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NCRB claims 46 farmers commit suicide every day in India

According to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau, as many as 16,632 farmers, including 2,369 women, killed themselves last year, constituting 14.4% of the total number of suicides in the country

More than 16,000 farmer suicides were reported across the country last year, representing a slight drop from 17,060 in 2006. But the broad trends of the past decade seem unshaken -- farmer suicides in the country since 1997 now total 182,936, according to a National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicide Report – 2007’.

Maharashtra retains the dubious distinction of reporting the largest number of suicides (4,238) -- for the third time in four years -- followed by Karnataka (2,135), Andhra Pradesh (1,797), Chhattisgarh (1,593), Madhya Pradesh (1,263), Kerala (1,263) and West Bengal (1,102). These states were in the top seven list in 2006 too.

The five worst affected states -- Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh -- account for two-thirds of all such suicides -- 16,632 -- in the country. Together, they saw 11,026 suicides in 2007.

Maharashtra alone accounted for over 38%, despite registering a fall of 215 compared with 2006 figures. Of the Big Five, Andhra Pradesh saw a decline of 810 suicides, while Karnataka saw a rise of 415 over the same period. Madhya Pradesh posted a decline of 112. But Chhattisgarh’s 1,593 reveals an increase of 110 over 2006.

Maharashtra’s 4,238 farmer suicides follows one-and-a-half years of farm relief packages worth around Rs 5,000 crore and a prime ministerial visit in mid-2006 to the state’s distressed Vidarbha region. Between 2005 and 2007, Maharashtra also saw a plethora of official reports, studies, and commissions of inquiry aimed at tackling the problem.

Farmer suicides in Maharashtra touched an all-time high of 4,453 in 2006.

In 2006, a UN report ‘Extent of Chronic Hunger and Malnutrition’ criticised the Indian government for the rising number of farmer suicides. The report said that economic growth through the 1990s had made India a more market-oriented economy, but had failed to benefit all Indians equally.

In March 2008, Finance Minister P Chidambaram announced a loan write-off for small and marginal farmers and made provision for Rs 60,000 crore; the amount was later increased to Rs 71,000 crore.

Experts say this still leaves out farmers’ debts to private moneylenders. And, like numerous other state-sponsored programmes, the debt relief scheme is poorly implemented and reveals huge gaps in formal banking channels in rural India.

Last month, in a bid to mitigate severe farmer distress in several states, the central government decided to provide additional financial support of around Rs 765 crore to implement programmes in suicide-prone districts, as suggested by leading scientist M S Swaminathan.

The decision, taken by Cabinet at a meeting chaired by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, includes financial support of Rs 361.55 crore to promote research in rubber, coffee, cardamom, pepper and tea. The government had, in 2006, identified 36 districts in several states like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, for which it had decided to put a special plan of action in place.

One of the most disquieting facts about farmer suicides in India has been their widespread occurrence, from drought-prone Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra to heavy-rainfall states like Kerala, and also Punjab which has large areas under irrigation.

Source: PTI, December 14, 2008
            The Hindu, December 12, 2008
            The Indian Express, December 10, 2008
            PTI, November 20, 2008
  , June 21, 2008