Farm suicides rose sharply by almost 450 in Maharashtra in 2012 to touch 3,786, the latest National Crime Records Bureau data show. (The State saw 3,337 suicides in 2011). That is the worst annual increase in seven years. It also brings Maharashtra’s total tally since the NCRB began recording farm data in 1995 to a staggering 57,604 farmers’ suicides.

Andhra Pradesh also saw an upward surge. It logged 2,572 farm suicides in 2012. That is 366 higher than the previous year’s figure of 2,206. Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh reported declines of 225 and 154 respectively.

The last of the ‘Big 5’ States that account for over two-thirds of all farm suicides, Chhattisgarh, continued to declare a near zero figure. In 2012, it claimed it had just four. Chhattisgarh’s three-year average prior to its zero-declaration approach was 1,567. Indeed, the State’s own data, prior to that tactic, show it suffered 18,375 farm suicides between 2001-10.

Other States seem inspired by Chhattisgarh’s methods. West Bengal sent in no data at all on farm suicides (or some other categories, too) in 2012. But its three-year average for 2009-2011 was 951.

Chhattisgarh’s figure of ‘4’ and Bengal’s non-filing of data stand out in the all-India total of 13,754 farm suicides in 2012. If three-year averages for both States are included, then the national total would be 16,272. That would be the highest farm suicides figure in three years.

Even accepting the truncated numbers, the Big 5 accounted for over 68.4 per cent of all farm suicides in the country in 2012. That is the highest ever since the recording of such data began.

Among other major States, Kerala saw 1,081 such farm deaths, a steep increase of 251 over its 2011 number of 830. Uttar Pradesh saw 745 farm suicides — up by 100 over its 2011 figure. Tamil Nadu reported a decline of 124 to log 499. That’s down from 623 the previous year.

The NCRB figures across 18 years for which data exist show that at least 2,84,694 Indian farmers have taken their lives since 1995. (That is, accepting the non-figures of Chhattisgarh and West Bengal). Divide that 18 years into two halves and the trend is dismal. India saw 1,38,321 farm suicides between 1995 and 2003 at an annual average of 15,369.

For 2004-12, the number is 1,46,373, at a much higher annual average of 16,264. The figures in the second half occurred against a steep decline in the numbers of farmers in India and are hence even worse than they appear. (See The Hindu: Farmers’ suicide rates soar above the rest)

In short, there is no serious decline or reversal of the major trends in farm suicides in the country. ‘Zero’ declarations, though, are likely to grow by the year as more States feel the need to massage their dismal data or simply not file it.

(The copy has been corrected to show Tamil Nadu's declining figures as 124, not 123 and to correct the typo for Kerala's 2011 figure which should correctly read as 830 and not 1,830).

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