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Updated: July 9, 2012 00:23 IST

Farm suicides rise in Maharashtra, State still leads the list

P. Sainath
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It accounted for well over a fifth of the total of 14,027 deaths in 2011

With a figure of at least 14,027 in 2011, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the total number of farm suicides since 1995 has touched 2,70, 940. The State of Maharashtra shows a rise in numbers yet again, logging 3,337 against 3,141 farmers’ suicides the previous year (and 2,872 in 2009). This, despite heavy massaging of data at the State level for years now, even re-defining of the term “farmer” itself. And despite an orchestrated (and expensive) campaign in the media and other forums by governments and major seed corporations to show that their efforts had made things a lot better. Maharashtra remains the worst single State for farm suicides for over a decade now.

The total number of farmers who have taken their own lives in Maharashtra since 1995 is closing in on 54,000. Of these 33,752 have occurred in nine years since 2003, at an annual average of 3,750. The figure for 1995-2002 was 20,066 at an average of 2,508. Significantly, the rise is occurring even as the farm population is shrinking a fact broadly true across the country. And more so in Maharashtra which has been urbanising more rapidly than most. The rising-suicides-shrinking-population equation suggests a major intensification of the pressures on the community. A better understanding of that, though, awaits the new farm population figures of the 2011 Census — not expected for many months from now. At present both national and State-wise farm suicide ratios (the number of farmers committing suicide per 100,000 farmers) are based on very outdated 2001 Census numbers.

Big five States

The 2011 total gets dicey with Chhattisgarh’s posting a figure of zero farm suicides. A zero figure should be great news. Except that Chhattisgarh had 7,777 farm suicides in the preceding five years, including 1,126 in 2010. It has been amongst the very worst States for such deaths for several years. The share of the worst (Big 5) states (Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh) as a percentage of total farm suicides, is now around 64 per cent. Even with Chhattisgarh showing a ‘zero’ figure, that is not much lower than the preceding five-year average for the Big 5 of close to 66 per cent. It could be that Chhattisgarh’s figures have simply not made it to the NCRB in time. Otherwise, it means that the State is in fact a late entrant to the numbers massage parlour. Others have been doing it for years. Maharashtra since 2007, following the Prime Minister’s visit to Vidarbha. Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar has strictly avoided using NCRB farm data in Parliament since 2008 because the data are unpleasant. (The union government however quotes the NCRB for all other categories). Now, governments are deep into fiddling the data that goes from the States to the NCRB.

With the Big 5 also staring drought in the face, what numbers the coming season will throw up is most worrying. Within Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Marathwada have already been under great stress (which in turn pushes officials to step up data fiddles). If the numbers are re-calculated using the annual average of Chhattisgarh in the past five years, the national total of farm suicides for 2011 would be 15,582. And the share of the Big 5 (at 10,524) would be nearly 68 per cent. That’s higher than the five-year average for those States, too. In 1995, the first time the NCRB tabulated farm suicide data, the Big 5 accounted for 56.04 per cent of all farm suicides.

In 2011, five States showed increases of over 50 farm suicides compared to 2010. These included Gujarat (55), Haryana (87), Madhya Pradesh (89), Tamil Nadu (82). Maharashtra alone showed a rise of 196. Nine States showed declines exceeding 50 farm suicides, of which Karnataka (485) and Andhra Pradesh (319) and West Bengal (186) claimed the biggest falls. That, of course, after Chhattisgarh, which claimed a decline of 1,126, with its zero farm suicides figure in 2011.

