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Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh. Photo: HT
Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh. Photo: HT

Farm suicides in 2016 lowest in two decades

Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh in Rajya Sabha says India witnessed 11,458 farmer suicides in 2016, a normal monsoon year

New Delhi: Suicides by Indian farmers and agricultural labourers in 2016 were the lowest in over two decades, numbers provided by agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh on Wednesday showed. Replying to a Rajya Sabha debate on farm distress and suicide among agriculturalists, Singh said the farm sector witnessed 11,458 suicides in 2016, a normal monsoon year.

The number is significant for two reasons. One, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which publishes the data is yet to bring out its report for 2016. Second, and more importantly, the number for 2016 is the lowest since 1996, or the lowest in 21 years. Past data from NCRB’s annual Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) report shows that the highest number of 18,241 suicides were recorded in 2004, a drought year. In 1995, when the NCRB started recording farm suicides, the numbers were the lowest at 10,720.

As per NCRB’s 2015 report, 12,602 farmers and agricultural labourers committed suicide, marking a 1.1% fall in 2016. The latest numbers come in the backdrop of widespread farmer protests across several states, calling for loan waivers and remunerative crop prices.

Even one suicide by a farmer is painful, but these rates are falling, the minister said in Parliament. He added that in drought years like 2002 and 2009, farm suicides went up by 16.3% and 13.7% (year on year), respectively. In comparison, in 2014 and 2015 (also drought years) farm suicides went up by around 9% year on year, in both years.

Since 2014, for a better analysis, NCRB has divided suicides in the agriculture sector in two categories—farmers and agricultural labourers. Data from 2015 showed that bankruptcy, indebtedness and farming-related issues were the leading causes of suicide by farmers, accounting for over 58% of deaths. Going by landholding status, the data showed that nearly 73% of farmers who committed suicide were small and marginal cultivators owning less than 2 hectares of land.

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