharashtra in 5 months, July 7, 2018: The Times of India


HIGHLIGHTS

While there has been a marginal dip in the total cases, the arid and deprived Marathwada region has seen a rise in these five months

Vidarbha region, home to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, continues to report the highest number of farmer suicides.


Maharashtra has recorded 1,092 farmer suicides till the end of May this year according to official data. This is lower by only 72 cases compared to 2017 despite a loan waiver being declared in the state a year ago. While there has been a marginal dip in the total cases, the arid and deprived Marathwada region has seen a rise in these five months. It has recorded 396 cases this year compared to 380 cases by May last year.

So far this year though, the Vidarbha region, home to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis continues to report the highest number of farmer suicides. The region has recorded 504 till the end of May. Both the Vidarbha and Marathwada are cotton-growing region. Nearly 80% of the cotton growing area had been hit by the pink bollworm pest attack last year.

Farmer groups stress that the crucial issue of pricing of crops has yet to improve, without which farm incomes will not rise. Farmers groups in several states united under the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh were on strike June from June 1 to 10th with higher prices for produce as one of their main demands. Farmers linked to the Kisan Sabha have also been protesting on the same issue. They are also pressing for higher prices for milk, to improve the condition of dairy farmers.

Meanwhile, farmers are grappling with sourcing loans with the start of kharif sowing season in the state. So far 37.4 lakh farmers have received payouts under the loan waiver scheme from the 77.3 lakh accounts under scrutiny. While the payouts under the loan waiver have proceeded at a slow pace, this has also impacted the disbursal of crop loans.

Indeed, the disbursal of crop loans has been 40% lower for 2017-18 compared to the previous year. This is because banks cannot disburse new loans until old loans are cleared and many farmers are waiting for the waiver money to come in. Additionally, the delayed payments under the Prime Minister’s Crop Insurance scheme in the state, have added to the credit crunch.

Activists also say government procurement of pulses under the support price continues to be low. They are not impressed with the state’s recent announcement that it will pay Rs 1000 subsidy per quintal to tur and gram farmers whose produce it could not buy. "The tur dal price in the market is Rs 3,500 per quintal and the support price is Rs 5,450. Even with a subsidy of Rs 1,000, the price will still be lower than the support price," says farm activist Vijay Jawandhia.

2019

Jan-Apr: 808 Maha suicides

Priyanka Kakodkar, 808 Maha farmer suicides in first four months of 2019, June 11, 2019: The Times of India


Maharashtra has recorded 808 farmer suicides in the first four months of the year. This averages almost seven farmer suicides every single day. The figure is lower by 88, compared to the same four-month period last year, when there were 896 farmer suicides.

Vidarbha region, home to CM Fadnavis, has recorded most farmer suicides this year, with 344 cases till the end of April. Marathwada region, which is facing a severe water crisis, recorded 269 farmer suicides, north Maharashtra 161 and the sugar belt of western Maharashtra 34.

The year 2018-19 has been challenging for farmers, with 42% of talukas in Maharashtra facing a severe drought. The crisis has impacted 60% of the state’s farmers.

Maharashtra had declared a loan waiver in 2017, the scope of which had been extended after farmer marches. Earlier, the Centre also announced the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, an income support of Rs 6,000 for small and marginal farmers. Farmer leaders say that a delayed monsoon would worsen the long-term agrarian crisis. “The most critical issue now is the drought and the water crisis, which have destroyed crops and reduced milk yield. A delayed monsoon will make the fodder crisis worse for cattle,” said Ajit Navale from Kisan Sabha.

“This year, a good monsoon has been forecast and we are expecting a good year for farmers,” said state revenue minister Chandrakant Patil.

See also

Farmers, cultivators and their issues including Farm loans

Farm loans and their 'waivers': India

Farmer suicides: India

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