Hope Mr.Sainath's untiring and relentless efforts of highlighting farmer's plight will one day yield results ans serve as eye opener to our administration. Ironically most of our leaders are once farmers themselves.

from:  Dr.T.Venugopal Reddy
Posted on: Jul 5, 2012 at 20:03 IST

I forgot to add the most important view. This government ,if I am right does not have a single minister from farming or agricultural roots and everybody is urban and English educated poor who never have stayed (not visit during election time) in village for some years, before they reached this position.

from:  M V J Rao
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 20:24 IST

The main reason for increasing number of farmer's suicide is drought.So, the government should take proactive measures by implementing drip irrigation and ways of conserving water...An average 50 POOR INDIANS who is feeding the whole country is losing their what is stopping our politicians to link the RIVER's of India....what better example they need more than this....

from:  Jagadeesh Velusamy
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 17:12 IST

Almost 2 suicides per hour:
Most are low caste/tribals/adivasi.It is a shame on indian democracy, secularism. Its root is definitely in hindu cast sytem and philosphy of transmigration/metempsychosis; poor farmers suffer and die for next 'better birth/nirvana'.
One can recall the famous movie ' Mother india' where hero raj kumar commits suicide and village richman/upper cast guy tends to exploit the 'widow' Nargis.
I remember, most pple had cried on this movie and including the upper caste pple. Such movies meant to reform have really failed to make a dent on hinduism. For good/bad the new " humanistic" religion of islam too has degenrated into cast cast system. It will be of interest to know the religion/cast breakdown for these unfortunate " indian farmers".
I guess, many of these hapeless villagers/farmers/tribals are ready recruits for Maoist/Naxal movements.

from:  Dr abdul jamil khan
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 02:55 IST

Even post-statistical "heavy massaging" and heavier frothing at mouth
by the media-corporate duo,the 2011 NCRB tabulation still claims the
appalling charm.With Maharashtra leading the roll of honour(actually
an extended annexure to the "symbiotic existence" of Dharavi-Sensex)
neatly sums up the the priorities and Most Favoured Concerns of the
State.As Sainath rightly points out, the lethally profane chemistry
is the ratio:the shrinking farm population plus the accelerating farm
suicides.Since the 2011 Census data furnishing details of the present
farm population,which will be that of a mass exodus and quantum jump,
is still in the "pipeline"(its altogether a different question whether
there would be some light at the end of the tunnel!),the impact
assessment based on an obselete 2001 data would be invariably in
depreciation.As far as the zero figure of Chattisgarh is
concerned,there will be no room for exasperation if the governmental
felicific calculus abolishes NCRB altogether!

from:  Elisabeth George
Posted on: Jul 4, 2012 at 01:21 IST

In the words of Gandhi: "When you wish to know if anything you want to
do is good or not, imagine the face of the poorest man in the land and
ask yourself whether your proposed act will be of any gain to him." In
the last few years, our politicians have done almost everything to turn
this famous dictum on its head. The tragic part is that the farmer
suicides do not seem to touch the hearts (if they have any) of our
politicians. Thank you Sainath for highlighting the cause of the
downtrodden and voiceless.

from:  Digvijay Singh
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 23:11 IST

something somewhere is wrong, A country admitting it self in space club is unable to protect its poor farmers{persons with least demands} are we heading in right direction, if production is good he has to pay its prize and if it falls below required he has to suffer, Six decades still waiting for some miracle to happen to ensure that poor farmer also enjoys farming ,neither credit is available to them nor technological assitence ,imagine in haryana up by 87 a small state among top on table in per capita, distributing lakh and crores to what ever happens there usual or unusual, is unable to see this and doing nothing check this , hats off to P.SAINATH somebody is there who is doing his bit continue this sir these proven voiceless people need support.

from:  amit
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 22:47 IST

Off all the media cameras and shutterbugs in the country can't they focus on this subject for a while, can't all our slick media rooms accomodate an hour per week to talk about this subject, can't the publicity accorded to IPL/cricket, movies/stars, politics of right/left/centre be given to this subject. It suggests that the so called modernity is pure hypocrisy. After all i'm not sure of any profession other than agriculture that has lost over a quarter of its practitioners in decade and half, at an alarming and regular rate as this. All the while the imprint of the larger corporate driven agriculture initiatives are pervading. It'll be interesting to find out the balance sheets of the corporations that sell seeds, fertilizers, pesticides. I bet there wont any losses let alone suicide due to it.

