Farmer Suicides in India

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 10,677 farmers/people whose livelihood depended on farming, committed suicide in 2020. Out of that almost half of the suicides were of agricultural labourers. This is a rise of 18 per cent when one compares it with last year.

 The state with maximum cases of farmer suicide was Maharashtra, with as many as 4,006 suicides. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh comes next in the list of NCRB data. However, the NCRB report doesn’t clarify on the reasons of all these deaths. But since the numbers of deaths are huge, it only points out the problem of farming distress and its horrific result.

A total of 5,563 male farmers and 394 female farmers committed suicide in 2019 while agricultural labourers included 3,749 males and 575 females, said the report. On the contrary, states and Union Territories like West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Delhi, Lakshadweep and Puducherry had no cases of farmers or agricultural labourers committing suicide.

As per further report of the NCRB, states and UTs which revealed an increase in suicides in 2019 over 2018 were Bihar (44.7%), Punjab (37.5%), Daman & Diu (31.4%), Jharkhand (25.0%), Uttarakhand (22.6%) and Andhra Pradesh (21.5%).

In cities, the suicide rate (13.9) was higher than the national rate (10.4), with Kollam in Kerala and Asansol in West Bengal showing the highest suicides rate of 41.2 and 37.8 respectively. “Out of the mega cities, the four metropolitan cities – Chennai (2,461), Delhi (2,423), Bengaluru (2,081) and Mumbai (1,229) have reported higher numbers of suicides. These four cities together have reported almost 36.6 per cent of the total suicides reported from 53 mega cities,” remarked the report.

Reasons for Catastrophe in India’s Farming Sector

Almost 45% of people in India are dependent on agriculture. This shows that India is an agrarian nation. With such a huge number of people relying on farming, there could be various reasons for high cases of suicides.

However, the two major reasons of suicide are ‘Bankruptcy or Indebtedness’ and ‘Family Problems’, responsible for 20.6% and 20.1% respectively. According to the land holding status of farmers, they have been categorized in four categories namely:

 ‘Marginal Farmers’ who have less than 1 hectare of land, ‘Small Farmers’ who have between 1 hectare to 2 hectare of land, ‘Medium Farmers’  who have land between 2 hectare to 10 hectare and ‘Large Farmers’  who have more than 10 hectare of land.

Going through the data, it was found that farmers who had committed suicide were mostly small farmers and marginal farmers respectively. Together, they accounted for 72.4% of total farmer suicides. 53.1% and 14.5% of small farmers who had to commit suicides were reported in the two states of Maharashtra and Telangana.

 Activists and experts have given a variety of different reasons for farmer suicides, such as anti-farmer laws, high debt burdens, poor government policies, corruption in subsidies, crop failure, mental health, personal issues and family problems.  

According to reports by the central government and NCRB, farming subsidies from central government during 1993 to 2018 went mostly to producers and dealers of seeds and fertilizers, when ideally it should have gone to farmers. 35,000 crores of loans and subsidies were given in the cities of New Delhi and Chandigarh, cities that do not have major farming areas.

This resulted in money being circulated between the government, large banks, small corporations and politicians, and none of it reaches farmers, expanding their problems.

Steps that can be taken to Stop Suicides

Almost 80% of India’s agricultural land depends on rain water in the monsoon season due to poor irrigation facilities. Hence, inadequate rainfall results in droughts which leads to crop failure. In all the regions that are suffering from droughts, crop yields have reduced.

 To counter this, Government needs to make sure there are proper irrigation facilities available for the farmers and agricultural laborers. This can solve the problem of dependency on monsoon for farms and agriculture.

Another major factor in farmer woes is indebtedness and weak economic conditions. This can be solved by loan restructuring by credit institutions like NABARD.

However as per lot of experts, suicides would stop once governments bring small, marginal, semi medium and medium farmers out of debt net and implement the Swaminathan report in totality. It also includes removing the agricultural ordinances like the abolition of Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act, and a strict control over private money lenders and some private banks”.