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122 farmer suicides in a single district in WB in 2021, reveals RTI query

In contrast, State Government has been maintaining that there were no deaths by suicide in agricultural sector; NCRB data also concur

September 11, 2022 08:34 pm | Updated 08:57 pm IST - Kolkata

Farm workers transplanting rice paddy amid the state’s ongoing monsoon on August 02, 2022 in Hooghly district.

Farm workers transplanting rice paddy amid the state’s ongoing monsoon on August 02, 2022 in Hooghly district. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

A Right to Information (RTI) query has revealed that there were 122 farmer and farm-related suicides in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district in 2021. The West Bengal government has for the past several years maintained in public forums and the State Assembly that there has not been a single farmer and farm-related suicide in the State.

In response to a query by RTI activist Biswanath Goswami on August 27, the State Public Information Officer & Deputy Superintendent of Police (D&T), Paschim Medinipur, provided the details of farmer and farm-related suicides collected from 23 police stations across the district.

Only a few days ago, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) came out with two reports: ‘Crime In India’, 2021 and Accidental Deaths and Suicides (ADSI) in India, 2021. According to the NCRB findings, West Bengal recorded 13,500 suicides in the year 2021, which is the fourth highest in the country. However, the number of deaths due to suicides by farmers or people engaged in agricultural activities has been declared zero..

The ADSI report, highlighted that certain States, including West Bengal, have “reported zero suicides of farmers/cultivators as well as agricultural Labourers”. The rate of suicides in West Bengal is 13.7, which is high among bigger States in the country.

“I am surprised to find out that 122 farm-related suicides have occurred in Paschim Medinipur alone in 2021. However, the NCRB for the year 2021, like previous years, has reported no farmer or farm-related deaths in West Bengal, “Mr. Goswami said. The activist describes the situation as a classic case of “crime data suppression and manipulation”. He explained that data is collected at police station level, then sent to District Crime Records Bureau, before making it to the State Crime Records Bureau, which, in turn, sends the records to NCRB.

An analysis of the number of suicides in the Paschim Medinipur district, point out that highest farmer/farm-related suicides occurred under Ghatal police station in the year 2021, where 63 such cases were recorded followed by Goaltore, where 14 farmers/agricultural labourers committed suicides.

In the same RTI query, the SPIO has informed the activists that 34 farmers/agricultural labourers died by suicide in Paschim Medinipur district in 2022 so far. In July 2022, Mr. Goswami sought information from all districts and police commissionerate in the State regarding farmer and farm-related suicides.

“After receiving this information, I have written to ADG & IGP State Crime Records Bureau and have sought for inspection of complete records as received from each District Crime Records Bureau and Commissionerate Crime Records Bureau,” he added

All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the peasant wing of Communist Party of India (Marxist), has been maintaining the data on farmer and farm-related suicides over the past few years, said Amal Haldar, the secretary of AIKS in West Bengal.

Mr. Halder recalled that AIKS had till 2019 compiled a list of 217 farmers and agricultural labourers who died by suicide. “We had held a rally in 2019 where the family members of victims had come to Kolkata demanding justice. Barring one or two cases, the State government’s usual response is attributing the death to family dispute or other personal reasons,” the CPI(M) leader said.

Activists and Opposition leaders say the issue of agricultural distress requires policy intervention and the denial of such incidents is further aggravating the situation on ground.

(Suicide  Prevention  Helpline Numbers in Kolkata  033-24637401, 033-24637432)

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