from:  Kris
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 20:55 IST

Bio-digest a billion plus population's poop to produce methane and
safe manure to fertilise food and cash crops.
Set up underground or covered receptacles to capture and store water
for domestic, agricultural and industrial usage year round.
Generate electricity through harnessing solar, hydro, geo-thermal and
off-shore wind and wave power.
Set up cradle to grave shelter, health, education (aimed toward
social, personal academic and intellectual and skill development),
rural and urban support for community cohesion.
Enable cooperative/supportive co-existence based on the ideal that all
are created equal and entitled dignity.
If the above are applied, India and its peoples can look forward to a
future where its flora and fauna thrive, the air is clean and fresh
scented and happiness abound.
If not, join the rest on the brake-less downhill race towards
Emulating the USA, Hollywood inspired current template, we will need
the resources of 5 x planet earth it is reckoned.
Act now!

from:  rajagopal raman
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 20:42 IST

Farming today is an entrepreneurial activity. Not everyone is cut out to be an
entrepreneur/business person. Bad decisions combined with unforseen misfortunes lead to these self inflicted fatalities. The government can't be expected to solve all of these problems. What government can do is change the restrictive land acquisition laws, play an advisory role, promote policies that will create jobs. Until then these unfortunate events will continue. It is time the gear is shifted to pushing for solutions.

from:  Rajinikanth
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 18:04 IST

Heart bleeds to see govt inaction over farmer suicides. Its sickening to watch these politicians more interested in buying cars out of public fund than spend time on resolve issues. Weren't they elected to do sort out issues facing the nation?

from:  Bikram
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 17:07 IST

Clearly there is an urgent need to identify the areas of farm suicide
and initiate an institutional mechanism for easy flow of credit to check
this menace in the short term and further plan for the future to
allocate a separate fund for the development of this region in a
transparent manner. NGOs and media should display accelerated momentum
to highlight the problems in these areas.

from:  mukesh
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 16:23 IST

Farmers suicides are a sign of a deeper social malaise. Farming is becoming less and less remunerative every year. Farmers indebtedness is increasing. Irrigation facilities are minimal due to which our agriculture remains dependent on the monsoons.Land holdings are becoming smaller and smaller. In Maharashtra it is only W. Maharashtra which is a sugar belt is prosperous, rest of the state is drought prone.
It is very strange that despite having the potential to be the granary of the world, India is lagging behind most of the countries. Even Africa is better off as compared to India. India is still importing edible oils,onions and many other agricultural products.
The present Government's policy seems to be to promote the manufacturing and services sector at the expense of agriculture. Our PM eloquently talks about sustainable development at the Rio-20 summit but his government is following exactly the reverse policies.
Dr. Mohammed Yunus with his Grameen Bank was successful in Bangla

from:  Umesh Bhagwat
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 15:33 IST

Interestingly our Agri minister is from Maharashtra and state leads the numbers in farm suicides.

from:  Neelesh
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 13:37 IST

This is so shocking: 1995 to 2011 - 2,70,940.
=> 350 suicides every week or 50 suicides every day of farmers somewhere in India.
Any sane government would see this epidemic and would give immediate and greatest attention.

from:  Venkat
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 13:15 IST

Mr. Sainath is providing statistics of farm suicides ritualistically every year with no effect . It is suggested that he may approach Human Rights Commission with all the wealth of info he has gathered and appeal for immediate remedial measures. He would be doing yeoman service that way instead of reeling statistics of suicides annually and forget about till the next year.

from:  KRSReddy
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 12:35 IST

I am afraid the statistics on the subject help no one. What remedies can
reverse the trend? No one seems to have a solution least of all the
States.Why should anyone commit suicide?

from:  Kerala Varma
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 12:23 IST

It's a big shame on the government.Everyone should get to know the value of lives that are being lost.
Poor farmer ,earning just for their bread and butter ,are committing suicide as they can't afford for the same.
Government should come up with new schemes where the loan taken by farmer's for their cultivation should be wiped if their
destiny didn't give them the desired result.Panchayat development offices and Gram sabha's should be vested with this power to have a audit on the
farm land and help the poor farmer in their drought condition, just because these are the real agencies which come in true contact with the farmer's grievances.
This process should be made rigorous as the farm land is getting declined with due death of their caretaker's.Even the NGO's should play a pivotal role in combating
this abruptly.

from:  Prasanna Kanakeri
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 12:00 IST

The fact revealed in the article ("FARM SUICIDES RISE IN MAHARASHTRA, STATE STILL LEADS THE LIST,"JULY 3) is heart threatening one.

