MUMBAI:Farmer suicidesin the country rose by 42% between 2014 and 2015, according to newly released data from theNational Crime Records Bureau(NCRB). It recorded 5,650 suicides by farmers and cultivators in 2014. The figure rose to 8,007 in the latest data.
Several states across the country battled severe drought in both 2014 and 2015. Some, includingMaharashtra, experienced two successive years of drought.
With 3,030 cases, Maharashtra recorded the highest number of farmer suicides in the country (37.8%). Telangana was second, with 1,358 cases, and Karnataka third with 1,197. Six states of Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh,Madhya Pradesh,Chhattisgarhand Karnataka accounted for 94.1% of total farmer suicides.
In fact, farmer suicides shot up even though as many as nine states and seven Union territories recorded no case at all in the NCRB figures.
The states which reported nil farmer suicides in 2015 include Bihar, West Bengal, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Nagaland andUttarakhand.
"Highly erratic and inadequate monsoon in the last two-three years has aggravated problems for persons engaged in the farming sector. Manifestations of these in extreme situations can be seen in the form of farmers' suicides," the report said.
While the data showed a sharp rise in suicides by farmers, it also recorded a steep 31.5% decline in suicides by agricultural labourers in the country during the same period.
This category was introduced by the NCRB in 2014, a move which was criticised as an attempt to reduce the number recorded as "farmer suicides". The suicides by agricultural labourers declined from 6,710 cases in 2014 to 4,595 in 2015.
Maharashtra recorded the highest number of suicides in the category of agricultural labourers as well, accounting for 1,261 cases. Madhya Pradesh followed next with 709 suicides and then Tamil Nadu with 604 cases. The overall number of suicides in the suicides by those in the farming sector rose from 12,360 in 2014 to 12,602 in 2015, according to the data. The figures have risen only marginally, given the major decline recorded in the number of suicides of agricultural labourers.
"Bankruptcy and indebtedness" emerged as the single largest underlying cause behind farmer suicides in 2015 with 38.7% of the 8,007 farmer suicides linked to these factors. Farming-related issues formed the second major cause, accounting for 19.5% of the cases. The data also showed that as many as 72.6% of the farmers who committed suicide in 2015 were small and marginal farmers who owned less than two hectares of land.
The number of"Farmer suicides tend to be higher in states like Maharashtra which cultivate cash crops. These require high investments and are also high risk," said farm activist Vijay Jawandhia. States like Bihar where farmers migrate during the lean season are also better able to cope with farm distress, he said.