Between 2014 & 2015, farm suicides rise by 2 percent
The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) election manifesto for 2014 Lok Sabha election says that if elected to the Centre, it will then "(p)ut in place welfare measures for farmers above 60 years in age, small and marginal farmers and farm labours", among other things. Despite the formation of a BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre in 2014, the latest available data on farm suicides from the NCRB indicates a deepening of agrarian crisis and rural distress during the last 2 years.
The data from NCRB on land holding status of farmers who committed suicide in 2015 reveals that 27.4 percent and 45.2 percent of victims were marginal farmers and small farmers respectively. They together accounted for 72.6 percent (5,813 out of 8,007) of total farmer suicides. Out of the total 8,007 farmers/ cultivators who committed suicides in 2015, only 160 were large farmers (i.e. roughly 2 percent) and 2,034 were medium farmers (i.e. 25.4 percent). Therefore, it can be said that among the various land-holding segments (classes) of farmers, it has been the small farmers who were the biggest suicide victims in 2015. Please see the interactive chart-1.
As defined by the Agricultural Census, marginal farmers hold land of size less than 1 hectare; small farmers own land of size 1 hectare & above but below 2 hectare; medium farmers own land of size 2 hectare & above but below 10 hectare; and large farmers own land of size 10 hectare and above.
Please click here to access the chapter 'Suicides in Farming Sector' from the NCRB report entitled Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India 2015 (ADSI 2015).
Around 9.0 percent of farmers/ cultivators who committed suicides were in the age-group of 60 years & above, according to the ADSI 2015 report. The majority of victims among farmers belonged to the age-group of 30 years & above but below 60 years that accounted for 71.6 percent of total farmers' suicides during 2015.
Nearly 9.8 percent of agricultural labourers who committed suicides were in the age-group of 60 years & above, according to the ADSI report. The majority of victims among agricultural labourers belonged to the age-group of 30 years & above but below 60 years that accounted for 60.1 percent of total agricultural labourers' suicides in 2015.
The ADSI 2015 report from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that the number of suicides committed by farmers/ cultivators has jumped up by 41.7 percent between 2014 and 2015, whereas the number of suicides committed by agricultural labourers has declined by 31.5 percent during the same time span.
As a whole, the number of suicides committed by persons associated with the farming sector has increased by around 2 percent between 2014 and 2015. Please check chart-2.
In terms of numbers, it can be said that the suicides committed by farmers/ cultivators has increased from 5,650 to 8,007 between 2014 and 2015, whereas the suicides committed by agricultural labourers has gone down from 6,710 to 4,595 during the same period. Altogether, the total number of suicides in the farming sector has grown from 12,360 to 12,602 between the last 2 years. Please consult chart-2.
Source: Various ADSI reports from 2009 to 2015
Note: The data on suicides in the farming sector between 2009 and 2013 (as shown in chart-2) has been collected under persons self-employed in farming/ agriculture
In the ADSI 2015 report, farmers/ cultivators are defined as those: (a) who cultivate their own land with or without assistance of agricultural labourers; (b) who cultivate on lease land/ work on lease/ on other's land (known by different nomenclature) with or without assistance of agricultural labourers. The number of suicides committed by category (a) farmers was 7,114 and by category (b) farmers was 893 during 2015.
The data on ‘self-employed persons’ excludes the figures of ‘farmers/ cultivators’ in the present ADSI report.
In the same report, 'agricultural labourer' is defined as a person who primarily works in farming sector (agriculture/ horticulture) and whose main source of income is from agriculture labour activities. The figures of 'daily wage earner' in the report excludes 'agricultural labourer'.
According to the ADSI 2015, 3,097 number of suicides (38.7 percent of total farmer suicides) were committed by farmers/ cultivators due to bankruptcy or indebtedness. Out of these 3,097 farmer suicides, 2,474 number of farmer suicides were caused by bankruptcy or indebtedness due to loan taken from financial institutions like bank/ registered micro financial institutions, 302 number of farmer suicides were caused by bankruptcy or indebtedness due to loan taken from moneylenders/ non-financial institutions, and 321 number of farmer suicides were caused by bankruptcy or indebtedness due to loan taken from both financial institutions as well as moneylenders/ non-financial institutions. Therefore, the data contradicts the usual perception that money lenders are more exploitative vis-à-vis banks or MFIs.
'Bankruptcy or indebtedness' and 'farming related issues' are reported as the major causes of suicides among farmers/ cultivators, accounting for 38.7 percent (3,097 out of 8,007 suicides) and 19.5 percent (1,562 out of 8,007 suicides) of total such suicides respectively during 2015. The other prominent causes of farmer/ cultivators suicides were 'family problems' (933 suicides), 'illness' (842 suicides) and 'drug abuse/ alcoholic addiction' (330 suicides), accounting for 11.7 percent, 10.5 percent and 4.1 percent of total farmers' suicides respectively.
Please click here to access the key findings of the ADSI 2015 report.
Election Manifesto of the BJP during 2014 parliamentary elections, please click here to access
Advance Estimates of Food Grains, Oilseeds & Other Commercial Crops, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, please click here to access
First Advance Estimates of Production of Foodgrains for 2016-17 (as on 22 September, 2016), Agricultural Statistics Division, please click here to access
Biggest reasons for farm labour suicide is illness, family problems -Deeptiman Tiwary, The Indian Express, 11 January, 2017, please click here to access
Small farmers most prone to suicide, show government data -Deeptiman Tiwary, The Indian Express, 10 January, 2017, please click here to access
In 80% farmer-suicides due to debt, loans from banks, not moneylenders -Deeptiman Tiwary, The Indian Express, 7 January, 2017, please click here to access
Farmer suicides doubled in state in 2015: NCRB, The New Indian Express, 6 January, 2017, please click here to access
To tackle rural distress, work out an income guarantee scheme for farmers -P Raghu, Hindustan Times, 6 January, 2017, please click here to access
Farmer suicides up 42% between 2014 & 2015 -Priyanka Kakodkar, The Times of India, 6 January, 2017, please click here to access
Suicides by Telangana farmers rise; 1,358 cases recorded in 2015, Deccan Chronicle, 4 January, 2017, please click here to access
Suicide by farmers rose 42% between 2014 and 2015 -Sayantan Bera, Livemint.com, 3 January, 2017, please click here to access
Farm suicides up 2% in 2015 -Sanjeeb Mukherjee, Business Standard, 3 January, 2017, please click here to access
Image Courtesy: Inclusive Media for Change/ Shambhu Ghatak