It is unlikely that India being known as an agricultural country throughout the world faces such a woe when it comes to farmer's life. There are so many factors which bedevil the lives of farmers, as a result they are forced to select "DEATH (here literally we can say it as SUICIDE)" as a prize for feeding the country.

Government on the other hand must understand that a farmer needs adulation, faith and economical support at a broader stage which can significantly decrease farmer's suicide cases in the country.

Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 11:22 IST

It is very disappointing to see that the state hasn't improved at all despite the so called efforts made by govt. in the region.
Thank you PS for another eye-opening piece...

from:  LO
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 10:24 IST

Union agriculture minister is busy with cricket and many other money making things, they are most important than farmers.

from:  Packyaraj
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 10:22 IST

It is clear from the data, the farmers suicides are mainly confined to states in which high GM cotton is grown. The growth in area is abnormal. The input costs are going up and up every year along with adulterated seed market. The only solution to bring down the farmers suicides is by not permitting the farmers to grow cotton after cotton every year -- that is like in tobacco, crop rotation made a must; stop providing subsidized inputs to those farmers growing cotton after cotton in the same field; don't provide free power to such farmers. This way farmers will come out from adulterated seed menace and cotton farmer get remunerative price to his produce. Also, government must encourage cotton export through farmers cooperatives or by government itself instead entertaining middlemen like this year. You can see the seed situation in the current season.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

from:  Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 10:18 IST

As long as govt. see farmers through NELSON'S eye you should not expect
change in babus and corporations around them.

from:  yasala naresh
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 09:10 IST

The truth is that a mix of agriculture,horticulture,dairying and
poultry is required for the farmers to survive.In a populous country
a suitable minister with adequate qualifications or supported by
the required educational backup on wind,weather,soil science should
be working to help the people.Unfortunate that in most places such
a thing is lacking.It is great fodder for the movie industry!

from:  Prof.Paul.V.John
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 08:55 IST

The state’s administrators are busy with enriching themselves with all
means available to them, the notable being the mammoth scandal of
Adarsh cooperative housing society where in chief ministers -past and
present and top ranking civil servants are involved. Infrastructutre
projects are not pursued with determination. Even the city is being
gobbled up by developers and builders and it may sink in the next few
decades literally and physically. In this situation, apart from a high
level technical study consisting of agricultural and irrigation
experts and civil servants and economists for a deeper study of the
problem is needed. It should simultaneously be followed by the
immediate bifurcation of the state into Maharashtra and Vidarbha.
Unless this is done, the state will deteriorate further. In fact, if
the central government has guts, it should introduce a presidential
rule in the state. Things are so bad indeed. Farmers’ suicide is only a
part of the list of malaise.

from:  s.subramanyan
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 08:50 IST

The government thinks that the best course to do away with farmer suicides is obviously to do away with the farmer! Like the Congress "garibi hatao" slogan which would turn into "garibon ko hatao", even with the farm sector the govt. focus is to move as many people out of farming. But given that over 60-70 per cent population still dependent on farming, it is going to be a humungous task getting them into alternate industrial activities. Is this feasible? On the other hand most farmers today would not want their children to become farmers. As a result the younger lot, is moving away into cities and towns looking for jobs. Ironically, farm labour is becoming rare commodity nowadays. The alternative model of industrial scale farming is also difficult in this country with cumbersome land laws and corruption at all levels right to the panchayat level.

from:  Rajnish
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 08:35 IST

The data itself ,that should otherwise be a mirror of reality,seems
suspicious,as suggest the Chhattisgarh figures.How should we expect that
the things will improve if we are not honest enough to look into our
ownselves honestly..?

from:  d d gururani
Posted on: Jul 3, 2012 at 08:14 IST
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