Home >Industry >Agriculture >Govt admits 301 farmer deaths due to distress; NGOs report far more
The number of farmer suicides admitted by the agricultural ministry is far short of estimates by non-governmental organizations. Photo: PTI
The number of farmer suicides admitted by the agricultural ministry is far short of estimates by non-governmental organizations. Photo: PTI

Govt admits 301 farmer deaths due to distress; NGOs report far more

The highest number of farmer suicides are from Maharashtra, followed by Telangana and Karnataka, says the ministry of agriculture

New Delhi: At least 301 farmers have committed suicide because of farm distress this year, the ministry of agriculture said on Tuesday. The highest number of farmer suicides are from Maharashtra, followed by Telangana and Karnataka, the ministry said in a written reply to a Lok Sabha question.

Maharashtra reported 204 suicides (up to April), Telangana (up to October) and Karnataka (till date) reported 69 and 19 farmer suicides, respectively. Gujarat (up to October), Kerala (up to October) and Andhra Pradesh (up to June) reported three farmer suicides each.

Since agriculture, including agricultural indebtedness, is a state subject, it is the state’s responsibility to pay compensation to bereaved families and develop the sector, the agriculture ministry said, adding that the central government can only supplement the efforts of states through policy measures and budgetary support.

The number of farmer suicides admitted by the agricultural ministry is far short of estimates by non-governmental organizations.

For instance, in the newly formed state of Telangana alone, more than 375 farmers committed suicide between 2 June and 4 November, according to the Rythu Swarajya Vedika, an umbrella organization of farmers groups and non-profit organizations working in the state.

“The overall numbers from states are grossly underreported. In Telangana, the suicides were driven by prolonged dry spells, crop failures, high levels of indebtedness and as farmers were growing cotton in a rain-fed region," said G.V. Ramanjaneyulu, director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, a Hyderabad-based non-profit organization and part of the Rythu Swarajya Vedika coalition.

“The state government of Telangana is yet to announce any relief for families where suicides took place. Their distress is further intensified as cotton prices have crashed and are ruling below the minimum support prices declared by the central government," said Ramanjaneyulu.

In India, farmer suicides are most commonly associated with the rain-fed cotton-growing areas of Maharashtra (Vidarbha region), Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2013, of the 11,744 farmer suicides in India, 44% were in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Although the farm ministry’s response to the Lok Sabha query made no mention of Uttar Pradesh, several farmer suicides have been reported this year from the Bundelkhand region, straddling Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh .

“In seven districts of Bundelkhand, at least 200 farmers have committed suicide this year—mostly from Hamirpur, Mohaba, Chitrakoot and Banda, which were worst affected in Uttar Pradesh," said Sanjay Singh, national convenor of the Jal Jan Jodo Abhiyan, a Jhansi-based non-profit organization.

“The spate of suicides started early when in March the rabi (or winter) crops were destroyed in hail storms. This was followed by a severe drought during kharif (or summer) season. In the ongoing rabi season, there is no sowing of crops in about 40% land," adds Singh.

For the entire country, the June-to-September monsoon season ended with a 12% rainfall deficit. Several regions in Telangana, Maharashtra, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh recorded deficits of over 20%. Out of these, only Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have declared a drought.

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