The government informed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that between 2018 and 2020, more than 17,000 farmers committed suicide in different parts of the country. Union Minister of State for Home, Ajay Kumar Mishra, in a written reply to a question, said that the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) compiles data on accidental death and suicide cases in states and union territories and annually reports them as ‘Accidents in India’. Deaths and Suicides’ (ADSI) report.
He said that according to the ADSI report, 5,763 farmers committed suicide in 2018, 5,957 farmers in 2019 and 5,579 farmers committed suicide in 2020.
Out of 5,579 farmer/cultivator suicides, a total of 5,335 were male and 244 were female.
Of the 5,098 suicides committed by agricultural labourers during 2020, 4,621 were male and 477 were female. The majority of victims engaged in the farming sector were reported in Maharashtra (37.5%), Karnataka (18.9%), Andhra Pradesh (8.3%), Madhya Pradesh (6.9%) and Chhattisgarh (5.0%).
Certain states and union territories namely West Bengal, Bihar, Nagaland, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Chandigarh, Delhi, Ladakh, Lakshadweep and Puducherry reported zero suicides of farmers/cultivators as well as Agricultural Labourers.
These demises account for 7.0% of total suicides victims (1,53,052) in the country.
The report defines farmers/cultivators as people farming either on their own land or on leased land, with or without the assistance of agricultural labourers. Surprisingly, landed farmers accounted for 86 per cent of the suicides, while the remaining 14 per cent were landless farmers.
The numbers highlight another worrying trend. In 17 states, more farm labourers have committed suicides than farmers, while the reverse is true for seven states. Yet, only 58 per cent of the total suicides committed by people employed in the sector are farmers.
Various reasons have been offered to explain why farmers commit suicide in India, including floods, drought, debt, use of genetically modified seeds, public health, use of lower quantity pesticides due to fewer investments producing a decreased yield. There is no consensus on what the main causes might be but studies show suicide victims are motivated by more than one cause, on average three or more causes for committing suicide, the primary reason being the inability to repay loans. Panagariya, an economist at the World Bank states, “farm-related reasons get cited only approximately 25 percent of the time as reasons for suicide” and “studies do consistently show greater debt burden and greater reliance on informal sources of credit” among farmers who commit suicide.