Farmer suicides: NGO points to Punjab reporting fewer numbers

SANGRUR: The number of farmer suicides in Punjab seems to vary according to the source providing information about that. An NGO,Movement Against State Repression (MASR), has stated that Punjab is a glaring example of neglecting the factor of farmer suicides when it comes to determining the amount of funds that should be spent on assisting agriculturists.

MASR’s convener Inderjit Singh Jaijee said, “As per information we collected, a Punjab policereport says that only seven farmers committed suicide from the period of 2002 to 2006.”

In 2008, state revenue department had mentioned in a report compiled on the basis of details provided by deputy commissioners that 132 farmers committed suicide during five years starting with 2002. Jaijee said Punjab Agricultural University’s economics department team came up with a figure of 2,890 suicides from 2000 to 2008 in just two districts. It stated that in Sangrur and Bathinda, 1,643 and 1,247 farmers had committed suicide, respectively.

MASR claimed about 1,700 farmers committed suicide from 1988 to 2008 in just two subdivisions of Sangrur district. “Going by that, the suicide figure across Punjab could be an estimated 20,000 in all these years,” said Jaijee. A Punjab Farmers’ Commission study had said that about 2,000 committed suicide in the state every year.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) has claimed more than 40,000 farmers committed suicide in these years. Jaijee added, “Punjab has outclassed even Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh as data collected by MASR bares the truth on these suicides. In Maharashtra, 34,659 farmers committed suicide from 2000 to 2008 out of rural population of 5.58 crore. That comes to 62 farmer suicides per lakh population. Likewise, 18,396 farmers committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh which has a rural population of 5.54 crore. The figure of suicides per lakh there comes up to 33. As compared to highly farmer suicide-prone states, Punjab recorded 24,732 in eight years (as per NGO and farmer union figures, which have not been authenticated by state) in a rural population of mere 1.61 crore. That works out to 154 farmer suicides per lakh.”

Farmer organization BKU’s (Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri said, “Till now, Union government has meted out gross injustice to Punjab. That was proven when Punjab got just Rs 1,000 crore as assistance, when nationally, the figure was Rs 71,000 crore. That means a bit more than 1% of total assistance came the way of the state. Even if a parliamentary panel is formed, it will ignore Punjab.”

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