India is passing through an agrarian crisis and this led to higher number of farmers’ suicide in 2014. Crisis is deepening as new data released by NCRB showed that a total of 5,650 farmers have committed suicides during 2014, accounting for 4.3 percent of
total suicides victims in the country and if agricultural labourers are included number of suicides goes upto 12,360. Of the 12,360 who killed themselves, 5,650 were farmers and 6,710 were agricultural labourers, says the Report.
In 2014, the number of suicides by farmers and farm hands was 5 percent higher than in 2013, which recorded 11,772 cases. Three states accounted for over half of these farm suicides in 2014—Maharashtra (4,004), Telangana (1,347) and Madhya Pradesh (1,198).
As far as farmers’ suicides are concerned, a total of 2,568 farmers’ suicides were reported in Maharashtra followed by 898 such suicides in Telangana and 826 suicides in Madhya
Pradesh, accounting for 45.5 percent, 15.9 percent and 14.6 percent respectively of total farmer suicides during 2014.
Agrarian distress peaked last year due to a deficit monsoon, low prices of key crops, such as rice, wheat and cotton, and a slump in rural wages. The June-September monsoon recorded a deficit of 12 percent of the long-period average and states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh were among the worst affected.
The NCRB Report also, for the first time, listed causes of farm suicides. Of the 5,650 farmer suicides reported in 2014, “bankruptcy and indebtedness” was the leading cause, accounting for 20.6 percent of the cases. Family problems accounted for 20.1 percent of the suicides, while crop failure accounted for 16.8 percent of the cases. Other prominent causes of farm suicides, according to the Report, were illness (13.2 percent), and drug abuse and alcohol addiction (4.9 percent). A third of the farm suicides in Maharashtra, and a little over a fifth in Telangana, were debt-related, the Report revealed.
Land-holding status of farmers who committed suicides show that 72.4 percent were small and marginal farmers with less than two hectares of land. A quarter of the suicides were by medium farmers (land-holding between two and 10 hectares); large farmers accounted for only 2.3 percent of cases. Rajasthan, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Bihar did not report any farmer suicides in 2014.
Last year, India saw a large number of suicides among cotton growers in rain-fed areas of Telangana and Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. Farmer suicides were also reported from the chronically drought-prone Bundelkhand region spread across Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Even sugarcane growers in the agriculturally prosperous western Uttar Pradesh committed suicide over non-payment of dues by sugar mills.
Weather woes led to more than a 5 percent dip in foodgrain production, and the agriculture sector grew by just 0.2 percent in 2014-15, down from 3.7 percent the previous year.
NCRB has been collecting data on farm suicides since 1995, and yearly figures show that farm deaths (farmers and farm hands put together) were higher in poor monsoon years. The last drought year in 2009 witnessed 17,368 farm suicides while the numbers were 18,241 in 2004 and 17,971 in 2002.
Poor monsoon rainfall is not the only reason. Small and marginal farmers are also heavily indebted and say that farming is no longer remunerative.
Between 1995 and 2014, India recorded 308,826 farm suicides, according to the previous ADSI reports.